Harrow County School for Boys

Doggett determination: the case for an alternative HCS cult-figure

Paul Danon (pupil, 1966-73) iconoclastically argues for a brutal smashing of the conventional Hispano-Scottish archetype of the successful old Gaytonian renaissance-man, or pollymath.

Mere membership of the privy council, Euro-knighthoods and the opportunity to work with Dawn French's Bottom are all well and good, but immortality is too important an issue to be left to historians.

It was difficult enough to penetrate any single one of the manifold cliques which flourished at Harrow County during the 60s and 70s, so it was at incalculable personal risk that I sought to be part of not just one but two such tight coteries. Only now can the story be told of how I managed to infiltrate not only the school's throbbing artistic powerhouse but also its quivering cyber-ballistic launch-pad for which Harrow County will be remembered long after participants in the last tri-monthly school-reunion have finally adjourned to their celestial Traveller's Rest.

Elsewhere I have described my bloodcurdling initiation to the subterranean stronghold of A2, the English department's bookroom and the aesthetic nerve centre of the school's politico-cultural scene. However, just along the corridor, further below ground, yet all the more influential (as I shall prove), lay the twilit, potholed world of Brian Doggett and his loyal, if occasionally cringing, lab-coated minions.

Brian (if I may be so bold) embodied, nay, incarnated the very white heat of technology so inspiringly described by Mr Harold Wilson, our then beloved socialist prime minister. Just as Wilson set out to create a bold new post-Tory world forged amidst the brilliant sparks of science and engineering, so did Doggett (and his own little bright sparks!) carve out an entire civilisation founded on the miracles of sheer human endeavour and tightly-focussed inventive genius, though on an immeasurably grander and more enduring scale.

Doggett's achievements speak for themselves. After all, which other suburban day-school had its own space-exploration programme? The SlimeSlug missions blazed a bold interplanetary trail across the skies of unsuspecting parts of Middlesex and Hertfordshire, as well as providing noisy and fume-ridden test-burns in a disused coal-cellar not a million miles below the school-clock.

The Gayton Gardening Club brought about its own green (and white and orange and bright blue) revolution on south Harrow's allotments, while Brian will probably blush as I rightly attribute to him nothing less than the single-handed invention of the internet. Harrow County's primitive local area network consisted of some bare copper wire running along the outside of the school's southwestern elevation from the stationery store to the main entrance. The negative return was an unwitting Mr Jim Cook's central heating system and this early school-wide web, decades before its time, carried occasional radio programmes and essential intelligence-information for desperate fugitive schoolboys on the run from the authorities.

A subsidiary part of the Doggett publishing empire produced a phlegmatically-entitled magazine whose viscous literary heritage survives to this day.

To see Doggett at work, surrounded by his adoring acolytes to whom he was simply "Uncle Brian", was an inspiration. There was no need for sneering, A2-style, book-ridden, effete, casuistical sophistry, barbed wit or rhetorical point-scoring with him. Doggett's power was not exerted through the ironical wordplay, the subtle debating-parry, nor the sardonic curl of the ample Iberian lip. Brian governed, nay, reigned through the sheer brute-force of furnace-bright technology and in the dazzling afterburn of Groombridgean science driven to awe-inspiring, though occasionally grotesque, extremes.

                                                                                                    Paul Danon
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