The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Remembering Alan Brown

It’s odd, but new years eve I received I note that my old headmaster, Alan Brown, had died.  I suspect Alan (or Mr. Brown, as I still think of him) thought I didn’t like him, but in fact I both like and respected him.

He ran a highly disciplined school, and was a stern taskmaster, but there was also a deep kindness in him.  He knew every student’s name, of around 500 and kept a firm finger on the pulse of the school.  If there were problems, he knew what they were, and they got dealt with if at all possible.  I remember in particular him asking my permission to deal with one kid who was tormenting me in grade 9.  Of course, I was horrified at the thought, but he swore to me that he wouldn’t make things worse, so I gave my ok.  And indeed, the kid stopped bothering me.  To this day I have no idea what he said, but I was very impressed.

I don’t think I was his type of his teenager.  He was big on “building characer”, athletics, and so on and I wasn’t the sort of student the school really admired: square jawed, athletic and brilliant.  But I don’t remember him ever being unkind and in fact I remember his kindness well and it impressed me all the more because I wasn’t his preferred kind of student.

I remember in particular making him absolutely furious (though he never said a word to me directly) when there was  a day we were supposed to skip lunch to show we understood hunger.  I was, I think, the only student at the senior school who walked down the junior school and ate.  I had a race that afternoon, and be damned if I was going to run it without fuel.  The race took place in the semi-wilderness of the University of British Columbia’s endowment lands, and the course was not well marked.  So about half the runners ran off in the wrong direction, and the race was called.  So I made him furious for, in the end, nothing.

But that epitomized much of my stay at Saints.  As the years went on I can became sullen and stubborn, not doing enough to be punishable, but definitely a pain in the butt.

My last memory of him, which saddens me slightly, is after graduation. Having hated the school with a passion (though still preferring it to living at home), I didn’t go to most of the graduation events.  I did go to one, at a very nice mansion on the coast, just to see how the other half lived.  It was an area with no bus service, so I walked in.  When I was leaving, Alan drove by in his car, with a couple of other students, and asked if I wanted a lift.  I waved him off.

I’m sure he thought it an insult to him, but in fact, I didn’t like the people he was with.  The event was the last event involving Saints I intended to ever go to, and I wanted to put the school behind me.

Nonetheless I remember him fondly.  He was a good man, stern but kind, who seemed not to have a mean bone in his body (though that certainly didn’t stop him from ladling out punishment duty.)  I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but if there is, my best wishes go with him.  He, and his family, can be proud of the life he lived and the man he was.


How Crises Play Out


Happy New Year

1 Comment

  1. Formerly T-Bear

    Alas, an older generation makes way for new, there is always a quality possessed that does not get translated directly to the new, but like an epitaph, the memory of that quality keeps it alive. Passing on that memory in a manner that brings attention to it and also honours its existence, extends the life of those qualities into a newer generations legacy.

    Regret is the orphan of self-awareness; of acts committed without consideration, of omission through thoughtlessness, of paths not taken when divergence forces choice. There can only be one track through time; that cannot be changed, but can enhance self-awareness for the present into the future.

    There was a generation, now passing, that was present when a generation of teachers who began their careers in the midst of the Great Depression were then at the end of those careers. That generation also had a quality, an essence of excellency that was part and parcel of their teaching. That quality also passed with them, and has never been duplicated in any subsequent generation of teachers, but one generation of students does bear witness to that quality, maybe that will be their epitaph that keeps alive the memory of their teachers. Legacies are like that.

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