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NAME: Martyn Day  Martyn DayThen & Now

DATE: 08 October 2008


I would like to thank Vic for putting up the obituary for Derek Fry on the website.  He was a strange man (D.B Fry that is, not Vic!) and I never truly felt comfortable around him although he never said or did anything to cause me grief.  I remember clearly how at the time of the School plays he would keep the boys playing 'men' and the boys playing 'girls' separate.  The 'girls' dressing room was his domain and all others were told to keep out.  In hindsight I suppose he did it to save the 'girls' embarrassment but at the time it did seem odd.  I think that for all his music and languages he was a rather sad and lonely man.  He was a kind man, too.  Certainly I am not the only boy in the school to receive regular Christmas cards from him and this continued for years after I left.


NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 08 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: pupil 1957-64

Many thanks, Martyn, for forwarding the obituary of D B Fry to Vic.  I knew he had died, because his (very generous) legacy to the National Trust for Scotland is listed on their website.  I remember him as enthusiastic and full of joie de vivre, a breath of fresh air in the stuffy old institution that QE was in the sixties.  It is therefore especially sad to learn of the many years when his talents were not used, and of his unhappy last few years.


NAME: Stephen Giles  Stephen Giles

DATE: 12 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1957-1964

I was sad to read of the death of DB Fry.  I always found him to be an extremely pleasant man.  Although open to ridicule in some respects, I think he generally commanded respect in the classroom.  I only wish now that he had taught me Spanish, which would be very useful during frequent visits to Spain and Argentina, where I rely on my wife who is fluent in Spanish - although I can ask for a hair dryer!  I do remember his Scottish Dancing, and I think Colin Smith (where's he these days?) was keen on that dance form too.  It is a great shame that his final years were not happy ones.


NAME: Paul Buckland

DATE: 12 October 2008


I was very sad to read that Derek Fry had died, and sadly some time ago.  He was my form master in 2c and taught me English, French and Spanish throughout my 'career' at QEs.  He seemed always to be at loggerheads with the established order and railed against comprehensivisation - threatening to remove all the books that he had donated to the library if this act of vandalism went ahead.  Along with 'Alfie' Alford, and 'Neil' Kobish he used to lead the younger boys on skiing trips to Colle Isarco in Northern Italy, an experience I always remember as being incredible fun - 20 hours on a train in those days.  I often think of him rushing down the school corridors - teaching gown flying like a great owl.  We always referred to him as 'the only Scotsman ever born in Palmers Green'.  I am very sorry that he was so sad in his final years.


NAME: Peter Craggs

DATE: 13 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: There 1957-1964

I remember going on a school trip to Italy, skiing, and DB Fry was with us.  He spent the whole journey from Ostend waxing his brand new skis.  The first day we were on the top of a mountain he laid his skis flat on the snow.  Off they went on their own, never to be seen again.


NAME: Chris Mungovan

DATE: 17 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1957-1964

Have just read D B Fry's obituary.  I hardly recognised him without a full head of dark hair and his moustache.  But the description rang true.  [But see reply 7].  At some point between about 1960-62? he was my form master and was tasked with teaching us German.  His approach was refreshingly different it was not as analytical as our latin lessons nor grammatical like french.  He chose to attempt to teach us 'useful' phrases eg 'can you tell me the way to the railway station?'.  Much later in my working life I travelled to Germany on business but needless to say the Germans all spoke perfect English and apart from the usual "Good Morning/Evening", "Thankyou" etc I never had to attempt German so the whereabouts of the Bahnhof will remain a mystery.  We ribbed him most of the time and he usually remained good humoured but when he got rattled the scottish accent faded away.  Until now I never realised just how young he was when he was teaching us and we were 'testing' him.


NAME: Stephen Giles  Stephen Giles

DATE: 18 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1957-1964

Hello Peter Craggs [Reply 4] after all these years!    I went on a summer school trip to Lake Como in Italy and also to Norway, when I was very ill on the plane - a DC3 if I remember.  I may still have some photographs of the Norway trip somewhere.  I remember the overnight train journey to Italy - some boys slept on the luggage rack.  I bought Be Bop a Lula by Gene Vincent on that trip and still have that 45 with my old records.


NAME: Mike Cottrell  Richard Dilley & Mike Cottrell

DATE: 19 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1957-1964

I too remember going to Colle Isarco on a skiing expedition and I have a photo of Derek Fry from the 1961-62 trip.  That is how I recall him with that slightly quizzical look of his.  Does anyone remember him smiling very much?


NAME: Chris Mungovan

DATE: 20 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1957-1964

As regards amateur dramatics Derek Fryís performance in the classroom was always theatrical and good humoured, even comedic.  Had Allo Allo been on television in 1960 he would have provided endless opportunities for schoolboy humour and Iím sure we could have persuaded him to say "good moaning", as Officer Crabtree, in the appropriate accent.  Did DB Fry speak French with a faux Scottish accent or was his pronunciation exemplary?  I wonder - Crabtree thought he spoke fluent French.  The latest photo of Derek Fry sent in by Mike Cottrell is a good one, just as I remember him.  I also received Christmas cards for many years after leaving Q.E.


NAME: Vic Coughtrey  Vic CoughtreyThen & Now

DATE: 20 October 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1954-1959

Just to explain the 'truncating', Chris - it's done automatically by the form itself after a certain number of characters - except that there's nothing certain about it at all, in the event.  I discovered that by setting it to 300 it would in fact allow anything from about 500 to 800 characters.  As even 800 is not always quite enough, I've now reset it to 500, in the hope that it will in future allow anything from, say, 800 to something over 1000.  Form-mail is a fairly complex affair, with a mind of its own in some respects, so only time will tell!

10th REPLY

NAME: Adam Lines  Adam LinesThen & Now

DATE: 12 November 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1957-1964

Hello Craggs .... only some 50 years after the morning role call of inmates - Craggs, Craighead, Denton, Disdale etc.  I too found Derek Fry most sympathetic, caring and actually 'human', certainly compared with the average QE school master of the day.  His orientation was certainly questionable - we once rather impertinently enquired why he wasn't married to which he replied in more than usually thick scottish accent "and what self respecting lass would be interested in me".... but so what - he was a genuinely caring person - sad indeed that the last chapters of his life were apparently spent in such loneliness.

11th REPLY

NAME: Ian Sadler  Ian Sadler

DATE: 09 December 2008

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1951-1959

I too was sorry to hear of D B Fry's death and also of his lonely last years.  He was a sub- prefect when I arrived in 1951.  He was, to us, so solemn and austere that we thougt he was a (full) prefect who didn't need to wear a gown!  Only when he was promoted did we realize our mistake - he was eventually captain of Leicester and also of swimming.  I recall his playing the viola in the first school concert after I arrived and also his fantastic performance in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.  An amazingly accomplished chap.  He returned to the school as teacher after I had left.

12th REPLY

NAME: John Paine

DATE: 20 January 2009


Like many others who were at school with Derek I have numerous stories about his eccentricities.  I am surprised that so far no one has talked about his wonderful mimicry of all the characters in The Happiest Days of Your Life.  I still remember vividly attending a showing of that film with Derek and other students from Q.E., when he started to spout all of the lines a few seconds before the characters themselves.  It was a wonder that we were not thrown out by the ushers.  Some have written of his Scottish accent but if my memory serves me correctly, his accent changed according to the play in which he was appearing so that for a year he had a full Irish accent after starring in The Rivals.  When time permits, I shall be happy to add further stories concerning this wonderful character.

13th REPLY

NAME: Simon Hersom

DATE: 31 July 2012


When I arrived at QE Mr Fry had the last room down the corridor of the New Block containing the gym, about as far from the rest of the school as possible.  It rather suited him.  I remember a moment of hysterical mirth when we noticed he'd painted his Hillmman Hunter car white using emulsion paint and a brush.  There were drip marks down the tyres.  Not a good pupil in any way I gained a love of the English language from him, helped by Messrs Evans and Bannerman.  I wish I'd said thank-you.  The pic of Mr Alford does indeed show his wife (Mary?). I lived next door but one and remember his getting an Austin 1100.

14th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 07 August 2012


As a newcomer to the site I have only just come across the references to DBF who was also my French teacher sometimes.  My brother and I also received Christmas Cards from him and it is noteworthy how many cards he seemed to have sent to pupils and ex-pupils.  One thing I remember that he did so love Scottish Dancing that he introduced it to the school and girls from the Girls School came over to take part, an invasion comparable to the girls coming to use the swimming pool, commented upon elsewhere.  He was also a rare teacher in the sense you could talk in a friendly way to him about matters outside the school subject. One other master with whom outer school rapport developed was John (Bop) Wakelin.  A group of us used to go and play Diplomacy (a game rather like Risk) with him at his house with food and drink provided by Mrs Wakelin.  I remember each set of moves took twenty or so minutes and the game went on for hours.  Mrs Wakelin was very tolerant and patient with us all.

15th REPLY

NAME: Roger Nolan  Roger Nolan

DATE: 08 August 2012


Scottish dancing was very much in vogue in the early 1960s.  My parents took it up as did our next door neighbours and their own neighbour next door but one to us.  I came home one evening from visiting a friend and who should I find lounging in our sitting room in full highland dress but my French master, Derek Fry.  "Hello sir," said I, which sounded rather weird in my own home.  This whole episode rather spooked me because for me, school was school and home was home and in my view, never the twain should meet.  It transpired that Derek Fry was a member of the same Scottish dancing club that my parents and the others were learning at and my parents had asked everyone back for drinks after the session.

16th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 11 August 2012


Roger, your reply [reply 15 above] was interesting.  I can see how you might be spooked by the occasion.  Scottish Dancing is of course very much in vogue today as well as the early 60s. I do not indulge myself but there are active groups in Andover and Amesbury near where I live and the owners of a B&B in Cambridge where I stayed going to one of my old college's dinners were active followers and went to one of their meetings whilst I stayed.  It is interesting how most of them have no real connection with Scotland at all and are certainly not Scottish.  I am reminded of the third reply to this thread where DBF was described as the only Scotsman ever born in Palmers Green.

17th REPLY

NAME: Nick Dean  Nick Dean Nick Dean gallery

DATE: 03 January 2013


I confess I never quite knew what to make of Derek Fry and, amidst all the posturing, I can't recall anything much that he taught me: he was devoted to clause analysis, but that left me rather cold. Another contributor has likened him to the 'gendarme' in 'Allo! 'Allo. Personally, I always saw him as a Carry On character (probably played by Kenneth Williams), although, since then, it has struck me that his gait was similar to that of the headmaster in The Beiderbecke Affair. I do recall his general distaste for popular culture in the sixies. He roundly condemned a boy who had a Private Eye compendium with the famous cartoon of a groupie with a Stones t-shirt ("Are they?") and made slighting reference to assumed parental liberalism in relation to such items. Another boy who possessed a copy of Puckoon was also singled out for disapproval.

For some reason, he launched into an unprompted tirade against Petula Clark of all people (too faux French, I think), an episode that came to mind when my wife and I attended her farewell London concert several years ago. More understandably perhaps, he took exception to both the fact and the content of our chorus of Barbara Ann which, performed as we awaited his arrival in Room Y, he heard from top of the stairs down to the gym. (Again, I recalled this when we saw the Beach Boys at the Albert Hall a few months ago, as I did also the day that I absconded from the school premises without an exeat to buy a copy of Good Vibrations on the day of its release!) Many boys do seem to have appreciated Fry, but I think he was an acquired taste. I heard a bit about him later on because my brother in law was at Highgate in his time. It's a pity that he cut himself off from QE in the absolute way that he did.

18th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 06 January 2013


Your talking of QE's export to Highgate school of DBF, Nick, reminds me of one import in my day when Melvyn Wall, who was a pupil at Highgate, came to QEs. I remember he used to ring Hayley Mills at her home as he had a bit of a crush on her and used to get through to her. He was one of the sons of Max Wall, the other one being Michael. Max had left his wife to go off with a chorus girl, hence the financial need to transfer from Highgate. One evening there was a fancy dress evening at the North Twenty dance studio in Barnet, where a group of us went to learn to dance. (Does this or a similar place still exist?). We went dressed as ancient greeks and performed a group dance on the dance floor. We all changed at Melvyn's home and his mum supplied the costumes. Some members of the public reacted with a measure of fright seeing us move down the streets. Happy days!

19th REPLY

NAME: Nick Dean  Nick Dean Nick Dean gallery

DATE: 07 January 2013


Well, Jas, he wasn't alone in having a crush on Hayley Mills. She was my first screen idol, though, from the confines of Littlegrove County Primary School, I would have been far too young to contemplate making contact. I still quite like her recording of Let's Get Together ("Yeah, Yeah, Yeah"). I read in his published diaries that Gyles Brandreth, who left Oxford a year or two before I arrived, had similar schoolboy yearnings and, several years after going down, contrived to have lunch with Miss Mills. He was terribly disappointed: didn't fancy her after all and wasn't sure he liked her very much!

20th REPLY

NAME: Alan Pyle  Alan Pyle

DATE: 25 May 2013

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1948-1953

D B Fry [see original message and most replies] was a senior pupil in my time. A talented performer on the piano and in leading parts in the School plays. I met him on several occasions later when he was down from St Andrews. He was a friend of a fellow pupil's family. His Morningside accent so complete as to convince his listeners that he was a born Scot.
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