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Remembering Wally Dale

David Lawton remembers the legend that was Wally Dale
15 Nov 2015
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Wally Dale - David Lawton

Wally was a WB worthy - a character, a legend - an epitome of WB in the 50's and 60's; Housemaster, Geography master, lover of football and running, and even a boat builder, to say nothing of his command of the RAF section, and master of his very own glider.  

He was Geography and Geography was Wally - he brought life and interest to us at every lesson - particularly memorable are his intriguing descriptions of ox-bows, meanders, flood plains and valleys. His sallies into Europe on the Ruhr, Moselle, and Rhine - tributaries Lek and, of course, the Waal, which never failed to get a chuckle or two, were delightful lessons.

His party piece was the fjords of Norway, where he holidayed often - he knew the people, the rocks, lakes and mountains, and his drawings inspired us all - a natural teacher? Certainly he created an appeal and brought life to his subject.   His classes, in my memory, were never unruly, indeed light hearted - who can forget his hands-on collar bone attacks, and 'you nasty little worm' (can you imagine that nowadays?) or his handy one-metre rule which he would unleash across the class at anyone who dared to be inattentive. And then there were his beloved tests.....

Wally would set readings for 'prep' - intensive areas of text to smooth the ground, and almost without fail the following geography lesson we would arrive to find him tearing 9 x7 exercise-book sized paper into two narrow strips 'Pheeo, test today, lads', and after handing out the strips, the questions on our hopefully well-read text began - it certainly kept us on our toes.   It was not surprising to find that I continued geography to 'A' level, where we continued our pursuits in Wally's special Geography room behind Mr Davey's workshops.

It is worth recalling that my on early get-togethers at WB Whit weekends were held, by kind permission of Wally, in that very same room and aptly named "The Jolly Geographer."  

And extra-curricular? He was to be seen everywhere - he became senior master in the 60's - in charge of football matches, these were permitted to allow for those that hadn't quite mastered rugby or were not quite of the right frame - out on the cross-country runs, or in the swimming pool, where, costume less (both he and us) he desperately attempted to  teach me to swim. Trunks only became a necessity later because the ladies, and there were increasing numbers in the school, decided that they would officially come and watch the swimming competitions.

Were there unofficial days?   Almost every Sunday Wally would treat some of his Brereton house to a trip out, sometimes an exploration on the moors, sometimes Woody Bay for a swim. Few of his house were neglected; certainly a well-appreciated way of keeping his flock out of mischief, for Sundays still remained rather dreary days when we were left to our own devices.  

Wally's study and bedroom were located in the west wing, just above the Masters' Common-room and strategically sited somewhat near the Laundry-room. The matron, who together with the nurse made up some 75% of the female on-site population, also had her accommodation near the laundry room, on the way to the Junior dormitories. For two years we were blessed with a diminutive Miss Gill, who owned a red-setter, a hulk of a dog who each morning could be seen taking the inevitably tagged 'Nil Gill' for a walk round the playing fields.

After Nil Gill came Miss Kenneth (as she must be called) a somewhat younger lady with a creditable personality, and visible talent, but dogless, with, no doubt, more free time, and stories abound on liaisons, possible liaisons, and digressions that may have occurred. Wally was always so keen on initiative! To Wally! He was WB.    


Wally Dale   Whilst researching Wally Dale we stumbled across the EISCA collection of boats in Berwickshire which currently houses two canoes which WF Dale built in the West Buckland School workshops in 1948. They have kindly provided pictures of the construction and finished transoms.

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