Donald Tyson Remembered.
Donald had already been at Lancing for three years when I arrived in 1971 and was part of a Modern Languages’ department that comprised Ray Ward, Bernard Fielding, Michael Power and Tony Beater. It was, I think, a good department and we worked harmoniously for many years subsequently.Donald, the youngest after me, had spent seven years teaching German, French and a little Russian at King’s Taunton after an education at Colet Court, Rugby and Magdalen College. The rather unusual Russian dated from military service where, after a spell in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and based in Stirling Castle, he then spent a year learning the language in Bodmin before completing his National Service in the Intelligence Corps.
Donald’s love for cathedral music dates from his years at Magdalen and he received special permission to record the choir there and he recalled many an evening listening to playback with the college organist Bernard Rose. He had felt that King’s Taunton had, for his taste, rather too much of a sports’ orientation but he became head of modern languages there as well as assistant housemaster and developed an interest in dinghy sailing which was to remain a long-term interest. The year that he chose to move – 1968 - was probably not the easiest one in which to make the change for the students were revolting, there were protests against the Vietnam War and Donald recalled that one of his first duties at Lancing was to patrol the grounds to stop Sussex University students who were rumoured to be planning to burn swastikas in the Lower Quadrangle! Nor, in 1968, was Lancing at its best.
Throughout the 1970s Donald taught mostly German but with Russian squeezed into odd times of the day and night for the benefit of some of Lancing’s brightest pupils. It was Donald who was largely responsible for the organisation of the Concert Club which brought down to Lancing a good number of talented and, in some cases, world famous musicians. From this period too dates the Detmold Exchange, inaugurated by Michael Power, accompanied on an alternate year basis by Donald and which has celebrated this year its 45th anniversary.
Two other activities other than music filled Donald’s extra-curricular time: the shooting team and the printing press. At this time the open 303 range was still in operation and the Lancing teams achieved major successes in the Ashburton Shield competition at Bisley. The printing press was a no less time-consuming activity, now presumably totally dead thanks to the effortless computer but which attracted at the time much commitment from suitably oriented boys!
At a time when new members of the Common Room cannot even drive a college minibus to Shoreham Station it is a matter of wonder that in mid Cold War Donald took nine school groups to the USSR, several of which in school minibuses! They were heady journeys via Tilbury, Helsinki, Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev and that of 1979 was a major five week adventure crossing the Caucasus Mountains and along the Black Sea coast. There was a run-in with the KGB when Donald had taken some innocent but unauthorised photos and which led to the confiscation of his films but otherwise there were no incidents. With the arrival of Gorbachev however it became possible to organise exchange visits and the last three visits were to Kazan with the Kazan pupils returning to Lancing.
I think it fair to say that most of us in the Common Room saw Donald as a confirmed bachelor and there was much astonishment when he announced in 1987, at the age of 53, that he was proposing to marry Noreen-- a skilled violin teacher and performer. We were however genuinely delighted and even more so when their daughter Alex was born. By this time Donald had moved from the Masters’ Tower to a house in Steyning and there, following his retirement, he took an active part, with Noreen, in all forms of Steyning Music.It was a source of joy to him that Alex too proved to be a talented musician and Donald was able to re-channel his music activities towards Salisbury Cathedral where she was a chorister. Here he was able to re-create his Magdalen enthusiasm by producing three “archive” recordings of the Salisbury choir which were then made available on CDs and sold to the benefit of the Choral Foundation and the Salisbury Hospice. In recent years Donald, Noreen and Alex lived in a splendid four-storeyed house at the bottom of Walton Street in Oxford, virtually opposite Worcester College. Donald had retained links with Oxford all his life and, when extra-curricular activities allowed, had travelled up there on weekends to the small house that he had in Headington. Now however he was able to take full advantage of what the University had to offer and these were happy years, culminating last year with the wedding of his daughter Alex in Salisbury Cathedral. Donald could not have been more proud.
I have many personal memories of Donald; our weekly squash engagements over many years; his idiosyncratic typing with holes puncturing the paper where full stops were more to be expected; classes in unison chanting their way through German irregular verbs and audible from several classrooms away; the language laboratory and the Charlemagne concerts; his academic and musical modesty. And so much more.
It was a privilege to have known him and we were pleased to have seen him only a matter of weeks before he died when, even if his mobility was impaired, his enthusiasm for life was undimmed. Our thoughts and sympathy go to Noreen and to Alex.