From Hand to Hand

Friday, November 10, 2017 - By: Head of School - Bud Patel

There has been plenty of discussion, recently, about the importance and controversy around historical monuments. While I won’t venture into this emotionally charged subject, it caused me to reflect on Brentwood’s ode to our past and key markers on our campus that speak to our history.

In very much the Brentwood way, a small and subtle tribute is etched in metal and tastefully anchored in a rock just outside Rogers House on the way to the rugby pitch. It was written by a WWII veteran and Brentwood alum to honour one of his team-mates who went missing during a bomber expedition over the English Channel. Their famous 1940-41 1st XV Rugby squad’s remarkable season ended with a points total of 248 FOR and only 23 AGAINST. His name is Ian Gillespie. During that magical season, they lost only one match – to Navy. Colin Lytton Graham (1943) immortalized his friend with this poem – A Distant Time.

In the changing room

After the Navy game

He said, “Indian,

I’ve joined the Air Force.”

Through the steam from the showers,

He was already a ghost.

“Live forever, Pussycat,” I said.

“I promised you, you’ll live forever.”

We’re all immortal

When we go to war.

You were posted missing in action,

the next I knew. Your Beaufighter

went down on bomber escort

over the Channel.

At Runnymede, I saw your name

twenty years later.  It seemed

a terrible waste

of the best fullback

the world had ever seen.

The citation said

you’d died drawing enemy fire.

What else?

You’d call for the mark

solid as houses.  You tackled

like a rattle-snake.

You didn’t leave the kitchen

when the fire got hot.

I promised you you’d live forever.

Well, almost.  While I live,

so do you.

A poem written by one friend to another. One team-mate to another. One brother to another. One Brentonian to another.

Colin Lytton Graham and Ian Gillespie live inside every student on our campus and the Torch is now passed onto them – From Hand to Hand – De Manu In Manum.

Lest we forget,

Bud Patel

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