An exceptional teacher and music master
Died 13th June 2008
With great sadness my wife and I opened a Christmas card singularly signed, ‘Love Joyce’. A foot note explained; ‘My dearest Doug died of a heart attack in his sleep on 13th June’.
Doug Shaw had a profound effect on my life as a pupil at Mayfield, and I anticipate many other members of school orchestras and brass bands across the years will feel the same. Doug was not a tall man but he possessed an aura and presence that filled the room, a frown and a curl of his lip as he rose to his feet would instantly quell a noisy classroom. With a voice that would defeat the PA system at Wembley he would bring a school assembly to silence and pay attention to his orchestra or brass band. Doug was a staunch disciplinarian he commanded and deserved respect, with no discernable threat he got it. If only his like were teachers today.
Doug knew his subject, music was everything. His gift was in his teaching. To his form pupils, music would not merely be played, but interpreted the composer and the story held in the music explored and brought to life. Some may have missed his humour but it was there and leapt out in his own musical talent, at the piano as he played a deep and meaningfully piece, with a wry smile he would instantly rearrange it into a jolly ditty or interpretation of musical mockery. He was a very accomplished pianist and composer; his ability could have shone from many a famous orchestra, he explained once that his hands were not wide enough to afford him the octave reach of a concert pianist yet his fingers danced across the keyboard with great agility seemingly able to play a duet alone.
Doug had a penchant as a conductor, a conductor of his own orchestra and brass band. He brought out the best abilities in generations of us as we passed through school. In my minds eye he stands again in front of us conducting with his sharp white baton with a handle like a bulrush. He was a perfectionist, with no compunction he would abruptly stop a rehearsal and wave that baton at you as his tempered wrath explained where your performance went wrong and how you were now going to correct it. Conversely he was never slow to heap praise; somehow memory seems to recall more applause for us all than criticism. Doug spent every lunch hour of every school day with members of the band or orchestra, he jelled us into musicians the school was justly proud of; importantly, he gave us pride in ourselves. We were in demand and performed at many civic functions within the borough, to audiences at other schools, or local theatres even the odd television broadcast from Ilford Town hall.
Doug was a staunch defender and ferocious bulldog in defence of any injustice levelled at pupils in his charge; internally he would take the matter directly to Mr Hicks, the head. Stand his ground and always win redress. Equally matters beyond the school gates that affected his pupils would be pursued to restitution. He would not accept adverse criticism of his musicians or place them in a position from where it could be levelled. As members of the ‘Ashmolean Marching Society’ in a performance by the Ilford dramatic society at the Town Hall of the comedy ‘Charlie’s Aunt’, Doug arranged out all the duff notes we were supposed to play, in case the audience thought the piece was beyond our abilities, and duff notes were our blunders.On a personal note I saw Doug as a friend as I grew up beyond school years. My wife and I were honoured to have Doug and Joyce as guests at our wedding and in turn were welcomed many times at their home in Chalkwell. Time and distance made it difficult over the years to stay in touch but Christmas cards have been exchange for 39 years. Some time ago we dropped in unannounced to show off the children to Doug and Joyce at their home in Sidmouth. Doug persuaded my children I was his star pupil, an undeserving accreditation just for the audience, delivered by an exceptional man whose teaching and life skills benefited and guided generations of school children to grow into better adults. With great sadness I regret not being able to meet him one more time.
Steve Morl, (Mayfield, 1964–1969)