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News > Archive News > Obituaries > Brian Elvins (former staff)

Brian Elvins (former staff)

23 Jul 2022
Written by Tracey Ahmet

Brian ‘BSE’ Elvins was educated at Wrekin College and Birmingham University, where he read degree in chemistry and trained with the Officers’ Training Corps and the university swimming team. Within his first six years at Rugby, great responsibilities were heaped upon him, becoming firstly master in charge of Swimming, then Head of Chemistry and finally CCF Commanding Officer. Running the chemistry department for most of his teaching career would be enough for any ordinary mortal, but Brian’s skills and interests extended far wider, and he was gifted with a versatile mind and relentless energy.

The Tosh, replaced in 1987 by the new Sports Centre, was an open air unheated pool, 20% longer than Olympic, where Brian ascertained all pupils could swim two lengths. He also trained the swimming team, refereed water polo, taught canoeing and regulated the chemical purity of the water. Free bathing times, with minimal staff supervision, were always popular, and warm weekends would see simultaneously 200 boys sunbathing on the grassy verges, swimming and diving. BSE had an all-seeing eye that could anticipate mischief or danger anywhere, and he knew the name and house of every potential miscreant.

Over three years he transformed the CCF from a compulsory and largely unpopular and unimaginative organization into a lively group of highly motivated specialist sections. He ran an NCO training cadre, thereby providing a system which bred a steady stream of instructors, many of whom were deployed in running a compulsory pre-CCF year for boys (yes, all boys back then) in their second year, broadly on the lines of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. He moved on to create a Commando Section to specialise in climbing, canoeing and mountaineering skills. He and his fellow officers, after refereeing a rugger match on Saturday afternoon, would drive four-ton trucks loaded with boys and equipment to North Wales, where they set up tents, cooked and ate so they could spend all of Sunday rock climbing and abseiling. Then they drove back in time for a full Monday’s teaching schedule. Holiday camps in the Scottish Highlands gave opportunities for greater challenges and skills.

Brian preferred old-fashioned cars, the sort you could service yourself. In the boot he kept a rotary converter and a towing winch, the better to cope with any conceivable emergency. During the 1979 Winter of Discontent the annual season of house plays was in jeopardy because of power cuts. More than once he averted disappointment by lending his collection of Tilley lamps, and by powering up his rotary converter from Trevor White (at Rugby 1998-present and Head of Chemistry 2003-2019), Clive Burton (at Rugby 1974-2009 and Head of Chemistry 1990-1991), Brian Elvins (at Rugby 1958-1995 and Head of Chemistry 1963-1990) & Nick Morse (at Rugby 1986-present and Head of Chemistry 1991-2003). several car batteries to run the stage lights so a play could go on.

Though a lifelong bachelor, he was devoted to his wider family. He retired to their home in Worcestershire where he looked after his mother in her later years and maintained the large garden. He undertook responsibilities in the local church as churchwarden and lay reader. Still he found time and energy to indulge in sailing and mountaineering with companions who treasured his mastery of navigation, meteorology and first aid, his wisdom and his friendship.

Adapted from a contribution by friend and colleague James McMenemey.

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