Obituary: Dennis Silk C.B.E. (CR 1955-68)

Dennis Silk ran the Marlborough College Colts XV and, playing away, his team was denied a victory by the opposition master who refereed the game. The Captain of the Marlborough team vented his anger at the referee in no uncertain terms. That evening I was with Dennis in his study when he sent for his Captain and gave him such a ticking off that I thought the boy might breakdown. “You can go now” said Dennis, but, as the boy took hold of the doorknob Dennis said “and one last thing”. No, I thought, Dennis stop it, you will destroy him; I was really worried, but I heard Dennis say “Thank you, if you had not said it I would have had to!” The boy smiled. A truly great teacher.

Dennis arrived at Marlborough in September 1955 from Sidney Sussex, Cambridge. Immediately he made a huge impact on the Common Room and the boys – teaching history, coaching rugby, cricket, and fives and even learning hockey so he could coach. He inspired a major work in the College Printing Press to produce a fine production of Seigfried Sassoon’s poems (he was a personal friend), bound in red leather and now a treasured possession for many.

Initially, he was House Tutor of ‘C2’, but was promoted two years later as Housemaster of ‘A1’ where, among other things, he co-produced an ‘A’ House production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, known affectionately as ‘Beer and Old Silk’! After his marriage to Diana, he was appointed as Housemaster of ‘C1’ and they ran the senior House until leaving in 1968 to become Warden of Radley. Whilst working on all this he found time to play for Bath and Dorset and Wilts Rugby and played alongside a long term friend to be – Ian Balding (SU 1952-56); the only schoolboy to my knowledge to play for his County whilst at school.

Dennis’s influence will not be forgotten…..

Ian D.S.Beer CBE (CR 1955-61)