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In The Spotlight > In The Spotlight > In The Spotlight: David Jenkins

In The Spotlight: David Jenkins

David Jenkins (1987-2018)
David Jenkins (1987-2018)

What did you do before you worked at BMS? 

 I was brought up in Emsworth which is a small town between Portsmouth and Chichester. My bedroom window looked over the Harbour and from the age of two my parents took me sailing. However, when I was 10, we moved to Shiplake, a village outside Henley on Thames so school involved rowing and canoeing. In my free time I worked for a local beef farmer and after I was 15, I spent most summers living with my uncle who was a dairy farmer in Pembrokeshire. I decided I really wanted to be a farmer. Then I found out about Norman Borlaug who won the Nobel Prize for Peace for the development of semi-dwarf cereal crops. This brought in the Green Revolution. This is how we can support 8 billion people on the planet today. I was inspired and went to Newcastle and Reading Universities to study Agricultural Botany and then a Masters in Crop Physiology. But during that time, I learned that most people don’t work anywhere near as hard as farmers and earn lots more and I learned that science research can be quite boring as you spend weeks in the lab repeating the same experiments over and over to build up your data so that you can do the statistics. So, when a Cambridge academic rang me and asked if I wanted to do a PhD, I said no. Then I looked for a job. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I worked at first for a car hire company and then I applied for and got a job at Shiplake College as their boatman. That was great, every day I went rowing in my lunch breaks but most of all I saw the masters bringing the boys to the river to row and started talking with the boys and listening to them and I realised that teaching was what I really wanted to do. I went to Reading University to do a PGCE and wound up back at my old School, Gillotts in Henley – on – Thames as a student teacher. This is notable as another Gillotts alumnus is Alex Tate. Unfortunately for this story he is too young, and I didn’t teach him. Meanwhile I continued sailing on the weekends with a friend and competed successfully in the Scorpion class Dinghy sailing up to National level.  

Whilst at Reading I applied for my first job and was lucky enough to be appointed to BMS by Peter Squire. I stayed for 39 years. 

Tell us about what you do now? Has your time at school influenced your life today? 

I retired in 2018 and to accompany that a couple of weeks later my daughter gave birth to Henry our first grandchild and a year ago to Lucy so a lot of my time is spent being a grandad. When I’m not doing that, I am learning art and Italian and generally enjoying life at home and Sabine and I have a 32-foot motorboat on the river and spend a few weeks a year messing about on the river.  The photo is a selfie taken on board. Finally, the rules of the Harpur Trust say that an employee of the Trust can’t be a governor of the Trust, so the staff elect a governor, so I maintain my connection with the school as the staff elected governor. 

Tell us about your time at BMS. Do you have any special memories you would like to share? 

I have many special memories of the school, but 39 years means there’s a lot of them and some would be embarrassing for others, so we’ll draw a veil over them. But I’ll share one. 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia. I was told that if it wasn’t treated, I had at most, a month or so to live. I spent 5 months in and out of Addenbrookes Hospital having Chemotherapy and being quite ill. What was really great though was the care that everyone from BMS took of me. I was at extreme risk of getting an infection as my immune system was floored by the Chemotherapy, so I was put in a room in the hospital all by myself. This was in the days before mobile phones and the hospital provided me with a bedside phone. Colleagues would ring to talk with me most days. Other staff would drive over to Cambridge to visit. OBMs would drop in to for a chat as would parents and, on a couple of occasions even students. You know who you are! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You kept me going. And 20 years on I’m still here. 

Was there someone from your time at BMS who had an impact on you? 

Again, there’s a lot but high up on the list, John Foulkes who appointed me, Digger Roberts, who commanded the CCF when I headed the RN Section, was a supremely funny and warm gentleman, Dave Berry who had me as his 2nd VIII coach and was head of Science and Chris Barcock who when I returned from Leukaemia would not allow me to do any cover work for absent colleagues just to protect me. Finally, my old mate Richard Chadwick, Chads takes no prisoners he loves to tease but is equally open to being teased himself. I will give you one example. Some years ago the Welsh Rugby team was beaten by Western Samoa. The next morning Chads said, “Jenks, you’re lucky it wasn’t the whole of Samoa.”  

What would be your advice to your younger self? 

Again, it comes from my time with leukaemia. It is this, a school is a community, and you should look after each other and value those connections throughout your life. 

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