‘Don’t call me Dave, I’m Neville’ says PM

DSOBA chairman John Bryant (striped blazer) with Roger Parrott
DSOBA chairman John Bryant (striped blazer) with Roger Parrott

The Prime Minister was guest speaker at the Dunstable School Old Boys’ Association annual lunch on Saturday, September 29.

Not David Cameron, but Neville Chamberlain – or to be strictly accurate, Roger Parrott, the man who played him in the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter.

Roger was a pupil from 1960 to 1967 at the old Dunstable Grammar School, which used to be housed in Ashton Middle School in High Street North until the advent of comprehensive education meant the end of the school’s existence in 1971.

Roger, son and grandson of two former mayors of Dunstable, became a teacher, but his love of acting was never far away and eventually he trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

He told the 85 former pupils and masters attending the lunch how retraining had given him “the most torrid time imaginable” as he was the oldest student at 45!

He persevered and took on acting jobs with as wide a range as playing the Governor of the Bank of England and voicing over adverts for Atrixo hand cream.

But one Wednesday his agent phoned and asked him whether he was free at the weekend for some work – on a film about the speech difficulty of King George VI.

“I said ‘Nobody’s going to watch a film about that!’, and my agent said, ‘The fee is £1,000’ and I said, ‘I’m free’!”

The film went on to gain four Oscars and a host of other dramatic awards. “What did I know!” said Roger.

He told guests that two people had influenced him and encouraged his love of drama while he was at school.

They were Hope Pratt (who died last month at the age of 100), a teacher at Ashton Junior School, and Brian Arthur, former head of modern languages at DGS, who produced many of the school’s plays.

He also recalled in the entertaining speech the problem of casting female roles in a boys-only school.

During the afternoon, association chairman John Bryant paid tribute to Philip Buckle, a founder member and committee member, who died this year, and went on to welcome five former teachers – Graham Jenner, David Bexon, John Walker, Roger Moore and Ray Stock.

He also welcomed Don Blake, the oldest member, who joined the school in 1927, and the youngest, Simon Rowe, who joined in 1967, as well as father and son Ron and Graham Morgan, and brothers Geoff and Grahame Bennett.