A Service of Thanksgiving was arranged for Saturday 17th March 2018 at 2pm at St Michael’s College Chapel.
Memories of Brian sent by over twenty of us were gathered into a leaflet that was part of the memorial service at St Michael’s in March 2018. The following is a shortened version of the tribute at that service.
Brian was born on Boxing Day 1923. His father was a priest who had known the St Michael’s librarian Dr Fellowes when they were at Oxford.
In September 1932 Brian came to St Michael’s as an 8 year-old from his home in Buckinghamshire. Entering the choir just after his 11th birthday in January 1935, he was made a chorister after a year and Head Chorister in his final year. He was awarded both a choral exhibition and a clergy exhibition by St Edward’s Oxford. He left St Michael’s just before his 14th birthday in 1937, and wrote later
“I was firmly resolved on two things :
(i) that I would come back to sing and teach as soon as I could; the war, of course, intervened, and
(ii) that one day I would have an Aston Martin like the one that one of the masters had.
As luck would have it both these resolutions came true..”
The next nine years were spent at St Edward’s and on active service in the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve during hostilities. He returned to St Michael’s and joined the staff in 1946, where he continued for 38 years until 1984. Five facets of his life were special to us :
The Choir. The fine quality of his alto or counter-tenor voice is remembered by all who sang in the choir and by many others. Each of the four choirmasters that he sang with really valued not only his skill but also his dependability.
Cubs. He and Katie Ashley threw themselves enthusiastically into all the activities involved in the cubs. They stimulated a ‘can-do’ approach to practical problem-solving that subsequently blossomed in the scouts.
1955 photo includes Brian Demaus, Katie Ashley, and David Wells Cole
His coaching of cricket, rugger and soccer teams also developed skills that often resulted in success when playing against other schools. This demanded patience in spotting and fostering potential ability and then providing help to individuals and teams so that they could flourish. Sports days involving athletics and swimming similarly involved encouragement of individual achievement and efficient organisation.
Classroom activities. Various people remembered Brian teaching English, Geography, Mathematics, Science and Art. Brian’s comments on classwork and in reports are remembered as being apposite, perceptive and fair.
One tribute to him included the exclamation “Inspirational ! A wonderful teacher and pastoral carer.” Another wrote “he was one of the best masters I had, even if at the time his manner felt a bit severe or too ironic for us youngsters. He was there to teach, and teach he did.” You soon learnt not to mess with Mousey! Several also referred to his fine sense of humour.
Cars. In his contribution to the 2006 booklet entitled ‘Memories’ (p.13) he pleaded guilty to being a car nut from the age of four. From MG to Humber, Lagonda, Aston Martin and to the rare Arab that he restored, he became an expert on each of his cars and
He shared the breadth and depth of his knowledge, becoming a prolific and renowned author of many well- written and lavishly illustrated books and articles.
Some knew Brian first as clean shaven, independent and dynamic; others in the last half century knew him as a thoughtful Senior Master – a pillar of the establishment and a seemingly timeless bearded patriarch – an institution in himself.
Brian Demaus and his 1929 Arab
The recurring themes in the comments written recently by some of his former pupils tended to focus on five attributes:
First, his commitment, especially to the choir and the college; second – his encouragement of self-confidence, as in the cubs, third – his patience, as in coaching cricket, soccer and rugger; fourth- his fairness, as in his evaluations of classroom efforts; fifth – his enthusiasm, as in his involvement with cars.
This fine character was undoubtedly a significant influence on the childhoods of many of us. (Charles Beresford).
Hear Brian Demaus as guest speaker at the SMCS dinner in 2011