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ALUMNI > Alumni News > Former Head of Biology, Mike Dray

Former Head of Biology, Mike Dray

We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of former staff member, Mike Dray. 
18 Sep 2022
Alumni News
Mike enjoying retirement in Antigua January 2020
Mike enjoying retirement in Antigua January 2020

Mike was a staff member at CGS and then PGS from 1975 – 2006, holding the posts of Head of Biology (from 1982 on the retirement of Don Bennett - 2006), Co-ordinator of Science (1986 – 2006) and CCF Contingent Commander (1977 - 1993). He remained very connected with Pate’s after his retirement; he enjoyed attending alumni reunions, sharing tales of D of E and CCF camps which he’d led and was always very interested in all that went on at the school, especially anything to do with the Nature Reserve which had been of such interest to him at work.

We’d like to share with you a short piece which Mike wrote for a virtual alumni reunion held during lockdown in 2020 which may prompt some long-forgotten memories of trips, camps and lessons for those of you who knew him:

‘I do go back into the mists of time having entered teaching in 1970, starting at Cheltenham GS in 1975 (I had to wear my school gown in the lab in those early days!) and then later at Pates GS. It was a very different era. I took CCF cadets to Berlin, for example, in 1978, when we went through Checkpoint Charlie into the Russian Zone and travelled to Berlin by the British Military train through East Germany: we were forbidden to take photos of the Russian tanks but guess what one cadet did! My last years in the CCF were mainly devoted to the Year 9 cadets training and Duke of Edinburgh Bronze. My last CCF camp was at Crowborough in Sussex in July 2005.

If I may continue to ponder on the changes I have seen, I’ll turn to Biology. When I did my A Level in 1966, there was mention of this chemical ‘DNA’ and it was dismissed in about one lesson; it was the material genes were made from and it had something to do with protein synthesis - ‘one gene, one enzyme’ was the ‘in’ phrase. By 2005 DNA had become a central strand (or even a double helix) in the syllabus and I was able to carry out practical work at Pate’s which transferred a gene for luminescence from a jellyfish into bacteria. Can any of you remember the petri dishes of glowing bacteria which I proudly showed around??

I could write a book of my memories, mostly very happy with myriads of smiling faces and hope that you too will be as sustained by your memories of Pate’s as I have of been by mine (mind you I was there for 31 years!).’

We shared the news of Mike's passing with our alumni through Facebook and were so touched by the response. Here is a selection of some of the wonderful comments:

'Such sad news. Mr Dray was one of my favourite teachers at PGS. His sense of humour, kindness and sage advice had a profound influence on my life. His parting words to me after A levels in 1991 were “Don’t forget to enjoy the journey Liz”. I recounted this in my 50th birthday party speech just last week. I’m still enjoying the journey Sir. Thank you for your part in it. Rest in Peace'

'My biggest memory of biology with Mr Dray was him entering the lab and walking on the desks. Great teacher, really made biology interesting'

'I remember a week adventure training with the CCF on the Isle of Arran. At the end of every day, Major Dray would say “That was a good half day” and every day we protested that we’d walked miles and there was no way it was only a ‘half day!’ I read Biology at University then joined the Army, so I guess he was quite an influence'

'Just seen this, really sad news. I have very fond memories of my time at CGS & PGS ('83-'90) and in the CCF. I was never taught by Major Dray but had knew him well through CCF. I remember driving up to Nescliffe with him one year for the basic camp in an old landrover as well as the many walking trips and parades/annual inspections. A true gent who made a great impression on people. Rest easy sir'

'Sad News. Major Dray was a strong yet quiet driving force for the CCF and gave up so much time. I was recounting to my 17yr old who is learning to drive, how me and a friend were allowed to drive the school Landrover by ourselves up to Aviemore for the ski trip by him (having both only recently passed our tests!). I also remember when I was in Basic I managed to spill soup over him at an Annual inspection camping demo, obviously didn't hold grudges as I later became RSM in 1988!! I'll remember his dry sense of humour and being pretty chilled out in most situations where others would be shouting'

'Sad news. Major Dray didn't teach me, but I do still use the phrase, "Bit of decorum please!" which he commented loudly to two of my friends caught canoodling in a corridor between lessons (in about 1994)!'

'Sad news about a great man who influenced me greatly and no doubt countless others. I was lucky enough to have him guide me through many years of education, cadets and Duke of Edinburgh. He seemed to have endless skills, patience and knowledge. Even when he was dissuading me from my amateur pyrotechnics experiments by telling the tale of a student who lost a hand, he still corrected my chemistry! I think legend is an appropriate term for Col Dray. Rest in peace Sir'

'Sad news, he got me through my biology GCSE, and was always very supportive of the cadets. And who could forget his magnificent collection of ties??? I think the neon elephants one was my favourite'

'Lovely teacher. Taught me biology and was a great teacher. My standout memory of him though is saving me from being locked in school overnight! I was in the sick room and they all forgot about me. Luckily he checked the room before leaving school and found me. Then gave me a lift home! RIP Major Dray'

'Such sad news. Mike taught me Biology and I knew him more so from my 5 years in the CCF. A man with a wry smile, keen sense of humour and patience in spades for everyone. He guided so many of us so well. Lessons we will all remember I'm sure. Condolences to his family. Rest in peace Sir'

'Rest in peace Major Dray. Lots of happy CCF memories'

'So sad to hear, Mr Dray was one of those teachers that sat above the others as "one of the good guys", stern but always fair, appreciative of hijinks where acceptable, and every now and then a rule breaker in the most honourable fashion, but only in a way that would make the pupils respect him more. Very fond memories of seeing him glide through the corridors, with his own special wit and relationship with my classmates. I'll never forget my lessons with him (including the legendary "lamb" routine). I hope his family know how much he was loved by his students'

'RIP Mr Dray. I will always remember your good humour and effortless glide between the lab benchs. It was nice to see you occasionally after I'd left as well as you lived in the next village, sometimes campaigning with the Lib Dems'

'From memory, Mike never taught me during my time at school, but I thoroughly enjoyed his leadership of the CCF. Calm, intelligent and a great sense of humour. RIP'

'Amazing teacher, great sense of humour. RIP'

'RIP Major Dray, as I knew him. He didn’t teach me biology but was my form tutor for sixth form and led CCF splendidly. I had huge respect for him…'

'Very sorry to hear this, my condolences to his family. He always had such a dry sense of humour. When we handed back our Year 9 Biology text books, he asked whether we were going to be studying to GCSE. When we said no, he just said, “Have a nice life.” He was certainly a character and will be missed'

'RIP Mr Dray. He was a very patient teacher (particularly with those teenagers who had a busy weekend & had a tendency to snooze in Monday morning biology) with most of our class gaining grade a at a-level thanks to his thorough teaching. It’s so nice to hear he enjoyed his teaching as much as we did. Thanks for my grounding in biology before vet school Mr Dray. Sleep well '

'Sad news about a great man who influenced me greatly and no doubt countless others. I was lucky enough to have him guide me through many years of education, cadets and Duke of Edinburgh. He seemed to have endless skills, patience and knowledge. Even when he was dissuading me from my amateur pyrotechnics experiments by telling the tale of a student who lost a hand, he still corrected my chemistry! I think legend is an appropriate term for Col Dray. Rest in peace Sir'

'I remember him stopping me mid stride on Dartmoor as my “enormous size twelves” were about to crush a particularly interesting bog plant followed by an impromptu talk on what made it so special. A great teacher'

'Very sorry to hear this news. We had a good chat some years ago at Neil Anderson’s funeral. Mr. Dray tought me in my 2nd and 5th years and I thank him for getting me my “O” level for I was not a natural scientist! RIP to a fine man who gave a lot back'

'Sad news. He was an excellent biology teacher and probably the main reason I chose it for A level, and then got a great mark. Thank you and RIP'

'Rest in peace sir. I almost shot him once on the school range. I had a misfire and rather than putting my hand up I turned and pointed the rifle straight at him and asked him what I should do. He very calmly told me to point the rifle back down the range and summoned another cadet to deal with it. The rifle chamber was empty and I had dropped the round as I had loaded it. I was expecting a rather loud one way debrief but he made me do a remedial shooting and safety briefing instead'

'Such sad news. He always had such enthusiasm for life, for biology and the students generally. I'll always remember his very proper walk, banking around corners! RIP '

'Sad news. Not a biologist, but he helped get me through O level. Seem to remember late Summer term 81, Bob Willis is starting to rip through the Aussies at Headingley at he let me keep track of the game on the radio during a lesson. RIP'

'So sorry to hear the sad news. 30 years on I still remember him setting us biology essays based on Aristotle and making a point of putting lots of Latin plant names of the board when he thought a film crew would be coming in'

'My condolences to his family, I enjoyed his teaching but mostly remember his support when in CCF although I did defect into RAF side instead of army but he was still very influential and supportive'

I have such great memories of Mr Dray, he was an amazing teacher and was the main reason I did Biology A’level. I remember one lesson he stood on one of the benches to get our attention, because everyone was messing around. He had a fabulously dry sense of humour and I remember him very fondly (91-98)

'RIP MIke. Thank you for amplifying my youth and experience through school'

'Such an engaging teacher and kind person. Thank you Mr Dray for igniting my love of biology as a GCSE student and for building my confidence that I could do well'

'His influence in firing up my interest in the natural world is incalculable and for his tutoring for biology 'A' Level and development of my interest in agricultural botany I am eternally grateful'

And we include his goodbye write up in the Summer 2007 edition of Pate's Progress:

 

Mike will be much missed. His funeral will take place at All Saints Church, Cheltenham at 11.30 am on Monday 10th October. The family welcome the attendance of any current and former staff and alumni who knew him (a private cremation will follow the service).

 

 

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