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'Mister Dibbs' passes away

Mr. Bevill St. Elmo de Bruin, affectionately known as 'Mister Dibbs', was English and Mathematics master and also athletics and cricket coach at Royal College, Colombo for 18 years till 1960. He subsequently joined Cornwall College, Montego Bay, Jamaica in the West Indies where he taught for a further 35 years. Both Royal and Cornwall Colleges had the same school motto- 'disce aut discede'.

He passed away at the age of 79 years on 19 July 2003 in Montego Bay, and the Jamaican observer carried the following:" He gained Cornwall College exceptional examination results in mathematics. His influence at the institution exceeded the boundaries of mathematics classes, as for several years he coached cricket, athletics, table-tennis and rifle-shooting teams."

In 1999, Jamaica honoured him with the order of distinction for his outstanding contribution in the field of education. "He used to assist many students with lunch money, books, school fees and clothes", a teacher who worked with him in Cornwall College said. "Many of them took him as their father".

Dr. Brendon Guneratne writes: "Mr. De Bruin was one of the finest men I had met in my lifetime — so generous, soft spoken and cultured, unattached to material things, super teacher, athletics and cricket coach. erudite, well-read and extremely modest, he illuminated our lives and along with Prof. E. O. E. Pereira and Dr. D. B. Gunasekera, were the heroes of my school days at Royal.

"He was the human being I knew who was closest to being a saint. It was our very great fortune that we all met and knew a truly great man who walked this earth during our own lifetime."

SUNDAY ISLAND - Aug 10 2003

Thank you ‘Mr. Dibbs’ for your guidance

Thank you for the excellent story that appeared in the your on-line Observer of July 26 re the memorial service for the late Bevill de Bruin, veteran Cornwall College teacher.

As your very well-written article noted, Mr. de Bruin was like a father to many of his students. With tears in my eyes, I would like to disclose a personal example of Mr. de Bruin’s father-like acts to me, while I was a student in his Additional Mathematics (Add Math) class at CC. I was in the fifth form, a poor little country boy, riding the bus from Lottery to Montego Bay everyday, happily surviving on the money that my dear grandmother could afford to spend to send me to the venerable CC, aided by a full scholarship.

One day in class, Mr. de Bruin noticed that I was crying silently, trying not to make anyone see me crying. He took me aside and asked what was wrong and I told him that I had a terrible toothache. He asked me to see him after class and I did. ‘Mr. Dibbs’ gave me an envelope and a slip of paper with an address where I should go to see Dentist Begg in downtown MoBay. I discovered, on arriving at the dentist’s office, that the envelope contained the cash payment for the dentist to extract my aching tooth. It was the greatest relief from pain that I ever had, even up until now, and I want to take this opportunity to say: "Thank you, ‘Mr. Dibbs’."

Because of such care and compassion from Mr. Dibbs and owing to his wisdom and stabilising influence, I have made it a kind of annual custom, for the past several years, to visit CC to see ‘Mr. Dibbs’, aided by my friend Ronald Chin, another veteran CC teacher. Now, I will miss the pleasure of his presence and the reassurance of his wisdom. I loved ‘Mr. Dibbs’ dearly, as many other CC old boys certainly did, even though ‘Mr. Dibbs’ gave me one of only two canings that I got on the behind while attending CC.

Mr. de Bruin was a loving disciplinarian and a teacher par excellence. He could draw a near-perfect circle on the chalkboard without a compass and could solve a quadratic equation in seconds. He took time painstakingly to help us understand how to solve Add Math problems involving differentiation and integration, skills that I would learn nowhere else, and would later teach to others.

His cricketing and table tennis skills were dazzling, and he was the epitome of humility. Yet, perhaps, his greatest gift was the largeness of his heart.

Sleep on, "Mr. Dibbs", and take your rest, after a job well done. The lives you have touched at CC and elsewhere will be your rich legacy and lasting gift to humanity. We, your many academic children, mourn your loss and cherish your memory. May your soul rest in peace.

Rev Mervin Stoddart

P O Box 150953

Altamonte Springs, FL 32715

Era ends as ‘Mr. Dibbs’ laid to rest

Mel Cooke
Freelance Writer
The skies wept and the breeze howled for Bevill St. Elmo deBruin on Monday afternoon.

Simple speech, soaring song, anecdotes and reflection were punctuated by driving rain and dust-swirling wind, as the elements joined in giving thanks for the life of the revered Mathematics teacher of 40 years at Cornwall College, Montego Bay, St. James, at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in the city.

The physical representation of a life that lasted from August 28, 1923, to July 19, 2003, was as uncluttered as the man who lived it - a picture with a smile tugging at his lips topped off a wooden stand, with three plaques from the many awards he had earned above the insignia of the Order of Jamaica (OJ), simple wreaths adding a touch of colour.

However, the sentiments expressed about the man everyone called Mr. Dibbs were of far greater substance and much more lasting than any elaborate edifices that could have been set up in his honour.

The tributes came before a gathering sprinkled liberally with maroon and gold Cornwall College ties and dotted with a T-shirt or two; composed of people who rolled up in late-model vehicles and an amputee who tramped along on metal crutches; spanning grizzled and balding men to boys whose voices have not yet broken the squeak of pre-pubescence; from overseas and ‘Gully’, adjoining one border of Cornwall College.

Mr. Dibbs’ influence on teachers and students, men and boys alike, was tremendous.

"I want you to know that Mr. deBruin did not only influence students, he influenced principals. When I came to Cornwall there was a little controversy and he guided me. He was a senior man and I appreciated it," Noel Monteith, who took up leadership at Cornwall in September 1986 said.

"I met a man, a real man, a man whose memories time will not erase," he said.

A former student gave the perspective of small, scared child leaving home for the first time, when he was "delivered into the hands of Mr. Mac the Art teacher and a tall man who peered down at me. And I thought, "this is another bad idea from the parents".

"I remember when my box of food was being raided, I asked ‘who is that’. They said ‘that is Mr. Dibbs, the great Maths teacher’."

"As small boys, he was very kind to us at the beginning of term. During the break between first and second prep, he took us into the small room in Harrison House - all of us crammed in there - and he would give us sodas and tell us stories."

"He was the picture of elegance, as long as it was black pants and white shirts rolled up at the sleeves," he said, to chuckles of agreement from the gathering. "His role in transforming boys into men into legendary. He was the best teacher I ever had and the best teacher an 11 year-old boy could ever want."

Mr. Dibbs’ influence went way past the perfect circles and 45 degree angles he would draw freehand on the blackboard, as he also coached cricket, rifle-shooting and, above all, "taught us boys to be kind".

"Before the reverse swinger was invented, Mr. Dibbs taught me the outside swinger," one man said.

Past principal of Cornwall College, JAW Crick, brought Mr. Dibbs’ crack rifle shooting and personal quirks together. "I remember when the range was closed down and the rifles were being turned over to the police, we had two Winchester rifles we had just bought. He was reluctant to part with them. Occasionally he would go down to the police station on a Saturday morning, to see how they were being treated," Mr. Crick said, to chuckles from the gathering.

"Some of us will remember him for his quick wit. Some will remember him for his generosity to those in need. But all will remember his sense of justice and his high integrity," Mr. Crick said.

Mr. Crick gave a somewhat surprising bit of information, saying "Mr. deBruin told me that he drifted into teaching with no great resolve to make it his life’s work. I am sure that all of us here at Cornwall College are glad he drifted to us," the former principal said.

That drift to the school on the hill beside the sea was across oceans and continents, as Mr. DeBruin was born in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

A niece, Tessa deBruin, represented his family and read the first lesson. Current principal Croswell Taylor read an Epistle.

Once he had drifted to Orange Street, Montego Bay, though, Mr. Dibbs would not be dislodged easily and one former student recalled that it took Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 to dislodge him from the by then shambles of his beloved Harrison House, where he had been housemaster, which now houses the UWI’s MoBay Campus.

And, as Mr. Monteith said, "for Mr. deBruin teaching was not a profession, it was an opportunity to serve and he served in any capacity asked. He never pretended learning was easy, or that it came without hard work".

As one former student put it, "in everything he explained he made it as simple as anyone could want. His was a simple life, a life of service, for which he expected no reward".

It was left to Noel Monteith to put the final, simple touch on the final farewell for a man who lived his live simply well, simply and well.

"On every funeral programme there is a date of birth and a date of death, with a dash in between. The dash represents how you lived your life. I believe that all of us will be called on one day, to account for how we lived our dash. I know that thousands of us can testify that Mr. deBruin lived his dash very well," he said.

Just before Cornwall College Old Boy AJ Brown sang <B> The World’s Greatest <P>, the dark skies broke into tears and, by the time he was well into the song the wind was making small dust tornadoes in the Holy Trinity courtyard.

When the Rt. Rev. The Hon. Dr. Neville DeSouza delivered the sermon, his words competed with the power of nature as Mr. Bevill St. Elmo deBruin, a man who lived a long, valuable and indelible dash, was ushered home.

And for legendary Mathematics teacher, "gentle giant, benefactor and confidante", a "stickler for standards of morality, good manners and decency", it was a dash that meant no minuses.

A gentleman par excellence

Bevil St. Elmo De Bruin

Sunday Times Oct 26 2003

One chapter of our life has been closed forever with the passing away of B. St. E. de Bruin, O.D. (Officer of Distinction) in Montego Bay, Jamaica, West Indies, on July 19, this year. Should he have lived, he would have quietly had his candlelit dinner in his master's room at Cornwall College to celebrate his 80th birthday on August 28.

Bevil St. Elmo de Bruin came to London in the early 1960s. My husband, who had been his student, and I had the good fortune of meeting him when he was occupying the room next to Prof. and Mrs. E.O.E. Pereira's flat in Ealing. He had been a great admirer of my father-in-law, the late M.M. Kulasekaram, former Vice Principal of Royal College and was very happy to meet my husband.

From then onwards, a great friendship developed. My husband always kept his master posted on the Royal-Thomian scores and the results of Bradby Shield rugger matches.

Mr. Bruin in return would always send us the latest on motor racing which was my husband's favourite sport having known Graf and Grafin von Trips personally, the parents of Wolfgang von Trips who crashed in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1961.
Mr. Bruin left for Cornwall College, Montego Bay, in 1962 after a short teaching spell in London. Later in the summer of 1965 he returned to London on a month's holiday and stayed with us.

It was one of the most memorable periods of our life. During that month, old Royalists who were living in England and who had heard that Mr. Bruin was in London came to see him and reminisce about their school days. They spent time with their old master drinking Jamaican rum and relishing Sri Lankan food. Our son who was taking his first footsteps had Uncle Bruin saying, "Come Putha", almost falling over in his eagerness to run to Mr. Bruin's outstretched arms. Often Mr. Bruin would carry our son perched on his shoulders, having a grandstand view, while walking around London.

Mr. Bruin never failed to keep in touch with us up to his last few months.He was able to write on any subject - be it a very descriptive train journey from Kingston to Mo-Bay, cricket, Jamaican politics - he had a large repertoire. He wrote on the thousands who perished in the 9/11 Twin Tower disaster and also gave exact figures on the victims of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When the Jamaican government conferred on him the honour of Officer of Distinction, he sent us the newspaper clippings where past students of Cornwall College had written in with such admiration of their master. When Mr. Bruin was offered the Headmastership of Cornwall College he graciously declined to accept it saying that he preferred to live in his single room. His keynotes were simplicity and generosity.

When I was expecting our second baby, my husband who did not have a very good job said to me that I would have to go into a government hospital to deliver the baby.
I happened to mention this to Mr. Bruin and he simply wrote back to us asking me to please book into a private nursing home, and enclosing a cheque for £100. Here was a gentleman par excellence. His magnanimous act will never be erased from our minds until memory fades.

Royal lost an excellent and dedicated master; it was Cornwall's gain. I am sure he loved Mo-Bay and Cornwall as he got the respect he richly deserved for his dedication to his pupils. But he was also very much for Sri Lanka as well. Until we meet again - may his soul rest in peace!


My literature teacher - God, how proud I am!

By Carl Muller

Jamaica marked Heroes' Night on October 8 last year. Governor General
Sir Howard Cooke was there, and everywhere in the island, hearts surged
for one tall, lanky man, one Sri Lankan who stood before Sir Howard to
receive the insignia, the Order of Distinction.

Call him Elmo de Bruin, or "Bruno" as so many Royalists knew him. Call
him Bevil de Bruin, O.D. now. For 37 years, he has been Jamaica's most
revered teacher. The island's North Coast Times has described him as
"one of the best Mathematics teachers Jamaican classrooms have ever seen
has given 37 years of excellence to Cornwall, and thousands of boys will
never be the same again".

We Royalists called him "Bruno" and he was friend, mentor and God. How
proud I am, for in the fifties he was my English Literature teacher and
he gave me (shoved into me, I should say) all the glory and art of
language. Humbly, I can say, I am because he is.

He was teaching at Royal even after I left, carrying my own cloud of
indiscipline with me, but I also carried away a precious part of him. We
have been in touch, of course, but nothing delighted me more than this
wonderful news. Our "Bruno" is today a national hero. Jamaica has bowed
to him. The outpourings, the sentiments were so many that the North
Coast Times brought out a special supplement. This is a sampling.

o Errol Sheppey, Managing Director of Medifar in Montego Bay - Bevil,
you're such an example of kindness in so many things that you do - you
go out of your way to help others and give them encouragement too - you
listen with real understanding and show people you care for them so -
you're such an example of kindness - such a wonderful person to know. I
will always remain indebted to you.

o Patrick A. Chin of Peat Marwick, Kingston - Congratulations on your
inclusion in the list of national honorees and awards in recognition of
your long and exemplary service in the field of education. All
Cornwallians are proud of your achievements and I am especially grateful
to have been touched by your humble spirit, care and guidance over the
years. May God bless and help you to continue your good work.

Such a well-loved man. To Jamaica he was affectionately, "Mr. Dibbs" and
this is how three partners of an engineering firm in Montego Bay came to
say: "Great math teachers produce Engineers for decades. Thank you, Mr.

As at Royal, "Bruno" was an allrounder at Cornwall College. He was
always an ardent spokesman and athlete. I am told that he is, in
Cornwall, a coach at cricket, hurdles, plays a mean game of tennis,
coaches for the triple jump, pole vault, rifle shooting and table

As a math teacher he is legendary. Writing in the North Coast Times,
Horace Chang says, "Bruno" gained for Cornwall College outstanding
results in Mathematics and Pure and Applied Maths and because of him,
Cornwall remained one of the few schools to offer further Mathematics at
"A" Levels.

Some time ago, Brendon Gooneratne told us of our "Bruno's" life at
Cornwall. Brendon called him "the saint of Montego Bay" and what else
can you call a man who exhausted his salary providing for his needy
students? Some could hardly afford a lunch; others had difficulty
finding their examination fees. It was "Bruno" who eased their way.

Cornwall is quick to recognize the great disciplinarian too. A teacher,
Larry Simpson says: "In 1985, when I first met him, I could not fathom
how so simple looking a man could be so stern!" And he recalled: "At an
Old Boys reunion in 1996 the comment was that if you went to Cornwall
and weren't taught by Mr. Dibbs, you are not a full-fledged

And yes, he uses the cane. One old boy said: "If the Principal wasn't
there and Mr. de Bruin was to do the caning, man, you trembled for it.
Nobody wanted to be caned by him." And yet, as all will say, his bark
was worse than the bite of his cane. "If you stepped out of line and Mr.
De Bruin had to talk to you, you left feeling crushed." Yes, it has
always been "learn or depart". That is Royal's motto - "Disce aut
Discede" and, would you believe it, Cornwall's motto too. To our "Bruno"
it must have been quite like coming home. Another "Royal" where so many
"Mullers" needed to have their heads put straight and taught how to step

I still remember his springing step, the way he always had the top
button of his shirt undone, the easy way he moved and his voice, so
controlled even when displeased. Not that he made no show of emotion.

He brought that into his teaching and, to me, it made English Literature
so very special.

And now, the race is run and one marvellous man may, for all I know,
look over his shoulder and think: "Oh nonsense, it's never over. Not for
me." Which is the "Bruno" so many Royalists have known and honoured. He
will never say: "I'm done."

God, how proud I am to think that for two years of my life he taught me
too. Just two years..... and it has lasted a lifetime.

Jamaica Observer



Monday memorial service for 'Mr Dibbs'

Observer Reporter
Saturday, July 26, 2003

MR DIBBS... will be sadly missed

WESTERN BUREAU -- The memorial service for the late Bevill de Bruin, the former Cornwall College vice-principal who served the institution for more than 35 years, will be held at the Holy Trinity Church in Montego Bay on Monday.

The former educator, affectionately called "Mr Dibbs" ,died on July 19 at the Cornwall Regional Hospital after a brief illness. He was 79.

"Mr Dibbs" teaching career began at the all-boy school on January 1, 1962, shortly after he arrived in the island from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

Before long, he established himself as a mathematics teacher, gaining Cornwall College exceptional examination results in that subject. His influence at the institution however far exceeded the boundaries of mathematics classes, as for several years he coached cricket, athletics, table-tennis and rifle shooting teams.

A former Rhodes scholar, de Bruin was honoured with the Order of Distinction in 1999 for his outstanding contribution in the field of education. He retired from teaching at Cornwall College about five years ago, but he continued to give private lessons at home.

"He used to assist many students with lunch money, books, school fees and clothes," a teacher who worked with him at Cornwall College said. "Many of them (students) took him as their father."