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October 2007

Barua: An Amazing Man

Deb Barua
Mayo College, Batch of 1961

Barua How does one even begin to describe Jack Gibson? He was a man of many “great” and rare qualities. He was an educationist – honoured by both the Indian and British Governments for his services to education; he was a man with a sense of adventure – demonstrated by his mountaineering exploits; he believed in fairness; always ready to help the underprivileged and the underdog; he had a great sense of value – a quality that he passed on to the students while at Mayo; and the most humble quality of all – great joy and pleasure from the simple things of life!!

My association with Jack began at the tender age of ten and I am honoured and proud to say that it lasted till his death. He was at first my Principal and teacher, then became my mentor, guide and father figure and a friend.

Jack had the rare quality of making everyone feel that they were special to him. He was especially kind to people in need. Not many people may know that he provided financial support for needy ex Mayo students through University. Most students have their own stories to tell about his concern for them and his way of helping them. In my case he made me who I am today. He strongly believed that he should fulfill the goal of educating one individual beyond school. And I was fortunate to be the chosen one. He saw potential in me but knew my financial resources were limited. He got me a scholarship to Haileybury, a leading boarding school in England and managed to get me a grant at Cambridge University. He took on the responsibility to look after all my expenses while studying in England!!

As an educationist he knew how to get the best out of his students and many can vouch for that. In my case he changed my life. Upon joining Mayo I was so homesick that I convinced my father to take me out of school. My brother-in-law was sent to fetch me. Jack tried his best to convince me to stay on till the end of the term and not return after the holidays if I did not feel like it. But I insisted on leaving. When we went to say bye to him he challenged my stubborn resolve. He told me that I was a coward and a sissy and did not even have the courage to stay on for only six more weeks. At that young age my pride was deeply hurt and I took up his challenge. That was the best decision of my life.

Jack believed education should not be limited to the class room but should be an all round experience. It should build character and instill a sense of value. As a student in England one Christmas season, I worked as a Postman to earn enough money to go skiing. I thought he would appreciative my initiative. However he thought differently. He said that if I was doing it for the experience he approved but not for the sake of monetary reasons alone. He believed that travel is a great education experience and I should have the opportunity to do so. He felt so strongly about it that he gave me a generous annual allowance to travel. As a result I traveled widely in Europe, and visited the US and Canada. This experience of meeting a variety of people and cultures has broadened my mind and my outlook on life.

Jack introduced me to a number of families in England with whom I could spend my school/university holidays. He made sure that these families belonged to a cross section of society to instill in me a greater sense of value and appreciation of  people for who they are. Even today I am not swayed by the wealth of a person but by the character of the person.

Jack had strong sense of fairness and applied that standard to all who crossed his path. Mayo boys probably remember instances where when he was at fault he was prepared to be subjected to the same punishment that would have been meted out to them in a similar situation. On one occasion he did five somersaults in front of the entire class!!

1985_jack_with_tortoiseI stayed on an extra year in Mayo as I was underage to get admission to a college. This worked in my favour as I became Headboy and Captain of quite a few games. However, Jack explained to me that my extended stay should not hinder other deserving boys from their opportunities. Hence with Jack’s characteristic sense of fairness he did not make me Captain of Football even though that was my best game and another boy was made Headboy in my last term.

Jack was a simple person at heart and got great pleasure from the little things of life. The taming of the wild bulbul to eat out of his hand or a game of competitive coits in his courtyard, or the evening walk in the fields around his house inspecting the progress of the crops gave him immense pleasure.

I am extremely fortunate and blessed to have had such close interaction with him, his family and his friends over the years. I am sure that all who knew him well feel the same way. Any one who crossed his path is a better person.


Bahl: Goondy -- The Lovable Person

Harish Bahl
The Doon School, 204 k, 1942-1947

Harish I have some very old and fond memories of Mr Gibson as I recollect them at this stage.

I joined school during 1942. Mr Gibson who was the House Master of Kashmir House had, at that time, joined the Navy in response to the call by Mr Churchill for joining the British forces to fight against Germany. Mr Vyas was holding the charge of Kashmir house in his absence. As a new entrant I had not met Mr Gibson but a number of tales about him and his persona were rife at the campus. I gathered that he was strict but a loveable person and boys had nick named him ‘Goondy’

My first encounter
One fine morning of April 1943, a very smart naval officer walked in our class to take a lesson of General Knowledge. This was Mr Gibson who had come on leave to Dehradun. His opening remark was that every town’s name tells us its geography and culture. He asked us what does the name Chittorgarh tell you? Boys responded telling him that Maharana Pratap Singh fought against Aurangzeb from here. He was not satisfied by the answer. So he asked what did the names Rampur and Phoolpur indicate? There was no response.He looked unhappy and asked what did Oxford and Cambridge tell us? I replied that there must be a bridge at Cambridge. I also told him that Phulpur must mean that people there grew lots of flowers and there must be a market for flowers. He beamed at this and asked me to which house did I belong to? I told him that I was in Kshmir house. To which he said that he thought so as Kashmir house had intelligentia. I was on cloud nine.

It transpired that coming back to school on leave he had purchased a book at the railway station which gave the names of Indian cities and explained their culture and geography. thus he wanted us to learn and analyse the names of the towns and the cities and study about their culture and geography as well. He kept taking classes on the subject discussing hundreds of towns. When his leave expired he gave us a test and gave three prizes too. By then I had become his admirer.

During his next year leave he came and taught us how to read an Army map and point out the exact location of a place by giving 6 figure map reference. I wondered how could he do that at sea. He also taught us how to find out our position at night by looking at the pole and the other stars.  He did all this in a very interesting manner and kept our interest alive.

I give below some of the characteristics of Mr Gibson which are clear in my memory.  There was no equivalent of ‘thank you’ in Hindi  so he used to say ‘meherbani’ whenever he wanted to thank a person who knew no English.

Sunday Treat
He used to invite boys in turn for Sunday breakfast. We looked forward to our turn because along with a normal fare he used to serve strawberries with cream also. There he would discuss our problems and difficulties and tried to solve them too.

Penchant for discipline
Mr Gibson was a disciplinarian of the old orderand did not believe in sparing the rod. Whenever a boy committed an act of indiscipline which deservered a whack or a yellow card, he gave a choice either to get three whacks on the bottom or go for the yellow card to Headmaster. Obviously most of the boys opted for the former punishment.

One boy who was always in trouble was very innovative. He used to put a thin cardboard inside his trousers to minimise the impact of the whacks. One day when he got caught  Mr Gibson removed the cardboard padding and gave him real hard whacks saying that I appreciate your ingenuity but you must learn to be man to take your punishment.

After the war he came back to Kashmir house as Housemaster. Our Geography classes were being taken by Mr Gurdial Singh, a famous mountaineer, a very smart , knowlegeable and dedicated teacher. It was expected that our geography class will revert back to him. He refused as he asserted that Mr Gurdial Singh was a very capable teacher who will who will bring glory to our class. How true was that! In our class all except five boys got distinction in Geography setting an unbeatable record.

Adventures
He was very fond of adventure sports. One mid term break he took us to Dak Pathar where the trees cut on the mountains rolled down the river Yamuna.. here they were tied into rafts and floated down to Yamunanagar which is a wood and furniture market. He hired few rafts and put us on them. We were to float down to a place called Khara where there was a Dak bungalow atop a hill overlooking the river Yamuna. This area was a picnic spot. Our baggage and cooks etc were sent by bus to Khara. The journey down the river riding the rafts was thrilling. Specially while crossing the rapids.. by lunch time we were in Khara where we bid goodbye to rafts.  To avoid getting wet Mr Gibson had ordered us to strip and put our shirts and trousers on our heads. In the middle of the river there was a nice spot with dry piece of land and lots of trees and grass. We headed for it and climbed on to the oasis in our birthday suits. To our horror we found a group of girls and their teacher from a renowned college from Delhi having a picnic. Seeing us in a state as we were they were equally horrified and the teachers in panic asked the girls to close their eyes. Mr Gibson who was the only one wearing the pants but no shirt and asked us to retreat. In his characteristic style he walked up to the teacher apologizing for the intrusion. The lady teacher was further horrified seeing a half naked man approaching. The situation was quite comic. He invited them to the Dak bungalow to to have pot luck lunch which they declined. It slowly dawned on them that we were Doon School boys and were on mid term break and thus regained their composure. The matter did not end there as there were girls who were sisters, cousins or girl friends of boys who later during our holidays teased us endlessly and called us ‘nanga sadhus’.

We enjoyed our midterm at Khara. There was jungle all around the Dak bungalow . there were wild fowl.  A wild cock was there nearby which crowed early in the morning and even at odd hours. Mr Gibson with all his naval training tried his level best to bag it for the table but was unsuccessful. We told him that the cock was a land bird and not a duck which lives in water and falls prey to naval officers.

Gandhian Influence
Mr Gibson firmly believed in Gandhian philosophy e.g. about the lot of the villages and the villagers must improve. The school had formed a ‘Dehaat Sabha’ and adopted Tunnawala village near Dehradun. He insisted that all of us must pay at least four annas per month from our meager pocket money of Rs five. His pet phrase was ‘ you have to pay for Dehaat Sabha.

His Hobbies
He was very fond of gardening. His sweet peas were always the best in the area. Kashmir house sweet peas won the cup as the best in the District flower show. We used to joke that if our house did not win any cup in the school activities we have at least one permanent sweet peas cup.

He was an expert in fencing. A match was arranged between Mr Catchpole, the Principal of RIMC and Mr Gibson in the Rose Bowl. Both the participants were excellent. Mr Holdsworth was the  judge. He could not decide on the winner. Mr Catchpole came and said that Navy had won probably on the basis that Britannia rules the waves.

That was the spirit.

Sports and the Cheer Band
Mr Gibson was a keen sportsman. He thought of ways of boosting the morale of the players of football and hockey. He organized a ‘Cheer band’ on the lines of American cheer leaders of today. It consisted of bugles, drums and any instrument from the dramatic society that could produce noise with a band of full throated boys. They made a din shouting ‘well-done’ Kashmir house. It did a lot to boost the morale of the teams in inter house matches. It also started a controversy that this type of cheering should be allowed. Other houses had a grouse as we had taken all the noise making instruments available in the dramatic society.

The partition-August 1947
Then came the partition in August 1947. The school was to open in August after the summer vacation. An announcement was made on air by All India Radio that the opening of the school on the due date had been postponed and a fresh date will be announced later. About 60 of us boys who did not know about this had already arrived at the school campus. I along with my two younger brothers were among them. We were housed centrally in Kashmir house. There were riots all around and things were gloomy and scary. Mr Gibson, Holdy, HM and Mr Gurdial Singh armed with their shotguns patrolled day and night so that no harm came to us and the school. The team rescued the muslim servants and their families and they were put up in the campus. They also rescued an old boy Mr Mohsin Md H and his family from the town and brought them to the school. Amongst such afflicted and rescued people were also Miss Munni Wahid and her mother. Munni later was allowed to join our school and became the first girl student of the Doon school. Mr Gibson also brought two sikh boys from Athison college, Lahore to Kashmir house so that they could complete their studies.

As there were no regular classes at this stage Mr Gibson used to take me and few more boys in military trucks to a village nearby where there were a number of muslim families were stuck. We used to collect them, load them in the military trucks and take them to the refugee center on station road. They were then escorted to Saharanpur by road and later put on trains taking refugees to Pakistan. The muslim employees our school  also took the same route and we bid them tearful farewell. Mr Gibson like all others was very sad on the shape of the things taking place and tried to persuade some of the school servants to stay backing India. One person Md Ismail, our bearer in Kashmir house agreed to stay. He was good in sports and had won many prizes in servants’ sports events. He would organize football and kabbadi matches and lead the teams to victory.

Principal of JSW
I joined Indian Military Academy. During this time the concept of National Defence Academy came about. A Joint Services Wing (JSW) was formed in Clement Town near Dehradun. Mr Gibson was asked by Pandit Nehru to come as a civilian Principal of JSW which he accepted. The JSW was to be formally inaugurated on 04 June 1949. We cadets from IMA went to rehearse for the parade during the afternoons in that summer heat. We got 20 minutes break for tea during the rehearsals. As Mr Gibson’s house was very near the parade ground Satish Khosla and I used to run to his house to help ourselves to cold drinks and eats etc. we were very welcome by his jeeves, the butler Samuel who had seen us as school boys. When Mr Gibson came to know of our daily raid of his home he made it a point to be present at the house. It was an emotional reunion. We talked of old times and the future.

After completing the course at IMA we went away on posting and Mr Gibson whose heart was in school went back and Mr T Vyas from Kashmir house took over in his place at JSW. Later we learnt that he had joined Mayo College and became a legend in Ajmer.

One sad day in 1994 we were informed that he had passed away and his body was being brought to Delhi for cremation in the electric crematorium. All available DOSCOs in Delhi attended his funeral. His body when lying in state looked majestic though he had become considerably thin. I was reminded of the Tolstoy’s story ‘ how much land does a man need’. With moist eyes we bade him farewell, a very loveable house master of Kashmir house.


Vohra: J.T.M. Gibson

Sheel Vohra
Ex-Deputy Headmaster, The Doon School

Sheel_vohra I joined The Doon School staff after Mr. Gibson had gone over to Mayo College. I had seen him but did not really know him. He invariably came with the Mayo College teams for their annual fixtures against The Doon School. They played Cricket, Hockey, Tennis and Squash and then were taken trekking in the hills and rafting down the Yamuna.

It was in 1964 that I made my first trip to Mayo College with The Doon School cricket and hockey teams. Mr. K.C. Joshi and I stayed with Mr. Gibson. We were put up in two separate rooms and he insisted that two-more rooms of my house will be cleaned up! His drawing room was full of flowers, sweet peas of different hues and colours and other varieties as well – all part of the prize winning collection at Ajmers’ annual flower show held a day earlier. It was indeed fun staying with him as he and Mr. Joshi had worked together for many years and recounted quite a few old stories. At the breakfast table Mr. Gibson put a lot of sugar in the large coffee cups. He did not stir it and told us that he loved to eat it after the coffee was finished. His enthusiasm and indefatiguable energy was very much in evidence. During the cricket match Mr. Gibson was with us in the pavilion and moments later was seen near the scoreboard shouting "Come on Mayo."  The match ended in favour of Mayo at about Tea-time. Mr. Gibson was there with his jeep and made our boys hop on to it to take them to his lawn for a high tea.

After that I met him regularly on his visits to Doon and Mussoorie. By now I had also got into mountaineering and read all about his exploits in the Himalayas.

In the late seventies (1976/77) Mr. Gibson came to Dehradun and was staying with Mr. & Mrs. Martyn. He came to know that Mr. R.D. Singh had booked a block in the Mohand region for small game shooting. Mr. Gibson looked extremely keen to join in for perhaps his last shoot in the area. The three of us reached there at about 10:30 AM. Prem Singh, the old shikari, who accompanied Mr. Holdsworth and Mr. Gibson on their shoots was there with his beators. We did not sight any bird till about lunch time. Mr. Srivastava joined us at that time and brought us luck. We bagged thirty odd birds in the end. Mr. Gibson had shot two birds – but none of them was a Murga. He also pushed R.D. to go again next morning. He insisted he will get his jeep along and fetch Prem Singh and his group of beaters from Ganeshpur. We left a little earlier the next day. Mr. Gibson got two birds – a Murga and a pheasant in the very first beat. He missed a wild boar as it came on his wrong side. We got a bigger bag in those three-four hours. Mr. & Mrs. Martyn had driven up to Dhaulkhand area with lunch for all of us. Mr. Gibson was extremely pleased with his last shoot in the Shiwaliks and in his own words – it was "Jolly Good."

I kept in regular touch with him after that and he would dash off a short note every time he read about The Doon School or me personally. I still have got a letter from him in my papers.

I attended the Memorial Service held at St. Thomas Church in Kashmiri Gate at Delhi. It was very well attended by the old boys of both Doon and Mayo and was a fitting tribute to a great schoolmaster who loved adventure of every kind and was an inspiration to many generations of school boys.


Khosla: Yanked by Gibby

Romi Khosla.
166-Kashmir House, The Doon School, 1952 -57

I can never forget Jack Gibson. He saved my life. I would have drowned in the Ganges at Shivpuri if he hadn't yanked me over his head and flung me onto the sand beach where I lay flapping my legs rather like his mahaseer did every time he yanked mahaseer from the river. Holdy always berated Gibby for using shark tackle when he went fishing. "Jack just yanks the fish out of the river when they bite, his line and rod is for sharks," he used to say proudly rubbing the shaft of his fly tackle. But I for one have always remained grateful that Gibby had perfected his yank the shark technique because that is what he did to me.

I hadn’t learned to swim. Brought up in Simla, I was more at home on skis and had never been to a pool. There weren’t any at Simla. Naturally I was blissfully unaware of dreadful forces called currents that the Ganges kept hidden for its special victims. And sure enough, as I was paddling about on the waters edge the evil current struck at the lower part of my legs and carried me with great surface tranquility into its bosom. I was able to jump up once from the sand bank well below my feet. A kind of spring jump that Arjun Singh had so diligently taught us when approaching the horse in the gymnasium. That really helped and Gibby heard the splash and moved across to the bank, caught my arm and catapulted me. There was no admonishing in words. I bent over the camp chair and was thwacked with the best. First you nearly drown and then you recover from the stinging pains on your wet bum. "You have 15 days to learn swimming otherwise we will come back here and I will watch you sink into the river."

There were four of us on this outing. Gibby had picked us up as the most lost looking of the new boys and he was taking us to Shivpuri to make us  recruits to outdoor life. I had had my initiation. Next it was the turn of Bhargava. A staunch vegetarian from Benares. Kaddu had no idea what flesh eating monsters he was with that week-end. The canned chicken soup was served from Gibby’s stock of provisions and Kaddu drank it up like a good boy. Later, after some bread had been swallowed, Gibby asked Kaddu how he had liked the soup and naturally, it being delicious, Kaddu replied by licking his lips and inquiring about its receipe. "That’s chicken soup" replied Gibby. In an instant Kaddu had brought it out and soiled our beach, "What’s the matter with him" asked Gibby "Sir," I replied, "he is a vegetarian."

"What a nonsense thing to be. Come on Bhargava you’ll never get anywhere in cross-country with this vegetable nonsense."

Gibby was my house master, my geography teacher and once a guide for rock climbing.


Ali: Memoriam

Retyped from Himalayan Journal No. 51

Aamir Ali
The Doon School, Batch of 1939

"You gave so much pleasure...a  completely natural schoolmaster in full blast, the kind of activity one has as a young man vainly hoped to conduct, and which I have occasionally seen in just a few of the scores of men I have myself selected for the staff of Cheltenham, Shrewsbury and  Sandhurst."  Thus H. H. Hardy, a former headmaster, wrote to Jack Gibson in 1952.

A hundred memories of Jack Gibson in full blast come crowding in; animating a classroom, yodeling in the mountains, on the ski slopes, driving his jeep and swearing at lorry drivers or stopping for a pee and a pipe, cycling, camping, tending his sweet-peas, shooting and fishing, exploring the hills around Ajmer for suitable rock climbs, rehearsing a play, negotiating for a raft on the Jumuna by nonchalantly waving a ten rupee note, sailing, writing directly to Pandit Nehru to get  a consignment of climbing equipment through the Customs without paying duty, wheedling a sailing boat for Mayo out of the Navy, decrying the politics and morality of the modern world, coaching a group in fencing, charming a group of parents, offering generous hospitality way beyond his means, turning a blind eye on a senior boy sneaking his sherry, showing infinite patience with a youngster in trouble, explaining in rusty French to the patronne of the Auberge at Lac Tannay how he used to carry his skis up there from the Rhone valley, gnashing his remaining natural teeth because he had forgotten his false ones in a tobacco tin in a  London hotel before  setting  out on a  gastronomic cruise,  conducting a voluminous correspondence, always ready to do the unusual and the unconventional. "A Renaissance man," one of his former students called him.

Above all, his tremendous gusto. Everything he did was with enthusiasm and verve - at full blast. It was for this that he was a hero to generations of boys at the Doon School and at Mayo College, who continue to repeat legends about him, the legends growing with each telling. And why not?  That's how it should be with a legendary figure. 

A few facts. John Travers Mends Gibson was born on 3 March 1908, son of a naval officer, and was  educated at Haileybury and Cambridge where he got his half blue for fencing - and later almost made the British Olympic team. He joined the staff of Chillon College (near Montreux in Switzerland) in September 1929 with responsibility for winter sports; he also taught history. "These were the happiest years of my life," he once said, but one suspects that he made most of his years happy ones. He skied and climbed with the Swiss Alpine Club; this included the Javelle of the Aiguilles Dorees, "one of the more difficult climbs, so was a great experience for me and quite an honor being asked to go on it," he wrote. He contributed an article recalling his adventures to the Alpine Journal, 1986.

The economic depression hit Chillon College, and Jack left, but had decided that teaching was what he wanted to do; so he went on doing this at Ripon Grammar School from 1932 to 1936. He continued his skiing holidays at Morgins in the Valais (where he claims to have seen the future King of Siam running naked in the corridors of his hotel, chased by an ayah). It was there he met Sir Malcolm Hailey, Governor of the U.P. and President of the Himalayan Club, who encouraged him to apply to the Doon School. He was accepted and told to study the teaching of geography before coming over. He joined the DS as housemaster in January 1937 and India was his home till his death on 23 October 1994, 57 years later.

On leave from the DS, he served in the Royal Indian Navy Volunteer Reserve from 1942 to 1945, and as Principal of the Joint Services Wing, Dehra Dun and Khadakvasla, when it was set up in 1949 until 1951.

One of his proudest moments was in 1992 when the three Service Chiefs, all former students of his, flew in to Ajmer to pay tribute to him. In a letter of 14 September 1992, he wrote, "My only bit of interesting news is that about a month ago, the Chiefs of all three Services came to see me here with their wives. They had all been cadets of the first course of the JSW when I was responsible for academics. The General, Admiral, Air Chief Marshal paid me a very great compliment... They had to fly in separate helicopters and to come from the helipad in separate bullet-proof cars. The local army had guards all over the place and my house was thoroughly searched."

In 1953 he was appointed principal of Mayo College and in his 15 years there, completely revitalized that noble institution, increased the number of boys from 140 to 506 with a long waiting list, democratized it, raised its academic standards, and established himself as a legend. In 1960 he was awarded the OBE by the British Government, in 1965 the Padma Shri by the Indian Government; a rare instance of someone honored by both Governments.

He had a very strong sense of family and was deeply attached to his parents and to his sister. He wrote regularly and in detail to his mother; she kept his letters and this enabled him to write As I Saw It, published in 1976, covering the period from his arrival in India in January 1937 till his retirement from Mayo in February 1969. He followed this up with As I Saw It From Shanti Niwas, 1992, covering the period 1969-1984.

Jack loved the mountains and was a mountaineer in the real sense. He loved being in the mountains: climbing, walking, camping, trekking, and above all, skiing. "You will never convince a skier that there is any sport to compare with skiing," he .once wrote in an article on Summer Skiing in the Himalayas [The Times of India, 28 July 1956]. In his very first summer in India, he spent seven weeks in the Himalaya with John Martyn, on Bandarpunch and crossing the Gangotri-Alaknanda watershed. Since then, he was a regular visitor to the Himalaya, mostly to the Garhwal, with skiing holidays in Kashmir and Switzerland for good measure.

But his major achievement was not the conquest of major peaks but the initiation of generations of boys to mountaineering and skiing. His article on The Harki Doon in the H.J. XVIII. 1954 describes three visits to the region he had made his own; twice with parties of boys to whom he. taught skiing and climbing. (He made further visits later.) They skied down from 14,800ft, and "must be almost the first party to learn at such a height," he wrote. The completely natural schoolmaster got more satisfaction out of teaching mountain skills to youngsters and imbuing them with the love of the high hills than in setting off to conquer high peaks himself. Though in his article An Unclimbed Mountain, in H.J. 39 - 1981/82 he did express his longing to climb Swargrohini, and he did achieve the first ascent of Kalanag, the Black Peak.

When I visited the Har-ki-Doon area in 1956, the men of Osla village spoke with reverence of the Burra sa'ab who used to walk up the snow slopes with his skis the moment camp was set up.

On various occasions on his way to England, he stopped off in Switzerland to ski. Once he brought a couple of his students to Veysonnaz in the Valais - then a new resort, now on the World Cup circuit - and we spent several glorious days, with Jack using skis made to his design by the Forest Research Institute of Dehra Dun, a wonder to all. I think he quite enjoyed the amazement he aroused!

In 1960, he came in April when the snow had disappeared from the lower slopes and I suggested a mountain itinerary starting from the Aiguille du Midi (reached by telepherique) 3800m down the Vallee Blanche and the Mer de Glace traversing a heavily crevassed icefall. Jack hadn't skied for over a year and wasn't used to the bindings of the rented skis which clamped your heels. Though a commonly used trail, I was worried because on the same trip the previous year, one of my companions had slithered on an icy patch into a crevasse and fallen some 8 m. Luckily there were five of us to pull him out with only a broken ski as damage. Jack did it all in magnificent style and with his usual gusto; though he claimed to be exhausted at the end, he had enough energy to make caustic and audible comments on the stiletto heels of the girls who passed the cafe in Chamonix where we were having a welcome beer.

Jack was President of the Himalayan Club, 1970-73. Thus he represented the HC at the Meet in Darjeeling to mark the 20th anniversary of the climbing of Everest. In his speech he spoke of the relations of the HC with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation [IMF], and ended with words that bear repetition: "Mr. Sarin (President of the IMF) has agreed that any reports we send him of misuse of the environment will be forwarded to the relevant government department, and pressure put on it to put things right. Therefore, if anyone on trek or expedition finds shrubs or trees being overused as fuel, or finds litter left unburied, or that sort of thing, we would be glad if he would let us know."

On his first expedition in 1937, John Martyn and Jack Gibson had Tenzing with them, and Jack and Tenzing struck up a life long friendship [In a letter of 3 August 1989 written from England, Jack said, "I paid a visit to Brigadier Osmaston (now over 90) who put John Martyn and me on to Tenzing and Rinzing for our first expedition -Gangotri to Badrinath with the summit ridge of Bandarpunch on the way -and he was in great form, though a bit weak in his legs, as I am becoming."] Tenzing was with Jack on two further expeditions to Bandarpunch, which Tenzing dubbed "the Doon School Mountain": in 1946, accompanied by R. L. Holdsworth ('his clothes and equipment are unsuitable for heights being mostly pre-war and worn out') and Nandu Jayal; and in 1950, accompanied by Gurdial and Jagjit Singh and others. It was typical of Jack that when Gurdial felt unwell on the last lap to the summit, he 'unselfishly volunteered to be the one to go down with him', as Tenzing put it, leaving the others to get to the summit he had coveted for so many years.

And it was Jack who recommended as Tenzing special instructor in mountaineering to the Operational Research Section of the Army. Tenzing refers touchingly several times to "my old friend Mr. Gibson" in his autobiography. And it is pleasant to read that on 27 January 1961, Jack "had Tenzing and his daughter to lunch at the Gymkhana Club in New Delhi. I hadn't met him since he climbed Everest and it was a splendid reunion. He was quite unchanged and unspoiled and said the right thing when he exclaimed that I wasn't looking at all an old man."

Jack had the knack of getting on with all sorts of people, exemplified by his warm relations with his servants. Samuel was his faithful retainer for several decades; after Samuel's retirement, Tansukh took over. Both of them did well by him, and he did well by them, enabling them to acquire houses of their own, making sure that Samuel stopped increasing his numerous tribe, and helping to educate Tansukh's son.

When Jack took over Mayo its finances were bad shape. Jack refused any increase in what was a pitifully small salary for the job until the financial situation could be straightened out and the staff and employees could be paid more adequately. After his retirement, the General Council had to authorize a large increase in the Principal's salary in order to get any worthy successor. 

Jack had many passions besides mountains. Gardening was one. He wrote in. his Christmas letter of 1986, 'As I write this, I look across my verandah at two rows of splendid flowers: Chrysanthemums, Phlox Drummondi, Antirrhinums, Ageratum, Violets, Alyssum, miniature Roses, and Chinese Chillies...' and the litany continues. His mountain articles are also full of the joy of Alpine flowers. And one touching photograph taken in 1990 was of him with "a Redvented Bulbul that now comes and perches on my knee and eats banana from my hand. It started last winter with crumbs on the floor of my veranda, and when I came back from Mussoorie in August it came to me again demanding food."

As "a completely natural schoolmaster," he once wrote, "The excitement of teaching is when you see that an idea has become clear to someone.' And in an article on teaching in November 1989, he said, 'The first problem for a teacher is, I believe, to awake interest in those he is teaching and to make them keen to find out and understand for themselves rather than rely on text books." [Doon School Weekly, about December 1989.]

He himself was described as an 'inspiring teacher with a great zest for his subjects." But Jack taught a great deal more than classroom subjects. In everything he did, he conveyed a sense of transparent honesty, of integrity, of the avoidance of hypocrisy, of the importance of being true to oneself. In a world grown hardened to moral corruption, this is well worth remembering.[ In a letter of 25 June 1986, he wrote, "I watched on TV Argentina beat England at football and was horrified to see members of the latter team fouling; politicians don't tell the truth; corruption is widespread; etc. And what a mess poor old India is in."]

In some ways, Jack was the last Englishman in India. He came ten years before independence and stayed on 47 years after it, rendering dedicated service to the country of his adoption. His name is often linked with those of Martyn and Holdsworth; he was the last survivor of that triumvirate who could occasionally be seen sitting on Martyn's lawn in kurta-pyjama, Holdie with a Pathan pugree, haying their evening drink and smoking a hookah. Jack was the last English Principal of Mayo College; he was the last English President of the Himalayan Club. He spoke at the Darjeeling Meet in 1973 on behalf of the Indian delegates and said "I feel greatly honored; though not an Indian, I have lived in India for 36 years." He was the last -and for most of the time, the only - English resident of Ajmer, formerly a very British enclave in the heart of Rajasthan. He was the last Englishman to be accepted completely as a friend by almost all the former ruling houses of that chivalric region. He must have 'been just about the last Englishman to have been honored by both the British and Indian Governments. [J.A.K. Martyn had also received the OBE (1958) and the Padma Shri (1984). He died in 1984 and his obituary in H.J. Vol. 41 (1983/84) was written by Jack Gibson.]

The end of an era has become a cliche but Jack Gibson's passing does have a significance for the British connection with India. It is certain that this association brought some harm; it is equally certain that it also brought much that was good. Jack's life exemplified the good; he lives on in the hearts and minds of thousands of Indians whose lives touched his.

I knew Jack Gibson for 56 years and we were on dozens of joyful excursions together in the Alps and in the Himalaya: climbing, trekking, rafting. skiing or just revisiting scenes of former exploits. My admiration and affection for him grew with each passing year. I have not only said good bye to one of my closest friends but to a part of my own life.