By Colleague

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.


Kathpalia: As Mayo Principal, he cared for the less fortunate

(re-entered from Mayo College Alumni web site)

Shashi Kathpalia

The writer taught at Mayo College in 1960-61 where he stayed with Jack Gibson and came to know him closely

John Travers Mends - "Jack" - Gibson came out to India in the 1930s as a teacher at the newly established Doon School in Dehradun, where he became a famed Housemaster. He taught there for several years and finally retired as a long-serving illustrious Principal of Mayo College, Ajmer.  Well into his eighties, he passed away in October 1994.

Gibson was not only a distinguished teacher and principal but also a larger-than-life figure. Jack's zest for life and ability to put his heart and soul, with rare passion, into anything he undertook were most infectious. Quest for knowledge to impart, punctuality, discipline, abhorrence of idleness or waste of any sort were germane to him.Jackgibson

The interests he helped develop ranged from mountaineering (acclaimed mountaineers referred to him with awe; Tensing of Everest fame, when a young Sherpa, climbed with him), photography, gardening to music. A world class fencer, he was also very adept at most other sports and competed fiercely. 

Contribution to education in its widest sense - spirit of adventure combined with learning and, most importantly, as a moulder of character by example, of young men - made him a legend. 

Without losing his upper class British moorings - Haileybury, Cambridge and Royal Navy background - Jack took to the Indian scene with no inhibition. He whole-heartedly engaged in Indian social and cultural activities by educating himself about those unfamiliar to him earlier. This was amply demonstrated by him elegantly wearing a "dhoti", "kurta-pyjama" or donning a Rajput turban when the occasion required and celebrating festivals across communities with natural enthusiasm. 

Despite his indifferent Hindi it was a treat watching him sing, with
deep involvement, national songs written by poets as diverse as Gurudev Tagore  to Allama Iqbal.

Once on a trek his group ran short of some essential rations, particularly potatoes. Instinctively, Jack decided to teach the boys mysteries of barter - he called it "economics". He led the team to a nearby hill hamlet. In broken Hindi, Jack said to the local headman, "Hum Atta Tum Ollu!" 

The crestfallen village head was quickly reassured that he was by no means an "Owl".  Negotiations followed and a bargain was struck. The boys got their supply of potatoes by parting with some flour which they had enough to spare. The villagers' joy at this deal was explained by Gibson. "At high terrains good wheat did not grow, hence flour made from it was precious". The potato-starved boys nodded wisely! 

Hauled up by the Customs at Bombay airport for bringing in a large quantity of books, music records, film rolls and a most fascinating oakwood globe, a perplexed Jack explained that each time on return from England, he brought articles, not available in India, for the institution he headed. This led to further harassment. He insisted on seeing the senior officer and requested help, in his dilemma, to make a long-distance call. Surprisingly, the officer obliged only to be mortified at Jack asking for Pandit Nehru! 

The P.M.'s secretary told the customs officer that for his own good he must pacify Mr Gibson and ensure he reached the railway station in comfort to catch his train with all his belongings. The terrified and confused officer, with two other colleagues, escorted Mr Gibson all the way to Ajmer! With a mischievous smile, Jack insisted no such facility was solicited by him. 

At the Doon School, on a Sunday, Jack went into town to play bridge at the local club. On return, he passed by a restaurant noticing in it some familiar faces. A discreet enquiry revealed the youngsters had asked for beer. Jack marched in, cancelled the order, taking the "adventurers" back to school. The frightened boys awaited the worst. Gibson announced the punishment. "Write one page, without missing classes, on the science of Brewing and let me have it by tomorrow." 

Jack was impressed with the paper presented. He thought it was well-researched and intelligent. Promptly, Jack asked for beer to be served, inviting the lads to join him and quench their thirst! It so happens that one of the young men, probably the main author of the "treatise", later established India's largest beer and alcoholic beverages conglomerate. 

Mayo had a venerable priest called "Shastriji". One day Jack asked him if he was any connection of Lal Bahadur Shastri - soon to be India's Prime Minister. The saintly man politely replied he had never heard of him and there was no question of a relationship - adding, with some pride, that he himself came from a highly learned and respected clan. Jack muttered, "Thank God, we already have far too many well-connected people around!" 

Jack never lost the common touch and cared in an inimitable way for the less fortunate in the large community he presided over. Recipients of his concern were not made to feel beholden or awkward. Forever on the move in his famous jeep, and often on bicycle, one wondered if he ever rested. It was not due to absent-mindedness that he always left the keys to his vehicle in it. He did so, as someone might desperately need transport in an emergency. 

Jack's numerous achievements would have made even exceptional men proud. His appointment as the first Principal of the Joint Services Wing, now the National Defense Academy, when he himself felt it ought to be an Indian (i) was an honour. So was being personally conferred both an OBE by the Queen of the land of his birth and a Padma award by the President of the land he worked and lived in are minor examples. Lesser persons have been awarded far higher honours.