A Tribute to Sydney James Lowcock (1930-2012)
Headmaster, Diocesan Boys' School (1961-1983)
Jimmy Lowcock first taught me when I was in Form 1 in 1955. He noticed something in me that I didn't realise when he watched me running the 200 metres in the middle-boy heats event during Inter-House Athletics. I was then in Form 3. The field was wet and I slipped and fell at the start. I picked myself up and gave chase, ending in second place. It was not my speed but the determination to finish the race that caught his eye. He invited me to join the summer camp in athletics.
In my senior years during summer, in addition to athletic training, he also gave me books to read, such as Alan Paton's "Cry, the Beloved Country", George Orwell's "Animal Farm", Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory" and Vance Packard's "The Hidden Persuaders", to broaden my outlook.
He had this intuitive ability to spot hidden potential in his students, and he used that to nurture their development outside the classroom. Mine was just one of many examples. It was years later after the students grew up that they came to appreciate his help, and they loved him dearly for it. As Headmaster, he considered the development of character, leadership, scholarship, extracurricular achievement and service as essential for DBS students.
JL Young Saye praised his intuitive ability in an article entitled "Our Headmaster", in which he described how Jimmy turned two "old fashioned book-worms into top-flight athletes, who in time went on to capture all sorts of honour at the University".
In 1967 I had an opportunity of joining the HKU Department of Medicine at Queen Mary Hospital to pursue an academic career; but as fate would have it, I ended up joining the Hong Kong Government as Medical Officer serving on Kowloon side and became a house guest at the Headmaster's House for one year. The ground floor of the house became a common room for senior boarders, who came over after school for pastimes in art and music, or for brief chats. Jimmy was a father figure to many of his students even though he never got married, and I was one of his "favourite sons". His mother Mabel was staying with him at that time, and she treated me as a member of the family. When she passed away, Jimmy lost a steadying influence at home.
Jimmy had a phenomenal memory which enabled him to recall the backgrounds of many of his students. Often he could see a problem in a new light, as though he saw that white light is not just white but a combination of seven colours through the prism in his mind. I listened to him talking about the student problems on many occasions after he came home, and opined if medical problems were involved. His generosity in offering financial help to needy students was legendary. These student problems were minor compared to the many problems he faced in education as Headmaster during office hours, which sapped his mind and body after more than 20 years.
I was aware of the deterioration of his physical and mental health in the early 1980s but I couldn't think of the right remedy for him. One day in 1983 he called me by phone when I was seeing patients and asked, "Pau, do you think that I should retire?" I said, "I think you should," and that was the end of our conversation, short and bittersweet. It turned out to be the right remedy.
Even when he was down, he had the foresight that he must buy a house for his retirement. He realised that his retirement fund could be drained in no time if he were to rent a place to stay and inflation came along. Without fanfare we found a house in Clear Water Bay that was suitable for him. In the quiet and peaceful surroundings, he utilised his inner strength, modified his life habits, and regained his health and wits. It was a miracle to behold.
Age, however, was catching on. He was well looked after by a panel of doctors who are old boys; but life is not infinite. He died of a sudden heart attack on the 26th of January 2012 at the age of 81. It was swift and peaceful as he wanted it to be.
St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9, 24-25 (The New English Bible): "You know (do you not?) that at the sports all runners run the race, though only one wins the prize. Like them, run to win! But every athlete goes into strict training. They do it to win a fading wreath; we, a wreath that never fades." Jimmy fully deserved the wreath that never fades.
Dr. Pau Wing Iu, Patrick
Senior Prefect and School Athletics Captain (1960-61)
Distinguished Fellow, Hong Kong College of Cardiology