Not much of Dubai bears any resemblance to what it looked like in 1993, but the four-ball that represented Rashid School for Boys at last Thursday’s ‘Race to the Summer Holidays’ Teachers’ Golf Day is one of very few exceptions to that rule.
Almost 28 years to the day since Doug Cameron, Tony Fitz-gerald, Kevin Scorah and Andrew Hatcher, all pictured below, took part in the Teacher’s Golf Day at the – then recently opened – Emirates Golf Club, the exact same four ball could be seen teeing it up at The Montgomerie Golf Club at the annual ‘Les Elfes Race to the Summer Holidays’ teachers’ golf event last week.
With Rashid set to close in July for renovation, Thursday represented something of a swansong for the quartet who have served a combined total of 123 years at the school.
We decided to meet the men who really were here before the skyscrapers, to find out what it is that made them stay at RSB for so long and how Dubai, and their golf, has changed over the years.
“Tony (67 – IT Teacher) and Doug (63 – DT Teacher) joined in 1987, just a year after the school opened, whilst Andrew (56 – Head of Social Studies) and I (Kevin – 53 – formerly PE, now SLT) arrived on the same plane from Gatwick in 1992.
“Right from the get-go, we were fortunate to employ fantastic teachers who bought in to the ethos of the school and the growing city. Very soon, strong bonds were formed between staff, students and parents.”
Kevin continued: “The mark of the school is that we still have some staff working here who joined in the 1980s. They stay because Dubai is their home, they have raised families here, but they have worked in a staff room where the camaraderie is incomparable.”
If the seeds of friendships were sewn in the staff room, they were nurtured on the golf course. Kevin and his colleagues quickly sought challenges outside of Dubai with the wheels for an annual staff and friends golf tour set in motion.
“We used to have bi-monthly staff competitions on the Country Club, teeing off on a Thursday morning (it was a Thursday/Friday weekend back then). The standard was ‘mixed’ to say the least, but the stories from those mornings are legendary.
“It wasn’t long before Tony Fitz-Gerald (our defacto leader), decided we ought to test our golfing ‘skills’ in Thailand. The first Tour took place in 1994 and has run every year since (apart from Covid).
“Attendance is 90% teaching staff, with the other 10% a select band of mutual friends and confidantes whose plane ticket is only ratified on exhibition of a solid character and readiness to take a joke. I wouldn’t think there are many schools where the staff go on holiday together in this day and age!”
Despite clearly putting in the hours on the golf course, there seemed to be contrasting experiences on whether practice has made perfect over the years.
Tony claims his golf is worse but his banter is better; Doug claims to have made immeasurable improvements (although we’re not sure what his handicap was to start with); whilst Kevin contributes a lack of progress on the golf course to too many years spent playing rugby (Exiles) and football (Dubai Vets), although he does say that lessons at the Meydan have allowed him to tighten things up since he hung up his boots.
Andrew was unavailable for comment on his progress, although Kevin seemed to suggest his short game may have been trending backwards, rather than forwards, in recent times.
Looking back on the changes that have taken place in Dubai, the friends have mixed emotions. Kevin has been in the UAE for nearly 30 years and he says the differences between now and then are clear to see.
“When I came in 1992 there was one cinema, more sand golf than grass, about eight buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road and no malls or McDonalds.
“Today it is a modern metropolis where I can ski in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and eat in the finest restaurants in the evening. But all this comes at a price; the intimacy of the expat community disappeared many many years ago, and although still a fantastic place to live, I think it has lost its soul to a certain degree.”
With an increase in the number of British curriculum schools over the years it seems astonishing to think of a time when there were only a handful of teachers from the UK working and living in Dubai – Tony says he used to know them all.
“When I started working in Dubai it would not be ridiculous to say that I knew every British teacher in the city. Not so now!”
Once the summer holidays do arrive there will be a lot of changes for the group of friends who have been teaching together for nearly 30 years. Andrew will remain in Dubai, having recently taken up a teaching position at Hartland International School. Doug will be retiring from teaching but will remain in Dubai to keep Andrew company. Tony and Kevin will be returning to the UK; Tony toenjoy retirement and Kevin to find a new career path outside of education.
Whilst they were philosophical about the progress Dubai has made as a city, the quartet were unanimous when it came to their thoughts on Rashid School closing its doors for the foreseeable future.
Kevin summed up the group’s thoughts: “We are all very sad that this is the end of a golden time in our lives but we have to appreciate and cherish what we had. We have been so lucky to have so many memories and friendships to show for the past 30 odd years.”
You can watch highlights of the Les Elfes ‘Race to the Summer Holidays’ at The Montgomerie Golf Club by clicking below.
Everyone at Gulf Youth Sport wishes Doug, Tony, Kevin and Andrew the very best for the next chapter of their lives. The commitment they have shown to education, to Dubai, to Rashid School and to each other for nearly 30 years is commendable and we are sure their friendship will carry on wherever it takes them.