David Lee

"Au Revoir Partner". Richard Corner writes:

18/09/19: I am writing this in memory of David S.W. Lee, who recently passed away at his home in Bawtry, near Doncaster.

We first met when we both arrived for our first term in the house of Constables at Uppingham School in 1947. We remained close friends, and our wives Annifer and Calla too.

It all began with Eton Fives. David was a superbly gifted sports player – a fast, penetrating rugby three quarter, a fine all-round cricketer, an experienced and accomplished golfer and much more.

And as luck would have it, there on the Constables house grounds were four Eton Fives Courts, thanks to the generosity of the three Old Uppinghamian Crawford Brothers , who had donated them to the school fifteen years before. With those courts right on our door step, we immediately spent our spare time running out to them, practising and learning the game. We both took to it at once and our partnership naturally developed from there.

David was number one. An extraordinarily effective and dominating server with a fine eye, fast reactions and a brilliant shot maker. He backed up all of this with extreme concentration and force of will power. My priority was to help get him up on the step to serve and then help keep him there. When cutting shots from the back, I remember often thinking: “Just get it back and keep it up”!

We won the House Unders Cup for Constables in 1949, and then the All Ages Cup in 1950 and 1951. We played in the Uppingham Fives Team in the 1950 and 1951 match fixtures. We entered the 1951 Public Schools National Competition, reaching the final, where we were runners-up to the winners, Eton’s Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie and N.F. Robinson.

Master in charge of Fives (and a legendary Uppinghamian Fives player himself) Dr. Garth Wheatley wrote of the 1951 season: “the school team was stronger and more successful than any time for 20 years. Perhaps Lee and Corner are our best pair since Gillespie and Knight.” They won the Public Schools Finals in 1932.

Of our only defeat, which was against Shrewsbury, when David was unable to play, Garth Wheatley wrote: “I hope that Salopians will not think this too cool a statement and will forgive us generously for making it, but Lee has been in brilliant form and his absence took away from the team far more than just ¼ of its punch and power.” Never were truer words written.

After Uppingham, David played as a half-blue at Cambridge. We were on opposite sides on those occasions, but didn’t play against each other !

David remained a keen supporter of the game throughout his life. He rarely missed spectating at Uppingham during his time as Chair of the Trustees throughout the 1970s and when his eldest son, Nick, continued the Family tradition by playing at Uppingham and becoming a member of the VI in 1977.

Even when he was restricted to a wheelchair, David nevertheless insisted Annifer and his son Nick brought him down to Uppingham to attend Uppingham’s Fives Revival Dinner in 2016. He also remained a loyal supporter of the game at Cambridge and gave generously towards the financing of Cambridge’s new courts.

In the last letter David wrote us in June, he recalled a couple of Fives incidents – “retrieving from the pepper pot—once!” and “breaking my glasses and my Father jumping over the back wall at Constables.”

He closed with: “Fives – long to be remembered and savoured !”

And so say I. Au Revoir, old friend.