Last Tuesday there was an extraordinary coming together of the greater Queensland GPS community, as Mr David Scott Bell was laid to rest at a very moving ceremony at Brisbane Boys College. Since the late eighties, Mr Bell has been a much-loved teacher and colleague at no less than five GPS schools: BBC, Churchie, and the Ipswich, Toowoomba and Brisbane grammar schools. Across an impressive range of roles, he’s remembered and admired most for his willingness to help struggling kids find their own love of the English language. That’s what he focused on.
He had a fine career. But, as fine a career as he had, it was as a rugby coach that he truly excelled. Mr Bell was one of those men who believed wholeheartedly in the all-round benefits of sport. He sought not just to make his charges better players but to make them gentlemen, a high ambition that was sometimes a tough challenge. He coached club as well as school teams: GPS 1st XV, Queensland U16s, Queensland Schools 1 and 2, Queensland U19 and Australian Schools. Unbelievably, his teams won five national championships. His combination with his great mate Mr Ian Jones across 197 of those matches resulted in a winning rate of 67 per cent. To put that into context, Wayne Bennett is sitting on 62 per cent.
In every aspect of the game there were life lessons to be learnt. In every weekend fixture there was an opportunity to better prepare yourself for the challenges life would one day throw at you. In the pursuit of victory, he hoped you might even come across the greater prizes of happiness and self-respect. In this way, he shared the views of the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, that rugby was an enabler of ‘social and moral strength’. I think Mr Bell would have liked that comparison, as there was something from a bygone era about him. He had a famously dry wit and a rapier sense of humour, which is captured in the memoirs of two former Wallabies captains, John Eales and Rocky Elsom.
He was my coach and someone I looked up to tremendously. He played a huge role in my life. I’m lucky enough to say he briefly coached my son too. I’m very grateful for the interactions we had, and today I remember him with some fondness. In an age when we bemoan the lack of male teachers in our schools and the underperformance of boys in academic results, Mr Bell’s ability to connect with young men, to give them belief and courage both on the field and in the classroom—and, yes, sometimes even on the floor of parliament—makes him all the more missed. Of course, he’ll be missed by none more so than his amazing daughters, Charlie, Molly and Rosie, and my thoughts are with them and with his family at this time. May he rest in peace.