Former Dragon School headmaster

2:29pm Thursday 15th February 2007

A former headmaster of the Dragon School in North Oxford has died, aged 77. Keith Ingram was a successful head of the school, maintaining the essential ethos of the establishment at a time of great changes in education.

Former pupils who were at the school during his time as headmaster include tennis player Tim Henman, author Nicholas Shakespeare and journalist Rageh Omar.

The son of John and Marie Ingram of Wimbledon, he was born in 1929 and was educated at King's College School, Wimbledon, where he won the divinity prize and was captain of the unbeaten first XV in the 1946-47 season.

After leaving King's in 1948, he taught for a year at a prep school in Reigate - a sporting injury having prevented him from doing National Service - and then went to Brasenose College, Oxford, to read Greats.

Despite not being able to play, Mr Ingram was a pillar of the college rugby club and a member of the Hornets Cricket Club, the exclusive sports club of the university.

In 1953, he was offered a teaching post at the Dragon for one term. He accepted and remained there for 108 terms.

From 1953 to 1965, he was an assistant master, teaching Latin and Greek, and coaching rugby, and was popular with children and staff.

In 1965, Mr Ingram was chosen by Joc Lynam to succeed him as headmaster. His 12 years' experience at the Dragon, allied to his modest manner and humanitarian character, meant the changeover went smoothly, and the unusual characteristics of the school were maintained, such as the children calling members of staff by their nicknames out of the classroom. Ingram was known as Inky.

Any prolonged spell of cold weather resulted in the tennis court in front of School House being sprayed throughout the night by a rota of staff to enable skating to take place there for as long as the cold spell lasted.

Mr Ingram also maintained the traditional semblance of organised chaos at the school, while keeping close control of the way it was run.

He won the respect of his staff and maintained the school's high academic standards.

Mr Ingram would rise early in the morning to do the part of the job he disliked the most - paperwork. It meant he was able to leave his study door open for much of the day to deal with requests from staff and pupils.

He attended breakfast every day and would send a boy with a cup of tea to wake up any member of staff who had failed to appear when he was meant to be on breakfast duty.

When he could, Mr Ingram would escape to the playing fields during games time, no matter what sport was being played, and sometimes passed on helpful comments to players and coaches alike.

Mr Ingram oversaw a large building programme at the school, and there was a large increase in pupil numbers during his headmastership, especially among the girls.

He could be tough with children when required but preferred a more individual approach to discipline.

When a boy let off a stink bomb in the hall before assembly, Mr Ingram made no comment. He then announced the hymn to be sung, Breathe on Me Breath of God, and the prank was never repeated.

After Mr Ingram retired in 1989, he worked for the Joint Educational Trust, and was chairman of the governors of West Hill Park School until 1994, and churchwarden of his parish church until 2000. He also travelled a great deal in his retirement.

Mr Ingram died on January 5.

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