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News > Dukie News > Sermon about The School Song.

Sermon about The School Song.

The School Song, Play Up Dukies! was certainly not sung during the 1980s, however the plan is that all year 7s (1st years) will now learn it. The following is the sermon from last Sunday's service.
28 Jun 2024
Written by Jolyon Marsh
Dukie News

Sermon, Sunday 16th June 2024 – The School Song

Good morning.

Many thanks to the Year 7 students for singing the first verse and chorus of the School Song – a piece that probably not many of you have ever heard before, and one which has not been sung in this Chapel for many years.

We all know the School Hymn, Sons of the Brave, and we sing it really well – it will certainly be one of our hymns during Leavers’ Service in about 10 days’ time. But the School Song, Play up Dukies, stopped being part of School life at least 30 years ago, possibly more, although it has occasionally been sung at Regimental dinners.

However, we have decided to try and bring the School Song back into the ritual of School life, and a first step was for the Year 7s to learn it for today’s performance.

Before I look at “Play up Dukies” in more detail, I thought I’d remind you about a little of the history of “Sons of the Brave”. It was written by the 7th School Chaplain, George Hubert Andrews, who was in post here between 1894 and 1912, serving a double stint as Chaplain, as he was so popular with the boys. He was, of course, in post as the School moved from Chelsea to Dover, and there is a photograph in the museum of him leading boys on the “long march”.  

Although he retired in 1912, Padre Andrews kept in close contact with the School: He was called back into the army in 1914 at the start of World War One, and wrote many letters to the School, detailing his exploits in the trenches. When he was granted leave, didn’t go home – he visited the School, by that time evacuated to Hutton in Essex, and reports show that whilst he was there, not much studying was done – all the boys just wanted to hear what he had to say.

The Reverend Andrews died 100 years ago, in 1924, but by that time, the School hymn, Sons of the Brave, was so much a part of School life that generations of Dukies have sung it, both in this Chapel, and out on sports pitches. Most of you will know that before sports matches, especially rugby, the team will give a rousing chorus of “One, two, three, Dukies!” – but it is reported that at one time, the opposition had to listen to our team sing all four verses of Sons of the Brave before the match could begin.

So, if Sons of the Brave soon became a firm favourite, what happened to the School Song, Play up Dukies? It was written at about the same time – in 1913, in fact, by the 15th Commandant of the School, Colonel George Colborne Nugent. In fact, Colonel Nugent was only here for 13 months, from July 1913 to August 1914, when he was recalled back into the Army, and he died in action one year later. So, although he was only in charge for a short period of time, I think he recognised that we needed a non-religious song, to go along with our hymn. The music was written by Mary Salmond, who in 1918 received an OBE for services to one of the many charities that later merged to become the Royal British Legion.

Play up Dukies was very well received at the time it was written, so much so that, after permission was granted, it was dedicated to the King, George V, who was the patron of the School at the time. Here is one of the original copies of the sheet music, priced at one shilling – that’s 5 pence.

So, let’s look at some of the words. The first verse begins with the lines “We’re drilled, and dressed, and disciplined, We’re proud of our great name.” The chorus goes: Be it peace or be it war, Play up Dukies – As your fathers did before, for the honour of your name, take the torch and fan the flame, play the game, play the game, Play up Dukies!

Remember, these words were written before the start of the First World War, and there are plenty of references in later verses to marching off to war, to riding, and shooting the enemy, and how the British soldier always marches forth to right the wrong.

It has been impossible to find out why Sons of the Brave survived, but the School Song, Play up Dukies, didn’t, but my feeling is that in the 1920’s and 1930’s, after the horrors and millions of deaths from 1914 to 1918, perhaps the School Song was seen as being a little too much like glorifying war. Remember that, at that time, your father had to be in the army for you to come here, and there would scarcely be too many families that had not lost at least one member over that four-year period.

However, I think it is about time we rectified the long-time loss of our School song. The main theme, after all, is Play up, Dukies – a will to win at anything we have a go at, giving 100%, never quitting – all, hopefully, themes that will be recognisable to you all, as part of our six core values. You can find plenty of courage, integrity, respect, commitment, loyalty, and self-discipline in both Sons of the Brave AND Play up, Dukies, and now we have started, I don’t think you can have one without the other.


Thank you.

(Mr Stephen King, School Chaplain)

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