John Duffy - Teacher at Grammar (1957-1987)
John was born in Sydney in 1929, the eldest child of six. His father, Thomas Patrick Duffy, was a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. John was educated at Harcourt Public school, St Mel’s and later De La Salle Brothers at Marrickville. He graduated with a BA from the University of New England, his majors in Mathematics and Economics. After teaching at various schools in Armidale, Cronulla and Milson's Point, John was appointed to the staff of Sydney Grammar School in 1957 to teach Mathematics.
In 1960 John travelled to England to take an appointment at the John Fisher School, Purley, Surrey. After his year abroad, he returned to SGS and coached the Second XV for three years with a Premiership in 1962 and second in 1963. He coached the First XV from 1964 to 1972 with the exception of 1969 when he was in the United States. His successes were legendary: in 1966 the Firsts were Champions, in 1967 they were Premiers and in 1968, Runners-Up. He was also a highly regarded GPS selector for Rugby from 1979 to 1986.
In 1969 he accepted an appointment to the Mathematics Department of Oklahoma University and he took the opportunity to complete several post-graduate Mathematics courses. Shortly after returning to SGS, he became the Head of the Mathematics Department in 1971. Mr Mackerras when describing John’s influence in this field said, ‘The hallmarks are accuracy, rigour and careful setting out of problems expressed in proper English - simple, basic things and yet rarely insisted on.’ (1988 Sydneian Valette)
Not surprisingly, Grammar boys did very well in mathematics during this time. John was also a member of the Syllabus Committee in Mathematics for the Higher School Certificate from 1972. On leaving SGS, he accepted an invitation from the Mathematics Department of The University of New South Wales to be a Visiting Fellow for 1988.
In retirement, John loved to keep fit by jogging along Bondi Beach and he was a member of the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club. He regularly made use of the club gym and established a ‘Coffee Club’ with fellow members to have ‘a good yarn’. He had a constant bug for travel, undertaking trips overseas – travelling around Britain, Europe and America. He also loved going on tours around Australia – the Tanami Track, Canning Stock Route, The Gunbarrel Highway and Cape York Peninsula, to name a few. He generally loved being outdoors and took a great interest in Australian birdlife, studying it intently.
In 2010, the School honoured John with the planting of ‘The Duffy Tree’ beside the grandstand; the plaque highlighting his contribution as both a teacher of mathematics and an outstanding rugby coach. In 2014, ninety Old Sydneian rugby players from the leaving years of 1957 to 1983 attended a luncheon at Weigall to celebrate John’s 85th year.
Sadly, John passed away in 2016 and it says a great deal that a group of old boys has a lunch every year in honour of him!
John Duffy in the 1970's
John Duffy with the GPS 1966 Rugby Premiers