Plumtree School - Old Prunitians
NORBERT MAUVIS - eulogy by Mike Mountain, July 16, 2002
I am indebted to sister Ros who has given me the following biography of Joseph
Norbert Mauvis (known in my French class as Marie-Joseph Norbert and
variously as Norbert, Norbs, Nor and later as Joe) He was born in Mauritius on
25 September 1955, so would have been 47 in two months time. The family moved
to Rhodesia when he was three and a half months old and first settled in
Triangle on the newly started sugar estates. It was there that he poured
boiling water over himself at the age of eighteen months, receiving third
degree burns, the scars of which remained with him for life.
His fascination for fire remained with him when the family moved to Mtoko. He
nearly set himself alight three times there, including lighting the thatch
around him while sitting on the long drop. As a youngster he loved going
camping, fishing and shooting with his father, but eventually it was time to
go to school and he went as a boarder to Highlands. He was always mischievous
and looking for fun and on the first night he played spooks with a sheet over
his head and had all the kids running down the stairs in fright. He excelled
in sports, especially swimming, and won the Victor Ludorum in Standard Five.
In 1968 he went to Plumtree where his brother Louis-Émile was already a
scholar. Ros reports that he was highly intelligent but didn't like work. I
would disagree with the latter statement - he certainly worked hard in French.
He was in all the plays - indeed among the many emails I have received in the
last few days was one from Harold and Felix Westwood who directed most of the
theatrical productions at Plumtree and who were both very upset to hear of his
death. If I may reminisce with one personal memory. When I arrived in Plumtree
in 1969 Norbert was a second year and was in the unbeatable Under 14B cricket
team which I had the honour of coaching. Norbert was the captain and played
cricket with a certain gallic flair - he swiped at every ball and was
remarkably successful. My first weekend, the first time I had ever umpired and
the fixture was away at St Stephen's College in Balla Balla. Norbert was
bowling, the St Stephen's player hit the ball and was caught by silly mid on.
There were huge appeals, even from the spectators. I was about to raise my
finger when Norbert whispered to me, "Not out, it was a bounce ball." By so
doing he had shown fine sportsmanship but had also saved me the embarrassment
of unjustly dismissing one of the opposition players. His sporting prowess at
Plumtree was to continue - for example in his third year he won the cup for
the most improved rugby player, and was the Under 15 swimming champion.
Two more Plumtree recollections: one from a letter written to the Mauvis
family by JB Clarke on 15 July 1970 (thirty-two years ago yesterday).
"Dear Mr & Mrs Mauvis "I am writing to tell you of Norbert's fine performance
at the recent Rhodes and Founders camp at Ingwezi Dam. A canoe with two boys
in it sank some three hundred yards from shore, and the boys were in danger
of drowning. Norbert saw the incident, ran to the other canoes, and paddled
out to rescue the swimmers. His quick action probably saved the boys from
drowning. I have complimented him on this and hope that he continues to show
The other an email from Mike Hemans which I shall read. "I remember being a
Gaul House newboy floundering in the frightening new
world of Plumtree. Whereas it seemed compulsory for second years to use their
newly acquired powers to give newboys as hard a time as possible, there was
one second year called Mauvis who continually offered me all sorts of advice
on how to survive. He was an unforgettable character for all sorts of other
reasons but I'll remember him as much for his capacity for kindness as for his
capacity for mayhem".
Ça, c'était Norbert, au même temps ma bête noire et mon ange blanc !
Other email tributes that I have received up to this morning: John Mehliss,
Pete Simmonds (who grew up with the Mauvis family in Mtoko), Neil and Sue
Todd, Paddy and Lynda Marshall, Paul and David Candler, Hugh Montgomery,
Gordon Poultney, James Maberly.
After Norbert left school he did his national service in the Support Unit. He
was a real bushman who hated town life, and a collector of stray dogs, one of
whom was called Sly which could only speak French. When he left the police he
worked in the tobacco world, doing really well and travelling the world. He
picked up languages, as Ros says, like we pick flowers. He spoke English,
French, Shona and Portuguese fluently, and could get by in Hindi and Italian.
Recently he was working with the Japanese Trade Mission here and in Mozambique
and I was astonished to hear him sounding very fluent in Japanese. Unknown to
me, Ros reports that he has written two yet-to-be published books - I am sure
they would be fascinating to read.
He has suffered recently the deprivations of cancer extremely stoically. Most
of us had no idea what pain he was suffering. Ros tells us that it was easy to
nurse him during his final weeks as he still had everyone in the ward in fits
Our deep sympathies go to his mother and father Emile and Maryse (grand'mère
et grand-père), his sisters Ros and Args and their families, his son and three
daughters, and I would like to mention Sharron, and his brother Émile who has
asked me to read this tribute which he has written...