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 such spirit."

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 of laughter.

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...

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