Farewell to one of Dilworth’s best

Date: 21 Jun 2023

This week Ally Patterson leaves Dilworth after almost 23 years of association with the school. We look back at his incredible career and the legacy he has left.

It was the year 2000 when Ally Patterson first arrived in New Zealand ‘fresh off the boat’ and ready to take up a role as an overseas tutor at Dilworth, part of a reciprocal arrangement with the Royal School of Dungannon, County Tyrone, that had been re-ignited by then Headmaster at the Royal School, Paul Hewitt, and Bill Cotter (Cotter house is named after him).

Dilworth has a deep connection with Ireland, it is woven into the very soul of the place through the incredible legacy of the school’s founders James and Isabella Dilworth and celebrated annually through Founder’s Day.  Symbols of Dilworth’s Irish heritage are threaded throughout the school from the names of the boarding houses to the Dilworth Cross (donated by the Dilworth Old Boys) and St. Patrick’s the school chapel.

Ally Patterson remembers feeling instantly at home in New Zealand and at Dilworth. He found himself amongst a group of people “into rugby, relaxed with the same laid-back kind of humour as the Irish – in many ways very similar”.

After a year as a young overseas tutor at Dilworth, Ally returned home to go to university in England where he majored in Physical Education and commenced one of his lifelong passions of coaching sport. He then returned to Dilworth in 2002, this time as a New Zealand Tutor. He also recalls that his first day back at Dilworth happened to be the day of the school photos – he laughs when he sees that photo now - “I look pasty, pale, I look like I’m sick”. He went on to say that for some reason he also decided to wear a pale blue shirt that day “which made me look even more pale”. That memory has been captured on the record at the Dilworth archives forever!

He started to do some relief teaching, coached the First XI Football Team, and went on to take up the position of Assistant House Master at Tyrone – starting his boarding career. In a short space of time, he went on to coach the First XV and was possibly the first person at Dilworth to coach both the football and rugby teams at the highest level.

An incredibly successful career coaching rugby followed, the highlight for Ally, a tour to Ireland and the UK in 2007 with the First XV. Seeing several of the team go onto great careers in rugby was an incredible thrill for Ally as was making the final at Eden Park for two years in a row.

In 2007 Ally went back to study for a year which then led to a placement teaching role at Auckland Grammar, which quickly led to a full-time teaching role. Before he knew it, and after only one year of teaching, Ally found himself coaching the Grammar First XV. He recalls his first child (Taylor) being born on the Thursday before the Kings/Grammar game “they said to me you can have a day off school, but we need you to be there after school for training”. The pressure was huge and the stakes, enormous. Grammar beat Kings and for Ally “it was the best week ever” with a new baby and the win.

After five years at Auckland Grammar Ally came ‘home’ to Dilworth to teach Physical Education and to become House Master of Donegal. He said it was a great feeling to be completely committed and because he was with the boys during the day and in the evenings, he got to have more insight, the full picture, which to him is a key part of what makes a strong boarding environment.

Ally made big strides to make Donegal House a home away from home and one of the most important things to him was to involve his whole family – his wife, two daughters and son – so that the boys got to see him as a dad as well. He noted that a lot of our staff in boarding roles at Dilworth have young kids and we all become one big happy family.

Asked about his approach to Boarding Ally believes it is about “being kind, getting kids to open up, being consistently positive and getting on their level”. He recalled a tale of his approach to kids in trouble – on detention. He said the first question would be ‘ok who do you want me to phone – Mum or Dad?”.

During this period of his career, some more incredible years of rugby success for Dilworth followed once again. This time around Ally first coached the Under 15’s - where they only lost one game in two seasons and went on to win the Championship for two years in a row. Then the coach of Dilworth First XV left and the inevitable happened, Ally got talked into coaching the team again and made school history when the team got promoted to the Auckland 1A competition. Beating rugby schools like St. Peter’s and De La Salle College in the first season – the La Salle game was live on Sky Sport. These four seasons coaching the First XV created lifelong memories and really were amazing years.

Ally became Director of Boarding in 2020, appointed into the newly created role by Headmaster Dan Reddiex, a role he has held for over 3 years.  The legacy Ally leaves in boarding is enormous and talking to his staff and students it is clear he has helped to change and shape the culture of boarding and brought in new ways of doing things in a very human, approachable way.

Ally and his family head off to Australia’s Gold Coast on Saturday. They are heading off on a new adventure together where Ally will take up a new role at The Southport School (TSS). Ally says Auckland and Dilworth will always be home to him and he in turn will be welcomed ‘home’ at any time.

A huge thank you to the man who has contributed so much to the school we see today. Legend.


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