EX-ENGLAND scrum-half Lee Dickson is to lead the drive to develop rugby at a leading North-East school as he steps down from the professional game.
The 33-year-old former Barnard Castle School boy is returning to his old stomping ground to be Master of Rugby.
The former Newcastle Falcon, Northampton Saint and Bedford Blue, whose last match for England was against the All Blacks, will be responsible for developing rugby across the Prep and Senior schools, as well as using his talents at squash and cricket to boost sports coaching generally.
He will also develop a host of links between the school and a variety of sporting organisations at all levels.
Lee, who is married to Becky and has three sons, Josh, Oscar and Charlie, said: “I loved Barney and when I left I always felt and hoped that one day I would return and that my children would go there. I thought it was a bit of a pipedream but this shows that sometimes things do come true.
“Two years ago I made the decision to drop down a league and started to look at life after rugby. Teaching was something I wanted to go into. I feel I have retired at the right time and am walking away from the game I love and into an unbelievable opportunity.”
Lee, whose brother Karl also attended the school and is now a professional referee, said he had always stayed in touch with the school and, in particular, second master Martin Pepper, who was his first team rugby coach.
“Martin was a huge driving force in my rugby career and even after I left Barney we were in close contact. I am very grateful to him for approaching me for this role,” he said.
Headmaster Tony Jackson was thrilled with the appointment which he felt would inspire staff and students and demonstrated the school’s commitment to sport.
“We are not just a rugby school and have something for everyone at Barnard Castle School, including music, drama, art, academia, the Combined Cadet Force and myriad different activities and leadership opportunities,” he said.
“However, we have an enviable reputation for the sport with a host of international players in our alumni.
“I sit here, as a relatively young head, and I attribute a large part of my progression to sport. With rugby you learn to be part of a team, to trust, to motivate and inspire. You appreciate camaraderie, develop resilience in the face of defeat and humility in winning. Sport is a microcosm of our lives, a rollercoaster, and it teaches us to deal with all eventualities.”
Mr Jackson said Lee would bring all the characteristics of being a Barney Boy with the experience of professional sport played at the highest level.
The son of a serviceman, Lee boarded at Barnard Castle School from the age of 11. In his final year in 2003 he captained the Barnard Castle School First XV on his 18th birthday in the final of the Daily Mail Cup at Twickenham, the spiritual home of English rugby.
After leaving school he played for Newcastle Falcons and was part of the Northampton Saints squad which won the Premiership. His first of 18 caps for England came against Scotland, a team he once played for at U19s as his father is Scottish.
In 2017, Lee joined Bedford Blues as player-coach for the 2017-18 Greene King IPA Championship season announcing his retirement and move to Barnard Castle School on Friday.
Lee, who has been helping to coach children at a school Bedford, added: “At the age of 26 I was quite late into the England set up and I have Stuart Lancaster to thank for selecting me. Every cap with England is special and the highs playing for your country are unbelievable.
“I am hoping to put some of that experience into teaching a new generation of players and helping them make their dreams come true. Rugby is the best game in the world, not just for being a competitive sport but also for the values of humility, generosity, respect and teamwork it reflects.”