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A Century of Tradition

M W “Toby” Dods


Anyone who has been connected with the St Andrew Society here in São Paulo during the post-war years will have come across our twentieth President who, since 1949 when the Society was reconstituted after the second World War, has been one of our keenest and most hard-working members, both on and off the Committee. Probably no-one has been so enthusiastic about Society matters; so vociferous in defence of Society objectives; or so eager to help at any of our functions as Toby Dods.

The first of-our Glaswegian Presidents, Munro Watson "Toby” Dods was born in 1908, and was educated at the High School of his native city. On the day that the General Strike began, in May 1926, he joined the Coats (now Coats Corrente) organisation and, loyal in his work as in all other matters, Toby stayed with the same firm until his retiral in 1968.

Before his arrival in Brazil, Toby had a long and colourful Latin American sojourn. His first posting was to Rosario, Argentina - as a shorthand typist! - which afforded him a first glimpse of Brazil from the second-class deck of the old "Almanzora” in the company by Bob Bisset who was to become our fifteenth President. Thereafter he worked in Buenos Aires where he assisted at the British Exhibition at which the Cameron Highlanders, who had created such a sensation in São Paulo en-route to Argentina, were the stars of the show. Toby subsequently "threaded” his way through Uruguay, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Mexico and, outside of business, has visited all other countries in Latin America. We in Sao Paulo are fortunate to have Toby in our midst, as he was bound for Hungary, as managing director of the Coats subsidiary in that country, when the untimely death of his predecessor in Linhas (now Coats Corrente) caused his appointment to be switched to Brazil to has made his home here since becoming Sales Director of Linhas in 1945 and has lived between Sao Paulo and Sao Vicente since his retiral.

Toby was elected Vice-President at the 1949 meeting and went on to become President in 1950. He continued as a Committee member on and off until 1970, when he stepped down to make room for new blood. Well-known as one of the most polished professional and regular speakers at Banquets and other functions, Toby was also responsible for resurrecting the “Haggis Alley Glee Club", and for the creation of both the "Brás Baun" and the "Govan Girls’ Choir of São Paulo". He instituted and did much of the writing for "Scotch Corner", which for many years provided weekly news of the Society's activities in the "Times of Brazil". Tireless in his efforts for the Society’s social gatherings, Toby wrote and produced entertainment for get-togethers, and was the creator of the Jubilee Ceilidh. Since 1975, he has been Convener of the Society's Historical Committee. He was made an Honorary Member of the Society at the Jubilee Banquet in 1974.

Apart from the St Andrew Society, Toby's interests have encompassed tennis, bowls, at which he regularly represented Scotland and Linhas, the Boy Scout movement, with which he served as Assistant Commissioner of Wolf Cubs in the Argentine and as District Commissioner of the Scouts in Uruguay, and, not least, the theatre.

Toby has been involved in dramatic groups since an early age, having performed with the Scottish National Players, the Morland Graham Players, as well as acting professionally on "Radio 5SC" in Glasgow. On coming to Sao Paulo, he helped to start the SPAC Greenroom, and contributed to their productions for many years particularly in Pantomime, in the capacity of actor, scriptwriter, producer, and director. Many of his performance are fondly remembered by São Paulo audiences, but none more so that his boisterous rendering of “Hard-Hearted Hanna" in "Jack and the Beanstalk" in 1957 and his memorable portrayal of Dr Brubaker, the psychiatrist, in "The Seven Year Itch”.

During his stay in Montevideo, Toby married Mags Miller, and they have two sons. Murray, the elder, lives in Rio and is a member of the Society, while Robin, until recently President of the Caledonian Society in Lima, is currently living in Italy. Robin is known to many of our members having played the pipes at several of our functions in São Paulo.

Toby is possibly the member of the Sao Paulo community who has related to a St Andrew Society for the longest time, as he remembers being taken, at the age of nine to a Halloween party in Provan's Lordship, the oldest dwelling house in Glasgow. He was in the company of his father, then Secretary of the Glasgow branch of the Society, and recalls that he was almost put off all things Scottish for life when served with what he thought to be ice-cream, only to discover that the bowl contained "champit tatties"!

Despite having lived abroad for so many years, Toby remains very proud of the fact that he is a Scotsman, and he will always be remembered for the dedication with which he has worked for the entertainment and edification of fellow countrymen in Sao Paulo.

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