As we look back over the 140 years of St Lawrence College, it is impossible not to be impressed by the achievements of the School, its pupils and staff.
We are proud to introduce some of our alumni below:
A structured phonics programme puts a strong emphasis on reading and writing skills, ensuring that most pupils exceed the expectations.Explore
Beyond the curriculum we encourage our pupils to take on responsibility and they thrive on Leadership opportunities.Explore
At St Lawrence College we offer a supportive, caring and challenging environment, founded on traditional Christian values, where children are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential.Welcome to Senior School
St Lawrence College aims for educational excellence, and nearly all of the Upper Sixth will continue to Higher Education at University.Welcome to Sixth Form
As we look back over the 140 years of St Lawrence College, it is impossible not to be impressed by the achievements of the School, its pupils and staff.
We are proud to introduce some of our alumni below:
Tower 1929 – 1933
Old Lawrentian and Battle of Britain fighter ace, Flying Officer John Allen
John Laurance Allen joined the RAF in June 1937 from St Lawrence College. He went to 8 FTS Montrose on 21 August. He was on a training flight on 18 January 1938 when he disappeared in fog over Forfarshire. Search parties failed to find him. Early the next morning an RAF search plane spotted wreckage on Glen Dye moor, Kincardineshire.
Beside the wreck was a rescue party laying down and spelling out the word ALIVE. An ambulance plane picked up Allen, badly injured. After a long stay in hospital he finished his training and joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 5 December 1938.
On 21 May 1940 between Dunkirk and Calais Allen probably destroyed a Ju88, 54 Squadron’s first victory. Two days later he and Alan Deere escorted S/Ldr. J Leathart in a Miles Master to Calais-Marck airfield to pick up the CO of 74 Squadron who was stranded there. Twelve Me109’s attacked the Master but were engaged by Allen and Deere, who between them shot three down and badly damaged three more. Allen destroyed one and damaged two others.
On 24 May Allen shot down a Me109 in the Calais area, and on the next day destroyed two Me110’s. On 26 May he was credited with another Me110 as a probable. In the last engagement his engine was hit by a cannon shell and he baled out over the Channel near a destroyer. He returned to the squadron that evening dressed in a naval officer’s uniform and carrying a kitbag.
On the 27 May he shared a Ju88 over Dunkirk.
Allen was awarded the DFC (gazetted 11 June 1940) and received it from the King (below) in a ceremony at Hornchurch on 27 June in company with Deere and Leathart, who were awarded the DFC and DSO respectively.
Sgt. JK Norwell, F/O DAP McMullen, F/O CF Gray, F/Sgt. PH Tew
P/O JL Allen, F/O AC Deere, F/Lt. JA Leathart, F/O BH Way, F/O DG Gribble
Allen destroyed a Ju88 on 17 June and shared in destroying a He59 on 9 July.
His engine was damaged in a combat with Me109’s, including a section led by Luftwaffe fighter ace, Adolf Galland, over Margate on 24 July 1940. John Allen’s Spitfire stalled while trying to reach Manston. He was then seen making for Foreness in a controlled descent with a dead engine, which suddenly restarted, causing him to again make for Manston.
The engine stopped again and trying to turn for Foreness a second time he stalled and spun in and was killed when his Spitfire, R6812, crashed and burned out near the Old Charles Inn at Cliftonville.
Allen was 24.
He is buried in Margate Cemetery, Kent.
(Text and images from The Battle of Britain London Monument, The Battle of Britain archive 2007 – ‘Airmen’s stories – F/O JL Allen’)
A Fishes Tale: Swimming in Ever Bigger Pools
Autobiography of Walter Duncan Dolton
In 1943 I was awarded a scholarship to Saint Lawrence College then evacuated to Courteen Hall, Northants, the ancestral home of Sir Harewood Wake. As a thirteen year old I found the rural setting and small number of fellow pupils – some sixty boys – congenial, but overshadowing it all was the knowledge of continual air raids on London, my home, by bombers, V1 (doodle bugs) and V2, (rockets).
I have happy memories of the Old School Room with its wooden benches and central iron stove for warmth in winter, and of walking through the trees to the chemistry lab – a converted wooden shed. A life changing experience was a visit to the Lake District in 1944, organised by the Geography master, Roy Millward. It resulted in a lifelong love of physical geography and then later a long and happy retirement to the Lakes.
I recall my surprise when during a routine ‘pastoral interview’ with my housemaster – the Reverend, (later Canon) Vickery asked if I had made any friends. On replying ‘none special’ he said I had been named ‘special friend’ by a majority of my fellows. Later, Richard Hewer, – who became Professor of Neurology at Bristol – did become a close friend. We shared the goal of becoming Medics and a preference for doing the evening dish washing up for a shilling rather than homework!
Being of a solitary disposition the return to Ramsgate after the war proved less congenial. The much increased number of students and return of the pre-war Housemaster Mr Drury resulted in the loss of a family atmosphere. Sadly, I became somewhat rebellious but nonetheless I met with success, both in the classroom and on the games field. I became captain of the U15 rugby XV and later captain of the 1st XV playing at hooker. Awarded my hockey colours on the field I became vice-captain of hockey, playing at right back.
In the classroom I was something of a polymath loving the arts subjects of history and geography at ‘shell’ level but in 1947 with sights set firmly on a medical career I opted for the Science VI. In 1948, my final year, I took chemistry, physics, zoology, and biology for Higher Certificate and was awarded both the Neil Science Prize. and to the expressed surprise of Dick Perfect, the Headmaster and adjudicator, the Baxter English Essay Prize.
I was head of Manor House and School Captain that year before going to Christ’s College Cambridge to read for the Natural Science Tripos as a basis for subsequent medical degrees. At Christ’s, on being an O.L., I naturally played hockey for the college.
My clinical training at King’s College Hospital in London (1951-1954) involving real patients came as a relief after what seemed at the time an over emphasis on the academic study of human anatomy and physiology. I had emotional problems with the dissection of human remains. Again, I played hockey for the hospital.
After qualification and training posts at King’s College Hospital, and St. Mary’s Hospital, Eastbourne, I was called up in 1956 to National Service in the Royal Navy as Medical officer to the HM Dockyard in Sheerness. I had environmental and industrial health responsibilities – an experience which lead eventually to a career in the public rather than individual health services. On demob I resumed my intended career as an assistant in General Practice at Murton a mining village in Durham. Here I saw barefoot children and ‘back-to-backs’ with outside latrines serving several dwellings – something as a southerner I had thought long gone.
One day in 1959 my wife, also a doctor and mother of a one year old, drew my attention to scholarships being awarded by Warwickshire County Council. I was awarded one and in return for three years service as an assistant County Medical Officer and School Medical Officer, I studied for a year at the London School of Hygiene for the Diploma in Public Health with all expenses met.
Four years later in 1964 with a Diploma in Public Health, the requisite qualification for a career in public health, I took a post as an administrative medical officer with Birmingham City Council, the first rung on the ladder of success leading in ten years to being acting County Medical Officer of Health of Cheshire. In 1974 Medical Officers of Health were transferred from Local Authorities to the National Health Service, for me an effective demotion in both salary and status.
At the age of 45 there was still much to learn so a Regional post was preferred to a local one in Chester. Sadly, the quality of the Mersey Regional Health Authority did not compare with that of a first-class Local Authority (LA) like Cheshire County Council.
The move from LA to NHS was nevertheless an opportunity to broaden horizons. Responsibility for planning and research in a University Hospital based system was interesting and challenging. During these years (1974-1977) I was a visiting lecturer at Manchester University – arranging and contributing to Planning Courses for Senior Registrars and Consultants, and had the honour of being appointed chairman of the National Child Health Computing Committee.
Appointed Liverpool Area Medical Officer in 1978, just prior to the opening of the new Royal Liverpool Hospital, proved challenging. The top management team of CEO, MO, Nursing Officer and Treasurer never met, the chairman only being briefed by the CEO before the monthly Health Authority meeting. I was glad to leave* and take up an appointment as a Senior Lecturer at London University and Professor at Riyadh University, Saudi Arabia. This was to be my last full time post.
Awaiting return from Saudi Arabia in 1981 was a request from the Nursery Nurse Examination Board (NNEB) to develop an advanced qualification in early child care. This involved visits to many colleges of further education all over the UK – a demanding but worthwhile task.
Fruitless endeavours to get the NNEB and BTEC (the Business and Technology Educational Council) to cooperate led to an invitation to join the BTEC team responsible for the development of NVQ (National Vocational Qualifications) in childcare. The appointment proved much more congenial than struggling to manage an under-resourced health service!
In the remaining years of the century my experience of medical management was put to good use contributing to management training, courses for NHS consultants and registrars. By the time I had reached three score years and despite requests to continue, I felt it high time to fully retire from public service and make space for a younger and more up-to-date successor – a decision I have never regretted!
*An account may be found on the internet under the title Dr Duncan Dolton – The Good Doctor Goes.
My father, John (or ‘Joe’), went to St Lawrence College at the age of ten. His father, Edward Joseph, was a clergyman in Cambridgeshire. Despite having limited primary schooling, Joe started writing early, and maintained dairies that he continued with throughout his life. His spelling at first was certainly quaint, as letters to his father show:
“Dear Papa, Ples can you send me a Dnxry [dictionary]”
“Ples send me a hokey stick… It lux like this”. This has an elementary sketch of a hockey stick!
My father never shone as a hockey player unlike his brother, Bill, who played for Cambridge University [and features on the recent front cover of the 2018 Old Lawrentian].
Whilst at School, Joe witnessed a Zeppelin attack on Ramsgate in 1915. He reports in his diary: “Zeppelin raid. Woken up by 2am by explosions. Watched Zeppelin from opposite dorm…”
My parents were both doctors. They became engaged in 1927. Joe then went to East Africa to serve in a medical branch of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). With colleagues, he founded eight hospitals in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in the 1920s and 30’s. My mother came out to Africa to marry my father in 1930 in Kampala Cathedral, Uganda. I was born in 1931 the eldest of five children – John, David, Robin, Michael and Janine.
Joe was very much a product of the medical training of the early 1900s. He never had any postgraduate training, never read any medical journals (my mother did that and passed it on) but he was an excellent ‘bedside’ doctor. My mother was one of the first lady doctors to be trained at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Like my father she had no further medical training. But she learned how to do caesarean sections, and other surgical procedures, and performed them if my father was away. They were a great team and gave us a sense of ‘venture and adventure’, reflecting their personalities and character. Joe, before he was married, was somewhat of a daredevil, and got into a number of escapades including being nearly killed by a man-eating leopard which lunged at him and got its jaws around the back of his head, his life being saved by a young man, Kosiya Shalita. Kosiya, years later, became one of the first Rwandan Anglican bishops.
My own early life until teenage years was in East Africa, and my early education was influenced entirely by what Africa could offer at that time. In order to meet the needs of the children of Missionary families, my parents founded a school, the Kabale Preparatory School, of which I am thereby the oldest old boy! This school now musters some 400 pupils, mostly Ugandans. At age ten I had to go to Kenya, for ongoing Primary and Secondary schooling. But the Second World War had led to a ‘brain drain’ from East Africa into British forces in the Far East. School staffing suffered accordingly.
I came to St Lawrence College in 1946-1949, aged 15-18. I had to work extremely hard to catch up because of the East African background. I also had to learn Latin if I was to get to Cambridge to study Medicine as my father had done.
My experience at St Lawrence felt very alien at first because I had spent my whole life in Africa up till then. At 15 I became guardian to my brother, David, in post-war austerity Britain. With a ration book in one hand and a Lloyds Bank cheque book in the other, we were on our own, with no clear base in this country. We both felt very loyal to our parents’ calling but also felt rather bereft and confused. No-one could really look after us – relatives or others. However we got on better in the Christian environment – with the CSSM summer camps, and ‘Walrus cruises’ on the Norfolk Broads. These cruises were started by my father every Easter, and ran for decades. We were loyal to the School’s Christian ethos, but it was a struggle nonetheless.
There were a number of friends from amongst other East African families who were sent to Ramsgate because of its Christian foundation. These included the Hopcrafts who were farming folk from East Africa, John and Peter becoming life-long friends. But it was difficult because we had entered the school quite late. ‘Fagging’ was also still a big part of School life.
St Lawrence was by and large a better environment and a welcome change. David and I came in so late that we were regarded as ‘interlopers’ in Lodge. We used to go exploring at night in the tunnels under Ramsgate with torches. We found an extensive network of tunnels hewn out of the chalk that had been used for smuggling over the centuries. We had a lot of fun down there but on looking back, it was clear that anything could have happened – it was so dangerous!
Then Donald Drew, my Lodge Housemaster, left the School whilst I was there and, as the senior pupil and a Lodge School Prefect, I was temporarily made the Housemaster, by the Head Master, Canon Perfect. I had to cane small boys for their minor misdemeanours. That I found extremely difficult, particularly as I also had to sleep in the same dormitory with some of them! A lot of acrimony developed, and I felt very let down by the School for making me take this role. However I did this for six months, and the School appointed a House Master after I left.
David and I didn’t see our parents again until 1952 (some five years later). Joe was also away a lot anyway so I didn’t see much of him even then. Communication during that time was a weekly letter from us, and one by return from them. I still have these letters. However we didn’t share with them our difficulties – we always presented a brave face.
I wasn’t much of a sportsman but I became Captain of Shooting, and enjoyed it thoroughly. My younger brothers, David and Robin, were also in the Shooting teams and Robin did particularly well in the Ashburton Cup, the inter-Schools championship. I studied Physics, Chemistry and Biology and a bit of Latin (a requirement for Cambridge at that time). I especially remember Mr. Sanderson, the Physics teacher. The teachers were good people – and got the best out of me. They were very supportive and enthusiastic of me getting into Cambridge to read Medicine.
I went up to Cambridge in September 1949, and joined Emmanuel College as my father and uncles had done. Cambridge was a revelation, and I was very well supported by the Cambridge University Christian Union. I completed my medical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, from 1952-55.
I met my wife Rhoda as a nurse at ‘Barts’ and we were married in 1958. We joined my parents in Rwanda in September 1959 for me to take over the running of the hospital from my father. Despite having no further training after leaving ‘Barts’, he was a great ‘bedside’ doctor, and he taught me how to use my own senses and to practice ‘solo’ medicine – I did not do a ward round with another doctor for four years! I learnt how to recognise medical conditions like typhoid fever simply by sensing the odour of the patients and their clothes.
No sooner had we arrived in Rwanda but we were caught up in the first phase of the Rwandan civil war, and my plans to improve the hospital service went on hold as a consequence. At one stage I was only one of 24 doctors in the whole of Rwanda [population then 2.5 million] and had to deal with all the carnage of the genocide that went on at that time. We moved four times in four years because we had to go where needs were most pressing, all with very limited resources. My father had had similar experiences and but with basic medical skills was able to build his hospital nonetheless in Sept 1927. Like my father, we had no electricity, no blood transfusions, or running water. I had to undertake surgery in these conditions in the same way that my mother had performed caesarean sections. It is incredible how you improvise though. For example I was sure we could use tropical sunlight to make hospital linen sterile, but we had no means to test the efficacy of such! Unfortunately there were death threats and my parents had to leave urgently, never to return to work in Rwanda. Rhoda and I similarly effectively became refugees.
My last ten years in East Africa (1963-1973) were spent in teaching hospitals, in Uganda and Kenya. It was tremendously rewarding, especially as our young doctors were taught to deal with everything and anything with limited resources, the very antithesis of specialist and super-specialist training in the developed world today. The academic team in Makerere University, Kampala, were a remarkable mixture. In Anatomy I had the privilege of using an early electron microscope, looking at skeletal muscle development and repair. We were studying the ‘Satellite Cell of Skeletal Muscle’, which is now recognised as a resident stem cell. I submitted my work to Cambridge University and was awarded a prize winning MD in 1968.
In 1969 I was invited to join the founding Faculty of the newly emerging medical school for Kenya, in Nairobi, where I headed up the Orthopaedic Department.
In 1973 I started applying for jobs in the UK, and was shortlisted for a number although was considered by some as a misfit because of my ‘unorthodox’ background. However I was offered a Lectureship by Prof Brian McKibbin at the University of Cardiff who took me under his wing. He was working on fracture repair in sheep, and wrote a definitive work on fracture management.
I could have remained in academia but chose instead to join the NHS as an orthopaedic surgeon.
In September 1975 I was appointed as Consultant Orthopaedic and Accident Surgeon to Wycombe General Hospital in Buckinghamshire, and this became my definitive professional appointment. This was very rewarding as, with an excellent array of colleagues, we were able to create from two earlier ‘Cottage’ hospitals a thoroughgoing District General Hospital. My on-going research included developing a ‘modular’ concept of total hip replacement. I was also for a while the UK Chairman of a charity World Orthopaedic Concern, which, as its name implies, is involved with the training and practice of medical personnel in Orthopaedics in the wide range of challenging environments in under-privileged parts of the world.
In 1991, aged 60, I retired from the NHS in order to revisit some of my research interests. These included the use of maggots as cleansing agents in recalcitrant and infected wounds and ulcers. This idea had started in Rwanda where seriously injured people could be left for days before they were found, or crawled to safety. It was noted that some of the wounds that were infested with maggots were remarkably clean, and the patients were not dying of gangrene or septicaemia or tetanus. Our experiences matched that of European military surgeons, including Napoleon’s Surgeon-General! Using this research, I created my own fly culture laboratory, and helped create a laboratory preparing maggots for clinical use. We founded the International Biotherapy Society [IBS], and the therapy, known as Maggot Débridement Therapy [MDT], is now international.
The maggot work led indirectly into another absorbing interest, the use of ‘sniffer dogs’ to detect conditions such as cancer. This started with a letter to ‘The Lancet’ where a young lady had a dog that was paying persistent attention to a ‘mole’ on her leg. She sought medical advice, had a biopsy, and this revealed that it was a malignant melanoma. The dog had effectively saved her life.
Then I was giving a lecture to senior students with the above story, when one of the students told me that his father had a dog that had shown excessive interest in a patch of ‘eczema’ beneath his trousers. He also sought medical advice and a biopsy revealed another skin cancer!
I then met a team of dog trainers from the ‘hearing dogs’ arena, and we put together a proof of principle study, training selected dogs to recognise cancer of the bladder from urine samples provided by volunteer patients. This was highly successful and received front page attention in the British Medical Journal. This led to the creation of a new charity, Medical Detection Dogs [MDD]. Our dogs are now being trained to recognise a range of cancers and also to alert to the crises of patients with metabolic diseases such as diabetes, or with nut allergies, and even harbouring malaria.
Throughout all this, I am indebted primarily to my parents, but also to an ‘army’ of loyal and supportive colleagues, without whom most of the above could never have happened!
Dr John Church
Ashok Khosla is one of world’s leading experts on environment and sustainable development. He was awarded the 2002 United Nations Sasakawa Environment Prize – the premier global prize in the field of environment, the 2004 Schwab Foundation Award for Outstanding Social Entrepreneur, the OBE in 2008 and the Zayed International Environment Prize in 2014. In 2011, Dr Khosla was awarded the WWF’s highest honour, the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his outstanding, life-long service to the environment.
Born in India in 1940, the son of a university professor and a college lecturer, Khosla studied in various schools in some half dozen countries before he joined St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, Kent in 1955 to complete his last three years of high school. Subsequently, he graduated with a degree in natural sciences from Peterhouse, Cambridge University before going on to do a PhD in experimental physics at Harvard University.
After a period of teaching courses at Harvard in Physics, Cosmology and the Environment – he was part of the team that designed and taught the world’s first undergraduate course on the environment – he returned to his native India where he became the founding director of the Indian government’s Office of Environmental Planning and Co-Ordination, the first such agency in a developing country. Over the next five years, he pioneered the design and implementation of the basic systems and structures needed to integrate the environment into the development process of a developing economy and to set and meet national environmental goals. Much of the rapid build-up of policy making processes and of public knowledge on environmental issues at the time was a result of the work done by the teams he led.
In 1976, he was appointed director in the United Nations Programme (UNEP), where he designed and launched INFOterra, the first global environmental information exchange. He oversaw the design and implementation of this international network, helping UNEP establish, in more than 100 countries, a solid recognition of the importance of reliable information and the need for environmental institutions. He remained with UNEP until 1982.
In 1983, Khosla founded the Development Alternatives group (DA) of organisations whose mission is to help make national development strategies in India become more environmentally and socially sustainable. Development Alternatives quickly became one of the leading environmental agencies in India and is now recognised worldwide as a premier institution concerned with the environment and sustainable development. Some of the DA’s more significant achievements include: Introduction into the market of more than 25 new environmentally sound and commercially viable technologies. These include machines for weaving handloom textiles, making recycled paper and fabricating low-cost roofing materials, devices that use renewable energy for cooking, lighting and electricity, and the construction of low-cost housing.
The work of the DA Group has led to the creation of more than half a million sustainable jobs and livelihoods in several states of India, the reduction of several thousand tons of carbon emissions and numerous other sustainable development outcomes. An evaluation of one project funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) found that the outcome of the project included empowerment of 6.6 million rural citizens.
He has been a board member of numerous global environmental organizations – including as President of the Club of Rome, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and as member of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg and World Resources Institute, India. He has served as an adviser to, among others, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the Indian government. From 2008 to 2017, he was Co-Chair of the UN’s International Resource Panel
In his presentation speech for the Sasakawa Award Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, described Khosla as “a legend in the realm of sustainable development, and an individual who personifies the hopes and dreams of billions trapped in the indignity of acute deprivation.”
In the early 1960s, before the environment had become a public issue, he was a leading member of the team that designed and taught the first undergraduate course on the environment at Harvard University. Many features of the complex interactions between the environment and economic systems, human population and natural resources were recognised and explored in this ground-breaking course – some of the impacts of which are documented in the book The Earth in Balance written by a student of the course, former United States Vice-President, Mr. Al Gore.
Q1. I went to SLC in January 1951. My parents were divorced and I lived with my mother. My home life was a bit chaotic, to say the least. I passed the 11+ and went to grammar school in Battersea. I stayed there for four terms and was allocated a social worker who lived nearby. It was she who arranged for me to attend an interview at what was then L.C.C. HQ with Rev. R.Perfect, which changed the course of my life as it was agreed that I should go to SLC. I have always assumed that my fees and extras were met by LCC. I do not, however know this for a fact.
Q2. My favourite subjects were English with Mr.Wheeler, French with Mr.Clifford and RS with M.M-Harvey, my House-master of Tower.
Q3. My favourite teachers were those mentioned above, together with Mr.Smith the Art teacher.
Q4. I had only played soccer at my grammar school, so hockey, rugby and swimming were all new to me, and these, in season, became my favourites.
Q5. I considered Trevor Cox, John Isaac and Mickie Ormerod to be my closest friends.
Q6. The things that I valued most about my time and education at SLC were the feelings of security and safety that were there all the time. I was not a particularly scholarly boy leaving with only 2 O Levels – English and English Lit., and instead put more of my efforts into sport. I had 8 or 9 subjects on my time-table, but come exams I was not very successful!
Q7. The qualities and values that SLC taught me were honesty and Christian love for my fellows.That may sound a little pompous, but it is what it is!
Q8. I played rugby at 2nd XV level and hockey at 2nd XI level, and was awarded School colours for swimming. I got House colours for all three sports. Does that count?
Q9. After I left I went into insurance for a few months before I signed up for a three-year stint in the RAF, which I served in Germany. I then went back into insurance for a year, before applying to a teacher-training college in Norwich where I followed a three-year course in English and Games.I obtained a post at The Hewett School in Norwich, teaching A Level and GCSE and becoming responsible for CSE English.
Q10. I still maintain contact with John Isaac and Brian Moore.
Q11. I think that my friends would describe me as having a good sense of humour, being reliable , open-minded and tolerant.
Q12. I would like to be remembered as a loving and devoted husband, father, grand-father and great-grandfather.
Regarded as bright I entered the scholarship stream to ‘O’ level in two years. My Prep School report must have been interesting because after a year at St Lawrence I was bottom of the form and stayed for a second year in that form. Having moved up in year three in the same scholarship stream I had two more years coming bottom in that form! My mother always said that my father sent me to school to play games and certainly I enjoyed that but academically fortnightly orders always meant that Monday was a time of dread. Encouragement – the cane – had the opposite effect to that intended.
Having failed all ‘O’ levels on the first time round, I managed to obtain 6 before I left, 4 science and two English. In those days dyslexia and learning difficulties were not recognized but the staff never lost interest in my progress and I must thank The Rev. Martin Martin-Harvey for his support and understanding. I never lost respect for him in spite of the relatively frequent confrontations with my backside. One accepted that that was the way in those days.
Hockey and Quad-hockey, and Tennis were my main interests but rugger was not a sport to which I aspired. Having musical parents I found great pleasure in playing a piccolo and graduating to a flute in the school orchestra under the very talented Dennis Cocks. To Mr Cocks I am indebted to receiving the gifts of Bizet’s Symphony in C and Smetana’s Bartered Bride as he updated his 78’s to vinyl. Being in the choir has also taught me to enjoy choral singing.
I was surrounded by very clever contemporaries who, although great friends, did unwittingly affect my lasting self image. Coming bottom I was nicknamed ‘Yobby’ – ‘Yob’ being a play on ‘backward boy’! Even my closest Lawrentian friend called me that to his dying day and it was not until I retired as a Managing Director that I realized that I could not have been that daft.
My affinity with SLC was such that I joined the Old Lawrentian Society and have been on the committee for most of my adult life. My grammar school educated wife (also dyslexic but very clever) became an ardent supporter of SLC and all that it stood for. Every visit she remarked on the obvious happiness of the pupils and their smart appearance and polite helpfulness. My Reverend father, and my mother who had been three years at Bible College, brought me up to be a Christian and no doubt it was the SLC Christian foundation that drew them to Ramsgate. Whilst at school I supported the Christian Union regularly but it was not until on National Service in Korea that I consciously decided to ‘start again’ and work out for myself my faith and make it my own. However, I cannot say I was converted then because I had never been unconverted, thanks to my Christian parents.
On leaving SLC and waiting for National Service call up, I did some work as a builders’ labourer and also worked as an electrician’s mate on the local council estate installing electric wiring in council houses. Then I got called up. Starting in the Royal Sussex Regiment lead to officer training at Eaton Hall and then to join the regiment in Korea. I was immensely privileged to be given the Assault Pioneer Platoon which in an infantry regiment was the dog’s body that had to do everything from digging latrines to clearing minefields. I did not get to doing the former but I did have to clear and de-fuse mines. However, most of my time was leading my platoon in building a memorial to the ‘Glorious Glosters’ which I am glad to say is still there and regularly visited by Koreans and tourists alike. Having taken six weeks to sail to Korea in HMT Devonshire in comparative luxury, it only took five weeks to sail in HMT Asturias to our next assignment in Gibraltar. As the Assault Pioneer Platoon was being disbanded as an infantry unit I found my life had little ‘army’ and much sport as battalion sports officer and plenty of hockey on an all weather pitch.
Returning home in December after National Service I had to work out what to do next. On February 3rd 1958 I joined a major firm of Lloyd’s brokers and set my heart on making it my life. However, exam experience dissuaded me from taking insurance exams so the only qualification I had was experience. When I became a director in 1973 I realised that if I had done the exam courses without taking the exams, the incidents that one comes across as a broker would have made more sense in half the time. Many events would fly over one’s head because one had not ‘done the homework’. However, by joining a small firm one had to have a very broad general knowledge and ‘we try harder’ to compete with the very much larger firms.
Later on in my career my broad general knowledge was invaluable as a consultant to major banks lending big money to ship owners who assigned their insurance as security to the bank. In the last ten years of my career, my colleague and I set up and ran a specialist broking house where he, the entrepreneur, drove flat out on the Cresta Run from the front of the bobsleigh whilst I was behind as his brakeman. It was a most exhilarating experience and very gratifying to see that the company 20 years later is very considerably larger than when I retired.
At about the time of retiring I was invited to become a governor of St Lawrence under Gordon Mungeam. During the next ten years St Lawrence did more development and enhancing of the college than had been achieved in the previous fifty years. I was always very keen that the Christian ethos of the school should not be compromised and governors were expected to sign, agree and support its core principles. Under the present Principal I am glad that the agreement has been made even more explicit. St Lawrence is a Christian school. It is to be noted that parents of other faiths are happy that their offspring should be educated in this Christian environment where the Christian principles are foremost. Those values of love in the widest sense, integrity and respect underlie and provide for a positive career and contribution to society and family life.
When did you go to St Lawrence College and why?
I went to St Lawrence in the summer term of 1951 primarily because of my asthma. We had smog in NW London and it was pretty unhealthy so the prescribed wisdom was to live on the coast, preferably in the south east. The same thing happened to my father who had a prep school in Cliftonville. My parents knew, and were impressed by, a number of people who were Old Lawrentians including the Headmaster of my Prep school. I also liked St Lawrence College and the boys that I met when I visited so, although I was due to go to Greshams, a public school in Norfolk, I ended up in Ramsgate instead.
My favourite subject was Maths.
My A level subjects were Maths, Physics and Art and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the teachers that I liked most were those teaching these subjects. A.G. Gallant taught me Maths (known as ‘Aggy’), Physics was Geoffrey Matthews and the Art teacher was Mr Smith. I got on well with them all. I was the only boy in the Science 6th doing Art. Mr Smith knew that I was considering Architecture as a career and suggested that I might not find the creative aspect of this profession as easy as I hoped. As a consequence I started to look into Accountancy which turned out to be an incredibly helpful piece of advice. In fact I regret not having the opportunity of thanking him for turning me towards this career which worked out very well for me. I hugely enjoyed my career and would never have considered this profession had it not been for him triggering the whole thought process and a complete change of direction. I will always be grateful to him.
Favourite sport(s) – if any?
I played a bit of cricket and tennis but my asthma stopped me from participating fully. Interestingly though, the fact that being unable to play sport as much as others gave me a greater determination to succeed in all other parts of my life.
Who were your closest friends?
My closest friend was Tony Bowell. We were both at the same Prep school in Herne Bay and both started in the same term and belonged to same House. I have also remained friends with Roy Davidson and Sam Musgrove who joined the same House in the previous term, and Anthony Close from another House but who lived in the same town as my parents.
I am also in contact with Donald Fromow, whom I see regularly although not in 2018 as his wife has not been well. He was in Lodge from 1951 to 1956 but we were in the same classes before we went into different sixth forms .
What did you value most from your education (what mattered most about your education)?
The Christian ethos was the most important thing that I got from the School. It was extremely strong with the presence of the Head, Dick Perfect, and the Housemaster, Martin Martin-Harvey, and a lot of the boys were sons of clergymen or missionaries. We had a strong Christian Union which played an important part in my life. I was confirmed at the College and came to maturity in the Christian faith whilst there. In fact the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, confirmed me in February 1953 just before he performed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June!
What qualities and values did St Lawrence teach you?
The Christian ethics and integrity were pretty central. However being an only child and asthmatic, the School taught me independence and self-confidence – I must have been a pain in the rear end when I left School because I thought I knew everything and that I could conquer the world. However having a decent degree of confidence has stood me in good stead in later life.
What career(s) did you follow?
Thanks to Mr Smith I went into Accountancy. I did my ‘apprenticeship’ or articles with a small firm of accountants in London rather than go to University. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant after five years at c23 years old and joined Price Waterhouse, one of the large firms, in order to get wider experience. My intention was to spend two or three years there and move on a company like Unilever. However I spent the rest of my career there and enjoyed it greatly. I became a Partner in 1972 and in 1983 I became Managing Partner for Price Waterhouse in the Thames Valley for the last ten years of my working life.
Outside of work I became very involved with the Church. I was a member of the Bishop’s Council and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Finance for the Oxford Diocese. I have been admitted to The Order of St Frideswide. This award recognises “outstanding contributions from lay people in the Diocese” and is similar to ordained people being made honorary canons of the cathedral. Only about twenty people have been admitted to the Order since its inception at the beginning of this century, so it is quite a select group and I feel very privileged to be a member. I have also served as a treasurer and churchwarden of our local church. I am currently a pastoral care visitor and am permitted to take holy communion to people in their own homes when they are unable to get to church which is another privilege. On an entirely separate note, I have also been a big Bridge player playing at County level and had pre-trials for England and the final trial for Senior England. It satisfied my competitive spirit!
I am married to Delia, a retired doctor, who worked in general practice and then ran the diabetic retinopathy screening clinics at our two hospitals. We have two sons who were educated at Radley which is nearer to our home than Ramsgate! One is a scientist and the other an illustrator. What could be more different?!
Are you still in touch with fellow Old Lawrentians?
I am still in touch with four Old Lawrentians (mentioned above) which is pretty good after 63 years or so! We have had reunions recently which have been great.
How would your friends describe you?
I have never really thought about it. I have always had the reputation for having a fairly loud voice though! I was pretty studious and enjoyed academic work.
How would you like to be remembered?
One of my principal aims in life is to make is to make a positive difference to the lives of all with whom I come into contact. I obviously don’t achieve this, but I would like to be remembered for trying and never giving up!
I started at St. Lawrence, in Tower, in 1953. My father, Group Captain Ralph Ward, had been posted to Peru as Commercial Attache in the Embassy in Lima in 1952 and I had a year at school and leant Spanish there.
Then I was sent back to England and lived with my grandparents during school holidays for a year before my parents returned. The same grandparents, Christophersons, who had sent their two sons Bernard and Clifford to St. Lawrence a generation before, and Clifford junior and their grandson Dudley Carr were in Tower with me too – my first cousins.
I was never clever! But loved English. I got O levels in English Language & Lit., Spanish, French, and, afterwards, Biology. I hated most sports, apart from swimming and table-tennis, but loved birdwatching near Sandwich, and growing veggies.
And thus I left in 1956 and was sent to Madrid to live with a family to polish up my Spanish – and 6 months later became a garden apprentice at Dartington Hall Gardens in Devon for 2 years.
Never looked back after that. Worked at Hastings Parks Dept.; Slococks Nursery in Woking; student course at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; College of Park and Recreation Adminstration; Copenhagen Parks Dept.; Landscape Assistant for Harlow New Town Development Corporation; Landscape Assistant and Senior Technical Officer at London Boroughs of Hammersmith and Richmond; then set up my own Landscape contracting company 40 years ago near to Kew Gardens where I have lived since 1972 – and which totters on to this day. Best job in world.
I have been involved in Round Table and Rotary for over 50 years, and The Kew Guild as Dinner MC and Editor. These interests must have stemmed from an unconcious ethic learned at St. Lawrence – of organising, preplanning, fund-raising, voluntary work, and travel.
My Polish wife Wiena and I have two daughters aged 29 and 31, and 1 grandson aged 3.
Ex-Tower friends from the 50’s are Chris Coburn, Gordon Bland, and Anthony ‘Slim’ Robins. We usually meet up annually, with partners as applicable, and enjoy a drink or two.
I was dispatched to Ramsgate aged 12 as my brother Christopher was there. At his funeral in 2012, the vicar referred to his time at St Lawrence as not having been particularly happy ‘and he never talked about it’. I suppose in any community there are those who can or enjoy making life uncomfortable and I believe, with some evidence, this to have been so for Christopher.
That it was probable is reinforced by my experience. True there were happy, enjoyable times and whilst any unpleasantness was not physical it was psychological which possibly worse.
Further I found, surprisingly for an establishment who presented Christian ethics as a ‘USP’ the application of regulation and rule anything but dispassionate, more akin to that currently meted out by football/rugby referees. Looking back over some 65 years or so since I believe now this was the first step in a journey to reach in later life a more philosophical/pragmatic approach to the world of belief and religious faith. There is in any community the good, bad and indifferent. That I have observed over many years is as true of faith communities as those not aligned to any faith.
My achievements at SLC were modest. Although not built for sport I won Athletic Standards points for the House and was part of the Platoon that won The Drill Cup for it for the first time. Notwithstanding expectations I passed the 4 O levels I had been limited to, rocketing me at the first attempt into the Sixth Form.
My favourite subject – if I had one – or the one where my talent was recognised was Art. Being in the B Stream that finished after year one. I can still hear the Art Master (Mr Smith?) declaiming at the end of our final session: ‘there are two who should continue in the Art Room, Hatch and Webb.’ ‘This place produces no end of doctors but no artists’. I thought that would filter up to those who determined timetables or the like. But no. Apart from one term ‘doing art’ in the ‘hobby period’ there was no contact at all – of which more later.
Another was science, especially Physics. Not least the personality and stunning teaching ability of Mr Garden (R A Garden – known as ‘RAG’ Garden)
The powers that be had, probably with little expectation of success determined that for A Level I would study History and Geography. Ugh! The Careers Master felt I’d make a good Civil Engineer. But then he never struck me as equipped with the highest of wise perception. If I did not know to my cost that he had no sense of humour I’d have thought he was joking. I assume his advice was a) as I was good at physics, b) by then Chris was studying to be a Quantity Surveyor and c) my father was a Building Contractor – he built aerodromes in the war – of which a little more later.
So it was that in the summer I researched course requirements for professions with an art element but which did not require A levels. Ie I could get out in a year.
Architecture. I would just need two more O levels to accompany RE, English Language, English Literature and General Science. Elementary Maths and joy of joy Physics. My timetable included every class possible with ‘RAG’ Garden.
For good measure, I had to study some A levels. They were RE and English – the later meant I also went on every theatre trip – about which more later.
Thus after a year, I escaped into the freedom of The Brixton School of Building not having had any artistic education to help me start but qualifying in the late 1960s. My ‘Design Thesis’ was The National Theatre (long before Denis Lasdun’s splendid version was a seed of an idea) But it did mean I would have to go to the theatre regularly, research theatre buildings in detail and do so convincing my tutors it was work.
All this percolated into my professional life and came into its own in later charitable life/work.
I set up my practice inviting partners to share in a growing workload and providing jobs for some 15 – 18 persons. I get a huge buzz from that. I retired from it after some 30 years having designed humble house extensions through ecclesiastical projects for most denominations, won appeals, conducted a public enquiry, appeared as expert witness but probably most fun were the recording studios for amongst others Hans Zimmer and David Gilmore.
I took a keen interest in the Planning process and was for two years Chairman of one of the RIBA’s Planning Groups and served on its Regional Council.
Early in the life of the practice I ‘donated’ half of my time to a church-based youth music organisation producing and designing shows and tours. My theatre studies being useful.
This included ‘business managing’ artists including Gordon Giltrap, the folk group Parchment and the poet Stewart Henderson who I introduced to the BBC and who since became one of Radio 4’s regular presenters. A great friend.
I produced and lit some of Cliff Richards’ charity concerts around the UK and in The Royal Albert Hall.
Somehow in these work years, I found time to be a Local Authority Councillor, vice-chairman of Policy and Resources of Richmond-upon-Thames and pioneering the adoption of its Charter for the Environment. It was there I worked alongside a fellow Councillor, now in the House of Lords, with whom I worked closely as political advisor to and fundraiser for Vince Cable.
I retired from all that including architecture at the turn of the millennium and since have continued a consultancy solving people’s problems with Planners.
Before retirement I was appointed a trustee of one of our largest local grant making trusts which had recently sold land to Sainsbury’s, going from being almost ‘broke’ to worth £22.6 million. During my 8 years as Chairman of Trustees we by careful investment saw that rise to some £36m. On retirement it was gratifying to be described as ‘having put it onto a proper business footing’ and by ‘creative thinking gained more worth for the grants made’.
In my 40s I qualified for my Private Pilot’s Licence to which I added Instrument Meteorological and Night Ratings flying several types including from WWII a Chipmunk, Piper Cub and Spitfire. Flying kindled a yen to find airfields my father had built, eventually landing my plane at East Kirkby in Lincolnshire where I met folk he had known in the War and their families. One who had flown for several seasons the BBMF Lancaster. Small world. ‘RAG’ of the CCF RAF Platoon would be impressed – or maybe not.
Retired I can now do what I would have relished back in school days – paint. My paintings are in several private collections and have been exhibited at The Guardian Witness Awards, Chelsea Old Town Hall, Shoreditch Triangle Festival, Orleans House Gallery in Richmond. Currently, I am a site artist for the new stadium being built for Brentford Football Club. But oh, if only the view of Mr Smith had been heeded what might have been? I am now Artist in residence at BAFTA for 2 years 2019-2021 for the Multi-Million reconstruction of 195 Piccadilly, the former home of The Royal Institution of Painters in Watercolours. Here is a link to view some of my work https://johnawebb.weebly.com/bafta.html
My wife Sarah and I were married on Christmas Eve in 1977 in Hampton Court. It being an auspicious year for her The Queen sent a letter of best wishes to us which was nice. We have two sons – Simon who is blind runs marathons and works in the Music festival sector. His book on running the London Marathon receiving high praise on the BBC’s Marathon coverage from John Inverdale. And Edward who is forging a successful career in film. Two satisfyingly creative men.
Thus in all from an inauspicious start in Ramsgate, some might say ‘the boy done good’. I’m just glad to have ‘done some good’ – not much, but some. And on the way since SLC had a huge life of thoughtful discovery, satisfaction, fun and contribution to a variety of sectors.
I was at the Junior school when this photo was taken, we used it as a folded Christmas card, the printing must have been class produced and the signature mine. I have blanked out the recipient ( my father), I think the year was about 1953 when I was 8, it is sti
ll propped on my office desk. I became a border in Autumn 1952 at the age of 7 and then almost immediately developed Henoch-Schonlein purpura an unusual blood disorder initially diagnosed as appendicitis ( which they removed just in case ) which put me in Ramsgate Hospital for the rest of term, coming home for Christmas, a little too early and as a result missing most of the next term. Some memories are vivid, like abseiling from an upstairs Dormitory using the ” slow-release ” fire escape rope and harness system . Colonel Verbe in his small room below the stairs, who is best remembered for History, Fly fishing and Golf. Fights in Simmonds Hall using a rolled-up small piece of paper and an elastic band between thumb and first finger as the “gun”.
A master who got so frustrated with us that he threw a compass at a boy who lifted the desk lid into which it impaled, and survived, the Master did not!
Many ” it hurts me more than it will hurt you” caning moments ( it did hurt) It did me no harm and spurred me on to lead a useful life
Just a few memories.
St Lawrence College Junior School
I have not kept in contact with St. Lawrence but have just done a bit of homework by looking up the most excellent web site. And, lo and behold, I found an article by my much esteemed old friend and contemporary, John Isaac.
I recall leaving St. Lawrence a day early because, as Captain of Tennis I had entered us for the first time in the Youll Cup inter-schools championships at Wimbledon. We had done well locally but did not fare too well against the rest of the country. Little did I know that over fifty years later I would return there to be in the final of the Over 70’s Seniors Grass Court Championships.
I then embarked on three years of study designed to equip me to manage the family printing business in London. My main contribution to student life was helping to give early bookings to the emerging jazz of The Temperance Seven.
There then followed two years of National Service. Having been commissioned in the RAOC I was fortunate to gain the only posting to Singapore. I like to think that the terrorists fled across the Thai border when they heard that I was coming, but in reality, the work had been done and I was able to devote nearly all my time to indulge in tennis and hockey for various teams including the Combined Services. On arrival, I formed a team that won the Singapore sixes competition. The Olympics were about to descend and I was fortunate to play hockey against the Singapore team to give them practice nearly every week on the Padang with the largest crowds I had encountered.
Thus, for the next year, I moved around the Far East playing hockey or tennis just about every day. The Army encouraged me to play tennis and I was able to travel and stay in the local Officers Mess in Penang or Hong Kong or wherever at your expense!
But I started taking an interest in arranging training during working hours for various sports as the people in my battalion had little else to do. And my brother officers enjoyed receiving the silverware that accrued in the sumptuous Officers Mess as a result. It was interesting to find that giving purpose, enthusiastic interest, training and success to otherwise disengaged people paid off. It was welcomed by just about everyone. In the sports that I lacked skill or knowledge about I soon found those who were useful and delegated to them provided they were industrious and keen. It gradually dawned on me that everyone seemed to be doing what I arranged without grumbling!
Thus I began to question just what I would be doing when returning to civilian life and I thought there might be more real value in joining the Probation Service. I do not possess the sort of faith that John Isaac exudes but I preferred to spend the rest of my life doing something I now perceived as useful. My parents kindly sent me the literature I required though they must have been disappointed at the old family firm having no heir.
So I ended up as the probation officer for Castleford and all villages to Selby amongst the Yorkshire coal fields. And, most important of all, it brought me nearer to Anne, who I fervently hoped might one day become my wife. Fortunately, she did.
Now my southern accent must have seemed odd but when people feel attacked or upset I think they quickly detect where you are coming from and what your aims are. Whilst most people I met had harmed others in some way I soon found out that if the system put everyone who offended together, took all responsibility off them and then ensured that even a small number of people responsible for them made them feel like excrement, the result was likely to be worse behaviour. It seemed that the best approach was to show good behaviour and expect it – and keep them at home away from worse influences. Revenge is not sweet in the end.
Thus when the Home Office Inspectorate visited me some years later they at first assumed I had not filled in my statistical returns correctly. There was just one young person in Approved School Care and one in Borstal over several years. If the offence seemed serious enough I had offered “Probation” to The Magistrates or Judge. And I reported back to them regularly either on progress or lack of it. Most responded positively in time.
Some nine years later, with two children, I sought a more senior position and better salary in Leicestershire. One of my new responsibilities was as Divorce Court Welfare Officer. Some years later, in the late seventies, I was responsible with enthusiastic colleagues for creating The Divorce Experience Course for separating couples in order to assist parents in alleviating the trauma for their children. Thus lessening the need for Courts and officials to try and sort it all out. I later ran short courses to teach others to do the same. I note from the internet that even today, over forty years later, various organisations have taken up the idea and offer similar courses to families splitting up. It is not often recognised how many organisations have been facilitated by probation officers responding to need over many years. And frequently these have been supported by volunteers and relieved the pressure on official bodies and the public purse.
Another initiative I led was the creation of a Day Centre for people who had offended in order to try and fill the gap between mildly conditional liberty and total custody. Yet again this depended on keen and dedicated staff who developed a positive education programme within an accepting and encouraging atmosphere whilst maintaining our own standards. In my view, this fairly enlightening initiative should have been developed further. Every city should have one! Instead, politicians sadly aided by some senior managers of the service, preferred the more popular but negative reliance on prisons. However, on the whole, I found being responsible for probation officers a very rewarding task. This was because almost without exception they were industrious, well-motivated and conscientious. They also supported new initiatives very often in their own time. I became a member of Round Table and on exchanging notes with other people who supervised workforces found I was very fortunate to have bright and dedicated staff from a wide range of background but with the simple aim to “advise, assist and befriend”. The mention of Round Table reminds me that this provided me with a refreshing contrast to work and in my final year I was the local Chairman during the demanding celebrations of its 50th anniversary. And later we formed a walking and theatre group which still offers variety to life.
My work as a probation officer was rather abruptly ended in the summer of 1992 at the age of fifty-five. I had continued to play hockey up to about forty but after a gap of nearly twenty years I took up tennis again instead. I had a great deal of enjoyment with a young partner leading my local team up the leagues to the top division and in my fifties also became involved in veteran’s tennis. One day I was playing in an inter-county match away in Cheshire and was coming back from 2-4 down in the final set. We won but as we shook hands at the net I had a heart attack. Oh dear! Life-changing moment. I was taken to the local hospital and later moved to Leicester where a few months later I was given heart surgery, a triple by-pass.
Although I was able to take up tennis again this experience frightened me. So we moved up the road away from stairs to a bungalow where I started the more sedentary hobby of building a railway round the garden. (Google “David Straker Garden Railway” for a 2 min. clip.) By now the children had gone off to Uni. So for our summer holidays, my wife and I took up water-sports and over the years grew competent at mono-skiing, wakeboarding, sailing, windsurfing and of course I could not resist picking up my tennis racquet again. One of my opponents from the Cheshire match invited me to play in the doubles in our age group of the British Grass Court Championships at Wimbledon. This lead to an invitation to join the Veteran’s (now Seniors) Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain. I served on the Committee of the club until I resigned a few months after my eightieth birthday. In the meantime trips abroad, tournaments and fixtures at home did not pass without incident. In 2008 I was playing for GB Vets. at The Queen’s Club when I had a cardiac arrest and they used their defibrillator for the first time! Apparently, I was taken to the nearby hospital and put in an induced coma for a few days before being returned to Leicester where eventually I was given my own implanted defibrillator. This was advised because I had earlier had another arrest whilst playing in the County Championships. Some people never learn!
My fear was countered by my enjoyment of various sports, so aged 80 years we embarked on our usual water sports/tennis holiday, this time in Croatia. Towards the middle of the holiday, the speedboat driver commented that I seemed to be a confident wakeboarder and asked if I had tried the new sport of wave surfing. So the next day of course I had to give it a go! I got up alright the first time but everyone in the boat including the photographer got very excited and this transmitted itself to me and I stayed up far longer than intended. Then BANG, my Defibrillator fired and as I hit the water it went off again. I thought my time had come. But they fished me out and I knew enough from previous heart experiences to do nothing. The hotel manager took me to the local Croatian village doctor who gave me an ECG and told me to rest and fly back at the end of the holiday. On getting back to Leicester my Cardiologist was furious with me for going water skiing and in front of my wife told me never to do such a thing again! So they are all colluding in stopping me from enjoying myself! Well, I had earlier checked with the cardiologist that I could still go skiing – it’s just that I did not mention the water. We have snow skied every year since the children were little and went again this January 2020 but on easy runs only. I have now given up black runs since I was in my late seventies as my leg arteries are not working too well. But as my battery was running out my cardiologist has forgiven me and implanted another defibrillator.
I am continually surprised to be here still. Of course, I have to thank the fact that I have been extremely fortunate to keep just behind progress in medical science and to be lucky enough to become ill in the company of people willing to practice their resuscitation techniques on me. To those of you who have helped to further medical science, my heartfelt thanks. I now lead my life vicariously through the exploits of my children, Dick Straker, who projects images worldwide (Mesmer.co.uk ) and Heather who I am pleased to say has chosen to teach in an inner-city school, and of course through their children and great grand-child who are a delight.
For as long as we can recall mankind has often done its worst in hijacking most religions to its own power-hungry and selfish ends. My contemporaries and I were born into war and the blitz but after glimpses of a better place seem to be heading into very selfish ways again. Thus on the whole I am not sure as to whether we will leave the world a better place. I had hoped to contribute a little. But mankind seems to continue to fail in finding ways to govern itself selflessly. And we have provoked too wide a gap between those of us who have and the rest.
So I repeat, the only real lesson that stuck from SLC:
Love Your Neighbour,
(R.D.Straker, Lodge 1951-1955)
“I have come to realise later in life that the qualities shown by staff such as my Housemaster, a man of huge care, integrity and love for his charges, is far more important than anything else”
I arrived as a new pupil at St Lawrence just 12 years old. The family home was Coventry so I was possibly one of the more distant, UK based boarders at school. My uncle, Reg Iliff, was a Governor here. I recall only seeing my parents during holidays. It was a different environment to the one children have today. The phone was never used: letters to and from home sufficed. Life was focussed entirely around School activities. We, in Courtenay House, benefitted from a very talented, paternal Housemaster – “SOS” as he was known – Samuel Speakman.
My time at SLC very much focussed my development of a love of music and particularly the flute thanks to our Director of Music, Dennis Cox. My other free-time passion was the School printing press with its advanced(!) Heidelberg machine that generated extra pocket money to support my meagre 40/- (£2) per term spending money. Swimming for the School allowed me briefly to hold a few records in Breast Stroke. Academic study was not my forte and 1% in my mock Spanish ‘O’ level was the nadir. The marker awarded me that, he said, for putting my name at the top of the paper. There was no entry to the real exam; it saved the examination entry fee!
I managed 6 ‘O’ levels and 3 A’s, the latter in Physics, Chemistry and Maths. To the puzzlement of SOS, I aspired to be a chicken farmer – my uncle ran a chicken farm in Devon – which sounded much more fun than training for the law, as the careers advisor suggested. My brief aspirations towards Oxbridge quickly reduced to the reality of Battersea College of Advanced Technology. The course there in Humanities and Physical Sciences fortuitously transformed into a degree course as the College was elevated to the University of Surrey before I left, and I was awarded a BSc degree in Surrey’s first year. Later on I completed an MSc at Warwick.
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished my first degree so escaped to Uganda with VSO for 12 months. In retrospect, it was a foundational experience – genuinely transformational. We volunteers were on our own, no parental oversight, learning to stand on our own two feet. I remain convinced that most children (both my girls have done so), should take a gap year, preferably abroad and before going to University.
My career has been varied. I started in banking and IT, trained as a Chartered Accountant, and subsequently ran my own Management, IT and Web Development consultancies. I was founder Trustee of Northwood Missionary Auctions, a charity that since 1969, has supported Christian Missions (over £1m so far) at home and abroad. I am happily married to Käthi, a Swiss lady whom I first appreciated from a distance across the floor of a crowded social function and surmised that she would be the woman with whom I might spend my life.
St Lawrence has been a consistent thread in all my years as a pupil, Membership Secretary of the OLs, as a Governor and, for a while, Vice Chair of Council. It means a lot to me that the School maintains its solid Christian foundation and ethos and continues to wear these characteristics on its sleeve today and in the future. St Lawrence has a vital role in developing children’s characters and establishing high standards of personal care, responsibility and behaviour. Everyone, staff and pupils, learn that they are part of a family. As critical as academic achievement is now and in the future, it is vital that the School retains its focus on non-academic aspects too. I have come to realise later in life that the qualities shown by staff such as my Housemaster, a man of huge care, integrity and love for his charges, is far more important than anything else. Lawrentians, past and present, must work to preserve these values for generations to come.
A recent trip to Scotland took us to Comrie in Perthshire. We passed a signpost indicating Cultybraggan Camp as a ‘tourist attraction’; Nissan huts originally built for German prisoners in WW2. I, too, had been confined there in 1960, not I hasten to add as a POW, but as a very young member of the St Lawrence CCF.
I seem to remember that in the early 1960s new boys at SLC were given one term’s grace, and then everyone joined the CCF. I have to admit that I rather enjoyed ‘playing soldiers’ and happily put my name down for the annual camp in 1960, which rather surprisingly, would be in Scotland (I had never been north of the border). I can remember marching out of the North Gate staggering under the weight of my .303 (which was almost as big as me), as we trooped up to Ramsgate station for the train to London, and then the night train to Scotland. No smart ‘sleepers’ for us so some very sleepy young ‘soldiers’ disembarked on the following morning at Auchterarder and were greeted by station staff who seemed to be speaking in a foreign language,
Then it was by road to Cultybraggan Camp where we were to discover that boys from a school in Kent were deemed by boys from more northern schools to be the lowest of the low; there was a pecking order. At the top, the smart schools from Edinburgh such as Loretto and Fettes with their immaculately turned out pipe bands, and then the rest of the Scottish schools. These were followed by establishments from the north of England such as Bridlington and Pocklington, and at the bottom by a margin were the untouchables from Ramsgate. In spite of it being a non-alcoholic establishment, the NAAFI was the scene of some very rowdy un-officer like behaviour as various insults were hurled around, and which incurred the displeasure of the authorities! That apart we learnt a few military skills and I can still remember the use of some pretty basic latrines!
In subsequent years there were camps at Okehampton in Devon, Brecon in Wales and Crowborough in Sussex; and also a return to Perthshire for arduous training at Amulree. On occasions the Royal Marines at Deal also tried to lick us into shape. Not that I was part of it, but a military band was formed, and on one parade in Ramsgate they received a warm reception for playing the theme tune from ‘Steptoe and Son’.
Senior Under Officers came and went. One of them was a tall and terrifying boy from Grange (Phillips by name?), who already had a TA rank and a voice which would have been appreciated at the Guards Depot at Caterham, but which for the rest of us was a wee bit over the top! Another was John Stevens who would become the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and who now sits in the House of Lords. I rather feel that my stint as the SUO was the sandwich in between some more illustrious holders of the rank, because some years later Richard Dannatt was also the SUO, eventually becoming the Army’s CGS, and now also lurking in the Lords.
I think that in my time Major Wheeler was initially the OC and he was succeeded by Rag Garden who moved from leading the RAF section. The latter at one memorable Inspection Day had too much tension on the rubber band that launched their mini glider. The aircraft went much further than expected and just avoided being modified by a collision with the chapel wall! Whilst I was at Sandhurst, Rag asked me to attend one of the Annual Inspection Days. Later after my first tour in the Far East he asked me to speak to members of the CCF about life as a junior officer. The venue was one of the science lecture rooms; not one of my favourite places as a boy at SLC! ‘Q’ Hobden, a retired soldier and a great character ran the armoury and the .22 range.
Many of my contemporaries did not enjoy the CCF, in particular the cold and wet field days. I have to confess I had a rather different view on proceedings and it did not stop me serving 26 very satisfying years in the Army.
I did not excel at SLC but I was one of the first students to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme at the school, run by a young teacher called RD Harley. I received my Gold Award in November 1966. The award scheme was a real encouragement to me as a 17 year old. My expedition was probably the best part! I cycled 200 miles: Bromley-Portsmouth-Bournemouth-Poole-Dorchester and ending in Clevedon. I spent several nights under canvas… a great time! This probably awakened my spirit of adventure as a few years later I hitch-hiked from London to Uganda in East Africa, spending a short while in an Egyptian prison as I accidently broke a curfew!
When the Duke of Edinburgh scheme celebrated its 50th Anniversary they chose one gold recipient to represent each of the 50 years to attend a reception at Buckingham Palace and I was chosen for 1966.
To complete my link with the scheme, in about 2007, when the Duke was getting a little older, he invited individuals (normally celebrities!) to present the awards with him at St James Palace and on this occasion I was invited to do the honours. Sadly I don’t think any SLC students were there.
I hope the school continues to offer this valuable programme to young people as it helped me to find my feet as young man.
Like others, my arrival at Courtenay was akin to a baptism of fire! However, I left with an appreciation of its down to earth outlook and unpretentiousness, which I hope to have held on to in subsequent years. My favourite subject was history which I enjoyed under Harold Clarke, housemaster of Grange. Most influential was Dennis Cox, director of music. As a flautist in the school orchestra and a tenor in the school choir he had a profound impact upon my love of music, and church music in particular. His dedication was an inspiration, as was his kindness and generosity. I greatly enjoyed drama under the guidance of John Binfield, who was new to the staff in my time. He taught me to be observant of human nature which I have certainly had cause to do. I enjoyed cross country running, as this had the advantage of getting more free time if completing the course early.
Shooting was my major sporting activity and was our House Captain in my final year. I also enjoyed the CCF, and was one of the first to be part of a new section of First Aid and Civil Defence; no doubt a nodding acknowledgement of the Cuban crisis and Cold War! Friendships were formed, in particular John Timmis who was best man at our wedding, and who for his sins remains my accountant.
I was pleased to be made a member of the prestigious athenaeum which boasted its own distinctive tie, with white alphas (α). I was greatly influenced by the chaplain the Revd. H. G. James ex R.N., who steered me onto the official path towards ordination as a priest in the Church of England. I was the head chapel steward during his time, and valued his quiet and no nonsense attitude towards Christianity which was at the heart of all that SLC stood for. He organised a retreat for VIth. Formers which I attended, led by the Bishop of Dover, and then sent me on a VIth. form vocational conference at Jesus College Oxford, led by the Bishop of Norwich.
I went to the London College of Divinity in Northwood for theology, although it did not represent my own stratospheric level of Anglicanism, but it did offer reduced rates at the local golf club (not Moor Park – the other one behind the True Lovers’ Knot). I ‘survived’ until retirement from ill health caused me to relinquish my final post in which one of my most privileged duties was to deputise for the Precentor at Choral Evensong in Winchester Cathedral on various occasions. A highlight of my ministry was going to Lambeth Palace to receive the Archbishop’s Certificate in Church Music from Archbishop George Carey. In all my ministry I have been ably supported by my wife, Joy cf. picture ante, who was a teacher in my first curacy. It was a blessed reward for my showing a pastoral interest in members of the staff! I am deeply indebted to her for her love and compassion, and support in all of my ministry.
I remember SLC with a measured degree of affection and gratitude, and for the opportunity to respond to God’s call to serve Him to the end.
I went to St Lawrence College Junior School from September 1955-June 1960 and to St Lawrence College Senior School from September 1960-June 1965.
My parents selected St Lawrence because my father, Denis Frederick Beardon and his brother Derek Beardon were both St Lawrence pupils. My parents were a Royal Air Force family and likely to move frequently so boarding at St Lawrence was a natural choice. In addition my paternal grandparents, Mr and Mrs C C Beardon lived in Ramsgate and were nearby to provide support.
I was in Lodge House while attending the Senior School, under the fantastic Housemaster Donald Drew.
My favourite subjects were English, Geology and Geography, and I most enjoyed the teaching of Mr E B Watson and his management of the Geology Club. Other teachers who made strong and favourable impressions on me included Mr Roberts, Headmaster of the Junior School, James Gillespie who introduced me to Classical Music while at the Junior School, Mr and Mrs Clifford who boarded me for the first few months in 1955 after starting at the Junior School. Colonel Verbi at the Junior School who was very motivational and introduced me to Trout fly fishing and Beagling which was absolutely brilliant fun. I still remember being “bloodied” and have the hare’s pad mounted on a shield, hanging in my home office to this day! The shield has a small plaque, Blean Beagles Boughton Church October 1956! I also clearly recall the beagle hound pack leader’s name, a bitch called “Whitey”.
I always enjoyed sports and was fortunate to try most of the many on offer. My favourites were rugby, hockey, “quad hockey” and cricket. Also enjoyed were tennis, small bore rifle shooting, gym and swimming.
Sadly, I have not maintained contact with my school friends, many of whom I have probably forgotten. But here are some names of great friends with whom I shared many fantastic experiences: Tim Giles, Nigel Wright, Barry Webb, David Oldham, Ian Prior, Robert Eve, Bob Gray, and to many others whose names have escaped me I sincerely apologise and wish you all well.
I have often been asked what did I value most from my SLC education? Well for me the answer is somewhat cliched because I have always felt that I gained a great and rounded grounding and good preparation for adult life. Learning to get on with people from different backgrounds and opinions; gaining a broad academic training which stood me in good stead at University; participation in sports of many kinds, both team and individual; developing my own leadership skills which became of the greatest importance in formulating my managerial career in big businesses.
St Lawrence helped to reinforce the values I learned at home regarding a very strong work ethic; high integrity in all personal and business relationships and work; a readiness to help other less fortunate than oneself; the importance of setting personal goals and the pursuit of excellence and winning.
I was very fortunate to receive much recognition at SLC which to this day I am very proud of and feel it gave me a head start in my adult life. The recognition I can recall is as follows; School Captain; Captain of the Choir; Head of House, Lodge; Captain of First XV Rugby; Secretary of First XI Hockey; Captain of Second XI Cricket; Leadership position in the CCF; and Captain of several House Sports Teams. I received First Team Colours in Rugby and Hockey. During my final year at SLC I discovered and successfully applied for several Industrial Scholarships. I accepted an offer from Perkins Engines in Peterborough where I undertook a Commercial and Technical Business Undergraduate Apprenticeship, and took a Sandwich Honours Degree in Business Studies at Coventry University, from which I graduated in 1969. Thereafter I had a career in a succession of large multi-national companies, in several different industrial sectors, finishing my career with Cadbury Schweppes in the USA as President and Chief Operating Officer for The American Bottling Company.
I am now happily retired and living in Somerset and would be happy to renew contact with friends from SLC in 1955-65
A Shocking Ignorance
The 60s was a wonderful decade to be young. I was 14 when it opened and married with fatherhood around the corner when it ended. So, for me, the 60’s encompassed most of the key experiences that defined me for the rest of my life.
1962 was special – I was at a traditional boarding school near Ramsgate in Kent and had just moved up to the sixth form. The demeaning chores of fagging were past, I could put my hands in my pockets, shared a study with a few other boys rather than the Junior Common Room and at last had been able to leave behind those subjects that didn’t really interest me. The year opened with Cliff Richard singing “Living Doll” at the top of the pop charts – the first record I ever paid to hear on a jukebox.
At St.Lawrence College we had no access to television and there was a single newspaper for each of the two Common Rooms, so discussion about current affairs was rare. However, I do remember exactly what I was doing when the news of Kennedy’s assassination came on the radio and details about the trial of Adolf Eichmann which was in the papers remain vivid to me.
One of my privileges as a sixth former was to leave college after morning chapel on Sunday, be back for evening roll call and spend the day with an approved person. That person was my friend Mike Meredith, a day boy at the school who lived in the nearby town of Birchington.
In October it was still warm enough to cycle the 5 miles and I had made the trip most Sundays since the Michaelmas term had started. I would take a packed lunch and listen in to local radio hams on Mike’s ex-Lancaster Bomber wireless whilst his family had their lunch. We’d then ‘mess about’ on mopeds and get up to other dubious activities.
On Sunday 28th October, my cycle ride took a little longer than usual. My route took me through a part of Manston airfield. This wartime base was known for its very long runaway, to take crippled bombers returning from raids in WW2. On this Sunday, I saw a policeman in the road ahead indicating that I should not proceed but take the signed diversion. I was not prepared for the scene beyond the policeman and it remains as an indelible image. There, lined up at an angle to the road, now a taxi way to the main runway, were at least four V Bombers – massive, menacing and white.
You will find no references to this event in the history of Manston airfield. However, world history records that the Cuba Missile Crisis was the closest we have ever been to destroying our civilisation. On the 28th of October 1962, I stood one hundred yards from the tools of that potential holocaust, a young man, oblivious of their significance.
My father worked for Billy Graham and was in charge of setting up his All-Britain Crusade, which was held in London in June, 1967. Our family had moved to England from the U.S.A. in 1965 and we lived in London. About a year later a colleague of my father’s recommended that I should experience the unique education that a time-honoured British boarding school could provide. The rest, as they say, is history.
I began attending the Junior School in the Fall of 1966 at the age of 10 over half a century ago. What follows are some thoughts and memories of my time there.
Being a novelty as the only American at the school.
The kindness of Headmaster and Mrs. Keith Roberts.
Regularly walking Mr Roberts’ dog.
Forbidden “Tuck” (sweets and a bottle of Lucozade) secretly stashed in my locker.
Playing the double base in a concert on a Thursday when I had my first lesson on the preceding Tuesday.
Sticking a half-eaten toffee on the stairway wall while headed through the tunnel to an assembly. Mr. Roberts found the half-eaten sweet and addressed the crowd, saying some “disgusting little boy” had put the toffee on the wall and he wanted the culprit to turn himself in. I did, and subsequently received “the stick” (one stroke) for the first and only time from Mr. Roberts. This was followed by a cup of tea and a biscuit with him! My only other corporal punishment was receiving three strokes of my rubber-soled slipper from Mr. Brenner for horseplay after lights out. I was not the only one involved and I believe I took those for the team. Fonder memories include exeat Sunday outings with my parents including visiting numerous antique shops and starting a lifelong passion for collecting military medals. My father saying he knew I was going to grow up to be a leader because when he and my mother fetched me for the final time, a group of my friends carried all of my luggage out to the car.
Teachers & Staff: I remember Mr. Gould (who always wrote with an aqua-inked fountain pen), Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Brenner, Mr. Rymer, Miss Coggan, and a kindly cook who name I cannot remember. If I asked she would make me fried bread for breakfast when everyone else was having toast.
Friends I remember: Jack Cameron-Wallace, Nickey Page, Simon Burke, Richard Ash and the Loveless brothers.
After my parents both died recently, I went through their effects and found some letters that my mother had saved and that I written to them during my St. Lawrence Junior School days. These provide some humorous insight into the thought process of a 10-year old boarder. A few extracts:
13 Aug 1966 – “Please send me a pen, a penknife and £1…I am running short of money with all the expenses around (here).”
2 Oct 1966 – “Joined Electric Train Club. History “Modl” [sic] Club had no room, but trying to join. Haven’t yet got the stick because it requires five forfeits and I have none.”
16 Oct 1966 – “Football getting better, French not very well. Came in 12th in Quarterly Orders. Participating in Stamp Club and bought a “Penny Victoria.” Had a thunderstorm at the school “with lightening and all.”
23 Oct 1966 – “Am brushing my teeth every day. Busy at Stamp Club. We had 3/- worth of stamps free! Mister Gillespie, the music teacher, had a birthday. When we sang Happy Birthday he said, ‘You’ve all got the tune wrong!’ Had a lecture from an RAF pilot about “the latest stof” and survival kits.
6 Nov 1966 – “In sick bay for several days with a temperature. Cared for by Sister Celia Schmidt (and seen daily by Dr. Jepps).”
20 Nov 1966 – “Looking forward to Christmas. A boy at school had a “Batmobile” by Corgi. It had a chain-cutter and firing rockets. Here is what I’d like for Christmas: a batmobile, a radio and a load more things.” (I got the Batmobile).
27 Nov 1966 – “I came in eighth in Quarterly Orders again and am playing billiards quite a lot. It is very wet here and the swimming pool has been closed. The football pitches are as muddy as ever!!!”
Summer Term – 1967
26 Feb 1967 – Asked for a 5/- postal order for Stamp Club. “Have just about filled my stamp album and for Easter would like a First Day Cover album. French getting better. “
12 Mar 1967 – “Thank you for exeat last Sunday. Can’t wait for Quarterly Orders (five days away). Hope I get into the top five.” (My parents had bribed me by saying we would get a Yorkshire terrier if I made it into the top five.) Good time in Science class making plaster of Paris “moulds.” (Mine was of my cupped hand.)
19 Mar 1967 – “In chapel the organ has gone fut and there will be a piano instead.” “I have started a library and have 44 books. We played rugger against Cameron house yesterday and got thrashed. The films were “September Spring” (OK), “Secrets of the Plant World” (good) and “A Ship Comes to Antwerp” (dull). The extra films were “Rhino” and “The Ostrich Egg and I.”
30 Apr 1967 – “Still in Dorm R, Phew! Mr. Brenner has left and Mr. Rymer (who we called “Rhino”) took his place. No Stamp Club unless it rains. Swimming pool was painted and is very warm. Having cricket soon.”
7 May 1967 – “I think I would like a dog for my birthday and also a wildlife game and a Penny Black. Rain has been coming down in bucket loads.”
Undated – circa early July 1967 – “I came in 1st in Quarterly Orders! Will be in London on the 13th for the Royal Tournament. Had strawberries on Friday. Lovely!” (We did get the Yorkshire terrier – “Muffin” – which later travelled to America with us.)
My Life after St. Lawrence:
My father’s next assignment was in New York so we left England and lived in Eastchester and Bronxville, suburbs of New York City, for a year or so.
After that Dr. Graham selected my father to be the president of his motion picture ministry – World Wide Pictures – in Burbank, California. After a life of constant travel (I had 22 different homes by the time I was 14), we finally settled down in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. At the age of 16 I took a high school class in ‘Police Role in Government’ taught by a Los Angeles Police officer. That and the television show ‘Adam 12’ sealed the deal and I decided that law enforcement was to be my career goal.
After high school I was still too young to be a police officer so I became an emergency medical technician and later a paramedic. Shortly after I turned 21, I began my law enforcement career with the Pacifica Police Department in the San Francisco Bay area. I worked there for 2 ½ years, met my future wife, Donna, married, and shortly afterwards transferred to the Inglewood Police Department in Los Angeles County.
Our family grew to five with the addition of two boys and a girl. I recognized the need for more formal education and attended university at nights and on weekends, obtaining a B.A. in Management from the University of Redlands and a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Southern California.
After 12 ½ years as a police officer, supervisor, manager and command officer for Inglewood P.D., I applied for and was selected as the Chief of Police for the City of Moscow, Idaho. This meant a change from an inner-city, high crime community to leading a law enforcement organization for a rural college town where we were also responsible for policing the University of Idaho. Whereas murders, robberies and other major crimes were commonplace in Inglewood, on my first day on the job in Moscow we had a report of a big bull moose running through a residential neighborhood.
Although we loved Idaho, we missed family in California, and 3 years later we returned there after I applied for and was selected as the Chief of Police for the City of Lompoc, California, a community in northern Santa Barbara County.
After 11 years of service, I ran for and was elected as Sheriff – Coroner of Santa Barbara County in 2006. I was re-elected in 2010 and 2014, and I will be seeking my fourth term in June of this year.
My experiences as Sheriff of Santa Barbara County have been the most rewarding of my professional life. In addition to providing front-line law enforcement to the unincorporated areas of the county and four contract cities, the Sheriff’s Office runs the County Jail and Coroner’s Bureau, provides security in the courts, and search & rescue services for a county of 440,000 people. We also provide specialized law enforcement services such as an Air Support Unit, a Special Enforcement (S.W.A.T.) Team, a Dive Unit, a Bomb Squad, Hostage Negotiations Team, and K-9 Units.
As Sheriff I continue to have a myriad of extraordinary opportunities, such as overseeing the construction of a new jail, managing several high-profile murder and mass murder investigations, and leading our agency through the financial devastation of the Great Recession and no fewer than a dozen major wildfires – including the recent Thomas Fire. I am currently the president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, and have previously served as president of the California Police Chiefs’ Association. I am humbled to be the only person ever elected by peers to both positions. I am also pleased to ride with our Mounted Enforcement Unit which culminated in January of 2017 with the rare privilege of participating in the world famous Rose Parade in Pasadena. I am proud to lead a very fine group of men and women who serve with much professionalism, empathy for others, dedication and honor.
This past November while on vacation in England, my wife and I made an impromptu visit to St. Lawrence. We were graciously received and given a wonderful tour of the Junior School and College. Though much has changed, the visit brought back fond memories from 50 years ago of an experience in my life that, at a remarkably young age, prepared me in so many ways for the challenges that were ahead. I came away from that visit pleased to know that St. Lawrence College and its Junior School continues its legacy of excellence in preparing generation after generation of students to meet the challenges that they will face in the future.
Sheriff Bill Brown
Santa Barbara County, California
In January 1947, 18 months old, I departed from Southampton Docks into the Solent, on the snow covered decks of the Capetown Castle – its first civilian voyage after troop ship service – setting out for a new life in Africa. Four weeks later we disembarked at Kilindini Harbour, Mombasa, took the night train to Nairobi and then drove up country. My 9 years in Kenya as the son of a dam building civil engineer had started. Life was isolated, simple and happy but that changed with the Mau Mau attacks on farming friends of my parents when we lived in the Aberdare Mountains. For safety I was sent to board at St Mary’s School in Nairobi but the fear of a potential terrorist attack was always present. In 1953 Poliomyelitis came to Kenya and I remember being very scared that I would become infected as a few boys at the school had been. I don’t remember any precautions being taken to stop the spread but perhaps there were. How times have changed.
Our annual 2 week holiday was in Malindi. I remember the dark coloured beach, palm trees, washed up coconut shells, the warm sea, the excitement of body boarding for the first time and walking along the beach at night so see all the crabs with their 360 degree vision and luminous eyes which sparkled but would suddenly disappear as we got close as the crabs dived down holes in the sand. We drove through the game parks and enjoyed views of uninterrupted wildlife that are now gone. Taking a flying boat back to England was a treat – a Short Solent four-engined monster that splashed down at regular intervals at places like on the Nile at Khartoum, then Alexandria, and Catania.
After Kenya my father took on engineering projects in Persia (Iran), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Nigeria and we now had a UK home in Mayfield, Sussex but I had the good fortune to visit these far-away places on summer holidays. Now in England, at the age of 10, I was way behind educationally so Mr Forbes, a private tutor, visited every day to try and drum the basics into me. He did his best, and so did I, but the results were shaky. What to do now? After much searching my parents discovered that St Lawrence College would take an 11 year old ‘in-betweener’ like me – not into the Junior School; into the Senior School, but sleeping outside the school grounds at Sutton House, where a few others in a similar position also stayed overnight.
What a change from sunny Colonial Kenya – I found the dormitories cold, the lessons confusing, I was different, didn’t seem able to make friends and missed being at home. Early school reports were not encouraging – 1957, English: ‘A messy worker who is far too inclined to give up without a struggle.’ Mathematics – ‘He is still very weak and has been rather stubbornly inattentive recently.’ History – ‘Only a very moderate start. His work is rather slow and untidy.’ And from the Headmaster: ‘It makes one doubt his capacity for a Public School education.’ But my unhappy start at St Lawrence was to change. After 2 years, new boys of my own age joined the school and at last I had peers, made friends, and as a result, I became much happier.
I had one important constant in my life. I was lucky to have J.J. Sandison as the Housemaster of Manor House. He was firm, fair, had a sense of humour, always seemed to see the best in me and never appeared to doubt that there was potential to be extracted. Without JJS who knows how it might have turned out. I owe him a lot and regret that in later years I never made an opportunity to tell him of my gratitude.
I enjoyed, hockey, rugby, and swimming and particularly enjoyed tennis lessons with the Mrs Binfield – a happy half hour each week in her company during the Summer Term. She gave me a love for tennis which I still enjoy today. Rugby had its challenges – the huge boy from the opposing team bearing down on me, a scrawny full back and the improbable last line in a failing defence. I was concussed on one occasion and during the holidays my parents thought I should see a Harley Street specialist. His name was, appropriately, Sir Russell Brain, who was principal author of the standard work of neurology, Brain’s Diseases of the Nervous System, and in 1962 was elevated to Baron Brain – nothing could be further from the truth I am sure. He could not identify any obvious neurological damage as a result of my rugby concussion. Perhaps he didn’t look hard enough!
It was a time when canings were a regular feature but I never felt my punishment was undeserved. There were masters who I particularly respected; Messrs Martin-Harvey, Drew and Binfield. There were kindnesses – Mr EB Watson taking his Geology Club members to hunt for fossils in his open topped Lagonda followed by a slap up Sunday lunch. The pride felt in the shooting team, of which I was not a part, winning the Ashburton Shield. I joined the Combined Cadet Force and rose to the heady heights of Lance Bombardier where the only real task was applying spit and polish to our 25-pounder, a British field gun of WW11 vintage.
I remember the fun and comradery of playing in school teams, and sometimes winning. Playing hockey on the beach when the games fields were snow covered. Shooting at Bisley with .303 rifles – noisy without ear defenders. Not getting caught smoking. And getting caught smoking at an away match with the inevitable and understood consequences of 6 of the best from JJS. I remember friends like Richard Clare, Oliver Hadley, Laurence Lea, Richard Pierrepont and Paul Priday. In the 6th form we had a Common Room occupied by four of us and we rushed there at mid-morning break time to put slices of white bread against the gas fire to toast. I then applied peanut butter with Marmite to 4 slices and sat down and listened to Elvis Presley, day after day. Sometimes Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys got a look in, as did Acker Bilk, a clarinettist, and his jazz band. Spare time at weekends also allowed cycle rides into town to have a meal at ‘Greasy Joe’s’ – a culinary highlight for sure. Also going to a new invention – the ‘coffee bar’. On the academic front a terrible ‘O Level’ maths exam result, followed by an excellent one only a few months later – a term of private tuition from Mr Skinner lifting the fog. Help with my dyslexia would have been equally helpful but of course at that time there was no one looking out for it. And I can thank St Lawrence for my first kiss, well sort of, on a Duke of Edinburgh’s gold medal expedition in Scotland – near Dunkeld if I remember rightly – the young lady worked in the village post office.
I respected the Christian ethos of the school and do even more so now. However going to Chapel then was in the main, a bore, but keeping out of sight, we kept our sanity by weaving interlinking strips of coloured plastic. I do remember there was one hymn I loved singing; William Whiting’s, For Those in Peril on the Sea, particularly on a stormy winter evening during Evensong when I imagined small boats being knocked about on a high sea in the English Channel just off Ramsgate Harbour.
‘Eternal Father strong to save
Whose arm has bound the restless wave
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
It’s own appointed limits keep
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in Peril on the sea.’
All these years later, like many people of my age, I can remember exactly where I was standing in the evening of 22nd November 1963 – in a corridor outside my study – when we heard over the radio that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Even we – not very well informed schoolboys with no access to social media – found it truly shocking.
Academic results improved to dizzying heights – one A level in Geography. The hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge were not for me, nor me for them. I liked the thought of a job in property – not locked in an office, but being out and about, seeing buildings, meeting people, doing deals, and hopefully making some much needed money. Knight Frank offered me an office boy role in their commercial department dealing with offices in the West End of London so 2 weeks after the end of term I took it. Salary increases from the initial £5 a week were tough to negotiate and so after 4 years I left for a commission based job but with appreciation for the ethos installed in me and of the benefits of learning intimately how the foundations of the industry worked. One thing led to another – representing developers in their deals over time led to me becoming one, and 4 years of night time correspondence courses led me to become a qualified Chartered Surveyor but did little for my social life. Years later I was running Lynton plc, a quoted property investment and development company and we built and owned office buildings, factories and shopping centres in the UK, continental Europe and in New York. My passion was to develop buildings that would make a positive impact on the lives of those who worked in them or walked by them. I enjoyed working with top architects and never let a good opportunity pass to bring artists and craftspeople in to add their magic to a building.
Then BAA plc, who at that time owned Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted as well as the four main Scottish airports came knocking on our door and a sale of the company was agreed. I joined the board of BAA, and from a small entrepreneurial company background now helped to run a complex company with 12,000 staff and a capital budget of £1m each day. It was hard and stressful but I learnt a great deal. At aged 52 I wanted a better balance in my life so retired from full time work and took on a small portfolio of activities such as chairing a private equity buy out of the Earls Court and Olympia Group. I also joined the board of Lendlease, an Australian company responsible for projects in the UK such as Bluewater in Kent and the Olympic Village in London. For 13 years Lendlease kept me, even as a non-executive director, very busy with travelling to the USA, Asia and Europe. But I loved it, a quality company with strong values on issues such as construction site safely where I was exposed to the best brains and ideas, and I learnt a great deal. Becoming President of the British Property Federation brought a busy year as well as a public one and I learnt the lesson that being stretched can surprise, in a positive way, even the person being stretched.
I also wanted to explore the not for profit sector. With two friends I set up Tennis First, a charity that still supports talented young British tennis players. In the last Federation Cup, in 2019, the majority of UK players were former grantees: Katie Swann, Harriet Dart and Katie Boulter. I recently retired as Deputy Chair of Fulham Palace Trust where we raised £4m to carry out much needed works of restoration to the house and garden. The land was first purchased in AD704 and until the early 1970’s remained the home of the Bishop of London. It is a hidden gem by the Thames – go and visit it! In 2014 I was Joint Founder of the John O’Halloran Symposium set up to raise awareness of mental health issues within the property industry, with male suicide in the UK being the biggest killer of men over 45.
I had the privilege of chairing the children’s charity NCH, now Action for Children. With 6,000 staff and a £200m a year budget the charity did, and still does, undertake vital work with some extremely disadvantaged and unlucky children, young people and their families. In my six year term as Chair I visited 100 different projects in every corner of the UK and it was a privilege being able to gain such a detailed understanding of the service users, outstanding staff, and the positive outcomes that were the result of their coming together. But sadly there is still so much to do – as a society we seem unable to break cycles of deprivation within families. I was honoured in 2007 to be awarded a CBE for ‘services to children’.
Hobbies were and still are important – restoring vintage wooden Thames boats, photography, English impressionist painters, and walking. I have ticked off a few long treks – along the Great Wall of China, the Milford Track in New Zealand, Cradle Mountain Walk in Tasmania, and climbing Kilimanjaro. Also England’s 182-mile Coast to Coast walk, devised by Alfred Wainwright, starting at St Bees Head and ending in the east at Robin Hood Bay, passing through the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors National Park. Exhausting, particularly with shin splints, but wonderful and highly recommended.
I have committed myself to paper a couple of times. First a textbook – Property Management – A Customer Focussed Approach, published by Macmillan, that describes how to transform a commercial property management business into one that truly treats occupiers as valued customers and not just tenants to be milked uncomplaining every quarter. It articulated our work in this area at BAA: The Property Challenge. I enjoyed researching Gordon McLean Allan – 1912 to 1944, about the life of my uncle after whom I was named. The book, self-published, tells of his life, his dawn landing with the Hampshire Regiment on Gold Beach on 6 June 1944 and his death in the early evening on 11 August of that year, on the last day of serious fighting in Normandy. I enjoyed showing my grandchildren his grave in Normandy earlier this year although they were more captivated by a beetle one of them had found. Sticking with the writing theme, many years ago I bought an oil painting by Daniel Clowes dated 1824. After years of part time research tracking down other paintings and digging out information, I wrote, with professional help, the catalogue for an exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester of the work of Daniel and his son Henry, also a painter. The Clowes Family of Chester Sporting Artists was the result.
At 75 I try to keep fit with tennis and the endlessly frustrating game of golf. Will I ever get round in under my age? I very much doubt it, but … with time that I never seemed to find during my working years, I now enjoy spending time with my sons – I have four, also with my daughter-in-laws and our grandchildren. Each one of this new generation bring delight, fascination, joy and healthy challenge into my life. I feel blessed. With my second marriage to Paula, a Virginian, we have 15 grandchildren. Thank goodness I like any excuse to start a new Excel spread sheet – birthdays, presents, golf scores, anything really.
St Lawrence has over the years grown in my appreciation. I now recognise that early lessons in leadership as Head of House and a School Prefect were valuable. My tough start was of its day and due to my ‘Kenya boy’ upbringing. But there was kindness, a Christian ethos, and important values that were instilled at school as well as at home. But perhaps it was JJS’s belief, against all the evidence, that made the difference to the outcome. Oh yes, and hard work.
I was in Courtney House for three years after passing the common Entrance Exam from Grenham House in Birchington. English was my favourite subject and Mr Summers was popular with me basically because he used my Christian name which I thought was different. I also liked Mr Sanderson who was my Biology teacher. My housemaster, Mr Shaw caned me on a regular basis so he was probably my least favourite! Two punishments were cold baths and standing on a bucket or stool in the centre of the quad….all a bit strange looking back but no harm done. The one thing I learnt from school and being a boarder was independence, being fine with my own company and keeping busy. I was gated a lot which meant staying at school in the grounds and finding a Prefect to sign a chit every few hours – six weeks was my record!
I was good at most sports which included shooting and I also played second row in rugby and defence at hockey. I will probably be remembered for being a bit of a rebel i.e. long hair, flares and staring out the window – I was so considered in those days 😄 – but I am thankful for my voice and character that the school gives. It has opened a few doors and no doubt closed a few too.
My good friends were Ash Oulton, Ju Mears, Andy Morgan, Ju Poulton, Sean Crawford (from Tower house), Andy Hutton and Steve Fayers. There were lots more but memory fades.
As for a career, I had many ideas and followed most of them which mainly involved travel. I have lived in many parts of the world including America, the Turk islands, New Zealand and Australia. I now reside in Thailand where I have finally settled down and indeed teach English. My favourite poem is “ If”, I am a follower of Chelsea FC and am a proud new father. I believe that the greatest gift you can give is love and laughter.
‘Who do you support?’
It was 1966, the first day of term, and I was sitting forlornly on the end of my dormitory bed. A boy bounded in and dumped his suitcase on the bed next to mine. ‘Who do you support?’ he demanded. This was my first encounter with a fellow pupil at St Lawrence College. My only visit to England, before this trip, had been as a six year old. I barely remembered it. My family lived in Kenya, and I had been to prep school in Nairobi. Now, everything about Britain (in general) and Ramsgate (in particular) was odd and unfamiliar to me; the strange weather, the trains, the rather dismal beaches, seagulls, the ocean. I had expected the Isle of Thanet to be an island … imagine my disappointment. And now this. Who did I support? I had no idea what might constitute a suitable answer for such a question.
‘Who do you support?’ I batted back.
‘Leeds,’ the boy said with enormous enthusiasm.
I made a mental note. ‘I support Leeds too,’ I said. This was clearly a good answer. The boy thought so anyway. But it left me mystified. Who, or what, was Leeds? And why was it so important to support it?
The boy who asked me the question was John Dodson. I would later know him by his initials – JETH. His father, apparently, was a bishop. Well there you go. This was Lodge House and I was about to discover a host of equally odd and unfamiliar things; along with football fanatics, came fagging, fighting, flogging, fire practice, floor polish, the fourth form, Fanny Fisher (head of catering and loved by everyone), fencing, flying lessons (yes actual flying lessons), fish on Fridays … and those were just the ‘Fs.’ I spent that first term in a state of semi-bewilderment. Would I ever make sense of this place?
I re-visited the school in 2017. It was the first time I had been back in, oh, forty years or so. It was the annual careers fair, and I was there, provisioned with a box of books, to talk to sixth formers about being a novelist. All good fun of course, but once again I was wholly perplexed. Who were these creatures wearing skirts? What had become of the CCF Parade Ground? Where was the Taylor Hall where once I had strutted the stage as Mariana of the Moated Grange? Where were the dormitories?
But schools are supposed to be confusing places aren’t they? It is part of their armour; part of their allure. Maybe St Lawrence College makes a special effort to befuddle us. Other boys in my first year, by the way, included Colin Greenland, Mark Bartle, Nigel Jennings, Chris Pollock, Paul Linscott, David Tutton, Steve Longley, Dave Hamill, Dave Chong … and if I’ve got those names wrong, or if other names escape me now (which of course, they do), I apologise. I don’t think any of these boys shared my bafflement – at least not to the extent it afflicted me. Or maybe they did, but they hid it well. Maybe I hid it well too.
So what can I say about my years at SLC? That I think about it with great affection? I can say that. But when you’re sixty something, everything about your teens inspires a rosy sense of nostalgia, so perhaps we ought to discount this. I miss the place. It feels strange to have typed those words. But they are true. SLC was a kind of family. Sometimes we struggled to get along. But other times were sublime. On the evening of the final performance of John Binfield’s production of Hamlet (I played Laertes), with applause still ringing in our ears, we wiped the greasepaint off our faces and a dozen of us from the cast slipped, under cover of darkness, into town to celebrate Hamlet with an illicit beer. We found a pub at random. I don’t think we even knew the pub name. That was our technique. There were over eighty pubs in Ramsgate, we knew the teachers couldn’t search them all. Half an hour later the door swung open, and in in strode Binfield himself, and another master whose name I forget. ‘Finish your drinks,’ they said, agreeably. ‘We’re going back to school.’ How did you know where to find us?’ we asked. ‘We’re not daft,’ they replied. ‘We knew you’d be in the “King of Denmark.”’
Faces tumble into the past. You make good friends at school. And yet. And yet. We waved each other goodbye on the last day of term, we made empty promises to keep in touch, and we went our separate ways. We had no social media then. We couldn’t brag about university parties or post selfies from summer holidays or swap notes on careers. We couldn’t pick up a phone and invite an old friend to stay. A set of iron railings had appeared between our new selves and the people we had been at St Lawrence. We could peer through the railings. We could see glimpses of the past we had left behind. But we couldn’t go back. The years flickered by. I went, this week, to the funeral of a friend. When you bury your friends, you begin to reflect upon your own mortality. You can’t go back. But you can look back. I do look back on my time at St Lawrence. I look at the teachers who changed my life. Donald Drew my housemaster who came out to Nairobi one summer and drove me to see Baden Powell’s grave near Mount Kenya. James Sanderson who taught biology. Mr Lloyd (I forget his first name) who taught Latin and timed every race I ever ran as an athlete with his trusty stopwatch. John Binfield; of course; who made me love English and Shakespeare. A chemistry teacher whose name I forget who hosted chemistry-with-jazz sessions in his home. Sam Speakman who taught Spanish. Thank you to all of these. And to all the others. I didn’t realise it at the time, but they made a difference to me.
So there is my school profile. Today I’m a grandfather. I write novels. If you ever come across one, and if you enjoy it, drop me a line to let me know. We writers need flattery every now and again. And look me up if ever you’re in Wirral. My house overlooks the RSPB Marshes. I like having visitors.
Oh. And who do I support?
Liverpool. Of course.
My arrival at St Lawrence College was prompted by the opening of Cameron House in 1965 and the opportunities for an education between Junior School and Senior School. I can’t remember whether I passed the 11 plus or not but my parents didn’t want me to go to the local secondary modern in Suffolk. A friend of the family found out that St Lawrence was offering a ‘midway’ education for those aged from 9-10 years old. As a consequence I took an exam when I was aged nine and was given a scholarship. I joined Cameron House which turned out to be a Nissen hut near the Headmaster’s house – in fact it was the old sanatorium. It felt like I was waking up in an old aircraft hangar with lots of hospital beds. After 2-3 years I went up to Grange House. My elder brother also went to St Lawrence at 13 from a prep school in Suffolk and my younger brother went up after him. He joined Cameron too.
It was hard leaving my family. It was all very exciting in the first instance until I walked into this big room with my parents and realised that I was very shortly afterwards going to be left on my own. That left a big pit in my stomach initially but after a while I simply got used to it. I later came to realise that you have significant reserves within you, especially when you understand that you simply can’t go home at the end of the day. You have just got to get on with it. It also teaches you to live cheek by jowl with people and that’s very useful.
I was the youngest in Cameron and probably the smallest because I acquired the name of ‘Titch’. There were a few pupils who came from families living overseas, either as medical missionaries or in the services. My friends were Mark Cousins, Adrian Rensburg from South Africa, John Hodgkinson (a local boy), two brothers called Murphy who were Canadians, Paul Lynnscott, Graham Connell, and a day boy called Philip Taupin. You get to know everyone well because you all live together. We used to go home at half term and the odd exeat, as well as for the longer holidays.
I wasn’t particularly good at anything. Everyone was better than me. Being taught hockey and rugby was a revelation. I was scrum-half and fly-half because I was so small. I am not even sure what position I played in hockey – when I first saw the hockey stick, I thought it was a golf club. In cricket, I was pretty useless at bowling, but was better at batting and slip fielding. Academically I felt comfortable with most subjects but my termly reports were dreadful. It seemed I disappointed all who taught me. English and History weren’t too bad but I was good at Latin so they made me do Greek too. I remember a conversation with Tom Lilley about why I was doing two languages that nobody spoke, rather than doing French and Spanish. He didn’t really answer. Unfortunately I was still learning how to write at this point (I was c10 years old) so being taught Greek where their letters do not join up, meant that I never learned this skill either. Even today my writing remains un-joined up. Biology fascinated me and John Binfield was a cut above as our English teacher. He made Shakespeare come alive for me as did Barry Webb with TS Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’.
School wasn’t place for huge intellectual debate. In fact there were two parallel universes. In the outside world of the late 1960s, there was the Vietnam War, the ‘Summer of Love’, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and films like ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Woodstock’. Set against this you had the 1950s style of St Lawrence which was ‘don’t talk about your feelings’, go out and win at rugger, have a good meal, say your prayers and go to sleep’. I was more of an ‘Easy Rider’ type of pupil so my peer group reflected the ‘John Lennon in bed with Yoko Ono’ type of crowd rather than the ones that admired conventional stereotypes such as a military hero or politician.
I was not a model pupil. Indeed I left St Lawrence at 17 in 1972 with another pupil, Ray Eaton, who was 18 and we joined the Merchant Navy. We worked our passage to Australia on a cargo ship by painting the deck, sweeping out the holds and learning to play darts while at sea. The parallel universe extended to conversations with Harold Clifford about university. He said: “Humphrey, you should really try and go to Oxbridge.” I said: “Why?” He said: “Which university would you like to go to?” I said. “Why do I need to go to any?” And I never remember getting a convincing answer from any of the masters. But when I look back now, it was clear that my thoughts were never on going to university, but on travel and adventure. Our writers were Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Hunter S Thompson and, of course, Mario Puzo with ‘The Godfather’. I decided that I didn’t want to go to University or even try to get my A levels. I started in English, History and Latin but my Sixth Form began at exactly the same time that St Lawrence decided to bring girls from St Stephens into our classes, making it difficult to give full concentration to declining Latin verbs.
However, what St Lawrence instilled in me was this: make your own decisions, judge character, decide what you want to do and take responsibility for it rather than rely on a network of establishment around you. This was probably an unconscious, rather than a conscious, set of practises and values which came from the school. I have also gained a good insight into the lives of the ‘protected’ and the ‘unprotected’. St Lawrence College is not a place that I wear as a badge, perhaps unlike an old Etonian or Old Harrovian. Without that degree of comfort, protection and security, we learned about resilience instead. However tough the day, however many challenges were thrown at you and in whichever form, there was no option to go home at night and so you had to make it work. That, more than anything, is what I have taken away from St Lawrence.
With the escalation of the Rhodesian Bush War in 1974 my parents made the decision to send the younger half of our family to begin our senior school studies in the UK and the most obvious choice for me was SLC given that many members of our family including my father, his brothers, and two cousins, Nick Jones and Ian Steed, had attended. I arrived a day late so missed the dubious event of having to sing for choir duty. In those days the Grange fag dorms were rooms 401 and 402, reputedly the coldest at the college. Fresh from Africa I soon found out just how cold it was in the winter months. Coming from abroad I, like many others, had an idea of what English Public Schools would be like. Our schools had been modelled on them after all and were something to be proud of. I hadn’t banked on some of the liberal progress made since the 60s and was disappointed how the smartness and pride in tradition was clearly disappearing. Unkempt long hair was in fashion. Forms of bullying were given the blind eye it seemed by everyone. So, our year in Grange starting in September 1974 banded together tightly and faired better than most, and as a result we were not troubled too much by people from years above who tried to get physical with us. It definitely gave us the edge in years to come and were able to take on others older than us at rugby for example when we won the house cups when we were not expected to. With me were Andy Mama, Andy Wright, John Serrells, Eddie Manser, Simon Prior, in 401 and Dave Chapman, Tom Attrell, Tim Bowell, in 402, and we formed the back bone of the next round of Grange members to keep the sporting traditions alive. We had a crew at the top end of the house to look up to and follow who were grabbing all the school sporting honours: Nick Jones, Dan Kagwa, Guy Askew, Neil Wright, Nick Page, John Kulanayagem, Howarth Lee, Mike White, Chris Haigh, John Kattan etc. Sport played a big role back then and without doubt it bonded Grange House like no other. We won all the major house sports – rugby, hockey and cricket most years and I believe it was to our detriment later on as the House name was eventually taken out of the school. My belief that the school had little interest in continuing important traditions held firm, which was sad. Sitting as a house together for meals was sadly replaced by a cafeteria system which broke up the cohesiveness of the house unit. Grange House was clearly targeted for removal at an early stage as were moved out of our house areas into transit accommodation over the years, forced to combine houses with Courtney and later Manor. It is the only original House name to be removed completely from SLC whilst other names have been brought in. A crying shame and a complete lack of regard for tradition.
Life in Grange was never dull and the “mass fags” held on Saturdays to clean the junior common room in our first year, when we would all rather have been in town, were no exception. “Joe” Cornwell was an ardent fan of David Bowie whose records he played at every opportunity. Great musicians both of them (Joe played the organ with much gusto in chapel) and my appreciation of Bowie continues to this day. Grange was given the dubious honour of occupying the upper gallery in chapel one term and we always did our best to sing quicker than Joe could play on the organ and were pretty successful and certainly much louder. We were moved back down to the main area so as not to lead everyone astray and never as a house ever allowed back up there again.
The teachers who held our interests during class inevitably made the subject enjoyable. “Beaky” in history was as outstanding as he was coaching cricket. Martin-Harvey (Fart in Harmony) could even make religious knowledge interesting without being dreary about it. Daddy Wheeler was great to listen to and I so wish he had told us of his military career for he was Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. Mr “Aye” Campbell in the biology class had us on our toes every lesson as there was always a tin about to explode somewhere (he allegedly was a karate expert and stories of a vigilante sorting out the yobs in town had traction). Mr Lloyd (Deacon House master) in Latin lessons walked around waving his arms around whilst holding the loose parts of his gown were unusual and akin to a twin engine propeller plane but we all passed our exams after his coaching. Bill Williams could always be convinced to talk about his rugby career mid lesson. Gordon “Joe” McGinn was a lively and popular sports master who eventually took over the 1st XV from Bill Williams. The great John Binfield (Lodge) brought Shakespeare alive, JE Bush (Manor), RA Garden (Grange), Mr Throndsen (Tower) “Banana” Holmes, Baker and Matthewman were also characters. The headmaster “Pinhead” Peter Harris was a truer man than one could ask for and extremely fair. The Rev Bridger had some choice words if he dropped a catch at cricket and would take a few chosen folk to leap around the mud on the river Stour on his famous Arduous training exercises with “calculated risks”.
Our year was the first one not have St Stephens girls bused daily from Broadstairs for their lessons so we had the very first St Lawrence girls on the student books. I think there were a grand total of 5, one of them being the daughter of the Headmaster of the Junior School. The numbers grew significantly the following year and Bellerby House came into being, with my girlfriend at the time, Marie Blair, becoming head girl.
Sadly, I was not particularly bright at school (one of those who started in 3C, though there was no 3a stream for some reason) so concentrated on sport. I represented the school at 1st XV rugby, Athletics (800m school champ twice), Swimming, Full and Small bore shooting, 2nd XI in Cricket and Hockey and played often for the Thanet Wanderers colt sides on Sundays. I was awarded Colours for shooting after one particularly good shoot somewhere but not Bisley. I even played bridge for the school team at an event near the Pfizer factory. I felt I was a reasonable sportsman without being gifted like my cousin Nick Jones or my good friend Andy Mama who both took the Bradley Sports Prize in their years. I did however get a handful (13 if I remember correctly) O levels and 1 A level which was enough to get me into the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, even though I got absolutely no guidance on what I should do after school as a career, so I did get my name on the honours boards hanging in the classroom corridor, the first in my family since my uncle GC Jones, Nick’s father. I passed out of the RMA in 1981 to join my first Regiment in March 1982 and promptly went off to the Falklands War aged 20, a month later.
I had a very enjoyable 10 year stint in the Army primarily as an Engineer Officer and later as an officer in the Black Watch. The Army was of course full of traditions, the ideas of which were slipping away at SLC. I saw further service after the Falklands in Cyprus, Uganda, Hong Kong, Brunei, Berlin and Northern Ireland. I was trained in many things such as deep sea diving, explosives, specialist training courses, all kinds of weaponry and equipment, the reformation of the airborne brigade and of course all the good things the military get up to generally. I only ever came across one other person who had been at SLC with me and that was Andy Wright but only fleetingly which was shame as I knew a few others had been in it at the same time. I would recommend a time in the military for anyone. Short or long it is a very good thing to do and of course bears no resemblance of all the bad things many people say about serving.
So it was now time to get back to Africa and I returned to the areas I had been brought up in and after a brief time helping out in a construction company, working on a Clint Eastwood film set (even got my name on the credits at the end of the film, White Hunter Black Heart – Hollywood at last!) and learning to fly light aircraft, I began a 5 year stint setting up and running 3 rafting companies at Victoria Falls, also introducing safety programmes I had learnt in the military. Although very enjoyable and very active (I guided over 1,000 trips on the stretch of river regarded as being the best one day white water rafting trip in the world) I bought an old farm house on the edge of the Zambezi river and build at lodge based upon my experiences in the army. It is my third career, which I have thoroughly enjoyed like the others but for different reasons, meeting even more interesting people, hosting the likes of Paul Newman, Paul Hogan, Martin Johnson, George Gregan, Princess Anne, The Litunga of Barotseland etc. I have become involved in many projects and activities: looking after the needs of 4,000 villagers with water programmes, medical facilities (helped a lady give birth on the back of my car) and building a clinic, school feeding programmes, investigated helicopter/microlight accidents, multiple car crashes, rafting deaths, and a train crash for an insurance company, involved in taking on crocodiles in a number of incidents on the river, chasing elephants rampaging in bush camps, organised 5 international regattas for alumni crews from Oxford and Cambridge universities on the Zambezi against South African crews, renovated and reconfigured a 100 year old golf course, renovated an Art Deco cinema, put together the Centenary event for the end of WWI in Africa with the WWI German General’s Grandson in Northern Zambia, brought the King of Barotseland to an amazing traditional river event at Victoria Falls for the first time in 72 years, ran the National Tourism Agency for two years and am about to start another career in farming. Life is never dull. Her Majesty the Queen was kind enough to recognise the efforts and fun I had over the years by awarding the MBE in early 2020.
I am still in touch with a few OLs, attending a few reunions at OL dinners, but mainly Andy Mama who now lives in the country where I moved from to SLC all those years ago and strangely enough he sent his kids to my old prep school – life is a circle. He has lost none of his sporting spirit and we continue to challenge each other whenever we meet up.
I still have a thought on how I might be able to play a small part in the future of life at St Lawrence as an interested OL but this will only be possible if the farming project is successful. Let’s see what happens.
What did I learn from St Lawrence: don’t lose your heritage and traditions. They are incredibly important and youngsters are delighted when you pass them on. They give a place soul and a heightened reason for being there. Learning the school song in Latin off by heart during one’s first two weeks at school should be a very basic requirement of anyone being at this revered place.
I was born in Birmingham, one of four siblings. Unfortunately, I had a really difficult upbringing as a child. I was raised by my parents in an environment which no child should ever experience or endure. Thankfully my godfather’s solicitor was E.D. ‘Slim’ Robbins, a governor at the College and it was through him, and the School itself, that I was quite literally saved from the worst childhood imaginable. I was also fortunate that I had passed a Common Entrance exam to Solihull School and my 11+. The College recognised that, although I had had a very transient life as a child to date, I was likely to cope with the academic life at the School.
I came to St Lawrence College in 1968 and the School became an incredibly stabilising force in my life. Peter Harris and Geoff Shaw knew about how difficult my upbringing had been and so were instrumental in getting me financial support through a generous school bursary and Oxfordshire County Council paid for the rest. I will always be so grateful to them all for rescuing me.
I came to St Lawrence as a thirteen year old. I was put into Courtenay, ‘the yobs house’, because they didn’t know where to put me and, to a certain degree, because I was an unknown quantity. They also put me into the ‘C’ stream but, as I came top in seven out of nine subjects in the first year, I was put into the ‘A’ stream for the next year. I was pretty terrible at sport though. Even though I was bright, I recognised that my academic engine hadn’t yet been turned on because of my background. That said, I was good at Science and I had some amazing support from my teachers. Geoff Shaw, my House Master, was the very best of them all for me. He knew exactly what had gone on in my life and was incredibly kind and supportive. John Binfield, saw the talent within me and, as a boy who was shy and lacking in self-confidence, he brought me out of myself through dramatic performances. John Binfield gave me some very prominent roles which did so much to boost my confidence. Robin Garden was brilliant, taught me Maths and was very understanding. Peter Goodwin-Hudson also taught me, mentored me on the spiritual side of my life and was a great friend. I needed that at the time. I wasn’t a Christian before coming to St Lawrence but I found my faith here. Jimmy Sanderson was a brilliant Second Master, a ‘tough nut’ but not an unreasonable one, and I had a lot of time for him. Donald ‘Daddy’ Drew taught me English but was also my mentor and, of course, Tom Lilley saw my potential academically. Between them, they gave me all the emotional, spiritual, social and academic support that I needed.
The first year was quite tough for me because the School in those days was very hierarchical and I wasn’t very good at sport. However as I got older, this became less of an issue but the experience helped to toughen me up and brought me out of myself. I give thanks to God that I came to this school. It transformed my life.
I was very involved in the Christian Union. I was invited to join by James Creasey who was also instrumental in my conversion. My friends were (as they still are today) Max Derrick, David Chaytor, John Kulanayagam, Bill Smith (an American), ‘Figgy’ Mira and Richard Bird.
I did fairly well in my 4th and 5th form and got 10 ‘O’ levels but got somewhat side-tracked in the 6th Form! There was a lot going on and it was a lot of fun. I remember crawling out of the chapel window on a Saturday night and going to the pub. Ramsgate had 144 pubs in those days so, as long as you avoided the Hollicondane Tavern and The Derby Arms which were frequented by the teachers and therefore out of bounds, you would be alright. If you didn’t go out and were sober, you could really smell the alcohol in the air even in huge School buildings like ours. The Green Lats also smelled badly of smoke – everyone one used to puff away in there – and smoke poured out of the windows. We also used to go into local restaurants, especially in the Upper 6th, and invite our girlfriends. We regarded ourselves as quite civilised. I didn’t really apply myself in this period and was very distracted. I had hoped to be an Electronics Engineer but left school without taking my A levels and, initially at least, just drifted into jobs. I was sorry to leave the school because they were genuinely happy days for me – I had a ball! Should I have had less of a ball? Probably. However I was glad that I didn’t become an Engineer because I ended in a career that I wanted to do in Accountancy. I loved it.
After leaving the School, I drifted into a number of jobs in places like the GLC and the Civil Service but realised that these were not right for me. They were secure and had good pensions but, at 21, I knew that just couldn’t spend the rest of my life doing that. However at that point I went to Hambros bank as a Reconciliations clerk. Even though the role was just clerical, there were two good things going for me. First, I had just passed the first stage of my Bankers exams whilst at Hambros Bank and, second, that I had by then met my wife. The completion of Part One got me on to the Foundation course for Accountancy at North London Poly; my wife, who was a Chartered Accountant herself, provided the encouragement as well as practical advice and support. She was amazing in fact. She taught me how to study and in fact really inspired me. She also created the necessary rigour required to get me through my accountancy exams such as setting mock exams in real test conditions. Normally for every 100 people sitting those exams, only six get through – a 94% failure rate. However accountancy felt instinctively right for me and, thanks to all the support I received, I passed my exams first time. I became articled to an accountancy firm that, eventually, merged with Arthur Andersen and qualified as a Chartered Certified Accountant. My career took off at that point.
I became the Financial Controller at a big charity and within 14 months, I had been promoted to Finance Director. As I didn’t want to stay in a job for too long, I did a lot of consultancy and interim work which gave me lots of experience and variety. I was fortunate enough to have worked for some of the top institutions in the UK including Coopers, the Bank of America and universities such as Royal Holloway College. I learnt the necessity to be mobile in order to gain a good portfolio of experience for prospective employers. My recommendation to any current pupil or young OL is to be aware of where the world is going and be as adaptable as possible – don’t get stuck in a job. Overall I have acquired 30 years’ experience as a Finance Director in the University and charity sectors and I am so glad that my career went the way that it did. St Lawrence really set me up for the future.
I have recently retired and was a little bit apprehensive about doing so. However I am now doing an awful lot of things – professionally and non-professionally – including some of the academic studies that I should have done whilst at the College! This isn’t saying that I would do anything different because my experiences made me the person that I am today. However I am now studying Latin, Ancient Greek, German and Music Theory. I am an avid book reader. I have got c4500 books that I am trying to get through on history, geography, languages, economics, cooking. I am very busy within the Church and I am really enjoying life.
I have a really close relationship with my daughter who is very intellectual. I am looking to become a Governor at the College. St Lawrence College and the Church are my two big interests in life. I understand the challenges facing schools today. I would like to see more children who were like me benefit from coming to a place like this. Its ethos is incredibly important to me. School isn’t just a place to get your qualifications – it is so much more than that. It gives you values, confidence, resilience and life-long friendships. I bought into St Lawrence when I was here and, formally and informally, learnt so much about myself and others. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle – you don’t really understand fully until you see the picture coming together. It is then that you understand why things happen in the way they do.
1. I attended SLC from 1973 -1981
2. My favourite subject was everyone’s favourite, PE/sports, but also liked chemistry (although wasn’t any good at it!)
3. My favourite teachers: I don’t remember his name but he taught Maths and PE. Also Mr Crittenden, my Lodge house master, and Mr Holmes the swimming coach.
4. I swam for SLC but also liked rugby. I only made it into 2nd XV. (Come on Springboks in RWC 2019 …..!)
5.My best mates were many but a few names of closest mates
Andy (AJ ) Billings
Dave (DJ) Joyce
Mathew (Ted) Tongue
Paul (Moki) McClaughlin
6. What I valued mostly from SLC: Being well rounded and grounded, if that makes sense, and carving out close bonds with mates that you wouldn’t get in a day school
7. The qualities gained from SLC: I found that these were not obvious and ‘in your face’ like some other private schools, but being able and confident to tackle any situation in life and work with relative ease was definitely an attribute of an SLC education.
8. I left SLC not really knowing what I wanted to do so I joined the Metropolitan Police. After six weeks I realised it wasn’t for me and left. I then spent the next few years in health and fitness as a personal trainer in various gyms/health clubs in London. I had the fortune/misfortune (in some cases !!) to train many celebrities and notable personalities over the years. I then re-joined the Metropolitan police and carved out a 22 year career which finished in the Counter Terrorism Armed Response Unit in London before transferring those skills to Australia when in 2008 the Western Australian Police began a recruitment drive in the UK. I then spent 8 years in the WA Police before semi-retiring in 2016. I now have a small part time business maintaining swimming pools and gardens in Perth’s northern suburbs. It’s a lifestyle job in the fresh air and sunshine!
9. Unfortunately I haven’t kept in contact with any O/Ls, mainly because I am not on Facebook etc and also laziness on my part. However I would love to hear from some of them and how their lives have panned out. I bet there are no pool boys or gardeners !!!!!!
10. What was I best remembered for ??? You better ask them !!! It was probably as the Michael Jackson afro kid who took nothing seriously.
11. Moving on 40 years .. The Michael Jackson look has long gone and I now look more like Jason Statham (well in my mirror anyway)
When did you go to St Lawrence College and why?
I went initially to Cameron House whose housemaster was Tom Lilley in 1973, SLC was the choice of my father who was also at the School (David Hugh Dodd – I think he left around 1952)
Favourite subject(s)? Cricket, Rugby & Hockey 😊
Favourite teacher(s)? Chris Throndsen who was also a contemporary of my father at SLC
Favourite sport(s) – if any? Cricket, Rugby, Hockey, Tennis, Squash, Fencing, golf………..any and all
Who were your closest friends? Stephen Billings, Paul Bailey, Johny Marchant, Paul Price.
What did you value most from your education (what mattered most about your education eg academic or sporting achievements)? Both really but more the sporting side
What qualities and values did St Lawrence teach you? In all seriousness the school did a magnificent job in instilling decency, respect and consideration for ones fellows – importantly wherever they were from, the school was way ahead of its time and as a boarder I had the privilege of growing up in a truly cosmopolitan community.
Did you receive any School recognition or colours? Colours in Rugby, Cricket.
What career(s) did you follow? I work in the Private Healthcare Sector (Non Clinical) and am the Managing Director of Inchora Health.
Are you still in touch with fellow Old Lawrentians? Yes as a regular player in the OL Golf Society I see many OL’s frequently.
How would your friends describe you? Not a clue! Not too harshly I would hope.
How would you like to be remembered? As having never given up.
I started at St Lawrence in 1977 at 12 years old and went to Cameron. Mum and Dad had said that I could either continue my education in French at home in Belgium or I could learn in English. The idea of learning in my mother tongue was just too enticing and they started looking for suitable schools in the UK. A number wrote back saying that my academic background was not what they were looking for as I had been educated in quite a few different countries in Europe as we moved around for my Dad’s work. One I remember to this date and I quote “It is not customary for (school name left blank to save embarrassment) to accept boys who are not of the academic standard required”. However, St Lawrence came to the rescue of this lost child and responded positively. I was interviewed by Peter Campbell in the Science Block who said that there were clearly gaps in my educational background but that they could see promise. I have to say, the feeling was mutual – St Lawrence seemed a natural fit for me. A sign of a good school is one which takes not just the brilliant kids but also those with the potential to achieve and eventually produce the goods. I am eternally grateful to St Lawrence College for seeing beyond the obviously very scary Scottish European child!
Boarding made sense for me at the age of 12 and I was very happy there. Mum and Dad lived on the Continent but were very nearby geographically so I saw them pretty often. Cameron was a great place to start. It was a bit of a shock at first but I took to it like a duck to water. We were kept really busy and I made friends for life. Even though these are people who you may not see for one year, ten years or even twenty years, with your close friends you can immediately pick up where you left off when you do meet up again. Sunil Mohinani was one of these – even though with his really dubious taste in music – as was Vighnesh Padiachy. There are many others and it is a regret that the years fly by so fast and contact cannot be more frequent.
My favourite subject was Geography. I used to get teased by my school mates because I was very good at this subject probably because I was able to colour in maps with my special Belgian coloured pencils. French was a natural subject too because I was a fluent French speaker. It took me a year and a half to get knocked off the top position in French. I have kept all my school reports. One memorable quote said that “Mark is still clearly challenged by the trumpet but nevertheless is making progress”. I let my sons read these reports just to reassure them that they are not the only ones who have experienced highs and lows in School!
There are many teachers that stand out in my memory but a favourite was David Fletcher in Cameron who had a real balanced approach in understanding me. Tom Lilley was a unique individual – very old School – but very protective of pupils in his house. Wo betide any senior who considered pushing around a Cameron boy! Robin Crittenden was my Lodge housemaster and we became good personal friends. He always sought to bring out the best in me. I can share that on one occasion he and his family visited us in Belgium and when he arrived he asked us if “Uitrit” was a particularly large city since they had passed many signs indicating its proximity when we explained it was Flemish for “Exit” I knew it would come in useful to share one day, so I share it now! But the one who really stood out was Ian Gollop. We used to go to rugby matches together and I even worked for him briefly as a member of staff at St Lawrence Junior school which was a superb experience. He was a larger than life character and a great friend. I even got him into a kilt for my 40th and second son’s Christening. He lived the values that he instilled in his pupils. So many other teachers had a positive impact too but Ian will always hold a special memory. Sadly he left us a few years ago, far too soon!
It was not all plain sailing though. I used to do the lighting for the superb Binfield productions. On the day of the dress rehearsal when Mr Binfield asked us to practise the curtain call, my tie got stuck in the winding mechanism and I had to wind the curtain in the wrong direction to free myself before restoring its original destination. A voice boomed out asking who was doing the curtain. Timidly I replied from up in the galleries “Dunnachie sir!”. The voice boomed back; “What happened boy?”, “My tie got stuck sir!” I replied. John Binfield was always one to pass on sound advice and he duly instructed me to not wear a tie on the Production nights! Suffice to say I followed this clear instruction!
I captained Second XV rugby and 3rd XI for Hockey. I hated cricket, just couldn’t get the hang of it. I loved Athletics, Tennis and Cross Country though.
Sunil Mohinani and Vighnesh Padiachy were my closest friends and Jonathan Whittle in my younger years. Diversity was a big advantage of being educated at St Lawrence. Simon Chow was a great friend who sadly passed away very young following a heart attack when playing hockey in Canada. He was also a superb rugby player.
What I valued most at School was the religious foundation although I don’t profess to being deeply religious today. However, the fact that it provided the backbone of our educational experience provided the basics that we all needed to live a good life, irrespective of whether you are a practising believer or not. This includes sincerity, trust in others, loyalty and humility. We had a privileged education but we were taught to keep our feet firmly on the ground. Not all independent schools do this very well. It is critical that you do not forget that you are privileged to have had a great start in life. There’s a real family spirit too. The camaraderie and motivation to perform to your potential but without undue pressure was very much part of the St Lawrence experience – it was a very balanced approach to education.
I went to University in Belgium after SLC but it didn’t work out for me initially. I went back to the Junior School working for Ian Gollop for two terms and applied to Cardiff University to study Maritime Commerce where I graduated with a BSc.
After leaving University I was determined to go into Retail Management for M&S but during the interview process I found out that they were incredibly inflexible so I walked out of their head office withdrawing my application. It was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. Instead, I went into the aviation industry. A friend of our family started an airline from Rotterdam to London City and I did all the business planning and marketing for the venture. After a brief spell setting up this Dutch airline, I joined BAe doing Marketing followed by Business Development and ultimately Sales. I ended up in Toulouse in 1996/97 where I met my French wife, Jacqueline, and got married in 1998. In 2000 I moved to Paris to work for Embraer where I sold aircraft to KLM and Finnair, amongst others. I moved to Dublin as MD of Embraer’s Asset Management business, before moving to Singapore in order to manage Asia-Pacific, again still with Embraer. We have two wonderful sons; William and Maximilien. I have now gone full circle and returned to Toulouse with ATR, the market leader in regional passenger aircraft (a partnership between Airbus and Leonardo) as their Head of Region for EMEA. I have now also become a proud French citizen adding to my Scottish pedigree which must surely update my school nickname from “Jock” to “Le Jock”! I have got St Lawrence to thank for having such a great career which continues to take me all over the world and for instilling in me values that I carry to this day.
I went to St Lawrence College between September 1982 and July 84 as a sixth former. My Dad was educated there and my grandad and uncle too – there is a long history of Callums at the School. My Dad was a surgeon and I was raised in Derbyshire from 1977 after moving around in the early part of his career. I had been to a state school in Derby and had completed my GCSEs but wasn’t sure what to do next. However my Dad suggested that I go to St Lawrence because he liked it so much. When I saw it, I thought that it looked great and the sport was good too.
My first impression of St Lawrence was that it was very different to a comprehensive school with 1600 kids! I felt a bit out of my comfort zone initially but everyone was extremely friendly. My House Master was a guy called Bush who had been there at the same time as my Dad, as had Robin Garden. In fact when Mr Garden saw my Dad with me after his lengthy return to the School, he shouted out across the quad that Dad still had some Prep that needed finishing! He was a funny guy.
As I was a Sixth former I happened to start with the intake of girls and they were the first people I met. I made some really good friends with them and became reasonably popular because I know so many of them!
I found boarding to be fantastic and a great adventure. I felt free. I shared with Andy Bateman for one term who was a bit older and doing re-takes but he really looked after me. After that first term, I moved to a dorm with people like Mike Carson. I still got to mix with a lot of people in the year above me and those retaking exams. In fact I became very close friends with people like Simon Gough who became a life-long, close friend. He is godfather to my children. Simon’s parents owned a large bed & breakfast in Broadstairs so we used to crash out there on a Sunday. He introduced me to people like Miles Marchant, Rachel Milner and her boyfriend Mark Newman who were all in the year above me. In my second year, I became good friends with Sid El Fadil. We were as thick as thieves.
I wasn’t the best student academically. I did Geography, English and History but dropped out of History. Andrew Brown taught me Geography and amazingly I got a B in that subject. Andrew confessed later that he didn’t expect me to get anything. What I loved about St Lawrence was that if you were good at sport, you got pulled out of lessons to do rugby training. Ian Gollop who coached rugby was brilliant and I played for the First team.
My favourite teachers were Nick Jones and Ian Gollop who was crazy and fantastic all at the same time. I had never played rugby before going to St Lawrence; I had always played football. However I was a fast runner and in my first training session ran around quite a few players and scored a few tries so they put me straight into the First team. In my first game, I scored a hat trick of tries and converted all the kicks. I was put onto someone’s shoulders as we sang the school song on Prefects’ Plot and everyone opened their windows to watch. The rumour went around that the School had a fantastic new player that was going to save the School. Unfortunately my sporting success went rapidly downhill afterwards. I dropped every pass and didn’t score a single try for the rest of the season! I should have quit while I was ahead….
Social life, sport and the plays were a highlight. The School productions under John Binfield were amazing and you wanted to be part of it. I really enjoyed English. I picked up a further four O levels and a couple of A levels so, academically, it put me on the right track. It was an encouraging learning environment. St Lawrence also had a very diverse student population and was very progressive for its time compared to other Schools.
When I left School, I tried a course at Bristol Polytechnic and a few jobs but nothing really appealed until I joined Derbyshire Police at twenty years old. My uncle was a cop in the Met who said that I would love a career in the Police, especially as they do a lot of sport and rugby in particular. I took part in the English Police Athletics, rugby championships and represented Derbyshire. The sport and close knit team spirit made it feel like being back at St Lawrence! St Lawrence had already taught me about friendship, integrity, honesty, collaboration and teamwork with your mates. Even if you weren’t playing rugby yourself, it was considered important that everyone go up to support them play. It was very similar in the Police too.
Even though I consider myself to be a career Detective, I have also done Firearms, Operational Support (riot teams) and a few roles in uniform. I ended up running the Major Crime team which involves high level drugs, organised crime, and murder enquiries. For example I led the high profile Mick Philpot enquiry following the deaths of his six children in a house fire in Derby. I also led the Public Protection team which dealt with rape, domestic violence, vulnerable children, modern slavery and human trafficking, the latter of which is pretty much what I am doing now as a consultant after retiring at 50 from the Police. I do the investigations and I have a team of other consultants. It has been quite challenging to start afresh within my own consultancy simply because you are new and no-one knows who you are. But overall, the Police was an amazing career for me. It was just like being at school with your mates and being part of something. You are not stuck behind a desk; you are always doing something interesting; you can always apply for other departments if you get bored. I finished as Detective Superintendent but I loved being a frontline detective. You can have warrants and break into people’s houses – it was amazing and real fun!
When I look back on my time at school, it is clear that St Lawrence was always very grounded and realistic. Some people do go on to be big hitters and that is to be celebrated but not everyone does BUT they do often go on to have good and happy careers and lives and that is much more important than anything. St Lawrence produced the Head of the Army and the Head of the Police and that, in many ways, says something about the benefits of a St Lawrence education.
I am still in touch with Pete Laslett, Simon Gough, Miles Marchant, Pete Webley, Mark and Rachel Newman, and Mike Carson. Friends would describe me as sociable – they might also say that I talk too much. However I would like to be remembered as someone who cared and who rolled up their sleeves to get stuck in. I have a good sense of right and wrong – I don’t like to see vulnerable people to be picked on – which probably drew me to the Police and why I still work in this area to date.
Paul Callum OL
Following the announcement that Old Lawrentian, Jamie Clifford, is to leave his role as CEO at Kent County Cricket Club, Anthony Medhurst spoke to Jamie about his new challenges at the Marylebone Cricket Club – better known as the MCC – and how St Lawrence College has prepared him for cricket, management and life:
“My values – those of community, of people having respect for one another, being judged on what they actually do and behave rather than an association with a label – is core to everything that I believe and try to practise in my working life. Being strong and loyal within that community are values to which I subconsciously refer. Even though I didn’t realise at the time, my experience at St Lawrence College means that I know what ‘good’ looks and feels like and that undoubtedly sets you up for life.”
“I am really looking forward to working at the MCC, a truly unique organisation and iconic venue without equal in the cricket world. I will be responsible for all the match days played at Lords, including the big international Test matches with India and Pakistan, the Ashes series against Australia and the cricket World Cup There is probably nothing like Lords and the MCC in terms of scale of the operation and the capacity of the crowds. I will also be responsible for the membership of whom there are currently 18,000 members, 5000 Associate members and a 23 year waiting list to join! As a members’ club, they own the ground and have a say on how things are done at Lords and even the rules of cricket which can add significantly to the challenge. I can’t wait to start.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was young. I did a Short Service limited commission straight from School with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. I really enjoyed CCF at School and played for the First XI in cricket and rugby but cricket was always my obsession. I was never really good enough to become professional but never even considered working in management. I found it more by accident than design. I went to University to study Agriculture because I have always loved rural life but rather than returning to the Army, joined ‘World Challenge’ managing expeditions for young people in countries like Vietnam, Kenya and Tanzania. It was rather like the army without the nasty bits! Without realising it, I was starting to practise all aspects of Management such as planning trips, supporting individuals and teams of people, preparing budgets and then being a proper Team Leader of other Expedition Leaders. I really enjoyed it.
While at ‘World Challenge’ I saw an advert in ‘The Cricketer’ magazine for a Project Manager to start Wisden.com, essentially taking ‘Wisden’, the cricketers almanac, on-line. It was a great success. We provided a successful subscription service and the first live screening of cricket games on a pay-per view basis which, back in 2000, was incredibly innovative. This role also gave me access to all aspects of cricket which, as a cricket fan, was incredible. The website went on to be a big success. It was acquired by ‘CrickInfo’, then ESPN and finally Disney – an example of a real dot.com success. The Wisden brand was brilliant because it opened so many doors. I got to work with people like England cricket captain, Nasser Hussein, as well as develop future talent from schools.
My role as Director of Cricket Development at Kent County Cricket Club focussed on identifying and developing local talent, but I also got involved in projects with the Chief Executive around developing the ground. When the CEO retired in 2010, I took over the reins. Despite a fantastic brand and decent numbers of supporters, the club was in a precarious position financially. We had a squad of international players with little or no connection to Kent, the facilities at Canterbury and Beckenham grounds were tired and there was a debt issue to address. There was a lot to turn around but we worked through each issue and got all aspects to be the best they could possibly be.
When I look back over my life to date, I can see that St Lawrence College has always played a part in some way. When I started at the Junior School, my father and grandfather were already teaching there. My uncle and sister have been there too. The activities at the School had the biggest impact on me as I got to try so many different things. CCF had a particularly big influence on me. I loved adventurous activities, sport, being outdoors and problem solving.
In my experience St Lawrence College was always an incredibly supportive, friendly and caring environment that was interested in developing all aspects of the individual. Unlike some other Schools, there was a strong ethos that went beyond delivering in the classroom. Exams were important but not the sole focus and the School’s culture supported that entirely. It was more about what you could achieve in the broadest sense and was massively encouraging of pupils to get involved in everything. Having broad interests, being curious and alive to opportunities outside of the curriculum was incredibly important.
Unsurprisingly I have now very broad interests and want to raise my own children as well-rounded people. This is definitely an influence from St Lawrence and how I look at the world. All the OLs that I come across seem to have similar values and outlook on life too. They are invariably grounded, enthusiastic, supportive and unpretentious, as were the staff that taught them. St Lawrence was not a School that you would wear as a label. Indeed Old Lawrentians would not be the sort to people to do this anyway. My values – those of community, of people having respect for one another, being judged on what they actually do and behave rather than an association with a label – is core to everything that I believe and try to practise in my working life. Being strong and loyal within that community are values to which I subconsciously refer. Even though I didn’t realise at the time, my experience at St Lawrence College means that I know what ‘good’ looks and feels like and that undoubtedly sets you up for life.”
When did you go to St Lawrence College and why?
1989-1991. My parents had in fact planned to send me to boarding school in the UK after 3rd form but, due to some health issues I had, they decided not to let me go until after O levels. SLC was recommended by a family friend who is an OL
Dr Ellis Gill
Favourite sport(s) – if any?
Badminton. I was in the school team.
Who were your closest friends?
Jutta Dresen, Jane Yeh, Angela Kwok in Lower 6th.
Jane Ballantine, Andrea Soo, Mae Wong, Neal Stanton, Howard Chin, Simon Clark and Steven Cole in Upper 6th.
What did you value most from your education (what mattered most about your education)?
The opportunity to develop my independence, social and organisational skills, and the chance to be make friends with people from a variety of cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
What qualities and values did St Lawrence teach you?
Dr Gill was the one person who inspired me to put in all my effort and helped me reach my potential, even though initially my goal was purely to prove him wrong!
SLC taught me independence, open-mindedness and the importance of work/life balance.
What career(s) did you follow?
I left SLC for Medical School in London, worked as an NHS GP for 12 years and re-located back to Hong Kong in 2012. I now work as a GP in Hong Kong in the private sector.
Are you still in touch with fellow Old Lawrentians?
Yes, with at least 58 OLs who are in our HK OL alumni group!
How would your friends describe you?
Someone who values friendship and keeps in touch no matter how far apart we are.
How would you like to be remembered?
The person who brought the OLs together in Hong Kong!
“For me, being at St Lawrence wasn’t just about receiving an academic education, although the aim was to leave with at least a couple of A-levels! We were also educated in essential life skills, either absorbed by the environment or learned in our extra-curricular activities … One of the things I really appreciated was the fact that whoever you were, and whatever your circumstances you were accepted … We all came from different cultures and social backgrounds, but somehow our differences drew us together … This was one of the aspects I valued most about St Lawrence: its inclusivity.”
When did you go to St Lawrence any why?
I forget the exact circumstances that led my parents and I to board the Ramsgate train to take me down to St Lawrence. I was 15 years old and my memories of this day are rather sketchy. I was there to interview for a music scholarship but recall nothing of how my parents found out about the opportunity nor the actual selection process; I suppose I sat a test of some kind, and must have played my flute.
My recollection of that day is a series of disjointed images, strolling through the grounds in the sunshine, chatting to other would-be scholars, Bex, Tony and Helen (who I would meet again on the first day of term), the library, and the smell of percolated coffee in and around the Head’s office. It’s strange how smells can evoke such powerful images. Visiting the College last year I was passing through that area and, incredibly, it smelled exactly the same! It evoked a bout of nostalgia that took me back 20+ years to that very day.
My most distinct memory is sitting in Mr Binfield’s office (he was Head at that time) and him advising me to take Music, English and either Classics or Religious Education. He was very perceptive and I always had a great respect for him. He could obviously recognise my strengths from that brief meeting, but me being me insisted that I wanted to do Maths and Physics (and of course Music) as I was going to become and engineer and join the Army!
Despite my challenge of his judgement, he not only granted me a music scholarship and bursary but graciously allowed me to take Maths and Physics. And so, later that year in September 1990 I joined Laing House and my SLC journey began.
What were your favourite subjects, and did you receive any School recognition or colours?
Throwing myself into my life as a boarder, I kept busy from dawn to dusk. Up and out of Sutton House (this is where girls joining SLC in the sixth form lived) and down the road to breakfast in the main building. After breakfast it was over to the practice rooms to work on a flute / piano / percussion piece, then to the Library to dash up the spiral stairs to sit with the choir for Chapel. All this before the first lesson!
Looking back, attending St Lawrence was a huge privilege. Alongside my flute lessons I also learned the piano and percussion as part of my scholarship, and as there were only three of us doing A-level music we very much received individual attention. Which was good and bad … we struggled getting our heads round writing Bach chorales but couldn’t crib off each other because if one got it wrong we all would have! I’m sure Mr Perkins, the music teacher, used to tear his hair out sometimes with our incompetence but we got through nevertheless.
It was during these years I learned to singing in four-part harmony. While we weren’t always angels in choir practice our performances at Sunday Chapel were certainly angelic each week, testament to Mr Perkins’ determination and patience. Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus was one of my favourites and every time I hear it I’m reminded of St Lawrence.
My musical life was quite hectic what with my lessons, performing solo in the concerts (and receiving kind write-ups in The Lawrentian magazine) as well as being in the choir and orchestra. I’ll never forget an ambitious endeavour to perform David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, in which I was singing and playing the bongos! This is evidenced by a photo in the 1991 edition of The Lawrentian, showing me looking very serious in my attempt to keep the complicated rhythms going while mayhem ensued.
Being a music scholar you were expected to turn your hand to anything musical. One day I arrived at the music room to be presented with a bass guitar; the Stage Band had a gig to perform and a bass guitarist was required. I set about teaching myself how to play a walking bass and hey presto the Stage Band was complete! I’m not quite sure how I did it to be honest; I had no lessons, no instruction manual, and there was no handy YouTube video, but it was fun to do and to be given the opportunity to do.
These days music provision in many schools is woefully lacking. For a time I was a music teacher while I did my M.A. in Music, and it was a challenge to operate in schools that had next to no facilities and music was not seen as a subject that added value. Music, of a certain sort, is making a comeback with the rise of X-Factor and the like, and much more is being made of the positive aspects that learning music provides as well as its impact on our mental health and wellbeing. My firm belief is that every child should be exposed to learning music, and I’m glad to see that SLC still offers music scholarships and bursaries.
So while my musical activities were successful – I won the Dyer Music prize in 1991 and both the Simon Dixon Music and Macfarlane prizes in 1992 – my Maths and Physics endeavours weren’t. After a disappointing set of exam results after the second term, I took myself off to the Head’s office and asked the Secretary if I could see him. After waiting in the coffee-aromared room for a short while I was ushered into his office, and proceeded to tell him he had been “absolutely right and please could I change to English and Classics?”. “Yes, of course” was the answer, and in term three I switched to my new subjects. In hindsight I should have probably gone to my Head of Year and explained everything, but I think I must have felt the need to tell Mr Binfield he was right.
This incident taught me two important life lessons. Firstly, you don’t always achieve everything you set out to do in life and you have to accept that there will be bumps in the road. I’d tried something and it didn’t work out, and it is at these times you learn about yourself, find your strengths and pick yourself up and start again.
Secondly, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Mr Binfield’s quiet acceptance of this life-changing decision for me (remember, I wanted to be an engineer and join the Army) and his support was exactly what I needed. That is one of the things that I found amazing about St Lawrence; the belief that the staff were there for you and wanted the best for you. They really understood that being a teenager meant you didn’t always make the right decisions and were on hand to guide you or give you the space to work things out in your own way.
Who were your favourite teachers?
As well as doing my A-Levels, I found myself learning GCSE German. At my previous school, languages weren’t compulsory after the third year (Year 9) so perhaps I thought I’d better do something. One teacher I remember very vividly was Mr Gunning, the German teacher, who gave me 1:1 tutoring every so often for a year and somehow I scrapped a ‘C’. He was very serious and slightly intense, but at the same time very enthusiastic and conscientious about his teaching. I always looked forward to these lessons with delight and some trepidation!
I enjoyed Mr Binfield’s English lessons on Shakespeare in the Library, and we had an excellent trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon to watch a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. However, my affection for a couple of members of staff in particular lay in my extra-curricular activities; namely shooting and the Combined Cadet Force (CCF).
I’d been in the Army cadets back home and was very excited to find out that we could do ‘Army-stuff’ at school! CCF was optional for sixth formers therefore those of us who did it formed a tight bond. I always looked forward to Wednesday afternoons when we’d don our Army greens, practice drill and do all sorts of fun activities. After the A-level subject change, my ambition to join the Army was in question but my enthusiasm for ‘Corps’ didn’t wane. I even did it twice per week as I was allowed to attend the local Army Cadet Force (Royal Tank Regiment) one night a week after supper!
While Mr Fletcher was CCF’s driving force, the person whom we all adored was the gruff ex-Army RSM, Mr Holland. Amongst other things, he was the Store Master and I used to love walking around the slightly musty racks of camouflaged kit and equipment when we helped tidy up. He liked to make us think he was strict but he had a heart of gold, and his gentle encouragement (well, sometimes not so gentle!) helped us achieve things we found difficult.
I’ll never forget our ‘weekend camps’. I was always excited to go but I’m sure I hated it at times because it always seemed to rain! We had to trudge to a campsite with heavy packs and the tents let all the rain in, so we spent most of the weekend wet and miserable. All I can really remember is cooking beans and spam in a mess tin and trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid the drips in the tent.
This was good training however for our Duke of Edinburgh expedition when we went to Scotland. I was in the Gold group, which consisted of me, one other girl called Athalie, and a group of boys including my friend Daniel and his dad, who was the Geography teacher. I remember one night we stayed in a ‘Bothy’, a basic one-room shelter that is free to use by anyone passing by. It was a tight squeeze, everyone was wet as it had been raining and then snowing, so we made a big fire to hang the clothes up to dry.
To pass the time before we got into our sleeping bags, the boys thought it would be amusing to take turns throwing milk powder from the ration packs into the fire. As the powder hit the flames it flared up and went a lovely colour just like indoor fireworks. This was actually a pretty dangerous activity and after a particularly big flare that almost set one of the jumpers on fire, the powder was hastily put away and we said our goodnights.
I’m not sure why I was put in the Gold group. I had only my Bronze at the time and would have preferred to be in the Silver group with my good friends Bex, Tara and Matt. Their activities were slightly less arduous than ours, and the punishing treks through the knee-high heather and across the snowy hills weren’t kind to me and I ended up with acute tendinitis in my Achilles. I spent the remainder of the time in the base in Dunkeld, with occasional ventures out in the Land Rover to visit the various teams out on the hills. I didn’t end up earning either my Gold or Silver DofE but I’d enjoyed it despite the injury.
What were your favourite sports?
One of my other favourite teachers was Mr Bendall, who I believe was the French teacher and still teaches at SLC. He and Mr Holland ran the range, and shooting was one of the activities I enjoyed the most. I never excelled at sports and was overjoyed to find that instead of running around on a muddy field I could do my sport lying down! Just because it was indoors didn’t mean that we were sheltered from the elements. Oh no. We had to trudge from the armoury and over the road with the rifles in all weathers. In the winter when we were waiting our turn to get down onto the point it was freezing as there was no heating. I cherish the memories of those happy afternoons. As long as we obeyed the rules of the range, Mr Bendall and Mr Holland were quite relaxed and the whole atmosphere was very comfortable.
Occasionally we visited the outdoor ranges at Hythe to shoot ‘elephant guns’ and there was a memorable trip to Bisley for a competition where we camped out for a couple of nights. I haven’t a clue how we did in the competition, but we did meet some boys from Welbeck College and somehow they fixed it for us to shoot on the 1,000m range – imagine shooting at a target 1km away when you’re 16 years old!
What was most memorable about it was an incident that happened one evening. We’d been playing pool at the Clubhouse but had to vacate at a certain time as we were under-18. We found ourselves back at the tents and were a bit bored. Mr Bendall and Mr Holland had stayed in the Clubhouse so as there was nothing else to do we came up with a great idea to move their tent as a joke. We found something to use as a flagpole and rigged up a pair of stars and stripes shorts I’d brought with me as a flag. As with all hastily laid plans, this one kind-of backfired. By the time they got back from the Clubhouse it was pitch-black and we therefore missed seeing the reaction on their faces when they saw their tent had been moved.
After realising their tent was missing – and with it being too dark to find – they were naturally annoyed. Mr Holland shouted at us all to get up and made us sleep (in our sleeping bags) out in the open on the ground all night! Luckily, it was summer and quite warm. It was worth it because as dawn broke the next morning it was hilarious to see their tent in the middle of the next field with my limp-looking shorts occasionally flapping in the light breeze. I was very sad when I heard that Mr Holland had passed away in 2015, and was lucky enough to attend a dinner in the Library with a small group of others to honour his memory.
In September 2017 I joined the OL Rifle Club and found myself back at Bisley; I hadn’t shot a rifle for over 20 years! The old Clubhouse looks much the same and it’s great to come full circle and feel once again that I am part of SLC.
Who were your closest friends, and are you still in touch with fellow Old Lawrentians?
Funnily enough when I went down to Bisley for that first OLRC shoot I found the only other female on the team was Sandra; she was in the year below me and a fellow-CCF adventurer. Sandra wasn’t one of my closest friends but we shared enough experiences together that it feels now as if all those intervening years haven’t passed.
I always found St Lawrence to be a friendly and welcoming place, and having already met some people at the scholarship weekend, it was nice to see those familiar faces on Day 1. Being a boarder you get close to the people you live with and there are a handful of people I hope will remain lifelong friends.
Twelve boarders, eight lower and four upper sixths, stayed with the Jones’s (the sports teachers) at Sutton House and my closest friend there was my roommate, Isabelle. There was a slightly traumatic start to this relationship as, for reasons unknown, my original room-mate decided she’d move next door without telling me – or poor Isabelle, who she and the other girl moved into my room while we were both out somewhere! Isabelle and I came together under adversity and maybe this was what made us firm friends. We kept in touch regularly for a long time and I attended her wedding in Scotland.
Another two people were our neighbours on the other side, Bex and Josie, with whom I still chat occasionally. I went out to South Africa for Bex’s wedding back in the early 2000’s, and visited Josie and her newborn twin sons in Peru five years ago before tackling the Inca Trail!
Bianca, another Sutton House boarder, was also someone of whom I was very fond. She was a whizz at maths and physics and in those first two terms spent a fair few hours with me trying to explain how on earth she got the answer to a complex maths question that was our homework. I’m sure she gave a sigh of relief when I jumped ship to the world of arts.
I’ll forever be in debt to Laura, who lent me all her English and Classics notes so I could try and catch up on two terms of work. We kept in touch regularly over the years and meet up from time to time. Lucy was also one of my English/Classics pals and, like Laura, we corresponded over the years and managed to spend time together just before the 2019 OL Day in March.
Tara was one of my close friends who wasn’t a boarder and I remember going to her house, putting the record player on and dancing to Vanilla Ice in her bedroom. Happy days. We used to do Social Service together and visit an elderly couple who lived close by. It was my first introduction to ‘Royal Tea’ biscuits, which were Rich Teas with chocolate on one side. It meant a lot to them that we visited and it was exciting for us, as we felt very posh sitting in their front room sipping our drinks and nibbling our Royal Teas.
Another life lesson was learned from this activity. During the two years we visited them they both passed away, first the wife closely followed by the husband. It was an upsetting period as this was the first time people I knew had died. The school Chaplain was very supportive and this situation made me realise that we have to make the most of things, which is probably the reason I have such an active life.
Another non-boarder friend was Kini with whom I played duets sometimes; Kevin who was my boyfriend in the upper sixth; Matt and Mark from CCF and shooting respectively and a whole host of others with whom I did various activities. In fact, our year was very close and quite often all the boarders would go out together at weekends and if it was someone’s birthday everyone would be invited.
This was one of the aspects I valued most about St Lawrence: its inclusivity.
What did you value most from your education and what qualities and values did St Lawrence teach you?
For me, being at St Lawrence wasn’t just about receiving an academic education, although the aim was to leave with at least a couple of A-levels! We were also educated in essential life skills, either absorbed by the environment or learned in our extra-curricular activities. Basic manners were an expectation; holding the door for someone, being respectful to the teachers, obeying the rule to not walk on Chapel Green J and in doing this you learned to be respectful and conscientious towards others.
One of the things I really appreciated was the fact that whoever you were and whatever your circumstances, you were accepted. This meant a lot to me as I’d experienced bullying in my previous school, and being a penniless scholar I was worried that people might look down on me. For the first time I felt it was ok to be me and this really boosted my confidence.
One of the reasons for this, I think, is because SLC is a very multicultural place attracting people from all over the world. We all came from different cultures and social backgrounds, but somehow our differences drew us together. One of the boys on the shooting team was Iraqi. It was a difficult time for him as the Gulf War was in progress, and it was rumoured that another person was Afghani royalty. None of that really mattered because we were all in the same boat and no one appeared to receive preferential treatment. The exposure to people of all creeds and cultures quite possibly influenced my desire to travel, and with OLs spread across many countries, I feel like I am part of a worldwide community.
Our moral compass was guided by activities like Social Service, and in doing this, I realised that you can make a difference in someone’s life even if it is just to have a cup of tea with them (and eat their Royal Tea biscuits!). This value has always stayed with me, and my life since has been shaped by my desire to do things for others. Much later on when I was working at the BBC, I volunteered to take part in their Corporate and Social Responsibility programme. I visited a local primary school in West London to help children with reading difficulties. It was rewarding to see their progress every week and I hope that all the children I met are now avid readers!
While I didn’t pursue a career in music, the musical foundations I received at St Lawrence enabled me to use my abilities to connect with music activities in other ways. Over the years I have been on committees and taken on the roles of Chair or Treasurer in various non-profit musical charities and societies. I’m currently the Treasurer of the music club where I work and an orchestra I’ve been connected with since I was a teenager. Even though I am not a professional musician, I regularly perform in charity or community concerts in London and my local area.
Having the opportunity to attend St Lawrence on a scholarship I’ve always felt the need to ‘give back’ financially in some way. I’ve taken part in at least six Cancer Research Race for Life events, amongst other charity endeavours such as organising Macmillan bake sales etc. In 2017 I trekked to Everest Base Camp with a medical research team called Xtreme Everest who, for the last ten years, have been investigating the effects of hypoxia on the human body at altitude. The aim is that their findings might improve mortality rates for critically ill patients who develop hypoxia after undergoing an operation.
During the trip I contributed to the research by being a test subject, and in the lead-up raised money to help fund the research further (as Xtreme Everest is a charity). Since my return I occasionally give talks on my trek experiences and raise awareness about the research.
What career did you follow?
Xtreme Everest was actually founded at University College London (UCL) where I’ve worked for the last ten years. My career doesn’t necessarily reflect the qualifications I gained at St Lawrence, however the essence of the values I learned there influenced the type of job I do and the type of organisations in which I’ve chosen to work.
Apart from a brief sojourn in an energy company, I’ve exclusively worked in the public sector. While the private sector has certain attractions, I feel I flourish better in an environment that focuses on public service. The BBC was my first love and I worked there for eight and a half years before being made redundant. I had exciting times working for BBC Sport, meeting some great sporting heroes and being involved in various outside broadcasts such as Wimbledon and the London Marathon. I had a busy but fun nine months in the Classical Music television department, and worked on the Proms for a season and on concerts in the Barbican and Royal Festival Hall.
While working in production was exciting, I realised that my talents lay more in the administrative side looking after managers and teams. I thrived as a PA /Office Manager in Central Finance for quite a few years, and had a spell in the Director General’s office under Greg Dyke for a period. In my last year I worked in a project management role reporting to the COO of BBC World Service, and loved walking around Bush House in London and getting to know people from all over the world.
Not long after my redundancy the COO moved to UCL to take on the position of Finance Director and some months later I joined her and began my UCL journey. These days I am more of an operations manager, looking after a small team providing admin, HR and IT services to a department of over 200 staff. I also manage the website, communications and a whole host of other services. I am frequently invited to sit on various Boards/Steering Groups and project teams outside of my department, and get involved in UCL-wide projects that allow me to interact with staff at all levels around the institution.
Public sector organisations are quite generous with their annual leave allocation, and this has enabled me to spend my time off travelling and exploring new places. The focus of my travels of late has shifted slightly and in 2017 I took three months off work and circumnavigated the globe, stopping off here and there to do interesting things. The first stop was Nepal and Everest Base Camp, and along the way I stayed in a Zen Monastery for a week, visited volcanoes in Nicaragua, worked on a farm in Uruguay for a few days and spent two weeks volunteering on a Creative Arts Programme on a small island in the Galapagos.
The placement was with an organisation called Projects Abroad and I stayed with a local family for the duration. I spent my time at school from 7am to 1pm, home for lunch, and then taught English and creative arts to some pre-school children in the afternoon with two of the other volunteers. My housemate, also a volunteer, was a musician too and a few times per week we helped out with a tiny music school in the late afternoon. In the evenings and weekends we explored the island or hung out with the other volunteers. We were a very multicultural group and, apart from me, they were all in their late teens/early 20’s. They were a friendly bunch and my prowess on the pool table (an activity I used to do regularly on Saturday evenings at St Lawrence!) earned me a place in the group, and we had some fun times together.
There were also social events organised by the local Projects Abroad team and one of them was a ‘cultural evening’ of music, song and dance performed by the volunteers and staff. I was asked to take part but politely declined, saying I didn’t have an instrument or music. I then remembered I’d purchased a beautiful wooden flute in Nepal to donate to the school at the end of the placement and had an idea. Finding some spare time I composed a piece inspired by the nature, wildlife and beautiful scenery I had experienced during my stay, and duly performed in the show. I think they like it – it was certainly different at any rate!
All in all it was a wonderful and rewarding experience and encouraged me to try something else. I discovered a journalism placement in Ethiopia, volunteering for an English language newspaper called The Reporter in Addis Ababa. In October 2018 I boarded a plane to Africa and spent a wonderful three weeks, the first two spent writing about the sights and sounds of Addis which resulted in four published articles. I then visited a most intriguing place called the Danakil Depression, close to the border with Eritrea, and marvelled over the 12th century rock churches in the historical town of Lalibela. I have my sights set on my next volunteer adventure which will probably be in 2020!
How would your friends describe you?
I’m not quite sure what my family and friends think about my exploits, and how they might describe me when I’m out of earshot. My family calmly accept the news when I announce I am going to go on another adventure, and leave me to get on with it! My friends think I’m slightly crazy and often ask me when I’m going to go on a ‘proper’ holiday. I recently went through a 360-degree feedback process at work and when asked to highlight my strengths and achievements I was touched by the responses.
How would you like to be remembered?
I think that the qualities highlighted in the report is how I’d like to be remembered. Someone who is loyal, honest, trustworthy, hard-working, organised, positive, has a can-do attitude, is patient, fun, adventurous, helpful, approachable, friendly and a dab hand at anything I put my mind to do (apart from maths and physics of course!).
I set up a website for my 2017 trip, initially for my family and friends so that they could see where I was and what I was doing while I was away. The website is now public. I’ve added my Ethiopian adventure and soon I’ll get round to adding my 2019 visit to Cuba! I hope to write a book in the near future, and maybe this will be my legacy.
Waymouth House (JS) and Newlands House (SS)
2001 – 2015
Nirav Patel, former student of the College graduated with his Master of Architecture degree recently from the University of Kent after a year of waiting due to lockdown. Nirav previously completed his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture at the University for the Creative Arts in 2018 and is now completing his final postgraduate qualification at Cardiff University to become a registered/chartered architect. He currently works at a local architects practice in Ramsgate that focusses on the renovation and regeneration of listed buildings, along with contemporary new build commercial and residential projects.
As someone who comes from a Gurkha family – my Dad and Grandad are both Gurkhas – my family looked at a few schools for me in East Kent such as King’s Canterbury and the Duke of York’s. However, even though the latter was renowned as a school for Gurkha children, what really made me want to come to St Lawrence were the bean bags! When I visited the School, I had seen loads of them on the first floor landing. Having just come from Brunei and Nepal where I was exposed to a very harsh standard of education, I expected very much the same in boarding school! Uncovering such a fun way to recline and watch TV at SLC, solidified my choice in thinking that this was the place for me!
I started at the Junior School in Year 5 with four other boys who were also boarding. We were the youngest boarders in the entire school. I realised that there was so much for us to do such as rowing, archery, touch rugby and football. I was spoilt for choice. Better still, the close friendships that I made then have remained so to this day. I think that boarding intensifies relationships when you spend 24 hours a day in the company of the same people as I did with friends like Gaurab Thapa, Ruden Thapa, Sangam Tulachan, and Louis Holloway (and many more that I have not included!). Our Housemistress was Mrs Bowen and Mr Moulton looked after us too. Miss Rosier took care of us at the weekends, and Mr Muncey started to look after us in middle school. I suspect that we were a bit of a handful. However, we were taught some incredibly powerful lessons even at this early stage. I remember scribbling my name down in lower case on one occasion and the teacher saying “Alan, don’t disrespect your name so much. Always write your name down properly and in good handwriting. It says so much about your character.” There are moments like that which have had a big impact in terms of how I carry myself to this day.
After completing Kirby, I joined Lodge which was the same House as my brother – Kalokson Gurung. Mr and Mrs Nick and Morgan Jones were like second parents to me all the way through from Year 9 to Year 13. We were a very close-knit group. I recognised that many of us learned or developed the ability to get along with lots of people which has also been an incredible lesson for later in life. Subject-wise, I was starting to do well in subjects such as Economics which was taught by Mr Brown. I played lots of sport, especially football. I recall using some very persuasive sales techniques to rustle up players for a big football match (techniques that I still use to this day in my professional life). Some of those matches were huge contests, especially those between Lodge and Tower, and they were also some of my happiest memories.
I chose Psychology, Economics and Maths at A Level. I always knew that I was going to go into Finance but I wanted to challenge myself and my thinking by studying PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at University. I considered universities at Manchester and Royal Holloway but recognised that Kent was a great fit. I played a lot of sport there, especially football and rugby, and tried other things like salsa dancing but quickly realised that I had two left feet. I got a First Class degree which I put down, to a large extent, to doing a work placement before my final year. I worked in a very low paid job in Finance where I worked a 15 hour day and in a toxic environment. When I got back to University for my final year and had to attend just an hour or so of lectures or seminars, I realised that I could be considerably more productive and I really put my foot down at that point. I have to say, I would really recommend a work placement or gap year to anyone. It really helps you to focus your mind on what you want (or don’t want) and what you need to do to get there. I graduated in 2020 and even though I had planned to travel and do some teaching in China straight afterwards, covid struck and all those plans ended. However a lot of my friends from my placement year were working in Wealth Management and recommended it to me. I got my first job at St James’s Place and got to become the youngest Partner in their history. I put this down to what I call ‘arrogant stupidity’ – a combination of doing all the exams myself with my own money without telling anyone; shadowing every good adviser that I could find and learning how to work well with clients; coupled with a relentless approach to the Senior Partner and the Managing Director about becoming a Partner myself. After 200-300 of such meetings with colleagues throughout the business, I soon knew a good adviser from a bad one. In the end, the Managing Director said that if I showed the same level of determination and persistence with clients as I had with them, they would give me a chance to prove myself for three months as a Partner. Thankfully my tenacity paid off and neither party has looked back since.
Regarding next steps, I am only 25 and still keen to challenge myself further. I am currently exploring ways in which I can use new technologies to influence an industry like Wealth Management. I put so much of this down to the independence I learned at St Lawrence. It pushes you to do things outside of your own comfort zone and to think differently – certainly not in a conventional way – and still influences my decision making to this very day.
1. When did you go to St Lawrence College and why?
I attended SLC from September 2015 – July 2017. I came from King Ethelbert School, Birchington to do my A-levels after gaining a music scholarship. I had been playing the drums for several years and had a keen interest in production and music technology. I was impressed by the facilities and opportunities to get involved in music and production.
2. Favourite subject(s)?
Music technology was my favourite subject, but I also really enjoyed photography. I have always been more on the creative side of learning so these subjects suited me well. I learned so much from my teacher Mr Dylan Woolf, who is a professional photographer. He really encouraged me to explore different ideas and I will always have an appreciation of photography thanks to him.
3. Favourite teacher(s)?
Mr Franklin (Music Technology) and Mr Woolfe (Photography).
4. Favourite sport(s) – if any?
I didn’t actually get involved with much sport! Sorry!
5. Who were your closest friends?
The day pupils were a tightly knit group and I made so many friends, both inside and outside this group. I was particularly close with Henry Barlett, Callum Bailey, Jamie Stagg and George Hemming, but we were all close friends.
6. What did you value most from your education (what mattered most about your education eg academic or sporting achievements)?
I most loved the creative aspects of my time at SLC. I was involved in some of the performances and productions such as; the House talent shows, the SLC Ale festivals, various productions and musicals.
I also loved our trip to Croatia to perform as the school choir/band. Another favourite memory is taking part in Duke of Edinburgh gold award and hiking and camping in Scotland with my friends. Just the best memories that I will keep forever.
7. What qualities and values did St Lawrence teach you?
I think it taught me a lot about…. This is a difficult question for me to answer as I was only at SLC to 2 academic years.
Also taught me a lot about looking out for your friends.
8. Did you receive any School recognition or colours?
No, other than gaining an A* in photography and having some of my work displayed in the school (I’m still desperate to get any of my work back!)
9. What career(s) did you follow?
I went off to the Academy of Contempory Music (ACM) in Guildford and gained a first class honours degree from Middlesex University in Music performance. I graduated in 2020, but due to the pandemic, my plans of becoming an international Rockstar were thwarted! Haha! The music industry and live performing was hit particularly hard and opportunities were limited for a while. However, I secured an internship at Global Generation Church, Margate as a sound and production engineer and have been responsible for live-streaming and mixing the audio for broadcasting.
I have launched a website www.skeltondrums.co.uk during lock down and I hope to be able to perform in live bands as a sessional drummer in the near future. I will also be offering some drum tuition locally.