The dinner is always a top notch event. From the exquisitely presented apéritifs to the mouth-watering courses that follow, topped off by coffee and home-made petits fours, the whole meal is worth it in itself. To eat so well in such good company is a fantastic bonus. Many thanks to Clare Kneebone and the School’s wonderful Catering Department for ensuring such a great event.
This year, we dined in the school hall (which in case you haven’t been back recently, no longer has a stage, but a balcony instead and the old lighting gallery has gone too. The lighting has been improved but the dark wood panelling and the honours boards are as they ever were though). Tables of eight dotted the room and I was seated with the youngest in the room, who left Woodbridge from 2005 onwards.
The most senior OWs that evening were Michael Taylor (1943) and John Sayers (1949) who were the only leavers in the forties present. It was also good to catch up with stalwarts of the Old Woodbridgians, Ken Bailey (1963), David Houchell (1964) and Paul Jenkins (1967). They are always great company! As are my ex-colleagues who are OWs: Jim Hillman (1983), now head of IT at the School with his wife Alison (1984), now head of chemistry at the School (née Tyndale-Biscoe) and her sisters Isobel (1986), now Director of Sixth Form and Head of Careers, and Penny (1989) who also teaches but in another school not too far away. They also are great supporters of the OWs and always good value at events.
There was a good representation of those who left in 1988, a mere 3 decades ago: Pippa Lewis, Sandra Jarvis and Jenny Garnett, along with James Harper (whose eldest son will become an OW next summer) and Matthew Leguen de Lacroix. Matthew’s name is not one to forget quickly and though I never taught him I remember him as a good Burwell boy (when Miss Pendal was in charge) and a tutee in the sixth form of Mr Marsh, then head of modern languages. Perhaps not surprisingly, Matthew now lives in France so it was especially good to see him at the dinner. As it happens, Mr Marsh has moved to France this year, having retired from Bedford School and secured an Irish passport. Sandra and Jenny have several OWs in their families and are huge supporters of the School, and along with Pippa we had a very jolly chat.
The newest OW to attend was Alistair Jeffreys (2015), with older brother Marc (2013). They are both loyal BT men but got there by different routes, so we had a really interesting conversation about the pros and cons of university degree versus apprenticeship with a degree, both routes leading to the same opportunities at BT. Katherine Gomm (2009) attended with her brother Chris (2007), neither of whom I had seen since they left.
The most senior OWs on my table were Helen Rothwell (2003 – she left to explore pastures new in the sixth form at Framlingham College, but that’s a long time ago…), with friends Rebecca Payne and Louise Lewis (née Clarke) who were in the same year as Helen and left in 2005. Helen talked very passionately about her work in Canary Wharf working in marketing for Barclays Bank. It sounds like there is a lot more to marketing than we might think; she would be a great advocate for that sector talking to senior pupils at school thinking about career options. Louise and Rebecca have both gone in to medicine, though different specialisms: Louise in general practice and Rebecca in geriatrics. We talked about their siblings and parents and it was very good to reminisce.
The highlight was that Louise had brought a photograph of the same three when they were in Year 10 (4th Form in old money) and excited at the prospect of their first RAF Battle of Britain Dinner in this same hall. Photos of old friends and events are worth keeping as they bring so much pleasure decades later. I was particularly impressed that Louise produced said photograph in its frame as it is clearly treasured. If you have not yet joined the new OW Network, do so and you can see the photo of Louise, Helen and Becky.
A big thank you to staff who came for drinks (Mr Streat and Miss Gill) even though they could not stay for dinner; OWs really appreciate seeing staff that they remember from their school days.
So, another exceptionally convivial evening and I look forward to seeing a good representation of those OWs who left in 1989, 1994 and 2004 attending the OW dinner next year.