50th Re-union – Class of ‘56

Of the 1956 intake, the following attended the 2006 Re-union Dinner : Donald Parris, Glen Berry, Graham Brown, John Harding, Peter Lacey, Graham Creed (Beefy), Richard Ward (Swiv with his original school cap), Peter Cox (Jumbo), Roger Avon, Alan Chick, Richard Bennett (Ben), Roger Farrall, Glyn Harris, Chris Virgin, John Fowler (Foxy), Chris Sweetland. Additionally : Richard Harris (RJ), David Slater and Paul Winks attended the lunch. A grand total of 19 !

Roger Farrall The Class of '56

President's Report

July 06

It was to be my special day - the day I was to be enrolled as the next President of the Old Ilminsterians Association. It all began with a pleasant drive to Ilminster from my home in Weston-super-Mare, down my preferred ‘holiday route’ through Somerton and Langport, to avoid all the “grockles” on the M5. Parking up at the Shrubbery Hotel, my wife and I then enjoyed a gentle sunlit stroll through the old town to St. Mary’s Church, for the first event. The Reunion Service was splendid, some of my favourite hymns being sung with a gusto that would have made Freddie Carpenter very proud! There was an excellent address by the vicar, and the whole occasion was enlivened by the presence of the town’s official “eccentric”, who seemed to be as inebriated then as I hoped to become later that evening!

After the service I took the opportunity to see for myself, at close quarters, the plain glass window in the Lady Chapel that will eventually be replaced by our magnificent new Stained Glass Window. Then it was back to the Shrubbery Hotel for lunch. Attendance for this was admirable, the number of Old Ilminsterians, with their “WAGS” (in football parlance!) hovering around the magic 100 mark. As usual the Hotel had laid on a superb spread, and Heritage of the Ile had set up a beautiful little display of school memorabilia, including an opportunity for us to purchase a few back numbers of the school magazine.

Some ‘down-time’ next, relaxing in the hotel bedroom for a couple of hours, watching sport on the TV, pacing myself for the long evening that lay ahead. First up was the AGM at 6.30, which everyone usually likes to rattle through as quickly as possible. This year, however, due to the tremendous efforts of the Stained Glass Window steering committee in getting us established as a registered charity, we had to hold a separate AGM for the Old Ilminsterians Charitable Organisation before proceeding to the AGM for the OIA. Suffice it to say that a much fuller account of what transpired will be available when the minutes of both meetings are posted on to the website by Secretary Tutcher and Webmaster Plaster. For me, of course the highlight of the event was being elected to the post of President, and taking over the chair of the meeting with a feeling of nervous excitement. Happily I was elected unopposed. But then so were all the other officers, including new Vice President Philip Burnford, and the rest of the committee too - there being very few takers for these challenging but fulfilling roles! Seriously though, it is a great honour to be President for a year, and I am really looking forward to throwing myself wholeheartedly into the post. Mind you, I have quite a hard act to follow, since outgoing President David Brister has performed his duties in a most diligent and dignified manner, for which, in my acceptance speech, I offered heartiest congratulations and many thanks from the Association.

The main event of the day, of course was the Annual Reunion Dinner. It had been one of my tasks, as Vice-President, to provide this special occasion with an after-dinner speaker, and because of my past association with the Antiques Roadshow, I had been fortunate enough to obtain the services of Roy Butler, the Arms & Militaria expert, and one of this nation’s leading authorities on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson and his Navy. He and his wife Jessie had set off from their home in Lewes, Sussex, at lunchtime - to be with us tonight - each one confident that the other had loaded the suitcase into the car. On arrival, to their horror, they discovered that neither of them had, so they were left with only the clothes they stood up in! However, my wife and the Hotel rallied around splendidly - and there was even a kind offer from one Old Boy to lend Jessie one of his frocks(!) - so they were soon both kitted out as neat as ninepins.

At this point, my personal and sincere thanks go to my wife, Maggie, for being an excellent ‘speakers friend’, looking after Roy and Jessie in my absence, and also to Mesdames Irish, Shepherd and Tutcher for entertaining Maggie and Jessie so regally during a very pleasant meal they enjoyed together in the restaurant. Meanwhile our Reunion Dinner was a great success, with Master of Ceremonies Stuart conducting proceedings with his usual aplomb. This year we were also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the “Class of 56,” and Chris Virgin had gone to a great deal of trouble to get an excellent turnout of 15 Old Boys who had begun the ‘happiest days of their lives’ a half a century ago!

Our speaker, Roy, then entertained us with a fascinating, fully illustrated talk about the relics of Nelson’s Navy that still abound today - swords, pistols, knives and cannons, for example - which gave a remarkable insight into how the sailors lived, worked and fought during those heady ‘Trafalgar’ days of two hundred years ago. Interest in the talk peaked dramatically during the sequence on instruments of punishment and torture - branding irons and the cat o’ nine tails for instance. I wonder why?!!

The evening closed with a short auction. Some items of school memorabilia from the late George Maher’s estate were to be sold, with most of the proceeds going to the Stained Glass Window project. We were doubly fortunate to have the services of a consummate professional auctioneer in Roy Butler, and under his expert guidance and encouragement our members generously stumped up a grand total of £158 for the six small items on offer. Magnificent! Needless to say, so that we can now all enjoy these lovely artefacts, they have all been donated by their new owners to the Old Ilminsterians Association, and will be on permanent display at either the Shrubbery Hotel or the Heritage of the Ile exhibition. Well done the lot of you!

In the bar afterwards, over a bleary brandy or two, Roy confided in me how impressed he had been by the wonderful feelings of pride and camaraderie that had suffused the whole evening. And of course he was right - after all, we are the Old Ilminsterians Association.

Cliff White - July 06




The new President and his wife flanking the Guest Speaker Roy Butler and his wife.

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