The 123rd Old Elizabethans Association Annual Dinner brought together old boys of all eras for an evening offering both formality and fun.
The evening featured the customary speeches and time-honoured toasts, but there was also opportunity aplenty for alumni to chat with old classmates and strike up new friendships in a relaxed and convivial environment.
As is usual at the dinner, there was a particularly strong turnout from the ‘ten-year leavers’ – those who started in Year 7 in 2002 and will therefore mark ten years since they left the School in summer 2009 at the end of this academic year.
Guest speaker Alan Ingham (OE 1987–1994) entertained his fellow alumni with his recollections of School life during an era of great international uncertainty, recounting the confident prediction of one teacher that the Berlin Wall would not fall in his lifetime – just months before it did.
Alan, a senior software developer with electronic trading company Nex Group, attended with his fiancée, Ana Maria Soler Castells, whom he was marrying on the following day. He had, therefore, been very busy in the run-up to the dinner, he said, but added that the resilience one learns as a QE boy had stood him in good stead as he strove to cope with these competing demands!
Reflecting on the evening afterwards, Headmaster Neil Enright said: “There was a lovely atmosphere at this dinner – a reflection, I am sure, of the increasing connections being made by our alumni both with each other and with the School.
“We are always keen to welcome alumni here and I know many OEs value the opportunity to visit, to see what has changed and often to check out who among their old teachers are still here. Many also take time during such visits to reflect on what they have gained in life by being a pupil at QE, and it is this appreciation which is driving so many to volunteer to help current boys and give something back.”
In his speech on the evening itself, the Headmaster began by welcoming all the guests: “Tonight is an opportunity for reflection, reconnection and celebration.”
Mr Enright reserved a special welcome the ten-year leavers, the class of 2002-2009 (or 2002-2007 for those who did A-levels elsewhere). They were, he said, a “fun, friendly and very successful cohort”, noting that they had started at QE on Monday 2nd September 2002, thus coinciding with his own arrival as a young teacher.
Those from this group who attended the dinner included Commonwealth Games triple-jump finalist Nathan Fox and George ‘the Poet’ Mpanga, the high-profile spoken-word artist who spoke in front of the Queen on Commonwealth Day and who performed a specially commissioned poem as part of the international TV coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
The Headmaster outlined a number of “big themes” which are currently being considered as part of the School’s long-term development. One of them is “keeping in touch” – which includes drawing on the experience and insight of OEs to assist current boys, many of whom are the first in their families to apply to top universities or to try to enter the most competitive professions.
The formal proceedings included toasts to Queen Elizabeth II and to “the pious memory of Queen Elizabeth I” (by tradition, honoured in silence). School Captain Aashish proposed the toast to the association, with the response given by the association’s Chairman, Martyn Bradish (OE 1962–1969). This was followed by the toast to the School proposed by guest speaker Alan Ingham, with the Headmaster giving the response.
Association President Ken Cooper (OE 1942–1950) presented the School Captain with the Eric Shearly Memorial Prize for Outstanding Commitment. The citation noted Aashish’s “modest and quiet commitment to the life of the School.” It continued: “His talents and involvements are many and diverse; he has been a success at each stage of his academic career, attaining the top grade in every subject that he studied at GCSE and A-level, whilst also acting as form captain, colt prefect, and participating in rugby in each year group on his journey through the School. And he is an exceptional musician too!”
Aashish hopes to study Neuroscience at university and has already prepared for this by undertaking work experience in local hospitals and by examining neurological ways of treating depression in his Extended Project Qualification dissertation.
The guests enjoyed a smoked salmon rillette with pickled beetroot and pea shoots and a main course of roast belly of pork with roasted new potatoes, followed by Eton Mess for dessert, topped off with coffee and mints.