As QE celebrates its 450th anniversary year, the 1973 School Captain shares memories of the 400th

As QE celebrates its 450th anniversary year, the 1973 School Captain shares memories of the 400th

With QE’s 450th anniversary year now well under way and thoughts turning to this week’s special service of thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey, Old Elizabethan Iain Lanyon, who was School Captain during the 400th anniversary celebrations in 1973, recalls his experiences during that momentous year.

Iain began by saying that he had, in fact, had other plans for the first half of 1973…

“I stayed on after my A-levels in 1972 to take Cambridge entrance exams in the autumn. I was, I think, the youngest in my year, so I wanted to take a year out,” he said. “In the end, I stayed the whole academic year 1972–73 as School Captain: it was the 400th anniversary and there was so much to do! Prefects were responsible for much of the discipline and organised all school break times and the junior assembly.

“I had to combine school work with part-time paid work (I was from a one-parent family and on free school meals).

“I worked in the doubles bar at the Red Lion pub and remember ‘Tiger’ Timson [Classics teacher Percival Timson] coming in for a drink each evening before catching the bus home – double White Horse whisky with Malvern Water.

“My favourite memory of the 400th anniversary was organising the School fete. I persuaded the school to hold a joint fete with the Girls’ School and for the proceeds to go to the new Marie Foster home for multiple sclerosis about to be opened in Wood Street.

“I worked with the new comprehensive intake of QE junior boys to save enough Green Shield stamps to buy an early type of mobility scooter for the home, and the fete also raised over £1,200 for the home – that’s over £17,000 in today’s value.” He has a copy of a letter from Marie Foster herself thanking him. “She was an amazing woman!”

The colour photo in front of the Main Building shows him collecting a prize on Founder’s Day 1973, while he is in the front row, centre, in the prefect team line-up.

Iain was a keen sportsman. He was captain of the athletics team and played rugby on the left wing in the First XV, also playing for the county in both sports. He was the Borough of Barnet schools 100 metres sprint champion for two years. “My time of 11.2 seconds was a record that stood for several years, I think.”

In 1973, the School was approached by a local college to see if there was a QE pupil who could teach the English Language course. “I was sent along. I remember being the youngest in the room full of people needing an English qualification for their careers. The administrator came in and apologised that the teacher hadn’t arrived, so I had to put up my hand to say I was their teacher!”

Teaching has remained part of his life ever since: “Firstly graphic design and communication, and now as a part-time voluntary mentor for English Literature Oxbridge candidates at Camden School For Girls.”

After Iain finally handed over the School Captain’s mantle to Maxwell Ball, who took over in the Autumn Term of 1973, he went on to his own English Literature degree at Warwick.

After that, he worked in arts marketing at the Royal Opera House. “I then became a graphic designer, working for theatre companies, which has been my career for the past 40 years.” He is creative director of his own company, Kean Lanyon Ltd.

Iain lives in Crouch End. “Several of us still meet up on Founder’s Day each year at the Black Horse, then go on to the School fete. Last year we were given a guided tour and saw the new swimming pool for the first time. ” It is, he reflects, quite a contrast to the days when he and his classmates would stand shivering on the edge of the outdoor pool, with PE teacher Eric Shearly cheerfully pouring scorn on their reluctance to enter the water.