OB Day 2006
Written by Alex Bremer (Ry. 1979-83), Site Administrator
Friday, 16 June 2006

Attendance at these things seem so often to be reliant on the weather, and this year the sun certainly appeared to have delivered a good assortment of OBs to the College on a glorious September morning.

The day began with the traditional chapel service. In normal circumstances I’m not one to take up too much of our Lord’s valuable time, but thanks to the deft persuasive charms of OBA President, David Gold, I had agreed to attend the service. Fellow attendees were evenly but randomly dispersed throughout the chapel, and their reluctance to move (at the invitation of both Father Robert Easton and our President) towards the centre pews suggested that they, like me, had found their old places and were jolly well staying put for old times sake!

Whilst I’m reluctant to suggest that my soul has now been thoroughly cleansed (despite a confessional that had me giggling out loud - much to the disapproval of nearby fellow worshippers), I must say that I’m very glad I attended; the chapel is a familiar building to all OBs - somewhere we could all take a moment’s refuge from the impending daily academic onslaught that awaited every boy and girl.

Having absolved us of all our sins, Father Robert gave a heart-felt and well received welcome and blessing. The Headmaster, Richard Cairns, and David Gold read appropriate favourites from the good book, and with a rousing rendition of "Jerusalem" we were despatched back into the sunshine.

The throng grew significantly as we gathered in the Café de Paris for coffee and biscuits. Joyce Heater had again put together a fantastic display from the College archives - a truly fascinating exhibit that covered all the years of those present. It was here that the invited past Masters and Headmasters began to arrive; John Griffin (Head of English, 1972-76), Richard and Isobel Wilmott (English Dept & Fenwick House), my father, Nick Bremer (Director of Art, 1969-2000), Bill and Elizabeth Blackshaw (Bill Blackshaw - Headmaster 1971-87), John and Rosamund Leach (John Leach - Headmaster, 1987-97), Rev Canon C J (Bill) Peters (Chaplain, 1950-69), David and Stella Grigor (former Chaplain) - joined by the much loved Reg Spicer (former Head Porter). All seemed genuinely delighted and moved to see each other again; greeted as they were so warmly by present incumbents, Richard Cairns, Simon Smith, Philip Robinson, Derek Roberts, Robert Easton, John Page, Steven Radojcic et al. Photo opportunities abounded - not least a shot of three generations of Chaplains!

How is it that our old masters seem to march on year after year seemingly untouched by the ravages of age? Simon Smith appears now just as he did alongside Philip Robinson in an old black and white archive photo on display in the café, and whilst Philip himself has aged a little, he looks better and fitter now than any of us can remember. Likewise the good Rev. Grigor, who must have made a more diabolic pact than his profession would suggest; I’ll be damned if he’s changed a jot in the 25 odd years since I last saw him! His appearance is matched by his youthful and agreeable disposition - a real delight to meet the man again after so long.

John Griffin and Nick Bremer arrived like two mischievous miscreants (sporting a pink shirt and a cravat respectively that made them look like Elton John’s house-boys on holiday) to be met by Steven Radojcic, John Pope and Derek Roberts. I know my father was genuinely delighted to see these old comrades again; whilst he sees many of his old colleagues from time to time, an impending and permanent move to the dark wastes of the West Country will render such gatherings less frequent, and it was good to see the old man playing with his friends now whilst he can still remember their names!

Both he and I were particularly delighted to see our old Headmaster, Bill Blackshaw and his lovely wife, Elizabeth. I have very fond memories of these two - memories that span right back to my earliest years when my father first started at the College in 1969. Again they seemed to have changed not-at-all, and their ever-present good humour made a highlight of the day for me.

The by now sizable group of OBs subsequently split into two groups - one gathered on the home ground to watch a successful assault by the Old Girls Netball team on the school’s equivalent. David Lowe (staff) has taken some terrific pictures - take a look! Another group of us descended into the depths of the armoury for what turned out to be a fascinating tour of the newly refurbished place followed by a hugely entertaining shoot! Sergeant Major Tony Tighe, ably assisted by Alex (yet another articulate, helpful and enthusiastic College pupil) gave us a look around what used to be a warren of corridors and small dingy rooms and is now a bright and reasonably airy warren of corridors and larger rooms. Noticing our collective delight at the sight of guns, the Sergeant Major ushered us into the shooting range where, following a brief guide to using a rifle ("this is the end that bullets come out of - point it that way"), we all took turns in destroying little bits of paper with targets drawn on them 20 metres away. All that is except for one of us who shall remain nameless - one who seemed determined to shoot the blazes out of the SM’s beautifully restored and painted range walls!

Accordingly we all made a hasty exit to lunch where, over our lasagne and apple crumble, we were formally welcomed by the Headmaster and David Gold. As Richard Cairns rose to his feet, his youthful looks led several OBs to believe they were about to be addressed by the head of the sixth form, but a witty and succinct speech reassured all present that the old place was now in very good hands indeed. Richard presides over a school that seems to achieve all it sets out to; terrific exams results are delivered by a current crop of students that exude a good-natured confidence and bon homie that made the afternoons tours of the school an absolute delight.

And so groups of us were sent off into the campus with various sixth formers (who, on close inspection, did actually look a little younger than their Headmaster) who showed off their new sixth form centre; a bright and lively place it looks to be once the decorators have left them to it, and the adjacent library rooms. John Griffin, Nick Bremer and I skulked off to visit the Burstow Gallery to see the extraordinary collection of work that currently resides there. My father’s successor, Edward Twohig, has amassed a wonderful personal collection over the years, and we wandered agog through the exhibition space cooing over Durers, Mattisses and Chagals, as well as works by a number of OBs including John Worsley (C. 1932-35). Just as we were planning how to have this lot off the wall and into the back of a van, Edward himself arrived to thwart our plans. We were then treated to a masterful and personal guided tour of the works that was by turns fascinating, insightful, funny and irreverent. I cannot recommend a visit to this exhibition, open for another month from today, highly enough.

If the activities outlined above had been all that OB Day had to offer this year, it would have satiated even the most demanding attendee. But no, there was more, and so we trundled off to the home ground; this time to witness an exciting battle between the 1st XV’s of the College and of Whitgift School. Lord knows what the score was in the end (24-13, apparently) – it really didn’t matter; the wretched yellow and black hordes nicked the game in the final moments with two well earned but ultimately downright rude tries against their gracious hosts.

With dark clouds over our heads (metaphorically speaking; the actual sky was still clear and blue) we trudged off to the Headmaster’s lawn to drown our sorrows in Bucks Fizz. The game was soon forgotten and as sandwiches and cake disappeared we bade our own farewells to one and all.

OB Day next year will be an entirely different affair - watch this space for details. Suffice it to say that the timing of the event, so close to the Annual Dinner, and subject to the vagaries of the Met Office, has served to keep the number of attendees lower than the day deserves. That said, if the atmosphere generated today can be recreated next year, then no weather could ever dampen these spirited and good-natured reunions. I strongly urge all OBs to attend next years’ events, details of which will be published soon...

Site Administrator

Alex's most passionate interests include Motor Racing (Alex raced for a short time in 1986 and 1987 in Formula Ford and Formula First before parking his shiny racing car in an inappropriately violent manner half way down the main straight at Brands Hatch), Boxing (which he is delighted never to have participated in), Music (Alex is hysterically tone-deaf - but loves attending live gigs), Movies, Manchester United & Skiing.


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