Superb OP centenary reunion in Auckland, New Zealand

1. NZ reunion



Organiser (and inspiration behind the event)  Robin Paine (55-58) reports:


“The weather gods were certainly looking down favourably on Auckland as 93 OPs and their guests, included in which were a select few former Conway and Worcester cadets, gathered at the Sofitel near the Auckland waterfront on Friday evening, February 24th, for the start of the Pangbourne Australasian Centenary Celebrations.


The ground floor area allocated for the party lead out on to decking facing a section of the Viaduct Basin, creating the perfect ambiance for an informal and relaxed gathering.  A two hour cocktail party, with excellent canapés and a wide choice of liquid refreshment, did its job as the ‘icebreaker’ and set the scene for an extremely happy and successful weekend, with many renewing old acquaintances after some 50 years or more and others making new friends.


A ‘Welcome Pack’ had been delivered to every hotel or private address around Auckland where people had registered to stay, consisting of an A4 size folder with the Centenary logo inscribed on it and ‘Auckland 2017’ underneath, in which there was a 48 page booklet of the history of the College compiled from extracts from Robin Knight’s excellent Centenary book, a pen and Centenary logo inscribed notepad, a 12 page Programme of events and guest list, a Centenary inscribed drinks coaster and, to make identification easier, a name badge, with OPs being further identified with their years and Division at the College.


The event had been 18 months in the planning by a Committee headed by Robin Paine (1955-58) and including Fran Crowther (1994-96), (née Pearson), Sam Strachan (1958-62) and Geoff Rae (1953-56), and it had got off to a good start.


Robin Paine acted as host and MC for the weekend and made a short welcome speech, mainly outlining the programme, followed by Merrick Rayner (68-73) Chairman of the OP Society, who thanked the Committee for organising the event and paid tribute to Robin Knight for his sterling work in not only producing the Centenary book, but also his hard work in compiling the OP magazine and editing the OP website. He then went on to commend Thomas Garnier, the Headmaster for his inspired leadership in making the College the success it is today, and the Board of Governors, led by OP Admiral Roger Lane-Nott (58-63), for their part in it too.


Pete Hay, Old Worcester, speaking on behalf of the Old Worcesters and Old Conways, lamented the demise of their two Colleges, but congratulated Pangbourne on their wisdom and foresight in adapting to the changing circumstances with the demise in manning requirements for the Royal and Merchant Navies. He finished by saying that in another 100 years time he hoped we would be looking down from above to see Pangbourne still flourishing.


The New Zealand Maritime Museum on the Auckland waterfront was the focal point for a large number of guests on Saturday 25th, starting in the morning with a tour of the museum followed by an hour’s cruise in the Heritage Vessel ‘Ted Ashby’ around Auckland Harbour. The tour guides were first class and the guests found what they had to say of great interest, ranging from Polynesian and Maori vessels and navigation to European Voyages of Discovery, to a host other topics and exhibits. Although there was very little wind to be able to sail properly, the cruise gave guests the opportunity to enjoy the views of the magnificent Auckland City skyline and the harbour itself.


Except for a reduced charge for the tour and cruise for those who took part, the Museum generously provided free entry for the day on production of a guest’s name badge. Not only was the entry free, but The Museum also made available the ’Classroom’ for two well-supported talks by Thomas Garnier on the current news and future plans for the College, followed by a fascinating talk by Commodore Anthony Morrow (58-62) as the last commanding officer of The Royal Yacht Britannia. It is worth noting that there were only 10 commanders of The Royal Yacht in its career, two of whom were OPs and a third was Thomas Garnier’s father, Rear Admiral Sir John Garnier.


Such was the interest with questions that both talks were in danger of overrunning their allotted time, but time was moving on towards the final event of the celebrations – the Gala Dinner at The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, located on the waterfront with the Auckland Harbour Bridge on one side and overlooking the largest yacht marina in the southern hemisphere on the other with the spectacular Auckland City skyline in the background.


With the College ensign and the Devitt & Moore house flag flying from the RNZYS flag mast, many guests arrived before the scheduled time of 6.30pm to view the silverware and the crests of yacht clubs from around the world although a few were somewhat surprised that, as twice winners of the America’s Cup, there was no replica cup on display.


The venue inside the RNZYS was the Quarterdeck Restaurant on the first floor with its panoramic views across the harbour, marina and city. Pre-dinner drinks of New Zealand ’bubbly’ was provided courtesy of Nigel Hollebone (59-63), a Past President of the OP Society, who sadly succumbed to cancer last year, as part of his legacy to the Society to be spent on liquid refreshment.


The Royal New Zealand Navy Brass Quintet played a selection of well-known tunes as background music from the balcony adjacent to the restaurant until the challenge of herding the OPs, by this time having imbibed reasonably heavily on Nigel’s legacy, into position for a group photograph – akin to herding cats. After the mission was successfully completed, with another picture, which included the OCs and OWs with the OPs, the Quintet struck up Life on the Ocean Wave as guests moved to their tables.


The 10 tables for the 93 three guests were each named after the Devitt & Moore ships. There was a table flag stand on each table consisting of three flags with the Centenary, College and OP logos, plus the 12 page menu, which included the words to the shanties for the after dinner musical presentation.


While drinks were being served and orders taken for the choice of main course – rump of lamb or fish – Robin Paine gave his formal welcome speech which featured those alumni attending the event, together with thanks due to the individuals and organisations involved in the support for and organisation of the weekend. The oldest OP in attendance was Barry Thompson (42-45) living in Auckland, and the youngest Olivier Quesnel (2003-10) from UK, who between them spanned 68 years of the College’s 100-year history. There were two other lady OPs present, Fran Crowther and Anna Sterling (00-01). Robin closed his speech by saying:


“And in closing I make no apology for these Celebrations in Auckland focusing on the nautical nostalgia of yesteryear, as it is a heritage of which we are all immensely proud, essentially going back to 1863, and of which the younger generation seem to wish to maintain in the modern idiom”.


Jonathan Priest (57-61) (with an appropriate name for the forthcoming job in hand) who had travelled from Perth, WA, stood in to say grave instead of Sam Strachan (58-62) who had failed to make the celebrations as a result of being taken ill.


A very convivial atmosphere prevailed as guests tucked into a three course dinner with a prawn and avocado salad entrée, followed by a choice of roasted rump of lamb or pan fried fillet of snapper and a desert of crème brulée. The quality of the cuisine was excellent with a choice of New Zealand Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, beer and soft drinks on offer.


The Loyal Toast was proposed by Fran Crowther and a message from the Chief Clerk to The Queen on behalf of Her Majesty was read by Geoff Rae, followed by Malcolm Burgess (Conway) on behalf of Conway and Worcester, who proposed the Toast to Absent Friends.  Malcolm emphasised the strong bond between the three pre-sea training colleges, which still exists to this day, and concluded his address by saying:


“It’s on occasions such as this that our memories are brought more sharply into focus when we remember, ‘The Good Old Days’, ’Our Chums at School’,   ‘Friends we’ve sailed with’, and especially ‘Love-Ones’. It’s also when we think of those who couldn’t attend a grand celebration such as this, although they would have liked to”.


In the absence of any use for the six large posters specially printed to illustrate Commodore Anthony Morrow’s talk on The Royal Yacht, Merrick Rayner decided to have a silent auction of them with each picture signed by the Commodore. As part of the Centenary Celebrations, the College is aiming to raise £100,000 for 100 years of Pangbourne. The money raised will go to local youth and community groups to fund educational projects. A portion will also go to the College’s partnership community (Nabugabo Community Learning Centre) in Uganda. A sum of NZ$650 was raised during dinner (£385) towards the fund.


After desert and coffee and a short break, the final three speakers took to the lectern with Richard Shuttleworth, OP President, starting by proposing the Toast to the College, followed by Roger Lane-Nott, OP and Chairman of the Board of Governors, with the Response, and Thomas Garnier, The Headmaster, concluding the proceedings with his Address.  


The final part of the evening was the musical performance by The Royal New Zealand Navy Brass Quintet and the soprano, Emma Sloman, from New Zealand Opera. Emma started with an unaccompanied well-known Maori love song, Pukarekare Ana, followed by World in Union, the Rugby World Cup song, the latter accompanied by the Quintet. Emma then lead the singing in the three sea shanties, in which the assembled company joined with much gusto – In Amsterdam There Lived a Maid, What Shall We do with the Drunken Sailor, and ending with Spanish Ladies. 



Emma and the Quintet then sang and played Prelude and Sunset with Emma singing the last verse of For those in Peril on the Sea, familiar to all OPs, and the trumpeter leading Sunset with the remainder of the Quintet as the accompaniment, as a tribute to all OPs, OCs and OWs, who lost their lives in the WW2. It was a moving performance before Emma and the Quintet broke into a rousing performance of Rule Britannia with lusty support from the audience with the chorus. Emma’s talents as a leading soprano came to the fore on that one for which everyone showed their profound appreciation.  Two verses of the New Zealand National Anthem, the first sung in Maori, followed by God Save The Queen, a final word of thanks from Robin Paine and then a traditional Auld Lang Syne signalled the end of an outstanding celebration in Auckland to mark Pangbourne’s first one hundred years of existence.


It was all over far two quickly, but everyone returned home with happy memories of a very special occasion.”



(250+ images of the event may be viewed at

Below are some images from the dinner at the RNZYS:

2. Dining room RNZYS

[Dining room in RNZYS)



2A.                                                                                                                [Keith Mann 45-49 with Thomas Garnier]















[Royal NZ Navy brass Quintet with soloist Emma Sloman from NZ Opera]





[Charlie Fowler 85-90]

6.                                                 [Stephen Devitt 83-88 with Richard Hamilton 78-82]


7.[Three Old Conways; Malcolm Burgess (r)]

[Mike Nicholson 57-61]

8. Mike Nicholson9. Robin Paine10. Roger Lane-Nott[Roger Lane-Nott 58-63]






[Thomas Garnier]                            [Robin Paine 55-58]

11. Thomas Garnier13. Auld Lang Syne


12. Richard Shuttleworth14. Au revoir




[Richard Shuttleworth 57-62]

Out and About:





(Around Auckland harbour)


[On board heritage vessel ‘Ted Ashby’ Auckland harbour]






(Capt Merrick Rayner i/c)

18.19.                                                                                                         (In the Maritime Museum in Auckland)










(A talk about the College tody by the headmaster)








(Tony Morrow lecturing)



At the reception on Friday evening:






24           [Robin Paine, Jeffrey Evans 61-66

and wife Juliet, Sandra Paine]




[Roger Pike 55-59 with Tim Le Couteur 57-61 & Nick Edwards 55-58]



[Carole & Richard Givan 56-60]

26 27 

[Tim Le Couteur 57-61 with wife Ginny

and Graham Jex 67-71]




[James Mullins, Geoff Rae, Philip Mullins]


[Thomas Garnier with



[Richard Hamilton & Graham Jex]


[Robin Paine speaking]











Merrick Rayner with Olivier Quesnel 03-10 and her mother]             [Rob Hamilton 60-65]                                  [Merrick Rayner 68-73]

3334353637[Charlie Fowler 85-90 with Fran Crowther 94-96]





[Jonathan Priest 56-61 & Olivier Quesnel 03-10]