Tremendous centenary reunion lunch in the West Country
Around 80 OPs and their partners attended a memorable centenary reunion lunch at the Berry Head Hotel in Brixham, Devon on Fridya 7th April in glorious weather.
Much thought and planning had gone into the occasion. The owner of the hotel, Edward Bence (66-70), went out of his way despite a very busy weekend ahead, to ensure that the function room, food and drink all sparkled. A fine collection of Pangbourne memorabilia had been gathered together including some fascinating You Tube films of life at the College ranging from 2016 to 1933. A large Devitt & Moore flag hung in the room, many old photos had been collected and small D&M flags placed on each of the four long tables arranged in a rectangle.
[Berry Head Hotel, Brixham]
[View across Torbay from a hotel balcony]
The chore of organising the lunch had fallen to Dr. James Allenby (57-62), a Devonian who practised as a GP in Tavistock area for many years. Pre-lunch drinks were served on the terrace overlooking Torbay. Once all the guests had moved inside to the beautifully-appointed Mulberry Room for lunch, Grace was given by Edward Bence. Edward bought Berry Head hotel in 1994 when it had a leaking roof and just six functioning bedrooms and has since built it into the leading hotel in the area that befits its superb location overlooking the sea.
James Allenby began by warming up proceedings with some recollections of his time at the NCP in the early 1960s. He was followed by the Guest of Honour – another Devon resident, Emma Draper (nee Cork; 96-00). She did a fine job in her talk to the largely masculine OP audience in describing her time at the College in the 1990s and the great changes that occurred during that decade. The Response was given by the Chairman of the OP Society Merrick Rayner (68-73) who brought everyone up to date with the centenary celebrations now in full flow at the College and gave the toast to ‘Pangbourne College.’ Lunch followed before Dr. Allenby decided the time had come for some singing and led the gathering in a strong rendition of The Navy Hymn, ‘Eternal Father, strong to save…’
[The D&M Flag flies proudly over the lunch]
[Chairman Merrick Rayner speaks]
[Dr. James Allenby]
Karen Hartshorn, the Director of Development at the College, and her young son Sam had travelled from Pangbourne to attend and to brief well-wishers on the College today – and also to sell half a dozen copies of Robin Knight’s centenary history of the school. Robin and his wife Jean were there too from London, and coincidentally celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.
[Flowers for Jean Knight]
[Drinks before lunch on the terrace]
Among the many other OPs at the lunch were Robin Lavery (55-59), happily recovering from a recent heart attack, and his NCP contemporaries Reg James (54-58), Jeremy Ainslie (55-59), John Whalley (55-58), Peter Broadbent (55-59), Michael Shuttleworth (55-58), Peter Roe (55-59), Michael Groom (55-59), Peter Broadbent (55-59), Ivar Helberg (56-60), Roger Taite (56-59) and Ewen Southby-Tailyour (55-59). Graham Fry (56-60), a long-Lost OP, put in a surprise appearance which was most welcome. Sir Michael Layard (49-53) and his wife had driven from Somerset. Other very welcome attendees were two retired RN officers – James McCoy (51-53) and AJR (Sandy) Watson (54-58).
Geoff Popple (58-62), who is in England for the summer, arrived from Cape Town. His contemporaries at the lunch included James Allenby, Jonathan Armstrong (56-60), Tim Dow (58-62), Richard Coles (58-62) and David Keith-Welsh (58-62).
The senior OP present was Arthur Coxon (41-44) who travelled from his home near Cardiff; Arthur recently celebrated his 90th birthday and was in fine form. The youngest OP was Sally Graddon (nee Clare; 98-00) who has turned her back on a medical career and is now a Life Coach to professional women based near Barnstable. Other OPs at the lunch included Frank Cox (55-59), Julian Wiggins (xx-xx), Michael Stringer (xx-xx), Jonathan Spencer (xx-xx), Simon Scott-Priestley (xx-xx), Chris Ledsam (64-68) and Malcolm Dudley-Williams (xx-xx).
Following the lunch and speeches, OPs moved into the garden for a group photo before, reluctantly, dispersing. It was a fine reunion – full of bonhomie, nostalgia for the NCP past and pride in the College today.