To officially mark the close of the school’s Quincentenary year, the Old Pocklingtonian Association hosted its annual reunion dinner at the stunning Haberdashers’ Hall in the City of London. Prior to the dinner there was a special attended Evensong service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by a private wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the school’s founder, John Dowman, who was buried in the Chapel of St Catherine on the south side of old St Paul’s in 1526. Dowman was also a Haberdasher, so the ‘Quincentenary Finale’ was indeed a fitting end to the school’s 500th celebrations.
Over 200 Old Pocklingtonians, former and current parents, staff and governors came to the Evensong service which was also open to the general public. The service was led by the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend David Ison. The Canon in Residence, the Reverend Canon Philippa Boardman read the First Lesson (Micah 4. 1-5) and the Headmaster, Mark Ronan read the Second Lesson (Luke 9. 28-36). The prayers were led by the Precentor, the Reverend Canon Michael Hampel assisted by Chairman of Governors, Christopher Oughtred, and Tom Nash (68-77), President of the Old Pocklingtonian Association. The address was given by the School Chaplain, the Reverend Jim Roberts and was followed by a hymn chosen by the School: “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended”, the music for which was written by an Old Pocklingtonian, the Reverend Clement Scholefield (1839-1904).
Following the Evensong service, the wreath-laying party were escorted to the Dean’s Aisle for a private ceremony during which Dowman descendant, Eve Gillmon, laid a wreath by the Colet Memorial to commemorate John Dowman. Colet was the founder of St Paul’s School and was Dean of St Paul’s at the same time as Dowman was Canon.
After the service, guests made their way to Haberdashers’ Hall to finish the evening in style at the black tie dinner. The Livery Hall along with three additional dining rooms were all filled to capacity to cater for the record number of 270 guests attending the dinner. OPs had travelled from as far afield as South Africa, USA and Canada to come to the dinner and tables were arranged in year groups to maximise enjoyment. Some OPs had organised and booked their own tables for a get-together of their year in what for many has become an annual tradition. With so many people attending and such a lot of catching up to do, it was quite a task to get people to their seats for dinner!
Once everyone had found their place for dinner, the OP President, Tom Nash, gave a welcome speech during which he called upon the oldest OP present, Alex Engler (39-44) to give the youngest ‘soon-to-be’ OP, Freddie Hetherton (upper 6th) a copy of the published Foundation Documents in a symbolic ‘handing over the mantle’ for the next 500 years. The Headmaster then gave his speech and made a presentation to Tom in recognition of his work for the school and the OP Association during his tenure as OP President, before calling upon the School Chaplain to say grace.
Each guest had been given a unique fact taken from the school’s 500-year history and after the starter a spot-prize was awarded for the winning fact drawn in each room. After the main course, Tom Nash continued with his speech, this time going ‘on tour’ to each of the rooms as he spoke. During coffee, Tom, whose tenure as President had now officially come to an end, announced the newly elected OP President, Andrew Wilson (89-99) and handed over to him for his inaugural speech. Andrew said he was honoured to have been elected as OP President. He thanked Tom for his commitment to the Association and presented him with a gift on behalf of the committee in recognition of Tom’s work for the Association.
With the formal proceedings over, guests were then invited to mingle and enjoy a drink at the bar before moving off to the ‘after-party’ at St Bart’s Brewery.
The date for next year’s London dinner is Friday 20 November 2015, venue to be confirmed!