2011 Annual Dinner
19 November 2011
102nd Annual Dinner of the Association was held in the Oldfield Hall at King Charles 1 School on 19th November 2011
It was a would-be foggy traditional November evening but that didn't stop a good turn-out of members creating a convivial atmosphere. Last year's musical recital was held during the course of the evening and, although very well received, was felt to have "squeezed" the time available for members to discuss the meaning of life with old friends, and so the music this year was played at the very start of the evening, as members arrived. Cathy Foster, the Head of Music at the School, watched attentively over the performance, which was much enjoyed again. It had been decided to open the proceedings half an hour earlier than usual and this appeared to have worked with a great deal of reunion recognition going on before the newly-elected President Andy Moule, with the help of Colin Lloyd, called them to take their places for dinner. That took a while, as usual, but when everyone was settled, he welcomed the guests - Mark Garnier, the MP for Wyre Forest, Cllr Ann Hingley, Mayor of Kidderminster, Maurice Evans, President of the Oldswinford Old Foleyans and Canon Owain Bell, the Rector of St Mary's Church, Kidderminster. He was also pleased to welcome Head Girl Lauren Dowd and Deputy Head Boy Greg Bennett and then the serious part of the gathering began, after Owain Bell had said "Grace"
Head Girl, President & Deputy Head Boy
It has always been a reassuringly traditional evening and this element was maintained, certainly as far as the choice of food was concerned. On our table the relative newcomer, Salmon, was easily put in its place by the all-conquering but predictable Roast Beef. Plyvine would be satisfied to hear that both items passed the taste test.
After the "comfort break" (rather long, I felt, but then, it is a bit of a hike to the Gents, certainly), it was time for the speeches. The decision to restrict individuals to 10 minutes was, I felt, a great success. Certainly, the bell tolled regularly enough after 10 minutes but the speakers, by and large, behaved themselves and stuck to the rules.
Mark Garnier said it was a great pleasure to return. He made reference to the 375th anniversary of the granting of the King's Charter to the Town and the School, admired the School's involvement with its twin in the Punjab and included a mention of fellow-MP and Old Carolian Tom Watson, very much in the media spotlight at the time. He confessed to be struggling to find something light-hearted in current affairs to talk about but was delighted to ask us all to stand up and drink to the health of the School and Association.
In response, Tim Gulliver gave his report on the School and said that it offered no less than 29 "A" level courses, which had produced excellent results. The GCSE results had improved significantly year on year and were "some of the best in the last 30 years or so". He listed many significant pupil achievements (and must have been worried about the approaching bell), with reference to the School's involvement in arts, science and sporting projects and many trips, both in the UK and overseas, with Ecuador and China sounding particularly glamorous. In my days, a visit to the Roman Villa at Chedworth was quite an adventure. The School was applying for Academy status and he felt that the future looked increasingly bright. He was expecting to see further improvement in key areas and was looking to push the Ofsted rating of "Good" (already up from "Satisfactory" in 2009) up to "Outstanding".
President Andy Moule relived his youthful educational career, with memories of Lea Street and the school traditions of rugby, the cadet force, fives and cross-country. One memory I could relate to was J. D. Richards kicking the shins of pupils under the desk - he'd done that to me several years earlier! George Oxendale and Jim Charlton inevitably loomed large in the narrative and were presented exactly as I remembered them, with terror and affection respectively. He related that laughter and the presence of music in the school were important to him, before reminiscing about "the merger" in 1978. He was surprised by how quiet the atmosphere was in a classroom which included girls. He remembered the two years in the new school passing at great speed.
The toast to the President was proposed by Peter Hudson. He had known him for 45 years, since their time together at Lea Street. Andy was described as being prone to eccentric behaviour, bordering on the foolhardy and occasionally dangerous (sounds well-qualified to be Old Carolian President!) and told of incidents which seemed conclusively to prove his point. Andy had never quite taken to Rugby but had enjoyed running and had since taken on the Great North Run. Thinking about it, Peter concluded that he was "a good bloke to have at your side, with a terrific sense of humour, who will take his responsibilities very seriously and will undoubtedly be a credit to the position".
The final scene was Secretary Colin Lloyd calling the meeting to order so that he could record that John Booth was stepping down from the Old Carolian Association Committee after 50 years of continuous service, including two terms as President and a long spell as Treasurer. The presentation of a cut-glass decanter recording his contribution was made on behalf of the Committee and Association, together with a bouquet of flowers for his long-suffering and supportive wife, Pat. John has promised to remain in good contact but his contribution to the Committee will be badly missed.
The lack of a pianist in the company meant that the evening concluded with an entertaining "a cappella" rendition of the National Anthem and "Auld Lang Syne".
Another excellent dinner, with plenty of time for bar activity to compare notes before going home - the bitter end, perhaps.
Entertainment Correspondent: Norman Broadfield