News headlines – October 2021

<<<    Later headlines
28 Oct 2021    Reunion lunch for 1979 leavers
13 Oct 2021    Memorial service for Donald Perrens DSO OBE DFC
8 Oct 2021    Jamie Garratt (Wargrave 1999-2004) walks John O'Groats to Land's End for charity
7 Oct 2021    Theatre trip to Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt
6 Oct 2021    Ocean Dadventure take on Atlantic rowing challenge
3 Oct 2021    Evensong and harvest supper
1 Oct 2021    Eastbournian Society October newsletter
>>>    Earlier headlines

28 October 2021 - Reunion lunch for 1979 leavers

The annual reunion lunch for College leavers in 1979 was held on Thursday 28 October at Davy's in Plantation Place in the City of London.

With last year's get-together not taking place because of the Covid pandemic, this was the first time the group had all met up for nearly two years.

Organiser Chris Porter (Gonville 1974-79) said: 'The Class of '79 had a thoroughly enjoyable reunion lunch... it was great to see everyone looking so well after such a long time away with restrictions.'

Chris is already planning to hold a similar event next year and we will advertise the date on our events list nearer the time.

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13 October 2021 - Memorial service for Donald Perrens DSO OBE DFC

Around 150 guests attended the memorial service for Donald Perrens DSO OBE DFC, former member of staff, who died on 10 April 2020, aged 101.

For those who were unable to attend, a recording of the service is available here: https://youtu.be/M_pCoX4MR1A.

Donald had served with the RAF in the Second World War and it was fitting that the service began with the RAF and CCF standards being processed to the front of the College Chapel to the sound of the RAF March.

Following a welcome and opening prayer from College Chaplain the Revd Daniel Merceron, the first of a series of eulogies was given by General the Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO DL (Wargrave 1965-70). Lord Richards said that we were here today 'to commemorate an exceptional, inspirational person, a man whose combination of courage, humility, humour and commitment was second to none.'

He described Donald's wartime career: after initially enlisting in the army in 1939, where he served with the Suffolk Regiment, Donald managed, after heavy fighting near Rouen, to escape from France on one of the last ships to leave Cherbourg. In November 1941 he transferred to the RAF to train as a pilot in an army co-operation role. In December 1942 he went to Algeria to support the Allied advance on Tunis, flying Hurricanes at first before switching to Spitfires.

Donald flew low-level reconnaissance sorties, often in intense anti-aircraft fire. After Africa he was stationed in Sicily and then moved to mainland Italy until the end of 1943, being rewarded with a DFC for his service over a sustained period. He was made Squadron Leader in January 1944 and worked with the 8th Army in the Italian campaign, providing information and photographs of enemy positions. He was awarded an immediate DSO for an incident in January 1945 in which he came under enemy fire while conducting artillery reconnaissance near Bologna.

The citation for the DSO reads: 'While over the target area... his aircraft was repeatedly hit but he remained over the target for nearly an hour... He was forced to turn away however when the engine of his aircraft failed. He effected a successful crash-landing in our forward defence lines. His coolness and courage in the face of concentrated enemy fire set a fine example.’

Donald was badly injured, and returned to the UK in September 1945, remaining on the RAF active list for a few months more. But as Lord Richards pointed out: 'He didn't leave the RAF altogether. He joined the RAF section of the College CCF in 1948, becoming its OIC in 1954. Then he commanded the whole CCF from 1973 until his retirement in 1981.'

Donald also held commissions in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the RAF Volunteer Reserve, and was appointed commanding officer of the local fighter control unit. On relinquishing command in 1961 he was awarded the OBE. Lord Richards concluded by saying what a remarkable man Donald was: 'over the years effortlessly capturing the imagination, enthusiasm, respect and affection of many thousands of people.' He was 'a peerless example of a life well lived and a duty well done.'

Former member of staff Bernard Drake spoke about Donald's time teaching at the College. Quoting from anecdotes that had been sent to Donald on his 100th birthday, he said that interspersed in these memories were words like 'enthused me', 'motivated me' and 'encouraged me'.

As a housemaster, Donald could be pretty fierce but he was able to care for the individual. One OE had described Donald's time as housemaster of Blackwater as ruling with 'a leather fist, as leather can be so hard, but it can also be soft and malleable. And there is a lovely poetic connection with his pilot's gloves.'

Bernard described the relief he felt when Donald took over as acting headmaster in 1972, in difficult times. 'Confidence of staff, pupils and parents were in need of rebuilding... Donald was calm, energetic and optimistic, and had a very disarming smile.'

He concluded by saying that the key words associated with Donald that he had mentioned earlier, 'advice, encouragement and motivation, applied to everybody at the College, not just the pupils... an extraordinary ethos.' He said it was no surprise to see the Chapel so full, 'in honour of that great man'.

Donald's grandson David Kirtley then gave some personal reflections in his eulogy, considering Donald, the family man. He was born in Willenhall, Staffordshire on 1 January 1919, less than two months after the end of the First World War. At school he thrived, where he was in the 1st XI cricket, 1st XV rugby and was an excellent tennis player. He achieved a distinction in both pure and applied maths, as well as in physics. At 17 he went to St Catharine's College, Cambridge, graduating aged 20 in 1939.

He married Mary Robertson, and their children Pip and Rob were remarkably close, a testament to their loving upbringing and their devoted parents. David said that his first memory of 'Gramps' was that he was always playing with the grandchildren, including making sledges out of sunlounger cushions which they would slide down the steep front garden in East Dean, dodging the apple trees on the way. Trips to the beach involved something more substantial than just building sandcastles, as Donald would also build a boat, a car or even an aeroplane. 

He also used to make 'the most fantastic birthday cakes... and normally consisted of Swiss rolls, digestive biscuits, Smarties and lots and lots of chocolate icing.'

He was an early adopter of innovation and was one of the first people that David knew to own a computer. A few years ago, Pip and David took Donald to the Spitfire museum in Ramsgate. On seeing the Spitfire 'his eyes lit up and he started recalling the differences between the Mark XVI and its predecessor'. He pointed out that the clipped wings made it more nimble but that it pulled to the right and he had to compensate by pulling to the left to keep it in a straight line. He showed them the cockpit and where the camera would have been mounted on the underside of the wing, and where the cable from the camera came into the cockpit so he could take the photos.

David said: 'Gramps was a charmer, he was so kind and gracious.' At David and Lucy's wedding, aged 94, Donald gave a reading, speaking with a quiet authority, and looked incredibly dapper. 'As the day progressed he made friends with everyone, not to mention the bridesmaids. And with a twinkle in his eye and the kindest of hearts, he conducted himself with such elegance and style.'

He continued: 'Gramps made the most of each and every opportunity that was given to him in his long and full life and made such a positive impact on everyone around him. He was an inspiration to many - his friends, his colleagues, his students, and most of all his family.'

David remembered a conversation he had with Donald shortly after he had moved into the nursing home where he spent the last few years of his life. Asking if he was OK and if everybody was being kind, Donald responded with something that David will never forget: 'I find that if you are kind to people, then they tend to be kind back.' He concluded: 'A more charming and handsome man would be hard to find.'

Prayers were then said by the Revd Stephen Gray (Powell 1979-84), the Conduct of Eton College, followed by a blessing from the Revd Chris Macdonald, former Chaplain of Eastbourne College.

Following the service, the guests assembled on College Field to watch a Mark IX Spitfire, RR232 'City of Exeter', make a flypast over the College, with the unique sound of its Merlin engine. This type of Spitfire features in Donald's flying logbook and was his favourite.

The guests then moved to the reception in Big School, at which Donald's daughter Pip Kirtley thanked everyone for attending and for their kind words and thoughts. She then unveiled a framed display of replicas of Donald's medals, which are to go on show in the College.

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8 October 2021 - Jamie Garratt (Wargrave 1999-2004) walks John O'Groats to Land's End for charity

Jamie Garratt (Wargrave 1999-2004) has recently completed an epic walk from John O'Groats to Land's End, raising funds for the mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). Jamie said before the walk:

'I’m incredibly lucky to be taking a three-month sabbatical, and after 15 months of lockdown I wanted to make it an adventure. Given the travel restrictions I - probably foolishly - decided that a 1,100 mile walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End was the right adventure for me. This is a pretty formidable challenge, so it seemed like an opportunity to raise money for a great cause.

'Over the last year we have all become more aware of our mental health and well-being - it’s one of the reasons I want a change of scene. So the charity I’ve chosen to support is the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). It is an amazing charity that addresses a huge but little talked about problem in the UK. I've been lucky enough to work with them at my company over the last two years, and I would love to raise more money for such a great organisation.

'CALM is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Our goal is a life less miserable for you, your friends, your family and for all men.'

Jamie completed the walk on 22 September, having walked 1,084 miles over 62 days. Along the way he had support from a number of friends and relatives, and wrote a daily commentary on Instagram at @jcgarratt.

Afterwards he said: 'I made it! Difficult to put into words but it was amazing, challenging and just an incredible experience. I’m so grateful for all the support I received, for the people who joined me along the way and for the donations that are continuing to roll in.' Jamie has set up a justgiving page for donations at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jamie-garratt and would appreciate it if you are able to support this great cause.

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7 October 2021 - Theatre trip to Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt

Members of the Eastbournian Society enjoyed a theatre trip to see Tom Stoppard's latest play Leopoldstadt on Thursday 7 October.

We had originally planned to see this production in spring 2020, but the Covid lockdown in March that year meant that all theatres were closed and we had to postpone the trip.

The play, at London's Wyndham's Theatre, tells an epic saga of a Jewish family in Vienna in the first half of the twentieth century, taking in revolution, impoverishment, annexation by Nazi Germany and – for Austrian Jews – the Holocaust.

Some of the ES group who went along are pictured here with Development Director Emma Garrett.

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6 October 2021 - Ocean Dadventure take on Atlantic rowing challenge

October began with a bang – or more of a splash! – when we were visited by the crew of Ocean Dadventure and their boat 'Flo', which remained stationed on College Field for the day for staff and pupils to see and learn about.

The Eastbournian Society and Eastbourne College have sponsored this brave group of four dads embarking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Crossing in 2022, and we were treated to a whole day with them at the school.

The crew, made up of skipper Matt Garman and rowers Steve Woolley, James Reid and Neil Furminger, plan to row 3,000 miles in just 40 days from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua, rowing 24 hours a day in shifts.

Pupils took part in an inter-house rowing contest throughout the course of the day, the winners of which were awarded the prestigious Chaplin Oar. Nugent and Gonville were victorious for the girls and boys respectively and congratulations to those pupils who took part.

Later in the day, Head of co-curricular Anthony Lamb hosted a presentation and Q&A by the crew. No stone was left unturned as questions were answered about exactly what they will eat (freeze-dried packet food), the lavatory (a modest bucket) and wifi (none at all!). A truly inspiring group of 'ordinary' people embarking on something extraordinary, and raising funds for two charities – WOLO and Prostate Cancer UK.

Our thanks go out to the crew for their visit to the College, to Fergus Kennedy (Craig 1983-88) for his fantastic drone photography and Pete Fellows (Powell 1993-98 and member of staff) and Martin Lulham (Powell 1991-96), for the initial introduction and their continued support.

In the words of the Ocean Dadventure skipper, Matt Garman, 'The door you never open could lead you to the opportunity you've always been waiting for.'

Headmaster Tom Lawson said, 'Eastbourne College has a long history of success in rowing and we are proud to be sponsoring the Ocean Dadventure crew on their incredible journey. It was wonderful to see pupils’ enthusiasm to take part in our own rowing competition and to hear about the crew’s motivations behind the challenge. Determined, generous and incredibly hard-working – the team is a true inspiration to our pupils. We wish them the best of luck.'

We look forward to their next visit to the ES offices and to hear more about how their training is progressing.

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3 October 2021 - Evensong and harvest supper

The Eastbournian Society's first Evensong and harvest supper took place on the evening of Sunday 3 October, with guests including OEs, past and present staff, and parents of current pupils.

College Chaplain the Revd Daniel Merceron conducted the service in the Chapel where the Chamber Choir sang beautifully, led by Dan Jordan.

After walking through the cloisters on such a blustery and wet evening, we were welcomed in the Dining Hall with warmth and prosecco – not combined! - and then a splendid supper of fillet-of-beef followed by apple and rhubarb crumble.

Stephen Carr, farmer, Private Eye columnist and the owner of the Sussex Ox, provided us with an amusing and thoughtful after-dinner speech, regaling us of his time spent at the College.

Not always a happy student, he was prone to rebellion but it wasn’t until after leaving the College that his father suffered a severe heart attack and the success of the family’s 1000-acre farm suddenly rested upon his shoulders.

Stephen spoke movingly about how the College had not only ultimately prepared him amply for such a challenge, but also for what was to be his other career as agricultural columnist, a role at which he continues to succeed.

You can see further pictures from the evening by clicking here.

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1 October 2021 - Eastbournian Society October newsletter

Development Director Emma Garrett writes:

I started writing this newsletter on Saturday sitting on a ferry on the Thames heading to Greenwich for the Eastbournian Society annual London walk. It is a lovely way to travel and gave me a moment to reflect on the past month and the coming days as we career towards half term.

Once again we’ve packed a heck of a lot in since I last wrote, the highlight of which must surely be our Reunion Day on 11 September. We welcomed OEs from across all generations, and it was a joy to see them all! This short film gives you a taste of the day and we hope you’ll put next year’s date in the diary - Saturday 10 September.

 

The OE Stags were victorious in their match against the Sussex Barbarians, and we thank James Potter (Reeves 2012-14), their captain, for all his hard work. You can follow the progress of the OE Stags on Instagram and read about the day here.

Helen Medlycott, our recently appointed alumni and community engagement officer, is working really hard to recruit OE ambassadors from across the year groups. Please do let her know if this is something you’d like to get involved with and find out more by giving her a call on 01323 452316. Many thanks to those who have volunteered recently.

We are also recruiting regional ambassadors and would like to give a great big shout out to Mark Winstanley (Wargrave 1965-69) who has stepped up to be our Three Counties Ambassador for Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

If you are currently residing in this region, look out for a questionnaire in your inbox soon - Mark would love to hear from you and see you at the inaugural event. We have always been so grateful to our OE reps overseas and are excited to be recruiting a group of regional reps or ambassadors here in the UK to fulfil a similar role.

So far this month we have also welcomed parents of new pupils at a reception in the Warren Atrium, bought drinks for the Class of 2011 at a London hostelry, clapped our hands and stamped our feet to the incredible tunes of Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre and eaten cake at the Friends of St Andrew's Macmillan Coffee Morning.

I met with David Kidd-May (Gonville 1945-50) and thoroughly enjoyed his rendition of the Eastbourne College Rugby Song, not to mention his fine choice of coffee receptacle!

He was somewhat surprised to discover I was the daughter of a man who didn't employ him as an English teacher at Eastbourne, but nonetheless invited me into his ‘niche of nauseous nostalgia’ aka, downstairs loo, to view his photos of, amongst others, Donald Perrens as a tutor in Gonville House in the summer of 1950.

We've been busy planning the Memorial Service for Donald with his daughter Pip. This will take place on Wednesday 13 October in the Chapel, with tea afterwards in Big School. If you are unable to join us in person - although we do hope that by then there will be more fuel readily available - you can watch the service which will be livestreamed here. John Thornley will be sending out final instructions next week.

We will contact all attendees with final details, including information about Covid testing, and a list of all those who are coming. If you haven’t received the email with the final details by 8 October, then please contact us.

Also coming up, we have OA Day this Saturday with a memorial service for Eric Jones, and Sunday night's Harvest Supper and Evensong at the College. On Wednesday we are hosting a reception with an Atlantic rowing boat and crew who are visiting the school, and then on Thursday 7 October there is a much postponed trip to see Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt at Wyndham's Theatre at 2.30pm. If anyone is interested in joining us, then please contact John Thornley on jt@eastbourne-college.co.uk or 01323 452314. Tickets cost £49.50 each (reduced from £75.00) and you can read more about the play here: https://leopoldstadtplay.com.

On Wednesday 3 November at 2.30pm we have reserved 20 seats in the stalls for The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel at the Gielgud Theatre. The deadline for letting us know if you would like to come is 2.00pm on Friday 8 October; tickets cost £42.50 each (reduced from £85.00). You can read more about the play here, and you may be interested to know that Old Eastbournian Giles Taylor (Gonville 1981-86) is in the cast. We hope to meet Giles for a drink after the show. As ever, if you would like to book please contact our very own cultural impresario John Thornley.

So much to tell you about but so little space, from the whole school photograph at the beginning of September to a meeting with Tim Smit of Eden Project fame and the Coastal Schools Partnership at the Hydro last week. Tim is involved with the Queen's Canopy project here in Eastbourne and said, amongst other things, that the key to success is ducklings - they have always brought him good luck. I will be investigating this theory further...

We have a few vacancies at the College at the moment, please do follow this link if you would like to join the charity, or know of someone else who might be interested in any of these roles.

And so finally, on a more poignant note, on Wednesday I attended OE Paul Parsons' funeral in Poole - we send our sincere condolences to the family who all wore cornflowers at the service, a touching tribute to their multi-faceted Eastbourne College connections. Looking out over Poole Harbour I was struck not only by the incredible vista, the rather marvellous motor boats, the majestic kite surfers and the soaring seagulls, but also by some, yes you guessed it, ducklings. They had clearly lost their way but I took it as a sign of good luck for the future, as we celebrated a life well lived, and remembered the man who as a boy at Eastbourne College chose to make a kayak as his woodwork project, rather than a trinket box. At Eastbourne College we celebrate blue skies, blue health and like Paul, we think big, outside the box – although not perhaps taking it quite as literally as he did.

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