Commemoration Day 2007
Written by Alex Bremer (Ry. 1979-83), Site Administrator
Sunday, 01 July 2007

Bringing back Commemoration Day to the OB calendar does seem a perfect way to celebrate and acknowledge the 125th Anniversary of the Association, and that the day was graced with terrific weather certainly saved the blushes of those of us who had campaigned so vigorously for this summer replacement to September’s OB Day.

However, I had arrived at the College expecting to see none of the scheduled cricket or netball, and wondering where the bar-b-cue lunch would be served once the seemingly inevitable rain arrived. As it turned out, my frankly ungracious presence in the chapel for Communion (El Presidente had caught me off-guard, and it was some time after our most recent telephone conversation that I fully realised that I’d committed yet again to turn out for chapel on an otherwise perfectly pleasant Sunday morning) had been rewarded with a beautiful sunny day.

I must come clean and admit to enjoying the service far more than my flippant tone would suggest; I do accept that everyone should probably attend a service at least once a year (much more can become a habit), and the College chapel is as beautiful a venue as any you’re likely to find for such a venture. Inevitably most of us gravitate to our old pews, and it was in the Ryle corner of the North wing that Gary Browne (L. 1979-83), John Aiken (A. 1976-81 - can’t hold a tune in a bucket) and I sat in reasonably quiet contemplation, considering which of our many sins were in most need of absolution.

Upon our release back into the sunshine, Father Robert greeted the sizable congregation that included Bill Blackshaw (Headmaster 1971-87) and his wife, Elizabeth, Tony Whitestone (staff, 1971-2006), Peter Rumney (H. 1937-39), Chris Apps (H/A. 1942-46), Tim Loadsman (L. 1951-57), Deputy Headmaster Simon Smith and Current Headmaster Richard Cairns.

Throughout the service I had had the distinct impression that our beloved leader, David Gold (S. 1986-91 - terrific singing voice), was close to striking me about the head with something weighty and holy, so I thought it best to scurry off to the Café de Paris for tea and biscuits. There I met up with Fiona Aiken (nee Heald, F. 1979-81) and Joyce Heater (College Archivist) - both busily pinning archive display items to the walls, and arranging Joyce’s new tome "Images of England - Brighton College" ready to be snapped up at £12.99 a piece.

It was terrific to see so many former masters join us; in addition to those already mentioned, Michael Brown (former Head of Classics, visiting from Australia), Stephen Hicks (on his first visit since he left), Richard and Isobel Wilmott (English Dept & Fenwick House), Paul Hunt (also on his first visit since he left) and Martin Jones (staff: 1977-98) and his wife, Jenny. All mingled easily with the sizable turnout of over 400 attendees that spanned the generations.

Suitable refreshed and sustained, I again made a fairly hasty exit to the Home Ground, camera-in-hand to snap away before the still expected rain took hold. The chapel service had clearly gone on longer than its advertised billing because it was lunchtime already! The College had laid on another terrific bar-b-cue spread on the south-east corner of the cricket field, and I was delighted to join John Prideaux (Deputy Housemaster of Ryle during my own internment in the early 80’s) in the lunch queue. John was on fine form as ever, and it was great to catch up on news (I was as surprised and saddened to learn of the demise of John’s fabulous old coach as I was when told, 2 years ago, that Simon Smith’s canine pal, Tom, was no longer with us… why do we expect things to change so little in the decades since we leave school?). John’s direct line to The Almighty has stood us all in good stead in the past as far as keeping the rain away, and today His timing was perfect; no sooner had he and I scoffed our hot-dogs and chicken legs than the heavens opened for a sharp, and mercifully brief, shower.

Accordingly, OBs, parents, pupils and staff made an undignified and damp break for the warm confines of the Café de Paris, by which time the worst of the rain had passed, and the sun was already breaking through again. It was very nearly time for the famed Graduation Ceremony, and so, having downed the coffee that made me need the loo for the next hour and a half, I followed David Gold and Simon Smith back into the now packed chapel (!).

I was very keen to find a good vantage point from which to take some pictures for this website, and Simon very kindly ushered me to his usual pew, where I sat looking slightly embarrassed amongst gowned College masters who must have wondered who I was and what I thought I was doing on the Deputy Headmaster’s throne. Nevertheless, it was a fine spot from which to snap away as, one-by-one, each sixth form leaver came forward to receive their certificate of graduation (and a new innovation: a pictorial yearbook) from Simon Smith, Richard Cairns, guest of honour Tony Whitestone and Assistant Head, Mark Beard - each one to the soundtrack of their respective Housemasters and Housemistresses’ personal and brief assessment, and the applause of all present. This is always tremendous fun, and I often wish we’d had a similar ceremony in my day; to end one’s schooldays in this way must leave a very special memory.

The day was almost over now; all that was left was to file out into the Front Quad for the leavers photographs on the lawns. The sun was well and truly shining now, and I can’t imagine there are many campuses that shine as brightly on a summer’s day, and the leavers took the opportunity to relax and bask in the warm sunshine on the manicured expanses of grass - and we very much hope it won’t be for the last time - before joining the OBA members for drinks in the Café de Paris.

To that end, I reiterate our President’s invitation to our newest members to return to us whenever they fancy, and to stay in touch with us and their many friends - either through this website, or the growing and busy FaceBook community.

Site Administrator

Alex's most passionate interests include Motor Racing (Alex raced for a short time in 1986 and 1987 in Formula Ford and Formula First before parking his shiny racing car in an inappropriately violent manner half way down the main straight at Brands Hatch), Boxing (which he is delighted never to have participated in), Music (Alex is hysterically tone-deaf - but loves attending live gigs), Movies, Manchester United & Skiing.

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