Vice-Presidents’ Luncheon 2006
Written by Martin D. J. Buss (D. 1954-58)
Friday, 14 July 2006

As the old saying goes: "Yesterday, I couldn’t spell Vice President! Today I is one"! Well you might ask: "How did this happen"?

As it turned out, I was lucky to be invited by David Gold (S. 1986-1991) to the annual luncheon of the Vice Presidents of the OBA. I didn’t even know that such an august group existed, let alone that it held significant gastronomic events, this year in the venerable Army and Navy Club, founded in 1837, and now located on Pall Mall in London. Peter Miller (C. 1945-1949) had the requisite membership and was kind enough to host the event. Almost some 20 Old Brightonians sat down to lunch, only a few were bona fide Vice Presidents of the OBA. Most came, as I did, as professional lunch eaters! What a splendid occasion it proved to be. A complete list of attendees is at the end of this piece.

The event started with a cash bar providing the perfect opportunity to renew old acquaintances and establish new ones. Remarkably, no less than eight of my contempories were there, including Harry Bourne and Graham Appleton from Durnford House, neither of whom had I seen in decades. This must have been true for others, too.

Peter Miller had arranged for the lunch to be held in a large grand room lined wall to wall and floor to ceiling with every conceivable book on military history, sometimes in multiple copies, so one could never be in any doubt as to where one was! However, there the military overtones ended with the food being a far cry from iron rations and worthy of the highest accolades. Classic smoked salmon with capers opened the proceedings, followed by tender roast loin of lamb and then, for the bolder brethren less concerned by their waist lines, a truly decadent cheese cake with coffee and petit fours to round out (note pun, please) the embonpoints still further. All this was washed down with the appropriate claret from the Club cellars. The service was excellent and we were all most grateful to Peter for organizing the luncheon.

Peter Miller opened the after lunch proceedings with a minute’s silence in memory of the recently deceased Peter Gough, the Housemaster of School House.

Simon Smith, the Deputy Head Master, standing in for Richard Cairns the HM, followed with some remarks on the significant developments at the College. He started with a few statistics, a memorable data point being that Richard Cairns had only recently celebrated his 40th birthday. Striking, too, was the size of the College in comparison to what it was when many of the attendees were there, especially those from my era and earlier. Brighton College now has 690 pupils in 11 houses, figures about double those I could remember. Even so, the College is a little smaller than the 720 pupils when Anthony Seldon left. Simon explained this was a deliberate step to move the numbers down in due course to 680, a population better aligned with the physical realities of the infrastructure of the College. There had also been changes in the staff with 12 new members replacing a roughly similar number who had moved on.

Simon continued by saying that Richard Cairns has broadened the language curriculum. There are now 120 pupils studying Mandarin, a development designed to better equip today’s generation to deal with global realities. This brought back memories of 1958, my last year at Durnford. That year, "Jock" Henderson my Housemaster, who also taught languages, insisted that a group of us learn Russian, Russia then being the focus of everyone’s attention. Unlike the Chinese curriculum today, however, we all had to learn Russian in special sessions run in his study in our free time when I would otherwise have been on the squash court. Today’s boys and girls have it easy, wouldn’t you say?

Nearly 50 years on, though, the College maintains its focus on Russia. All of us were fascinated by Simon’s comments on the steps now in hand for Brighton College to help set up, and then operate a similar college in Russia. Lord Robert Skidelsky (C. 1953-58) has been assisting in this ambitious project and Simon reported that there had already been preliminary discussions, visits made and so on. The next imminent step was for a member of staff to relocate to the Moscow area for a period of six months to flesh out the whole program. This is still early days and I am sure we will all watch progress with considerable interest.

Another key development that Simon spoke to was the appointment of David Gold as Development Director for The College. This post has been vacant since Richard Brightwell (A. 1970-75) held it. Richard was at the lunch so he and David were frequently seen with their heads together, drinks in hand!

Simon ended his comments on the very positive development with the plans for a new Art School. Plans will now become reality! The new Art School will now be built in the area of the Woolton quadrangle and will be erected in his memory.

With the end of the formal session, Old Boys lingered for a while in small groups until we were all obliged to leave so that the Army and Navy Club could get on with its next event. A number stepped out into the ferocious heat of a 30-degree day hell bent on making it to the nearest watering hole before they cooked!

All in all a most enjoyable lunch and thanks again, Peter, for opening up the Army and Navy Club to us all. I only hope the OBA pays the bill so that we can return! I would strongly recommend that all members become temporary Vice Presidents of the OBA, a group well focused on excellent wining and dining.

OB Attendees:
Mr. Simon Smith (Deputy Head Master)
Graham Appleton (D. 1953-57)
Harry Bourne (D. 1954-58)
Peter Bowles (A. 1945-50)
Martin Buss (D. 1954-58)
Alex Bremer (R.1979-83)
Richard Brightwell (A. 1970-75)
Stephen Cockburn (S. 1953-58)
John Crosthwaite (H. 1946-49)
David Gold (S. 1986-91)
Jane Haviland (F. 1979-81)
Tim Loadsman (L 1951-57)
Rod Langridge (A. 1956-61)
Anthony Merrifield (H. 1953-58)
Peter Miller (C. 1945-49)
Leonard Rea (H/C. 1945-51)
Peter Rumney (H. 1937-39)
Andrew Symonds (A. 1955-59).

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