A successful Old Pangbournian (OP) Society Dinner in London raises more than £26,000 to help children, who would not otherwise have had the opportunity, start sailing and potentially get into the sailing industry through apprenticeships.
More than 130 OPs gathered at Butchers’ Hall in the City of London on March 26th for the annual OP Society Dinner by kind permission of the Master, Worshipful Company of Butchers.
The Chairman of the OP Society, Merrick Rayner (68-73), presided. A special Grace for the occasion was written and delivered by the OP Society President Nigel Hollebone (59-63). Toasts were proposed by Merrick Rayner, the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott CB (58-63), the Headmaster Thomas Garnier and the Guest of Honour Iain Percy OBE.
The most senior OP present was R.S. Olden (42-46) who had journeyed from Salisbury. The youngest included Charlie Sykes (06-12), currently waiting to join the Army, and several dozen others in their early and mid-twenties. The joint Chiefs of the College, Izzy Metcalf and Jamie Miller, attended together with Izzy’s OP father John Metcalf.
Others at the top table included Robin Paterson (68-73), Richard Devitt (53-58) and Jeffrey Evans (61-66). Paterson, in conjunction with the travel company ITC, had given generous support to the dinner to allow more young OPs to attend.
Honorary OPs Crispin Read-Wilson and Gerry Pike turned out too. It was announced that Pike, who retires this summer as Second Master after nearly 30 years teaching at the College, will be Guest of Honour at the next OP Society Dinner. This will be held at the College on Friday 17th April, 2015.
The Headmaster began the speeches by describing the tremendous weekend he had enjoyed with 60 OPs in Melbourne in October 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Devitt & Moore vessel in Australia. His theme on that occasion, he said, had been how the College had adapted since 1917 without losing sight of its essential character and values. Today, he reported, “things are going well” as underlined by a very positive report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate which visited the College in March.
In his speech Merrick Rayner thanked Thomas Garnier for his constant support of the OP Society and other OPs who had made the evening possible including the Clerk to the Butchers’ Company, Tony Morrow (58-62). He then introduced the Guest of Honour, the Olympic gold medal winning sailor Iain Percy, who had flown in from San Francisco that day to take part in the evening.
Percy began by saying what an honour it was for him to be present and how much he wished his friend and sailing partner Bart Simpson (90-95) could have been there too. He described Simpson as “an incredible guy” and said that he wished on this occasion to recall the happy events they had been involved in together rather than dwell on the tragedy of his death. Bart was, he said, “a giving person, a team player (who) returned so much to other people.”
In an addendum from Sir Ben Ainslie read out by Robin Paterson, Ainslie praised Percy for the dignity he has shown since Simpson’s death. He described Bart as “passionate, approachable, amusing, with a heart the size of a racehorse.”
An auction to raise funds for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation followed conducted by the well-known auctioneer Nick Bonham. Nine lots went under the hammer or were bid for in a draw. Prizes included a day’s training with Ben Ainslie, four days all expenses paid at Petit St. Vincent in The Grenadines, West Indies, three nights at Cary Arms in Devon and a package for two to attend the British motor racing Grand Prix at Silverstone this summer. An enormously successful and happy evening then culminated in drinks at the bar and thanks all round.