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Annual Reunion Dinner 2004

The 94th Annual Reunion Dinner took place on Saturday 13 November 2004 at Taunton's College, Hill Lane, Southampton. This event attracted 110 Tauntonians.

Chairman of the Dinner was John Martin (1944–1950). John's career started with the Public Health Laboratory Service and then the Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton Down. He later moved into industry, working in the marketing department of Pfizer Ltd and May & Baker.

John has served on Old Tauntonian committees since 1957, when he joined the Dinner Committee. His clear and articulate voice led to his becoming MC of the dinner in 1987, and he has continued in that capacity almost every year since. He joined the Executive Council of the Association in 1988 and has been its Chairman (and also Chairman of the Old Tauntonians' Association) since 2001, having been elected to that post in one of his few absences from attendance!

Among those with John on the top table were his wife Hazel, Jenny Fitton (President of the OTA and Principal of the College), representatives of Southampton City Council, the Old Edwardians, the Old Bournemouthians, and television personalities Ron Allison and Ian Carnaby. Ron acted as MC, while Ian proposed the toast to The College and welcomed the guests.

Student Union Executive with Student Relations Manager, Kerry Pringle, third from left
Student Union Executive with Student Relations Manager, Kerry Pringle, third from left

During 2004 the Executive Council took positive action to meet and foster a new relationship between the College and the OTA. As a direct result, it was very pleasing to welcome the whole of the Student Union Executive to the Dinner, the first time for many years that such a number of students have been in attendance.

During the meal the Chairman "took wine" with:

  • Past and present members of the Dinner Committee and Executive Council
  • Those at Taunton's prior to evacuation in 1939
  • All past and present students and staff at Taunton's in all its forms
  • Those at Taunton's during the Headship of F J Hemmings

As always, the Chairman proposed The Loyal Toast, The Memory of the founder Alderman Taunton and The Memory of the Fallen. The latter toast is emotional and moving. Hall lights are dimmed and the stained glass Memorial Window illuminated. The Chairman recites the first verse of Binyon's famous poem "For the Fallen", after which there is a two-minute silence followed by the bugle sounding of Last Post. It never fails to bring a lump to the throat, as most people there lost a relative, a friend or a neighbour in recent conflicts.

After the interval, Ron Allison, who was excellent throughout, introduced the speakers. Ian Carnaby warmly welcomed the guests, interspersing his address with some of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of anecdotes on horse racing and broadcasting, and formally proposing the health of Taunton's College.

Jenny Fitton and John Martin on the top table
Jenny Fitton and John Martin on the top table

Jenny Fitton used her response to give a "state of the nation" report on Taunton's College. She has made a staggering success of her period at Taunton's and has made it one of the outstanding colleges of its kind in the country. Each year we hear of further triumphs – academic, musical and sporting – achieved on a per capita resource of some £400 less per student than is received by most Hampshire Sixth Form Colleges.

John Martin gave a scintillating speech. His charismatic personality, his articulacy, his timing and his delivery combined to hold and entertain his audience throughout a speech full of humour, nostalgia and interest. (If you want more detail of John's speech, look out for the report in the April 2005 issue of News & Views)

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