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Annual Reunion Dinner 2008

The 98th Annual Reunion Dinner was held at the Southampton Park Hotel on Saturday 8 November. Chairman of the Dinner was David Harrison (1948–1956), who was accompanied by his wife, Gloria.

Guests included The Sheriff of Southampton, Councillor Elizabeth Mizon, The Sheriff's Escort, Grayham Mizon, Lewis Derbyshire (Chairman of Governors, Taunton's College), Alice Wrighton (Principal, Taunton's College), Phillip Brightwell (Old Bournemouthians), John Mist (Old Edwardians) and Mike Conlan (Old Symondians).

Ron Allison, Master of Ceremonies, opened proceedings with a welcome to those present. He explained that the Chairman of the Dinner would "take wine" twice. The first time, perhaps predictably, was with "Fellow Golfers", which brought a fairly large number of diners to their feet. The second was with a single individual. The Toastmaster explained that it had been the Chairman's intention to invite two people to take wine with him. Unfortunately his old friend, Steve White, was unable to attend, so Ted Colenutt (President of the Association) rose to accept. He was greeted by spontaneous and prolonged applause.

Traditionally the first part of the evening ends with three toasts, taken in succession: The Loyal Toast, The Memory of Alderman Taunton and The Memory of The Fallen.

After the interval David Defty welcomed the guests and those from Staff and Students. He congratulated Lewis Derbyshire, the outgoing Chairman of Governors, on a most successful term of office.

Before proposing the health of The College, David mentioned the selection process used to appoint Alice Wrighton as the new Principal of the College. Turning to Alice he said, "Alice, we are delighted you accepted the post of Principal of Taunton's College and, as importantly, our invitation for you to join us this evening."

Alice responded by proposing the health of The Old Tauntonians' Association. In a witty, informative address we learned of her background, her days as a Grammarian and her vision for the future.

"It's a real joy and privilege to be here with you tonight," she said. " I first came to Southampton 40 years ago and entered the 4th form of the Grammar School for Girls. Now to be walking into those same buildings with a spring in my step and, most mornings anyway, a smile on my face, is just amazing."

She commented on how proud she was to be continuing the tradition of accessible, high quality, education in the City, for girls and, yes, for boys! We had a very good Ofsted inspection and were awarded Grade I (outstanding) for Equal Opportunities.

A 98% pass rate in A Level had been achieved this year, over 40 students had passed the International Baccalaureate and four students secured places at "Oxbridge". We are equally proud that our students had helped to build a school in Tanzania.

Alice said that she wanted there to be strong links with the Old Grammarians, as there are already with the OTA.

"We should one day surely all be having a party together to celebrate what was achieved in the past and what will be achieved in the future, carrying forward the values and philosophy of both schools."

"I have a very strong sense that, regardless of buildings, Taunton's today embodies the very best of the values and ethos of those two schools from which it was ultimately formed, promoting excellence, opportunity, social inclusion and, above all, raising aspiration. I want to make sure that, in developing the new college, I do justice to the tradition of those schools."

"As you move towards your 2nd Century of OT Dinners and start to plan the celebrations not only for that but for the 250th Anniversary of the founding of Taunton's, both in 2010, we hope those events will coincide with the opening of our new educational palace on Hill Lane. Working with you, we will continue to plan to build a brand new, irresistible 21st Century College."

"All in all, ladies and gentlemen, it feels like I have come home. Not to a cosy, settled and perfect world, but to one which presents challenges, where there is huge scope for improvement and development, and to a community committed from the top to a new future."

Introducing David Harrison, Ron congratulated him on the honour he had held during the past year, namely Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (see 2007 news item David Harrison to be R&A Captain). He had represented England at golf at schoolboy level, gained an Oxford Blue, captained Hampshire, served on numerous committees and also been influential for many years in world golf administration. Throughout that time he had served with honour and integrity and gained the total respect of all with whom he came into contact.

Only rarely in the history of the Dinner was the Chairmanship offered more than once. Tonight the honour gained by David Harrison and the way in which he had undertaken it was recognised as meriting a second invitation.

David first thanked Ron for his words and the warm welcome given him by those present. "It is my good fortune," he said, "that I have been travelling to and fro from this dinner for countless years now, with fellow OTs David Arnold and Ray Holt, always looking forward to renewing acquaintances and swapping memories. It is indeed a privilege and kind tribute that you are according me tonight in inviting me to be your chairman for a second time."

"It occurred to me while preparing these words that it was 60 years ago almost to the day that I joined Taunton's, where I was to spend eight marvellous years. What a debt we all owe to the School, its traditional ways and its dedicated staff."

"I wish to say how sorry we are that my good friend Steve White is unable to be present tonight. Steve was captain and manager of the OT's golf team for many years, a team that remained virtually undefeated in the "Triangular Matches" against the Old Edwardians and Old Symondians. This was a side that included county golfers the likes of David Arnold, Dave Pinchon, Johnny Rush, Martin Danby and Clive Cole."

David thanked the Dinner organisers and the OTA Executive for their work. "Isn't it remarkable that our Association, for the majority of us, still means so much even after so many years?"

The evening ended with the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne. It had been a most enjoyable one.

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