25 January 2003

Back at its old home at the RAF Club in Piccadilly on one of the warmest January nights on record, the OSA’s 95th annual reunion dinner attracted a splendid total of 81 members and guests, only slightly down on last year. Bob Barnes was making his first appearance as Headmaster, only the eighty Shebbear’s history. But for Bill Lyddon, a pupil from 1939-41, this was his 50th consecutive reunion.

Each was roundly applauded.

These were not the only significant happenings. The news that the first marriage between Old Shebbearians was imminent brought a stunned silence – followed by an audible sigh of relief that they were, in fact, boy and girl. The announcement that the OSA is to have a permanent, Devon-based vice-president was warmly welcomed. Michael Down, who has played a prominent part in the Friends of Shebbear College, will fulfil that role and seek to get more younger members involved in the association.

And for the first time one of the school’s valued Hong Kong contingent, Ms Micky Kong, was awarded the OSA Memorial Prize. She exceeded expectations in her A-levels to gain a place at Hull University. Such a pity that the college’s only nationally recognised sportsman, jockey Steve Drowne, could not attend. He was deservedly holidaying in America after notching up his 100th winner in a season on the flat. Members and guests stood in silence as the names of Old Boys who had died during the year were read out.

Then to the business of the night, beginning with presentations of Dartington glass to two former members of staff, Brian Pocock and Jim Scott, who retired after long service in 2001.

Proposing the toast to the school, President Geoff Watts outlined his busy year of office, highlighting the Summer Ball, the Leavers’ Service, Speech Day, the reception in Bideford to mark Paul Mason’s retirement, Leslie Clarke’s retirement party in November and the Holly Ball in December. The year had brought back “bitter sweet memories” of his time as a boy at Shebbear to which he gone as a “bucky new snip” in 1952. He said the school remained a magnet, drawing its old pupils back, Bucky new snip! How the memories flooded back – but would he recall the three great end-of-term Sundays, odd sock, buttonhole and kick-the-door? Alas, not this time.

Replying, Bob Barnes said he stood before the gathering both sad and proud. Sad that he had to report the deaths of Gordon Angrave, who had done so much to restore the beauty of the college grounds, and John Blainey, Head of Information Technology, who had died in his sleep on January 1. Proud that 13 years after arriving as head of Physical Education and Games, “hard work had brought him the headship of Shebbear College”. The year had seen a a number of retirements – Paul Mason after 30s years of working tirelessly and with total dedication, Marianne Ogbourne, who had been on the domestic staff for 20 years, and Pauline Cann of the catering staff who must have prepared a million meals and cooked five million potatoes. And, of course, there was Leslie Clarke, who in his five years as headmaster had totally transformed Shebbear’s fortunes. “His doggedness and his endeavours did not make him popular, but he came at a time when he was needed.”

The school was in very good heart and going forward. The aim was to make Shebbear the very best of small schools and it continue to instil in its pupils the importance of honesty, self-reliance and good manners. Plans for the future included expansion of the Junior School, thereby adding to a foundation that would ensure the college’s existence for another 160 years and beyond.

He congratulated Oliver Wickett on being names Devon Young Cricketer of the Year and also thanked the Friends of Shebbear College for raising £4,000 for school funds.

The toast to the OSA was proposed for the first time in a “duet” by Head Girl Penny Rowe and Head Boy Oliver Wickett. They claimed that the head had been so concerned about what they might say that he had “momentarily gone in denial”. It was, apparently, Ms Rowe who had most to say, for your reporter has only two words written in his notebook – netball and needlework. Replying Martin Butler said he had been warned that he would be shot if he spoke for more than three minutes. Six minutes later he was still telling how he had left with one O-level in 1980 but was now the deputy head master of a school in Essex.

The Shebbear experience, which provided more than an education, had given him the will to achieve.

With that Ted Lott proposed David Shorney, son of the later and much-loved master Dick Shorney, as President for 2003. David was truly a Shebbear boy, having started his education at the village school in 1936 and who had followed the Old Shebbearians tradition of giving selflessly to others.

His deputy and President for 2004 will be Lt.Col. Michael Johns. Proposer Bill Oke said he had had not only a distinguished military career but was someone who gave valuable service to the community.