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Annual Dinner - 2005

We include this account of the 2005 Annual Dinner - extracted from The Farnhamian - since John Clarke proposed the toast to the Association. His speech can be read in full here.

On Saturday 19th March over one hundred former pupils of Farnham Grammar School gathered at what is now Farnham College in Morley Road for the 73rd Annual Dinner of the Old Farnhamians' Association. This was a celebration mixed with some sadness as the guests stood to remember those Old Boys who had died in the previous twelve months, with the list including former headmaster, George Baxter, and former school secretary and honorary member, Sylvia Morgan. Cyril Trust, the new President, announced that this dinner was to be dedicated to George Baxter, who was absent from the event for the first time in fifty years.

After an excellent meal served by the College caterers the toast to the School was given by John Chuter, former teacher, local historian and a life long resident of Frensham. John was at the school from 1934 until 1941 and told of some of the problems of being educated during wartime. He had fond memories of former headmaster Frank Morgan and offered some anecdotes on his days at the school, that he and all those present clearly hold in respect. He recalled that when the headmistress of the Girls’ Grammar school complained about the boys gathering outside her school to meet her young ladies, Frank Morgan instructed that his boys should insure that in future they refrain from wearing their school caps and thus avoid identification. John recalled happy school days!

The toast to the Association was given by John Clarke, one of the last Old Boys to attend the grammar school before it became a sixth form college. He is now head librarian at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and an author of several books about Brookwood Cemetery and its rail link to London. John had the guests laughing when he recalled some of the teachers at the school in the early 1970s. These strange people were invariably language teachers and the presence of ‘Big Bertha’, ‘The Wild Man of Borneo’ and a master carrying a handbag, resulted in John failing to achieve much success in French or German.

John finished by saying that he was a new member of the General Committee for the Association and said that it was up to the younger members to keep the Association going well into the future. He asked for those present to try to persuade old classmates to join and enjoy evenings such as this.

Cyril Trust, the new President, gave the reply to the toasts and began by welcoming former teachers Hugh Batchelor, Stanley Owen and the Rev. John Innes as well as David Slater, who lives in America and fitted a holiday around the dinner. Cyril felt that for an Association of a school that had closed well over thirty years ago it was getting stronger each year. 2004 had seen a successful Annual Dinner, Southampton Luncheon. Farnham Lecture (by Sir Ray Tindle) and a tribute garden party to celebrate the award of the MBE to George Baxter. The College Awards Scheme was also successful with 18 Old Boys sponsoring prizes for the achievements of the current pupils at the college. He hoped that more members would join this scheme and help to keep the links between the Old Boys and Farnham College as strong as they are today.

He said that the programme for the future looked even busier, with the Annual Dinner, Southampton Luncheon and Farnham Lecture (this year by Dr Geoff Jenkins who is an expert on Global Warming). In addition on 16th July there will be a Garden Party at the college to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Old Farnhamians' Association and it was hoped that over 175 people, members with partners, will attend for a lunchtime get together. The Association, as we know it, was begun on 28th March 1925 and this milestone should be celebrated and guests were asked to indicate whether they would be able to attend or not as it was expected that the number would easily be reached. Farnham Castle has been booked to hold the 75th Annual Dinner in 2007 and it was planned to hold an event similar to the Millennium Dinner held at the same historic venue.

The President remembered Sylvia Morgan, who had served the Grammar School, the College and the town of Farnham for many years and told the guests that among the memorabilia left by her were old school magazines from the First World War that had been lost for years. The Association now has a copy of every magazine since 1912 giving a complete history of school activities through the years. Her passing was the end of the Morgan dynasty at the school.

The President then asked the members to support his request for the Association to commission a bronze statue of George Baxter in memory of a man, who was another excellent headmaster as well as being dubbed ‘The Father of Farnham. Such a man should have some permanent memorial in the town and it would be right and proper if this was sponsored by the Association.

The dinner finished with the roll call (this year given by Allan Ryall), passing the Loving Cup and the singing of the School Song and National Anthem and once again these Old Boys had enjoyed an evening of nostalgia with their former classmates. In this Association, Farnham possesses one of the strongest Old Boys’ network in the country.