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Annual Dinner - 2008

We include this account of the 2008 Annual Dinner - extracted from The Farnhamian - since Mike Mehta proposed the toast to the school. His speech can be read in full here.

After the 2007 celebrations at Farnham Castle, where the Old Farnhamians’ Association held their 75th Annual Dinner, this year they returned to Morley Road and the site of the former Farnham Grammar School. Almost one hundred Old Boys attended, coming from all over the country, to spend time with former classmates and have a meal and a drink recalling the ‘good old days’ at the school.

This year saw some changes in personnel, and in particular the introduction of Clive Beal as the toastmaster for the Association in place of Peter Clark, who has held the position for many years and is now well into his 80s. Peter has been an excellent toastmaster and all will miss his announcements, his jokes and his insistence that everything must run smoothly. Clive had a daunting task taking over the role and made an excellent job on this first occasion in charge.

There was also a new President in Brian Williams and he is one of the younger brigade who again will bring new life to the position. He took over from Cyril Trust in January and this was his first event as President.

The dinner was held in the restaurant at Farnham College with a first class meal provided by the college caterers, Catering Academy. As usual the evening began with all those present standing to honour those Old Boys who have died over the past twelve months. Familiar names like Roy Robins, Hugh Johns, Des O’Sullivan, Roger Diamond and Ivan Bowler were added to the list on this occasion.

After the meal Mike Mehta, the first speaker, was introduced to give a toast to the school, which he did with a mixture of nostalgia and humour. He cleverly recalled his days at the school by presenting this as if it were Alistair Darling delivering his budget. The script was refreshing and showed his affection for the old school, where he was one of the last pupils to attend as a grammar school boy.

Following the toast to the school came Tony Rayer, who offered the toast to the Association. Clearly a man of history, he spoke of the early days of Farnham Castle and its links with the old school. He felt that the Old Farnhamians' Association fulfilled its role by giving Old Boys the opportunity to relive their days at school. He finished with three jokes that he felt would amuse the members and sat down to great applause.

Brian Williams introduced himself as the new President of the Association and thanked Peter Clark for his sixteen years as toastmaster and Cyril Trust for his three years as the previous President and his continued help in many aspects of the Association. He then produced one of his old school reports from the 1960s, when he attended the school, and read the various comments by teachers regarding his progress on the different subjects. Clearly Mathematics was his strength and he has recently retired after a career as a mathematician. Much of the time was spent at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in the field of aerodynamics. Brian said that being elected President of the Association was a great honour and he looked forward to his three year term in that position.

The speeches were followed by the passing round of the loving cup, a tradition of the annual dinners, and the roll call given by local historian, John Chuter. As he read out the years the members waited for the oldest member in the room to stand and finally Ray Kirk stood when the year reached 1932. He was followed by several Old Boys in their 80s, a group who entered the school in 1948 and celebrating sixty years since they met, and finally Mike Mehta who entered the establishment as a grammar school and left it as a college. He was one of several attending who had experienced the changeover in 1973.

As is the tradition the evening ended with everyone standing to sing the School Song, followed by the National Anthem. The chorus of the former, enabled members to shout out their house names as loud as possible.

The time had come for the Old Boys to disperse and they left the school telling old pals that they would see them again at the 2009 dinner or maybe at the 2008 Southampton Luncheon in October.

The thread that keeps this organisation going strong after so many years is something special and a tribute to the foresight of former headmaster Frank A. Morgan, who began the modem Old Farnhamians' Association in 1925. Little did he realise that after all the years the bond between former pupils and their old school is as strong as ever.