The re-coupling of the annual Speech Day, held this year on Sunday June 29th, with OC Day seemed especially welcome as this was the final one for Head Guy Waller, retiring after 17 years in office. All five speakers paid tribute to Mr Waller, including the Chairman of the Governing Body, Anthony Townsend, who referred to his “extremely distinguished service” and to the raised standards of academic and sporting excellence, as well as the £35 million pound building programme of his Headship. Mr Townsend also announced the opening of Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi this September.
The Guest of Honour was Major General Charles Vyvyan, CB, CBE, who was a Governor of Cranleigh School from 2000-2010. The Major General was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets and his last military appointment was Defence Attaché in the British Embassy in Washington DC, and Head of the British Defence Staff throughout the US. He is now a recognised authority on defence strategy and a senior advisor to governments and commercial organizations. In his pithy address, before presenting 84 prizes to the cream of the School’s pupils, Major General Vyvyan focused on the themes of service, (quoting the Sandhurst motto, ‘serve to lead’); people (“people first, technology second”); and values, urging the pupils to live up to the values of the society they live in. He added that all these virtues were embodied in the retiring Head.
The Senior Prefects, Cathy Hobbs and Harvey Jackson gave the traditional response to the Guest of Honour, focusing on the theme of change, and movingly referred to Tildy Curan, who should have left the School with their year group, but who, sadly, died in 2010. The clear and confident Cathy was admirably matched by the witty and urbane Harvey, who entertained a packed Trevor Abbot Sports Centre with an extended analogy between the UCAS system and marriage proposals, and an undisguised dig at the Head of a neighbouring school, his own father! Cathy Hobbs added a sincere tribute to Hilli Waller, later described by Guy Waller himself as the ‘rock’ of the family.
In his own detailed speech, the Head began with a reminder that the School was founded as the Surrey County School “with Christian values at its heart”. Taking impetus from Trollope’s use of Psalm 16 (“My lines have fallen in very pleasant places”) he praised the beauty of the School’s setting in the Surrey Hills and thanked those at the School who have visited, and will again soon visit, Cranleigh’s partner school in Kawama, Zambia. The Head went on to talk of the School’s long-standing commitment to the creative and performing arts as well as an ethos of sport for all. One of three recent sporting highlights mentioned was the boys’ cricket U15 XI winning the South Championship of the Lord’s Taverners’ Trophy. Guy Waller went on to assert that the School’s Emms Centre (opened by Chris Patten in 2009) was now the heart of the School and thanked two of his predecessors, who were present: David Emms himself and Marc van Hasselt, both Second World War veterans.
The Head thanked the Governing Body and the two Chairmen he worked with: Dudley Couper (also present) and Anthony Townsend. He told the listeners he would miss the whole range of bursarial staff who serve the School under Paul Dunn and Patrick Roberts. From the Common Room he singled out Deputy Head Andrew Griffiths to whom he owed, he said, a personal debt of gratitude. He praised the leaving UVIth year for their leadership. And, finally, he explained that Cranleigh School “reflects the values of the families who entrust their children to us.” This led to an emotional tribute to his own family who all joined him on stage.
After the speeches, parents, pupils and former pupils enjoyed a range of sports matches and exhibitions, including a farewell Art Exhibition by Peter McNiven, one of three teachers also retiring from the School this year (the others being Robert Clarke and Richard Allon-Smith) with nearly one hundred years’ service between them. It was a day for the current Cranleigh family to celebrate the privileges of a Cranleigh education with those from many generations who enjoyed its privileges under other Headmasters. Old friendships were rekindled after thirty years (in my case) or even more, and, no doubt, cups of kindness (and other libations) were taken for auld lang syne.
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