The upbeat mood for Speech Day 2013 on the last day of June was set as the audience entered the Trevor Abbott Sports Centre by the School’s Big Band under Bob Wilson: the youthful energy of the players and the ageless classics being played neatly paralleled the mixed ages of the large hall of listeners.
The Chairman of the Governing Body, Anthony Townsend, gave the traditional formal welcome and focused on four key events: the successful inspection; the formal announcement of the scheduled opening of Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi; the appointment of Cranleigh’s new Head, Martin Reader, for 2015; and the centenary of Cranleigh Preparatory School.
Head Guy Waller said that it was “an exciting time to be at Cranleigh”, with the prospect of a new Head making it an “invigorating” time, but also a time for reflection on the School’s values. He reminded the audience that in 1865 the School was named the Surrey County School and intended for local families. It was also a school with Christian values at its heart and Mr Waller reaffirmed that such Victorian values should continue to be the values for the future. He asserted that Cranleigh aims not just to have “satisfied customers” but to create a family. He sees this family as also including, for example, the grounds staff and catering staff and warmly thanked all the Bursarial staff for all they do for the School.
This neatly linked to Mr Waller’s words of farewell to Tim McConnell-Wood, who began his career at Cranleigh on the Bursarial side, as Enterprises Manager, before moving across to teach Economics and also to be Housemaster of East. Mr Waller described Tim as “multi-talented”, adding that he coached an unbeaten First XV, and rightly paying tribute to Sandi McConnell-Wood’s important contribution to the community, as well as Tim’s “love of Cranleigh” and his work as Assistant Deputy Head. The extraordinary respect and affection in which Tim is held by the pupils was clear as they led a standing ovation from all present.
The Head went on to inform us that over a hundred Common Room and pupils have now ventured ‘Beyond Cranleigh’ to our sister school in Zambia and that there is now a plan for a parents’ visit also. Mr Waller asserted that this had been the “most successful year in the School’s history” and listed its cultural and sporting successes, including the three national titles earned by the show-jumping, eventing and girls’ hockey teams, adding that the U14 cricket team recently became Surrey champions. He went on to thank the UVIth for their leadership and commitment and announced that the new members of Common Room for September 2014 would be the most talented intake he had recruited. To cap his point, he added that the School in September would have the largest number of pupils in its history.
After presenting over 80 prizes, the Guest of Honour and Cranleigh Foundation Director, Jim Turley, addressed the audience. Jim arrived at Cranleigh in 1980 (and was known then as either James or Ron) and rose to be House captain of 2 North, captain of three sports and also played rugby for England schoolboys. Jesting that at school he was merely the Third Murderer in ‘Macbeth’, he implied that the lessons he learned at Cranleigh took him not just to Durham University but also on the primrose path to be a kingpin at Deutsche Bank. He felt that, after coming to Cranleigh as the equivalent of one of today’s foundationers, the School taught him lessons of honesty and integrity and crucially knocked him down when he crossed the fine line from self-confidence into arrogance. He implied that even at the highest levels of international banking the team-building of the public school playing field was a lesson to be remembered (shades of ‘Vitaï Lampada’ by the Clifton College-educated Henry Newbolt).
The Senior Prefects Emily Robinson and Will Yeeles moved on to the theme of decisions and Emily described Cranleigh as “much more than just a school”, and a place which leaves a lasting imprint on each pupil with its sense of community. Will concurred that “the sense of belonging and community is second to none here at Cranleigh.” He added that the Devizes to Westminster race weekend was “representative of everything at Cranleigh” and gave examples of the special moments cherished by other members of the community, ending with a phrase from Deputy Head, Andrew Griffiths, who summarised the community as a place of “friendship and fellowship and happiness generated through other people’s successes”.
The official part of OC Day, overseen, as ever, by former and long-serving member of Common Room Mike Payne and his wife (and former Cranleigh parent) Veronica, began with a reception and Chapel Service during which the Chapel Choir under Marcus Pashley sang Parry’s sublime Milton setting, ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’. It was a special pleasure, also, to have the voluntary played on the Mander organ by UVIth leaver, Terri Yoon. This year there was special focus on leavers from 1953, 1963, 1983, 1993 and 2003 but the OCs present on this lovely summer’s day spanned, I imagine, around eighty years of intakes.
The rest of the day blended its two titles with something of interest for all ages, from bouncy castles to a Hog Roast. The pupils’ creative talents were displayed in the Art and Design Exhibitions; and the School’s exploratory and charitable enterprises were showcased by the 2014 China expedition and the ongoing Zambian link. Four sports were showcased in five games, including the 20/20 cricket between the OC team and the 1st XI.
For the UVIth leavers there followed the leavers’ Chapel service, drinks and ball, with the weather helping to make their last day at the School one that will remain as, to quote Wordsworth, ‘a visible scene on which the sun is shining’.