The Old Penwithians Centenary Dinner
In lieu of the annual reunion, and after a very successful programme of events to celebrate the centenary of the school throughout the year, the final event, the Old Penwithians Centenary Dinner was held at 7.30pm on 29th December 2010 at the Queens Hotel, Penzance. Mr. Frank Hosken, well known retired farmer and lay preacher from St Buryan was one of the eldest, if not the oldest, surviving old boys to attend, as a guest of honour. He was joined by 117 other distinguished guests and old boys who sat down to an excellent four course dinner. Guests included the Town Mayor, Councillor Jan Ruhrmund and her consort Frank Ruhrmund, himself one of the more senior old boys present; Maurice Hogg, a senior master at the Penzance/Humphry Davy Grammar School for 30 years from 1950 to its closure as a grammar school in 1980; Margaret Woolcock the President of the Girls Grammar School Old Girls Association; and from the present Humphry Davy School the Head Teacher Bill Marshall, Katherine Uren the Chair of Governors and Simeon Royle Assistant Head Teacher.
The dinner was the culmination of the year long celebrations which have been held at the school and in the town to mark the Centenary of the School. These have included open days at the school, a cricket match, musical concerts and workshops including the premiere performance in St John’s Hall of a piece of music by old boy Rikky Rooksby, entitled ‘Scenes from the Life of Humphry Davy’, a composition which was commissioned by the association.
In keeping with the centenary theme the menu reflected the four houses of the old school and in some cases a reminder of the meals enjoyed in the old school canteen; with Godolphin Red Pepper and Tomato Soup, St Aubyn Seafood au Gratin, Treneere Steak and Mushroom Pie and Trelawney Spotted Dick and Custard. Grace was said by Dr Arnold Derrington DFC, the second most senior old boy present.
In his introduction to the toast to the Old Penwithian Association, the secretary, Andrew Coak, recalled that the association had nearly collapsed after the closure of the grammar school in 1980 but was revived in the mid nineties after a series of year reunions and was now once again a thriving association, but it was also a finite one and one day would be no more. He hoped that there could still be the odd Old Penwithian around to celebrate the 150th Anniversary but such an old boy would then be in his 90’s as he would have joined the school 50 years on from 1930 when Frank Hosken entered the school. Frank Hosken gave the toast to the Old Boys of the School. He recalled his time at St Buryan school and compared the differences to his educational life when he entered what was then the Penzance County School. He remembered that he had escaped the cane from Mr Bradley the ‘Boss’ by keeping out of trouble. In his toast he particularly remembered those Old Penwithians no longer with us and those who had served and given their lives in the service of their country.
The toast to the old Grammar School was given by Maurice (Boris) Hogg who had stood in for Mr W R Smith, the last of the four grammar school headmasters, who unfortunately was unable to attend. Mr Hogg reminded everyone that the old school was made up of 4 components; the bricks and mortar, which had changed little in its 70 years; the staff, over 200 of them; the governors and of course the students themselves. He said that the old boys present gave a true indication of the achievements of the 6148 old boys who had passed through the school. He referred to the custom of announcing the day’s anniversary during school assembly, the research for which, he as Head of History had been responsible. He had been unable to find a suitable national occasion for the day of the 29th December. However, he had found a local anniversary, which was perhaps not the best example for such a celebratory occasion, the sinking of the HMS ‘Anson’ in 1807 off Low Bar when over 100 lives were lost.
The final toast given by Bill Marshall, the present Head of Humphry Davy School was to the “School and its Future”. He talked of the achievements during the more recent history of the school and looked forward to the next 100 years.
An unexpected vote of thanks for the organisation of the event by the secretary Andrew Coak was given by the well known local writer and journalist Douglas Williams who entered the school in 1942. He did also comment that he had been surprised that no mention had been made of Mrs Ruby Sibson one of the few lady teachers on the staff. Mention of her name raised a loud cheer from all present.
The evening finished with the traditional hearty singing of the School Song accompanied on the piano by Dr Nick Marston
During the evening a raffle and sale of Centenary mugs and T shirts were held in aid of the School War Memorial Appeal (featured in last weeks Cornishman) and over £320 was donated. This brings the current total up to over £1250 which is already half the total required.