21st Old Boys Dinner
19th November 2016
A damp and autumnal evening greeted the arrivals at St Ambrose College at this eagerly anticipated event. It seemed like no time at all since we had last dressed up in style for this special occasion.
It certainly wasn’t very long for George Tsiantar, who had dressed for the 2016 dinner exactly one week early, because of a personal scheduling oversight. And amazingly, George wasn’t alone – spare a thought for Peter Fitzpatrick who did exactly the same thing and walked to the school, only to find the gates locked – two weeks early!
Once assembled, MC Mr Peter Riley called us to our tables, where Father Martin Onohua of Holy Angels Church led us in a short silence and prayer in memory of those who old boys who have died, particularly Matthew Charnock, Sean Ferguson and Simon Wilkinson, who all passed away this year at a young age.
Peter Riley outlined the format of the evening. Chris Tofalos, ably assisted by Pamela was to take photographs throughout the evening and these could be purchased on the night for the very reasonable price of £5. A CERN High energy physics tie, kindly provided by old boy Chris Bee (at CERN in Switzerland) was presented by Peter Carpenter to the St Ambrose Principal, Mr James Keulemans…to be handed on to Mr Frank Azzopardi at a later stage! Mr Keulemans spoke warmly of his work at the school and of SAOBA. After the traditional Heads and Tails game (won by Sheila Sykes) we settled down for dinner. Francs’ outside catering team had prepared us a delicious dinner. Freshly baked bread, Chicken Liver Parfait with Red Onion Chutney and salad, Pieces de Boeuf in Burgundy Wine Sauce with market vegetables and parsnip chips, and Tarte Au Citron, Lemon and Lime tart with Blackcurrent sorbet. And finally Coffee or Tea and mints. The bar was well stocked with draught Bollington’s bitter, Perroni lager, red and white wine, and especially for those ladies present Prosecco! Table service for drinks was kindly provided by the St Ambrose 2017 Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore Rugby Tour Team.
After dinner, Peter Riley invited Shelley (this year in the bronze sparkly dress) to assist him with the raffle; the Henri Lloyd coat (kindly provided by the Strzelecki brothers) was won by Pamela Norton, the Ringway 4-ball Golf Prize (kindly provided by Ringway Club Captain Peter Fitzpatrick) was won by the ever-popular Dave Hallas (ironically, already a member at Ringway!) but he wasted no time in picking the rest of his team – of Noel Wright, Mark Gallimore and Peter Riley. The San Carlos Voucher (kindly donated by Martin Corrigan) was won by Katy Berry, and the Wine prize to Adrian Lewis. Peter took the opportunity to have his photograph taken with all of the lady winners but did not seem too concerned when Mr Hallas declined the opportunity to join them.
The Old Boys Dinner is always a night of “firsts” and such was the high quality standard of Peter Riley’s attempt at keeping us entertained we had one notable attendee (who shall remain nameless) fall fast asleep at his table – another significant debut milestone in the history of OB’s dinners.
Peter Riley, clearly distressed by this monumental moment, subsequently handed the microphone over to Adam Mitcheson and Paul Haworth, who kindly introduced our guest of honour, Mr Frank Azzopardi. Frank Azzopardi is a hugely popular and respected teacher from the St Ambrose Physics department, who after completing 31 years’ service, had finally retired at the end of the last summer term. Outside St Ambrose, Mr Azzopardi remains widely known in his field for co-writing the highly rated textbook, “Accessible Physics for A-level”(1995, F Azzopardi and B Stewart, still available on Amazon in paperback today – at the rather exaggerated price of £999.99!). He has become legendary within the school for his direct and honest approach with students, his well-developed sense of humour, and his much-loved true story of how he once wrestled with an Octopus, somewhere off the coast of Gibraltar. Mr Azzopardi spoke from the heart, and as he himself said, although the Octopus is sadly no longer with us, the legend lives on. We wish him a long, healthy and very happy retirement.
Charities supported this year – SAOBA are supporting old boy Matt Smythe (St Ambrose year of 2001) on his sponsored cycle to Biarritz and back, with £200 for Prostate Cancer UK and MacMillan Nurse charities. This is in memory of his father, old boy Mike Smythe who was a well-known rugby player (formerly of Sale, Broughton Park and Biarritz). Matt’s cycle route will take in all of his father’s former rugby grounds in the UK and France (Broughton Park, Sale, Richmond and Poitiers, France!). SAOBA are also supporting the St Ambrose 2017 rugby tour to Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, with a £500 contribution to the Tour Fund and prospective tourists Ollie and Tom gave a brief interview explaining what they hoped to achieve from their 23 night tour of duty.
Our Chairman Adam Mitcheson gave thanks to the school, the caterers, the tour volunteers and the Committee. Before formally closing the evening, Adam expressed how extraordinary the SAOBA has become as a network with highly successful Artists, Doctors, Entrepreneurs, Scientists, Clergy, Lawyers and many more counted amongst them, with many in the room that night. He described how invaluable this has been to himself, but also how important it is for the new and future generations of Old Boys as he welcomed people to come forward to join the committee as we look to the future of the organisation. All that then remained was to take advantage of Franc’s bar until carriages arrived to take some on to the happy road to Hale, or the long road home.