22nd Old Boys Dinner
11th November 2017
Before the dinner, a tour of the school premises tour had been organised for any old boys interested, and a small group of us was kindly guided around the buildings by Heidi, the Headmaster’s PA, before the dinner. During the tour we realised how much the world of education had changed in the years since we left St Ambrose. The school building with its ground breaking and unique design had now been in operation for six full years. Despite years of regular use by hundreds of boys, the school premises appeared to be as clean, tidy and well maintained as the day they were built. Although as newcomers we found the orbital corridors a little disorienting, the flow of students and lessons between the various labs and teaching areas was apparently going smoothly. Assemblies were organised for each of the four school houses taking turns each day, with the sixth formers organising and delivering the presentation to the rest of their house, including the lower school members of their house. Computers were very much in evidence in every area of the school. The specialised teaching areas such as material science (which still smelled like a woodwork room!), physics, chemistry, art and drama were modern and well organised. The school sports facilities were particularly strong with a large and well equipped gym, 25m six lane swimming pool and a full size basketball court. Shirts of old boys who have achieved recognition for excellence in the world of sport were prominently on display. The impression was that these are university like facilities. We were left with a strong sense of how fortunate the current pupils of St Ambrose College are, and no doubt we will see this school realise the maximum of their potential. These facilities are second to none.
Meanwhile, a short walk away, the Bulls Head was filling up with lounge-suited men of a certain age, many wearing the distinctively patterned red, blue and yellow Peter Saville tie representing our Old Boys’ Association.
The affable atmosphere migrated from the Bull to the school as the large crowd gradually relocated to St Ambrose at the appointed time of 7pm for our 22nd dinner (a few, notably Matt Dempsey and Alan Hough were fashionably a little late). Table plans were perused and approved – and yes, the Committee had been able to satisfy Any Ainsworth’s request to be on Andy Ainsworth’s table! The Inflatable Bar Co (actually a reassuringly wooden one on this occasion!) was the initial focus, providing draught Jennings beer – a great improvement on last year. We were called to our tables by the legendary Peter Riley, who, as he reminded us, was performing as our Master of Ceremonies for his 18th time – 2019 will be his 20th and final year in the role and he will finally get to eat his dinner! After that, how will we manage without him?? Peter organised the customary game of Heads and Tails, which was won by Mr Howarth in a very close final with Noel Wright, a former Deputy Head Boy.
Grace before meals was said by Tony Harper at very short notice (the task having been politely declined by Connor Moylan), and we moved on to the formal meal, starting with Fresh Home-made Tomato Soup with a home-baked fresh roll and butter. Followed by a Slow Braised Lamb Shank with creamy mashed potato, roasted carrots, and mint and redcurrant sauce. Finally, a Chocolate Tart with raspberries and a caramel drizzle. Then of course Freshly Brewed Tea, Coffee and Mints. Throughout our drinks orders were taken by the school rugby squad, who SAOBA will support with their forthcoming tour of South America.
After dinner we were addressed by SAOBA Chair Mr Adam Mitcheson, who described the strengths of the old boys as a network. Adam was followed by the Headmaster Mr James Keulemans, who was keen to see our organisation grow and develop further. Mr Keulemans invited us to record the names of recently deceased old boys in the school Book of Remembrance for 2017, which provides for a daily mass to be said throughout November for those named in the book. Old Boy Jeremy Wilde, who passed away this year at the age of just 55, is among those being remembered in this way.
Adam Mitcheson presented a £250 Charity cheque to Kidscan, a local Children’s Cancer Charity. The cheque was accepted on their behalf by Connor Moylan, who gave a heartfelt description of their work. Kidscan is locally based at Salford University, and funds original research into the causes of, and potential treatment for, Children’s cancers.
Raffle prizes were kindly drawn by Shelley (in the sparkly dress bought specially for the occasion once again) and were won by our Treasurer Simon Harrop (Henri Lloyd Coat), Tim Kearns (SAOBA tie) and several by people from Shelley’s own table! Tim, who already had a tie, very sportingly offered this back for auction and so the tie was eventually won by Connor Moylan for a very fitting auction price of £15. Bernard Stafford was initially shocked, but delighted to see Connor Moylan win the tie, as this resolved a discrepancy in his stock take earlier in the day (Stock count 64, Sold 12, 51 left?) so in the end everybody was happy. The ever popular Mr Frank Coan won the signed Zinzan Brooke rugby ball.
We were treated to an impromptu magic show from Bill Dixon, or “Bill the Bad Magician” which only required audience participation with the live soundtrack! This worked brilliantly, particularly once Bill had managed to move scores of tea and coffee cups off his special magic table! Bill had apparently travelled to Las Vegas in search of fame and fortune, and rumour has it he had only recently returned to this country to perform for us on the night.
We had a final chance to circulate and catch up before Carriages arrived at around 11.30, taking some lucky few onward to the bright lights of Hale.