From Our New President

Howard Graham (FS 80-87)

This has been possibly the quietest start to any Old St Beghian’s Presidency ever - not really what I’d planned when my hope was to get OSBs to connect!

I’d firstly like to thank Peter Lever, the out-going President, for his sterling work and indeed all of the ‘Committee’ that are steering the school and the Society through this difficult time. One of those working hard in the background, Dacre Watson, has written an interesting piece for the January 2021 Bulletin reminding us that the school has been through tough times before and has fought through.

I spent seven years at St Bees, on Eaglesfield and Foundation South, and enjoyed it immensely. Academia was not my passion, but sport, and particularly rugby, was what enthused me, although to be honest, the running leagues around the golf course in January possibly slip below maths in the pecking order. 

I made many fantastic friends at St Bees that are still my closest now and I have made a point of looking up OSBs wherever I’ve been in the world. With my rugby and military background I’ve been lucky enough to be able to have a catch up and a beer with many from Kenya to Dubai and Singapore to Egremont. From drama to March and Shoot and kitchen raids* to Saturday nights on the beach with your chosen friends and beverage, it was the variety that this unique school, near the edge of the earth, offered (and offers) its pupils that shaped the likes of me and you for life. This is a common theme when I speak to other OSBs. Having said that, I also understand that not everyone’s time at St Bees was filled with the highs that I remember; but chatting with those ex-pupils, they still have a real affection for and affinity with the school. Reminiscing about teachers we feared, or shall we say were less approachable, the slightly mad ones and the ones that inspired us, it was those special people that had a large hand in our school life, and despite being slippered or caned often, it is they that I and my friends remember fondly. My favourite, but possibly not the soundest bit of advice that I’ve taken-on in life, came from a teacher while he was driving the school mini bus down narrow lakeland roads packed with eighteen (usually travel-sick) kids. ‘Remember,’ he proffered, ‘slowing down doesn’t make the gap any bigger.’

This is our Society and it has to be we that ensure its continuance. In this digital age there are so many ways to connect, but finding the best medium for all is not simple. I understand that Facebook is basically a narcissist’s dream and also that not everyone is on that platform, but I hope you may know another OSB that is. Ask them to pass on any information and in this way we can communicate with greater numbers. We currently have the official OSB Society Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/osbsociety/), which has a limited number of contributors, but I think we should start a social page to allow OSBs to post St Bees-related news, memories and quips as well as organising events or networking for employment. Everyone will be confirmed as an OSB before being accepted and the content will be policed to ensure it is appropriate. The new page will have direct input from you and will be called the OSB Social Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/427579695153162/?ref=share). 

Please invite others to join the groups; be the catalyst to get a group together for an event or organise your own.

I hope reading this sparks some of your memories from St Bees and will push you to connect in some way with an old friend.

Finally, we are asking for subscriptions to support the survival of the Society. The school will, I hope, now build its pupil numbers once again, but whatever happens our Society will continue if we support it. Please make the effort to set up an annual payment and corral others to do so. If you were wondering what the * was for in my text above, it is a reminder to all that know that there are at least 80 former pupils who owe the school for some extra meals and snacks that were eaten in the 1980s!

If you have any ideas of how we may expand the Society for the better in anyway whatsoever, then I‘d love to hear from you at howiegraham@hotmail.com.

Howard Graham (FS 80-87).