From Our President
Dacre Watson (SH 56-62)
I start by wishing all St Beghians well for the coming year; 12 months ago the future for both the school and the Society looked very bleak indeed and I, together with the Committee, would like to thank you all for the support we have received this past year. I would also like to extend a particular welcome to all those new members who have joined the Society during the year and we look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at future events; remember, it is YOUR Society and you each have an important voice in how you would like to see it run over the coming years. We are there for you and I invite any one of you to feel free to contact me either through the office or by Email.
When I wrote the President’s Column last July, I expressed guarded optimism in the work being done by the Board of Trustees. By the time you read this you will all have received a further newsletter from the Board outlining the work they have done over the last few months and where we are today; an infinitely better place than where we were a year ago but, of course, still with some way to go.
In November I attended the Newcastle and Edinburgh Dinners; each one was attended by a member of the Board, Rob Miller at Newcastle and Mark George in Edinburgh, and both gave comprehensive updates of the ongoing work in finding an investor to take the school forward to a future re-opening. I am deeply grateful for their presence at these dinners and I hope that this will set the pattern for the future. Looking forwards, I plan to attend all the dinners for which dates have so far been confirmed, namely, the new Hong Kong Dinner in February, a London Dinner in March, Yorkshire in April plus Singapore and Bristol in May.
The Edinburgh Dinner saw the “Dining out” of David Parker, who has been the Scottish Secretary for the last 20 years; with only 100 or so St Beghians registered in Scotland, David has done an outstanding job in organising this annual event and on your behalf I offer our heartfelt thanks for the hard work he has put in over the years. In the proper tradition, David has replaced himself with Jerry Tsang (SH 96-03), who will be taking over the Scottish role at any time now. We wish Jerry well and please support him as much as you can.
The work of the Board of Trustees should give us all some cause to reflect upon our history. Back in 1938 when the school was in real danger of closing, The Old St Beghian Society came to the rescue and it was through their efforts that the school survived to produce the environment and education that the vast majority of us enjoyed and benefited from so much.
I am sure that many of you, particularly those of us who were pupils between the 40s and 80s, would have been aware that, aside from the village shops and those members of the village who were employed at the school, the contact between the school and the local community was minimal.
When the school closed in July 2015 it would be easy to think that it was only those closely connected with it who might be affected; yet a substantial part of the village of St Bees was distraught for so many reasons. These were not just to do with the local economy, but there was also a hidden pride in having the school nearby, a thing which was likely to be lost with the closure. It became quickly apparent that there was a fund of goodwill towards the school in the local community.
When the new Board of Trustees was set up, there was a conscious desire from the St Beghians already on the Board to recruit new members from whatever source, and while a good number of St Beghians are still in place (doing outstanding work, I might add) there is also a number of members both from the village and further afield now working hard on behalf of the school, each with his or her own expertise such as education, estate management, finance and marketing as well as managerial skills. They have all stepped forward in order to bring their talents and energy to bear in trying to find ways to re-open the school. They all do this in their own time, which they give completely freely, and I am deeply humbled by this sense of altruism in others for our school; I am sure that you will all join me in wishing them Godspeed in their endeavours.
This will be an interesting year for all sorts of reasons. Please do continue to give us your support and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming six months.
Dacre Watson, President, St Beghian Society.