No. 200

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  January 2022


Dimitri Sklavounos (G 63-67) has forwarded the following recollections about his time at school.

“ ‘Athlete’s Foot and Making Beds - that’s all I got from this place! And I intend to get rid of the first as quickly as I damn well can!’ I muttered angrily and with intense satisfaction as I packed up my things on my very last day at St Bees.

Of course, I was wrong. St Bees gave me so much more than that. And yet, was it St Bees or the people within it?

For a while, St Bees left me with a residual sense of anger with the place. It had done considerable harm to a number of fellow ‘pupils’, even though I felt a sense of achievement in coming through and attaining many important things. More sporting, musical, social and emotional than academic.

I admired those who had achieved a great deal in both the classroom and sport, but who had done so with integrity, authenticity and humanity. And I respected them all the more because they achieved these things within the context of a system which I did not value. One in which I saw people suffer emotionally as well as intellectually.

However I still retained a great respect for people like Sam Parkinson and Tony Cotes (my Housemaster), Anthony Dearle, T.A. Brown, and so many others whose names have faded from my memory, even though their faces, enthusiasm, inspiration, and contributions have not.

Apart from one fleeting visit to see a friend who was still there, I did not return for over 10 years, as my antipathy for the place slowly faded. It was a few more years still - after the reunion of those who were at the school during the 1960’s - when I felt compelled to return specifically to thank Sam Parkinson and Tony Cotes for their positive contributions to my time in St Bees. I was so relieved and grateful to find them both alive and well.

I thanked Sam and his wife, and told them how much I had appreciated the warmth and respect they had both given me, and how much that had sustained me during my time there. Sam, his dear wife (her name evades me, but her face and humanity do not!) and I reminisced and talked about our experiences of St Bees School. By that time, I had already fortunately stumbled upon ‘my life’s path’ and, despite the competition for places, trained as a Clinical Psychologist and had worked in many ‘long stay’ mental health hospitals. And through our conversation I grew to understand St Bees no longer as a school but as an institution. As we all know, institutions create structures and systems, and these then drive everything and everyone within them, knowingly and often unknowingly.

I began to appreciate the impact of the centuries and history on the school, and the fact that it had many ‘old boys’ who had returned as ‘masters’ or ‘Governors’ (words convey so much meaning, don’t they?), many of them with a sense of appreciation and a wish to provide new pupils with what they had received from the place. After all, when we value what we have had, we often want others to benefit from that also, don’t we? And so there was an in-built inertia in wishing to maintain the school as it was. And there were also those masters striving to change it, and being met by obstacles. Yet ‘we’ (the pupils) of course held ‘them’ (the masters) responsible as they were the ‘power’ and face of the school, and perpetuators of the structures, systems, and constraints. How little we understood during our time there of the constraints on them also.

My conversation with Tony and Elizabeth Cotes provided me with further opportunities to share memories and express my appreciation for their positive contributions during my time there, and to thank them for these. Our conversation yielded yet more insights and understanding.

I left at the end of that day, with an even greater appreciation and respect for what Sam Parkinson, Tony Cotes, their wives and other masters had achieved or attempted to achieve. And also with deep gratitude for my good fortune that I had been able to see them and thank them in person.

In my recollections so far, there is a hugely significant gap. Well, several actually. But I am striving to be brief!

That significant gap, and one of the best things I received from St Bees, is the friendship of people who shared the same time there, if not the same experiences. And whose history, great human qualities and abilities, and companionship enriched my life so much. Some I lost contact with, sadly. To them all, a belated and heartfelt ‘thank you’.

However, thankfully I am still in regular contact with some, and continue to enjoy their friendship, our shared history, and express my gratitude and appreciation to, and love for them still.

P.S. If anyone from my time there wishes to re-establish contact, please obtain my email address from the OSB office.”



The St Beghian Society    
St Bees School,    St Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS

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