THE 53 London Dinner attendees at the Wesley Hotel on 26 February (2016) were extremely grateful to have the company of Dr Stephen Martin MBE as guest speaker. Stephen, who attended BGS from 1971-77, went on to achieve 229 Irish and GB international hockey caps, winning Bronze and Gold Olympic medals at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) respectively.
It was also particularly pleasing to note that 48% of those Grammarians present had attended the School during or after 2000 – demonstrating the policy of encouraging younger generations to attend and also to maximise the use of LinkedIn as the networking website.
Well done to Dinner attendee Daniel Orr who left the School last year with the top A-Level results (3 A* grades and 1A) and who is currently in his first year at University College London. He is using the LinkedIn website to gain work experience while at UCL.
As ever, we were very pleased to welcome the Principal, Elizabeth Huddleson, attending her second London Dinner, also Grammarians chairman Geoffrey Miller, Dr Paul Blair, recently appointed chair of the Board of Governors and, of course, no London Dinner would be complete without the engaging presence of past Head Tom Patton. Also, many thanks go to School Archivist Barry Greenaway on being our official photographer for the evening.
Gavin Adair was commended on his endeavours to mobilise London Grammarian support for the BGS Ugandan primary school project, with £1,300 raised in the aftermath of last year’s dinner. This instant response highlighted the potential for ‘expat’ Grammarians to contribute to worthy school fundraising initiatives.
The Toast to the Queen was given by Jonny Conn, who further reminded attendees of the significant potential for Grammarians joining the Careers Forum and, in so doing, supporting the School Careers Department and the pupils. LinkedIn’s networking advantages for Grammarians wishing to keep in touch were again emphasised, while fundraising possibilities were also highlighted.
Attendees were pleased to note, courtesy of the Principal’s address, further improvements at both A-Level and GCSE, greater community involvement and additional extra-curricular involvement. At A-Level there had been a 4% increase in A* to C grades. Teacher Mrs McDermott was able to coach two pupils in her spare time with A* grades being recorded in Home Economics. At GCSE there was a 6.6 % increase in A* to A grades, with Matthew Graham achieving 9.5 A* grades!
The CCF had record numbers standing at 250 and contributed significantly to the leadership and team working skills sought by potential employers. As part of the Green Schools NI final (a STEM initiative), BGS finished fourth out of 27 schools and the team then presented their findings (improving the energy efficiency of school buildings) to the Facilities Committee of the Board of Governors.
Grammarians were pleased to note the establishment of the Careers Fair at BGS, arising from our discussions going back three years. It was particularly good to see other local schools attending.
Sporting and extra-curricular achievements covered a wider range than would traditionally have been the case, including 100m, 200m and relay race victories at the Ulster Athletic Championships, the minor badminton team finishing second in the Irish Championships and the chess team becoming under-19 champions. For pupils who were interested in ‘treading the boards’, there was the customary participation in school plays, namely Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew.
Mrs Huddleson reflected on low points in the year, namely the untimely passing of School Nurse Doreen Beggs and the sadness felt with three pupils suffering cancer; yet the inspiration given to other school pupils was significant.
The Principal had kindly arranged for images of the numerous other school activities, not highlighted in her report, to be viewed on the three monitor screens now available in the new dining room at the Wesley.
Geoffrey Miller, before proposing the Toast to the School, reminded Grammarians that, in addition to being proud of Stephen Martin’s achievements, we should not forget that Grammarian Stuart McCloskey was gaining his first cap for Ireland the following day at Twickenham. He also advised that the Grammarians website was being revised.
A Bangor Grammarians plaque was presented by the chairman to Mike McConnell for organising the London Dinner for the past decade and, also, for establishing the concept of the Careers Forum.
A warm welcome was extended to guest speaker Stephen Martin, who provided a most informative and interesting overview of his role in the Olympic movement, following his most successful and rewarding career in international hockey.
Stephen was keen to highlight the encouragement and support provided by BGS teachers John Smyth and Chris Harte. He also emphasised the importance of achieving a balance between sport and academic studies.
Our speaker was responsible for setting up high performance systems in the UK as Deputy Chief Executive of British Olympic Association, thereby helping to transform Great Britain’s sport performance from 15 medals in 1996 to 60+ medals in 2012. His current role is as Chief Executive of the Olympic Council of Ireland, with no medals in 2004 rising to six at the London Olympics.
We were indeed fortunate to have Stephen attending our Dinner as later that weekend he was flying to Rio to finalise arrangements for Ireland’s participation in the 2016 Games. Following the formal part of the evening, Stephen was pleased to show Grammarians his Gold and Bronze medals.
Hotel management contacted the writer after the dinner to thank all attendees for their generous contributions towards their projects and staff gratuities. The hotel is a Social Enterprise, contributing profits to international school/ education projects.
Report contributed by Mike McConnell, 2016 Dinner Organiser