Founder’s Day Dinner 2023 – Steward’s Report

Thursday 26 October 2023

Submitted by John Williams (MaB, ColA 62-69) Hon. Sec

Founder’s Day Dinner 2023 was held on an unseasonably warm and pleasant October evening which provided the most appropriate setting for the dinner we were about to enjoy.

The doors opened at 6pm and a steady line of diners filed upstairs to be introduced to Michael Lloyd (MaA & MidA 1977-84), Chief Steward, Rear Admiral Anthony Rimington, Main Speaker, and Major General Buster Howes (BaB & ColA 1972-77), Responder.

To have such significant speakers as Anthony Rimington, Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, and Buster Howes, ex-Commandant Royal Marines, was an honour and most apposite for an evening when we were marking the 350th anniversary of the Royal Mathematical School and its connection with the Royal Navy.

After passing through the receiving line guests filled the Reception Hall where they renewed old and not so old friendships with a glass or two of something sparkling!

After our Toast Master announced dinner and the official guests had processed into Hall, Grace was read by Zephaneth Puplampu, Senior Grecian. This was followed by the Chief Steward’s welcome and his introduction of our official guests. He commented on the number attending (170) within whom we had every year from 1941 through to 2023 represented and that we had diners who had travelled from Australia, USA and from around Europe to join us.

He felt it would be wrong not to mention the leavers of 2017. With applications for dinner exceeding seats normally available the 2017 leavers had agreed to dine together in the gallery, something we know they enjoyed, especially with such a splendid view down into the main hall.

Over the next hour dinner was served, during which the hum of lively conversation filled the Hall.   At the conclusion of the meal and after the singing of the National Anthem and Votum (pianist  Ikeoluwa Hamzat, Grecian) Grace after meat was read by Miss Osaherunmwen Igiebor (Second Monitor). Our fourth guest Grecian, Miss Daria Ishchenko was most welcome.

Before announcing the traditional and necessary ten minute break the Chief Steward spoke about the Old Blues Rugby Football Club whose 150th anniversary this year is. Being an ex-player himself he drew attention to the number of players and ex-players who were present at the dinner and that without the unfortunate clash with the RMS we may well have been celebrating with the Rugby Club.

The story of the club is presently being written by Richard McGregor (MaB 1948-57) and Ken Mansell (PeB 1953-61), both Governors and Stewards of Founder’s Day, with support from many current and ex-players. The book is due to be published in the spring and is highly recommended to the hundreds of ex-players and anyone interested in a very active part of Old Blue history.

Following a very liberal interpretation of ten minutes we all sat down and over the next forty minutes were privileged to listen to two eloquent, articulate and highly knowledgeable speakers.

Our Main Speaker (an Old Shirburnian) commenced by explaining his many connections with Christ’s Hospital, the most significant being his wife Sian Keall (BaA 1983-90) who had shunned the Top Table to sit with her contemporaries.

Having established his “Housey” credentials Anthony spoke on how the rapidly changing world is creating new demands on the Royal Navy and how they are adapting to meet the challenges. With 70% of the earth under water, 80% of world trade transported by sea and 90% of international communication transmitted by undersea cables maritime security was of considerable strategic importance. Increasingly “operations” were carried out remotely and by someone more IT trained than sea warfare trained. Possibilities existed for a more formal “sandwich” career with time served in the Navy followed by a period in civilian life and then return to the services. This would allow the Navy to retain many of the skills it had trained in its recruits. He felt this could provide a more fulfilling life style combing a more outward adventurous experience running alongside a more traditional professional career. He saw how this fitted well with the original aims of the RMS and the school’s new Expeditionary initiative.

Anthony concluded by telling us how impressed he had been, when attending a senior officer course, by one of the speakers whose words still had an impact on him today and how delighted he was to have him here tonight as his Responder!

Buster began his personal, often self-deprecating but always interesting and entertaining response by explaining how his time at Christ’s Hospital had not been crowned by academic achievement but the nature and ethos of the school prepared him well for a career with the Royal Marines. He spoke of the many adventures and experiences of his very varied Marine career and on his heartfelt reflection on whether he left the world a safer place for his children and future generations and paid glowing tribute to the lifelong friendship he had forged at Christ’s Hospital with Bill Biddell (LHB, MaA & LaA 1971-78). He concluded as follows

“I speak directly now to the Senior Grecian and his three musketeers still at CH, who are here tonight. Do not be in a hurry to jump on the corporate ladder, for fifty years later, you may realise that, all along, it has been leaning against the wrong wall. Essentially, we all of us seek three things in life – Identity, Purpose and Belonging – and it is the journey, the expedition that is your life. Live in the moment. Ignore the siren voices and pressures to decide and remember that not all who wander are lost!”

Both speakers received considerable and prolonged applause.

Just after 10pm Michael Lloyd brought the dinner to an end and after thanking our speakers, official guests and all of us for attending announced the bar was open until 11.00. The numbers who withdrew to the Reception Hall suggested most did not regard the evening as over.

After such a well-attended and successful occasion we can look forward to next year with much confidence. It will be held at the Mansion House with Michael Mainelli, Lord Mayor of London, as our main speaker. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Benevolent Society of Blues the Responder will be Christopher Steane (MaA & ColA 1969-75), Treasurer, Governor, Steward of Founder’s Day and President, Benevolent Society of Blues.

Very conscious of the significant number of applicants for the 2023 dinner who could not be accommodated and the insidious effect of inflation on ticket prices alterations are being made to the ordering process. The “box office” will open much earlier (in February) and applicants can, should they wish, pay by instalments through the year up to September. One request is; please order early to ensure a place and to make the organisation less demanding. Further details on this and other matters will be provided in February.

Mike, Mustafa and I thank you for the many messages of appreciation received which all suggest the success of 2023 and, hopefully, the ticket demand for 2024. Let’s fill the Mansion House!

Ironmonger’s Dining Hall before dinner

Christ’s Hospital diners with guest speakers

Grecian Guests