No. 188

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  Autumn 2015


From Our President

Dacre Watson (SH 56-62)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very aware that you have not heard from me for some time now and I fully understand that this must have been very frustrating for you. I apologise unreservedly for this but events have been changing so quickly on a daily basis that I thought it best to leave it until things had stabilised.

A great deal has happened since the AGM on 27th June and the Minutes from that meeting can be found elsewhere in the Bulletin. At the AGM Anthony Fox described the work of the Project Management Group (PMG) which he had been asked to head. The PMG would assume responsibility for control of the Charity’s assets on 1st September when it was intended that the original Governing Board would stand down.

At the end of the summer term, the 31st August, the school closed its doors. On 4th September four new Governors were appointed and five of the old Governors resigned. The newly appointed Governors were Anthony Fox, Alastair Lord (both OSBs), Shaun Kelso and the Venerable Dr Richard Pratt. Of the old Board, Mark Roberts remained as did the Bishop of Carlisle and the Lord Lieutenant, these last two being ex-officio. The Ven. Dr Richard Pratt was appointed Chairman of the new Governing Board by the outgoing Governors. Anthony Fox has since announced his resignation from the new Board. The intention is that the Governing Body will increase its numbers further by the end of the year.
Dacre Watson (SH 56-62)

During these early days of the closure the primary concern of the Board has been to ensure that there is sufficient funding in place so that the school’s assets are preserved while options for the future are explored.

The lease on Lonsdale Terrace in favour of the school will likely be surrendered. In this event, the Trustees intend to dispose of the majority of the properties on the Terrace. However, before any of the properties can be put on the market, planning procedures relating to the change of use from school premises to private residences must be completed and this will take some time.

The St Beghian Society Committee: The Committee has held a number of meetings this year, the last one being on 10th October; I couldn’t help noticing that with one or two exceptions there was a lot of grey hair (white in my case) on show, and while our present Committee will always continue to provide wise counsel based on a deep knowledge of the St Bees’ environment and experience built up over many years, I can see that there is also a need for more younger members to join the Committee in order to build up the experience and knowledge to take over and lead us in the years to come. In particular, I hope those of you in your 40s and 50s will give special consideration to joining us, and we also have a real need for more women in our ranks.

If anyone would like to make enquiries, please in the first instance Email the Society office, and Pam Rumney will put us in touch. I look forward to meeting you soon.

Presidency of the Society: As many of you are probably aware, I became President of the Society in September 2014 and my term of office is due to end in September 2016. In the past, selection of the President has been somewhat haphazard in the sense that the incumbent President approached those whom he knew, enquiring whether he (or she or they) might be interested in taking the job on for the two year term, which is how I came into office.

As you can imagine, the last ten months have been rather different from usual and my learning curve has been closer to the vertical than for most past Presidents. Probably more important now than at any recent time is that the next President should have a sound working knowledge of the Society, how it functions and how the various Trusts are operated. The coming years will not be easy for the Society and I would like to invite those of you who are interested in taking office to offer yourselves now. You would be invited to join the Committee and you would work closely with myself, David Lord, Tony Reeve and Pam Rumney. You would also have the opportunity to meet the Governing Board of the school. Most of all, though, you would quickly build up the experience necessary to hit the ground running as President.

If no one can be found, I am willing to serve another year as President, but we still need new members of the Committee with wide experience. Please do give some thought to this, and once again I am appealing for women to give some serious thought to serving.

Future of the Society: Really, I should probably title this “Holding the Society together”. I had a rather sad experience recently; I met an OSB in a pub whom I didn’t know particularly well but we started chatting and I said to him that I hoped I might see him at one of the regional dinners. The answer was in the negative since he had lost all faith in the future of the Society. I suspect that he will not be on his own in his thinking and I can only say how profoundly saddened I would be if such a thought process were to gain currency. Of course we are all upset about the events of the past ten months; St Bees formed us in that it instilled in us that peculiar ethos which makes us think and believe we can overcome all adversity and tempest which befalls us. How many times in the past have we heard from each other: “St Bees instilled in me that resilience to overcome disappointment, whatever it might be”?

This year I have attended three Branch Dinners: Bristol, West Cumbria and this last weekend I was up in Edinburgh for the Scottish Dinner; in November I shall be in Newcastle. In the first instance I would like to thank those Branch Secretaries who have worked so hard to bring us together, and I hope that the dinners will continue to grow in popularity. These occasions are an opportunity for all of us to share a common interest, a shared experience and to re-establish old friendships and acquaintances, perhaps even remember the good times.

It’s tough, I know, on those who have to do all the work in organising events; we need to share this workload better and I would appeal to those of you who in the past have not taken a great deal of interest, except to just turn up, to get involved and help us to restore that esprit which in the past has carried us through.

Below I have written of my vision for St Bees. The obvious question is “Will it happen?” Well, it might not but if we do not try at all then we will fail. I am sure that collectively this is not what we want.

I fully intend to keep you all far more up to date in the future and I promise that these letters will not be as long as this one. However, with no new OSBs joining the Society after last July we will be faced with a funding problem and this raises the question of sending out hard copy news to those who are not on the internet, some 700 of you. If there are any of you who can bear to give up your hard copies and receive instead the electronic version, then Pam would like to hear from you and we will take you off the Royal Mail list.

The Future: In conclusion, it seems bizarre to me that only a year ago I was writing an optimistic newsletter and Bulletin. The closure of the school has been devastating, not only for us Old St Beghians but also for all those involved as students, teachers and support staff as well as parents and everyone in the village of St Bees.

I can only offer my personal sympathy and understanding to all those who have been so deeply affected by the unhappy events which have unfolded since the beginning of the year. That this has happened during my Presidency will remain with me for the rest of my life. That said, it is vital that the Society now looks to the future and is as involved and supportive as possible of the new Board of Governors, which I know intends to have a broader base of skills and interests than in the past, in particular seeking a greater involvement of people living and working in Cumbria as they work to re-establish education here. They have started well and we wish them Godspeed.

My own vision is that education will once more take place at St Bees and that the Society will be involved in supporting it. I ask you all to help in making this vision a reality.

I cannot finish this letter without acknowledging and thanking David Lord, Tony Reeve and Pam Rumney for the very hard work they get through in both supporting me and, of course, all of you. We owe them a very great deal.

My very best wishes to you all,
Dacre Watson.



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

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