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OB Events 2003



Thursday 23rd October 2003
The first major reunion since closure, at Westminster School, London


THE BELMONT REUNION at Westminster School, 23 October 2003

Eighty-three Belmont Old Boys and three former Masters gathered for the first reunion since 1964. Tea in the Camden Room was accompanied by a certain amount of squinting at name badges, raking of memory banks and disbelief at the mass of memorabilia assembled on the screens and tables

Most wore Belmont Old Boy ties, some originals, others from the batch we had made up in identical pattern but modern styling. Paul Warburton wore his actual school tie; Ray Dunsbier and Chris Bullman brought (but did not wear) their school caps.

There were photographs of every conceivable period and activity: school groups from 1946 to 1972, an assortment of team groups, archery, sports and swimming. Peter Burr brought Mr J's scrap book, a heavy tome of cuttings, newspaper articles, sports programmes and play scripts (too many to see in the time available). Derek Dunsbier brought a silver paper knife and Graham Spillman a napkin ring that they had made at Belmont ; Warburton brought his bow. John Melville showed a video of the 1992 Nassau reunion at Chris Willy's house. There was also an interesting collection of Belmont magazines, compiled intermittently by Max Burr, roughly covering the years from 1937 to 1950 – but no chance to read them.

Shortly before 5 pm we all moved across to the Abbey for Evensong. The Belmont party was given a block of seats in the transept and the Dean in Residence welcomed us by name. The second lesson was read by Nicholas Frayling, now Dean of Chichester Cathedral. Unfortunately the Abbey Choir was on half term, but their deputies sang admirably.

After Evensong we reassembled for drinks in the Camden Room and then walked the few yards to the imposing sixteenth century College Hall for dinner.

The courses of the excellent meal were interposed by speeches introduced in a light and witty manner by Gus Gordon. Chris Willy told us the amazing story of the trip to Nassau when the convoy was torpedoed by U boats and the almost as extraordinary return journey. Brooke Fairbairn spoke about the war time evacuation to Lichfield. Dale Vargas welcomed our guests, Dennis Silk (Belmont Master 1951, later Warden of Radley) and Peter Phillips (Belmont Master 1954 until closure, later at Cottesmore). Dennis replied in his predictably accomplished style.

Peter Burr also spoke briefly about his parents and the school; Nicholas Barrington said that he thought the Belmont story so fascinating that someone should write the school's history; and Peter Phillips told us about its final demise from what sounded like financial mismanagement.

The evening finished with a return to the Camden Room and another chance to fill in the fifty years – give or take a couple of decades - since most of us had last met.

There was also a commemorative brochure, showing some miscellaneous photographs of Belmont at Hassocks and a potted history of the school for OBs to take away.**

The organisation of the occasion by David Chaundler and his staff at Westminster and the quality and quantity of the food and drink were superb.

Footnote: David Hill brought along the attendance list of the last (and only?) Belmont Dinner in 1964. Twenty-three of the eighty-eight were also present in 2003.

The Future

Many OBs - especially those that were unable to be present at this reunion - expressed the hope that it would not be the last.

One idea is that we should build a website (qv!), which could allow everyone to send in items of memorabilia, some of which were on display at Westminster . It would also give us a ready means of communicating with other OBs. Some of the stories, funny, sad and horror, recalled in the last few months deserve a wider audience.

Christopher Honeyman-Brown has met the current owners of Belmont , the house built on the site of the former school. It is possible that we might be able to arrange a summer gathering in the grounds. Most of the features are much as they were in 1972 – alas not the buildings. Should we invite wives and companions next time?

An immediate proposal is that those who wish to should meet for lunch on Friday 4th June in central London, at St Stephen's Club in Queen Anne's Gate. Details will be sent to those on email. Others should contact Dale Vargas if they are interested in hearing more.

And of course there's Nicholas Barrington's idea of writing a history to which we would all be asked to make our contributions.

If you have any thoughts on all this, please let one of us know.

**There are still some brochures left; the reproduction is only moderate as it has been photocopied, but copies will be sent on request.

We hope to produce an improved printed version; if anyone has photographs that they would be prepared to lend, either scanned or originals, please let Dale know.

Best wishes,
David Chaundler
Ray Dunsbier
Gus Gordon
Dale Vargas