The Royal High School Club in London Annual DinnerReport written by Al Senter
The Annual Dinner of the Royal High School Club in London is the highlight of the year and although we have also established a popular Autumn Drinks evening in November and there are plans to add a summer gathering to the Events programme, the Dinner remains the centre-piece of the Club’s activities.
It was therefore very gratifying to see such healthy numbers (38) at the recent renewal of the Annual Dinner, held on Friday March 24th. For those who have yet to sample the event, it has been held over the past few years in the beautiful Presidents’ Room at the RAF Club in Piccadilly. It is an intimate space and its relatively modest size makes it the perfect fit for our dinner, adding to the warmth of the welcome that can be absent in industrial-sized venues hosting other Annual Dinners. If numbers continue to grow, we may need to look for something more spacious but for the moment, it suits us very nicely.
There are, of course, a few formal aspects to the Annual Dinner but these are lightly observed and do not, we hope, detract from the precious informality which outside visitors maintain is a key part of the RHSCL’s Annual Dinner. The event represents a cordial coming together of several different strands of attendees. Firstly there are the Former Pupils who find themselves living and working in London, the Home Counties and the South of England. Secondly there are representatives from the School in particular and Edinburgh in general, the party headed by Rector Pauline Walker and School Captain Angus Farquhar, a strikingly articulate and self-confident young man who charmed the company with his reflections on his year as School Captain. We must not forget David Williamson, President of the Royal High Edinburgh Club whose tireless work on behalf of the Scotch Whisky Association gained many admirers on the night of the Dinner. Finally we had great pleasure in welcoming representatives from the London clubs of three great Edinburgh schools; namely Heriots, Watsons and Stewarts-Melville. In such a warm atmosphere, distant clashes between the teams on either the rugby field or the cricket pitch disappear into the past in a warm bath of nostalgia.
Our President Fraser Wright controlled events with his customary savoir-faire and he rightly singled out the many members of the company who had distinguished themselves in their chosen post-Royal High career. It was therefore a pleasure to welcome back diplomat Susan Geary with her husband Ian, whose excellent contributions to the Club have been displaced by motherhood over the past few years. There was an especially warm welcome for first time attendees Ian and Yves Ferguson but it was also a pleasure to see such stalwarts as Alastair and Daphne McLean, Don and Marjorie Walker and Colin Todd. We are extremely grateful to those who give the Club their unstinting support. Equally we should mention the senior members of the Club such as Ron Smart and Garry Ross who travels a fair distance from out of town to attend the event. Such remarkable fidelity is much appreciated.
Speeches are an integral part of Club Dinners and the RHSCL Dinner is an excellent opportunity for members to be briefed by Rector Pauline Walker on events at Barnton over the past year. Among other schools the length and breadth of Scotland, the Royal High would appear to have been a victim of shoddy workmanship on a grand scale. Nothing daunted, Pauline and her colleagues seem to have reacted to such adverse circumstances with commendable sang-froid. Pauline would appear to have run the school from her desk in the middle of a corridor. How Pauline, the teaching staff and the students managed to function normally is remarkable.
A popular element of the Annual Dinner is a brief interview with a distinguished FP and this year it was film and TV producer Neil Zeiger who bravely agreed to be interrogated by yours truly. Neil was fresh from delivering a documentary film and he was full of fascinating insights into what came across as a particularly insecure profession. Among the audience was FP and Downton Abbey star David Robb and his presence added to Neil’s reminded us of the Royal High’s long theatrical tradition.
These mini-interviews emphasise once again how a Royal High education has been the prelude to considerable success in life and it is remarkable how the school continues to produce outstanding young people in many different disciplines. We ended such thoughts, as we normally do, with a rousing rendition of Vivas Schola Regia, the school song.
All our considerable thanks should go to the indefatigable Alex Prentice, who combines the roles of Secretary and Treasurer with organising every aspect of the Annual Dinner. We also are grateful to Webmaster Will Dunnett for snapping away as Official Photographer and for his stewardship of the Club website. Grateful thanks are also due to Fraser Wright for his deft handling of the Presidency over the past couple of years.
The RHSCL Annual Dinner is full of incidental pleasures and if the above report has whetted your appetite then you should note that the next RHSCL Annual Dinner will be held on Friday March 16th, 2018, back at the RAF Club.
I hope to see you then!
Photos from our 2017 Annual Dinner can be viewed and downloaded from our flickr web pages.