Saturday 27 November – Abingdon School

It was marvellous to see so many OAs braving the elements on Saturday 27 November and returning to Abingdon to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sir James Cobban, Headmaster of Abingdon School 1947-1970.

The games room in School House was a hive of activity all afternoon.   OAs and their guests renewed old acquaintances, and forged new ones,  over tea and cake whilst viewing a selection of archive photographs from the Cobban era of Abingdon School.  A team of eager School House boarders were on hand to lead tour parties around the School site, which – despite the low temperatures outside – almost everyone chose to take advantage of.  The special commemorative exhibition of School memorabilia from Sir James’ time which was on display in the library proved especially popular with OAs as they completed their circuit of the School site.

At Evensong Sir James would doubtless have been proud to see the Chapel so full for the debut performance of Simon Whalley’s specially commissioned, commemorative anthem.  An address was given by Randell Moll (1960) and the prayers were led by Gerald Phizackerley (School Chaplain 1957-64).  John Cullen, another former member of Common Room,  accompanied the congregation for the final hymn.

For the 2010 OA Annual Dinner, which followed on from Evensong, 180 OAs, Honorary OAs and guests met for drinks in the Charles Maude Room followed by a sumptuous three-course formal dinner in the newly refurbished dining hall.  After dinner a number of OAs, whose school careers spanned the whole stretch of Sir James Cobban’s time as Headmaster of Abingdon, stood up to share their own memories of ‘JMC’.   We are unlikely to hear a more poignant and passionate round of speeches at an OA Annual Dinner for a number of years!

Terence Libby (1963), who was sadly unable to join us for the Annual Dinner, has sent his own Cobban remembrances in writing.  These are available to view online here.   Terence paints an incredibly vivid and sensitive portrait of Sir James,  both the schoolmaster and the man.  We are sure his warm words echo the sentiments of all those present on Saturday 27 November 2010.

Photographs taken throughout the event are now available on this web page.  If you would like full-sized copies of any of the images, please contact the OA Office.

If you would be interested in receiving copies of any of the archive photographs on display in School House, you can contact Sarah Wearne, the School Archivist.  You can also book an appointment with Sarah to view the School’s archive material.  She is also always very pleased to hear from OAs who have their own historical School memorabilia.

Guests at the 2010 OA Annual Dinner received a special commemorative booklet, ‘How To Do It’  –  a collection of the accompanying notes from the well-remembered series of talks which Sir James gave to Abingdon sixth formers,  including ‘Looking after money’, ‘Avoiding social blunder’ and ‘How to get what you want’.   It is the OA Club’s intention to republish the booklet for wider circulation so if you have copies of any other surviving ‘hymn sheets’,  please get in touch with the OA Office so that we can include these extra sections in the revised edition.

A copy of the final guest list is available here.  The OA Office is always pleased to help OAs re-establish contact.  If there is anyone on this list with whom you would like to get back in touch, please let us know.

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