OP Updates

Alex Johnson Took Part In Shut Down But Scratching

We were very excited to hear that writer, Old Princethorpian and past pupil of St Joseph’s, Alex Johnson (1983-1986 and 1972-1983 respectively) was one of ten artists who took part in ‘Shut Down But Scratching’ a celebration of creative talent in Coventry and Warwickshire on Wednesday 15 April.

The event presented by the Shoot Festival in partnership with Coventry City of Culture Trust and Belgrade Theatre, and was a live digital scratch night of original work showcasing music, folk tales, theatre, spoken word, visual art and the binaural quest for loo roll!

The theme of the event was ‘imagine’ and Alex’s short but very personal piece of theatre - Bedside Manner - told the story of Sean alone and isolated at the end of his life, nursed by the one person he loves more than life itself. It was a poignant window on life as it slips away.

The piece was developed and inspired by personal experience as Alex contemplated the darkest outcome of her father's fight with coronavirus in hospital. It was a thought-provoking piece of work.

Alex has also just found out that she has been selected as one of 15 leaders on the Cultural Leadership Programme for Coventry's City of Culture programme next year.

That is great news Alex, we can't wait to see what you get up to and what a blessing that your father won the fight and is well on the way to recovery now.



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Former Head Boy Paddy Mills Is Now On The NHS Doctors Foundation Programme

I left Princethorpe back in 2014 and went to Cardiff University to study Medicine. After five years of studying I finally graduated in 2019. I absolutely loved my time there, five years sounds like a long time at University and there were times when it did feel like a bit of a slog, but it was completely worth it. The course had us training not just in Cardiff but in placements all across Wales, giving us a nice balance of busy inner-city work and quieter rural communities. Cardiff itself was a fantastic city to study in and I would highly recommend it to any Princethorpe pupils looking forward to University.

After graduation I got a job in Birmingham working for the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. Nothing quite prepares you for starting work on your first day, when you have to take the responsibility on yourself for the care of the patients. The first few months were a steep learning curve but one that was managed well thanks to the foundation programme the NHS has in place for all doctors starting work. During these foundation years you rotate through various specialties, changing every four months, to get a variety of different experiences as you start your career.

I am currently placed in Psychiatry and therefore have not had a great deal of contact with inpatient hospitals since the outbreak of COVID-19. It is fair to say that this is not what I, or anyone would have expected in their first year as a doctor.

I will continue to rotate through various hospitals in Birmingham next year and then after that will need to think about specialising in a specific area. At the moment I am not sure what area of medicine I would like to go into, but fortunately I still have plenty of time to make a decision.

It has been nice being back in the Midlands and closer to friends who I attended Princethorpe with. We all managed to remain close through university, so it is nice to be able to see them a bit more often. I also recently attended one of the Old Princethorpian pub meets in Rugby which was enjoyable and good to catch up with fellow pupils and teachers I had not seen in several years.

Nick Bond Directs Manchester University's First Opera

We were delighted to hear from Nick Bond (Class of 2016).  Nick has just directed the University of Manchester's very first opera.  An amazing opportunity that he tells us all about here:

During my third year at the University of Manchester I was incredibly lucky to direct the Music Society’s productions of Jonathan Dove’s opera, The Enchanted Pig. It is a wonderfully silly, playful and funny opera that incorporates a whole range of musical styles, making it very accessible to modern audiences. I was fortunate to work alongside a very talented and hardworking cast and creative team, made up entirely of students at the University and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Having performed in musical theatre and theatre extensively during my time at university, as well as directing my first musical, Seussical, in March of last year, I was excited to take on my first opera. We started rehearsals in November with our cast of 20 singers and worked through until the show at the end of February. Along the way, thanks to extensive fundraising and support from the music department, we hosted several professional opera singers and musical directors in a series of workshops, masterclasses and rehearsals. Their support and advice was invaluable in fine-tuning the production and I’m immensely grateful for having such high-level professionals sharing their wise words with us!

Manchester University Music Society is the largest student-run music society in the country and their yearly opera project is a huge part of their programme. The Enchanted Pig marked their first attempt at a full-length opera and I was so privileged to have been chosen to direct this ambitious undertaking in the department’s performance space, The Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall. Logistically, it was a huge task to coordinate the cast, band, and creative team, on top of our studies and I was very grateful to have such a dedicated producer and manager to enable the smooth-running of the project.

Directing this opera was so fulfilling for me, and the perfect way to round-off my time at university. Many of the singers had done no acting before and some had never been taught to read sheet music. And yet they approached the project with such joy, talent and professionalism and I was so proud of the performances they gave. I learned invaluable lessons that I hope to take with me into a career as director of opera/musical theatre.

We were lucky to achieve a sold-out run in February prior to the lockdown, and I had the full support of old princethorpians Evie Bonsall, Lauren Whitfield and Charlotte Plant, who all made the journey up! I was also delighted that my former music teacher, Gil Cowlishaw, was able to come along and see it.

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Jamie Allenby Is Heading Stateside

Talented rugby player, Jamie Allenby (who was at Princethorpe from 2015-2018), applied to a number of American universities for a sports scholarship to play rugby.

Jamie was considered for a number of top flight teams, including Life University in Georgia and Lindenwood in Missouri, both of which are Division One Rugby League Universities. Jamie applied via the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), took the SATS (the test for College admissions), sent a show-reel via an agent to support his application and then took part in a number of Skype interviews.

Jamie was aggressively recruited by seven Division 1 colleges and eventually signed and committed to Life University in Georgia. Life (The Running Eagles) are the back to back champions for Division 1 in the NCAA and have only lost one game throughout the USA in the last three years. Jamie will be out in the USA for five years, whilst he studies for a degree in Business and Finance.

It is a very exciting time for Rugby over in the USA, as from October 2020 the sport is rolling out a draft system for talented college graduates similar to the NFL. Rugby is developing into a hugely popular sport.

Jamie left Princethorpe College after Year 11 and went on to Hartpury College. He plays on the second row and as a flanker, and as well as playing for Hartpury, he plays for Old Leamingtonians.

His pre-season training will start in early September with College starting in October.

Jamie said, "I would like to thank Princethorpe College for the huge role they have played in helping me achieve this success, both in terms of the rugby coaching I received and also the help I had to get my GCSE's."

Jamie has set up a fund raising page to help him travel to the USA and is asking that people donate the price of their favourite drink in their local pub, just as if they were buying Jamie a drink to celebrate his success. You can find the page here.

Good luck Jamie we were really pleased to hear your wonderful news and hope you have a fantastic time in the USA.



Harvey Broadbent - Supporting COVID 19 Keyworkers - Positivity Is Key

OP, Harvey Broadbent (2001 to 2008) has an ethical and sustainable clothing brand Positive Outlook based in Coventry. His company specialises in creating bespoke garments made from bamboo fabric and they encourage people to think about the sustainable impact of their clothing and the effect it can have on the environment.

Like many faced with the unexpected reality of COVID-19, Harvey wanted to do more than just take his company into lockdown. Inspired by his good friend Kelly who runs The Barn Kitchen, his company created a collection of garments that not only shows appreciation of key workers but also helps to feed them.
The collection includes a range of organic and sustainable garments designed to spread positivity, to provide a boost to all our morale's in our society’s time of need.

The clothing is great to wear or as a gift, but impressively all proceeds from the clothing collection are being donated to The Barn Kitchen who are working hard providing free meals to key workers in local hospitals and across the Midlands.

A positive example for us all.

You can find out more about Harvey’s Positive Outlook clothing and their Positivity Is Key range here.

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Mary Wheildon Is Looking Forward To 2021

One couldn’t write the script!

In 2017, having taken up Lawn Bowling, as well as still playing tennis continuously since my days at St Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe 1956–61, I won a Warwickshire County Singles competition and was immediately invited to be the 2018 Warwickshire County Junior President; with long deliberations I decided to accept.

2018 along with enjoying the President’s Tour to Sidmouth I was learning a whole ‘new world’ fast when suddenly I required a new knee – no play until towards the end of the season although I was still able to assist as an officer off the green.

Fit again and keen to really get going with the 2019 season as Senior Vice President, I first thoroughly enjoyed the President’s Tour to Exmouth and was planning for my own tour for 2020 to be up in my ‘playground’ - Kingussie, Inverness-shire. I was doing really well with the first few County competitions when, oh dear my other knee gave notice. Yet another 48 hours stint at the hospital prior to more physio sessions before I was straight back to the County side-lines assisted by the same crutches!

Learning all the time about the enormous task of running a County Association, with an incredibly busy schedule that had barely a day off between mid-April and mid-September, including friendly County games, Midland league matches and National league matches all leading up to the Nationals held at Royal Leamington Spa in August, and supporting our competitors and of course meeting up with many of the other County competitors.

November 2019 I finally became the 2020 President of Warwickshire Women’s Bowling Association (WWBA). Much of the winter was spent trying to be one step ahead of the enormous schedule dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s for my tour to Kingussie where I was hoping to enjoy the Cairngorms and to play teams within Inverness-shire. Having gathered the necessary prizes for the season’s matches and for my opposing Presidents, I started to raise money for my Presidential charity: Mary’s Meals and then the pandemic arrived.

HALT. Boris spoke, Bowls England (BE) spoke, cancelling the Nationals as it was obvious that the County Competitions would not be played out. The county yearbooks had just been collected from the printers - they remain in the officer’s car boot not able to be handed out. With information coming in by the hour I wrote the missive for the WWBA website five times.

The tour had to be moved on a year as I, along with the BE President and no doubt many other County Presidents have been ‘cut and pasted’ to 2021 – unprecedented. The phone has been hot, the emails numerous, the BE guidance excellent and we officers have even moved to virtual meetings – who would have thought that possible! We have on-line exercises to keep us Bowls-fit but when will we get out there and in what format?

This week we should have been up in the Cairngorms on tour but instead I am in my happy bubble in Kineton – with life seeming more like a time warp with little visible progress except the seasons that I have had the time to really appreciate; to enjoy the sight and scents of the blossoms and enjoy the songs of the skylarks, blackbirds and the cuckoo while out on my morning hike, it is such a joy.

But I remain optimistic that we will be able to return to our clubs this season who, economically will be needing every one of we sportsmen and women.

So with luck this OP, cut and pasted WWBA President will be able to head a happy, healthy and successful 2021.

Who could have written that script?!!!

Upwards and onwards as they say and support Mary’s Meals.

Mary E Wheildon May 2020

Matt Parsons Will Always Be A Part Of The Princethorpe Family

Princethorpe College has been a part of my life since 1997. Some of the closest friends I have, I met over 20 years ago. When I think back to my time as a pupil, I have fond memories and many tales to tell. I never thought I would end up working there for almost eight years. It was extremely fortuitous how it all came to be. I kept on bumping into an old school friend who recommended me as a speaker for an OP festival back in 2012. I was delighted to be offered the opportunity so I accepted without thinking.

At the time I was looking at a career change and teaching was something I always wanted to do. A few months after my speech I received a phone call from Ed Hester who asked if I was interested in a position as a TA. Again, without thinking I accepted the position, which soon led me onto being a full time teacher of Design Technology.

Over the last eight years I have made some wonderful friends, been on incredible school trips, trained as a teacher and met my wonderful wife Kate. I was never very good at Spanish at school, so to think I'd fall in love and marry a Spanish teacher was something I never thought would happen. But as I've come to realise, the best things that have happened in my life have never been planned. Princethorpe has always felt like a family to me and through this family I have started my own.

Last October I accepted a job as a teacher of Design Technology at Bablake school in Coventry. It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave what I considered a home to me. However I believe that change is really important in your career. I have taught some wonderful pupils over the years and I will certainly miss them. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me develop in both my career and in my personal life. I truly hope that we keep in contact and hopefully I 'll see some of you very soon.

English Teacher Ralph Moore Extends Greetings To All His Former Pupils

It has already been seventeen years since I left Princethorpe College, so all the students I taught are now approaching middle age and, having retired from teaching five years ago, I am now a venerable pensioner of 65. Tempus fugit.

I retain fond memories of my time at Princethorpe College; I was a late-vocation teacher, having worked in - and been made redundant from - various marketing jobs in publishing before Fr Charlie Sweeney and the then Head of English, Pat Weir, despite seeing through my pathetic attempts to bluff my way through the interview by asserting that I actually knew something about teaching, decided to take a chance on an unqualified punter who simply had a hunch that he might be suited to the profession. Well, what had they got to lose? I had a good English degree, spoke French and was a Catholic convert, so sure enough I was thrown into the deep end and made to teach English, French and RE the moment I started in January 1990 - besides, they were pretty desperate...

Sure enough, I loved the classroom dynamic. Lots of good teachers are failed actors and exhibitionists, so armed with a burnt cork to draw moustaches on students' faces, a beret and a string of onions, I pretended to be a French teacher. The English was a bit easier and the RE had a good textbook so you made it up as you went along - it seemed to work. Six weeks into my probation, Deputy Head, Peter Griffin observed my teaching and - false modesty would normally forbid me from mentioning it but I have never forgotten it, it was so encouraging - he wrote in his feedback report that my demeanour was more that of a teacher who had been teaching six years rather than six weeks - so that was all right then, and I was allowed to stay; my appointment was eventually confirmed.

I keep up with some teaching colleagues who became good friends such as Desmond Jack, Bob Cooper and Colin Morgan and even hear from a couple of students. Hung Ming Chen, who was a boarder from Taiwan, became something of a 'third son' and I was recently back in touch with Grégoire de Vogüé, who also stayed with us to improve his English and contacted us via the OP website; I also hear from Kim Frangiades and a few others from time to time.

I moved on in 2003, to a brief spell in FE, which did not suit me, to a rather similar, sister Catholic school in Hertfordshire, St Edmund's College, where in time I became Head of English, resisting all blandishments to train and seek further promotion, as I liked what used to be called 'the chalk face' but was increasingly more about surfing the whiteboard, while resisting 'Death by PowerPoint'.

My wife Helvi and I now live in rural Thetford, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, a beautiful place surrounded by forests and not too far from the coast. Dog-walking, cooking, and, above all, listening to and reviewing classical music fill my days; I post - some would say pose - frequently on various websites, have made music-loving friends all over the world and am invited as a guest by a conductor friend a couple of times a year to Bruckner music festivals in Germany. Trips to France - under normal circumstances - are regular and I have just returned from New Zealand, the next leg of my trip onward to Australia having been curtailed by you-know-what.

I extend my greetings to all those I taught and hope I didn't damage them too badly.

OP Emma Pearson - Anaesthetist - Is One Of Many Working On The COVID-19 Frontline

OP Emma Pearson, from the class of 2008 graduated from Keele University with First-Class Honours in Forensic Science and Biochemistry. She then studied Medicine at Warwick University Medical School.

Emma is now working on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis as an anaesthetist at a large hospital in the North-West. She is spending her days caring for COVID-19 patients in a very busy intensive care unit.

Emma we are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers and would like to thank you and all the OPs who are out there working on the pandemic frontline for all you are doing for us all.


OP Kevin Mull Used To Borrow Father Mannix's Motorbike

OP Kevin Mull is currently stuck in Dubai, he went to the Dubai Boat Show in early March, and got caught up in the UAE lockdown; fortunately, his wife was with him and they have a holiday home over there, but on the upside it did give him time to give us an update for this latest edition of the OP newsletter.

Kevin attended Princethorpe College from 1967 to 1973 and has many memories from his time at school. He told us that his fondest memory was of borrowing Father Mannix's motorbike to go to clubs in Birmingham at the weekends and his proudest personal achievement was getting an undated, signed card from Matron (which he still has), saying 'Please excuse Kevin from games today'.

Kevin met his wife, Susan, when he was just 17 and they married shortly afterwards; she turned out to be of the Spencer birth-line and was related to Princess Diana. They are still very happily together today!

Kevin is very much enjoying being retired but can’t wait to get back to his home on the west coast of Ireland. It was good to hear from you Kevin and hopefully it won’t be long now!

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OP Randy Smith Remembers Father Clarkson’s Pep Talks

OP Randy Smith was delighted to receive a birthday card from the Foundation this year and it prompted him to get back in touch with his old school. Randy is now 60 years old and very much enjoying life. He remembers his time at Princethorpe in the seventies and especially the inspirational lectures Father Clarkson used to give him. Although he wasn’t the best student, he always knew that Father Clarkson believed in him and knew he could do better.

Randy has run a successful Audio-Visual Business for almost 30 years, although the Covid 19 virus has put a stop to his business presently. He also has a music recording business, but that is much more of a passion than a business.

He has been composing music for much of his life although he took a break during the busiest times of his business, but he has been back in full swing creating music again for the past three years. Randy will be releasing new music later this year and shared links to his musical achievements.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/randall-smith-mn0001688154 https://electrocd.com/en/artiste/smith_ra/Randall_Smith

Thank you for getting in touch Randy, it was great to hear from you.

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OP Tom Cross Is Entertaining

It was very good to see that OP Tom Cross, Class of 2010, is taking on the role of a present-day Vera Lynn, and entertaining folk with regular sererenades designed to help make the lockdown period more bearable for us all.

Tom who now works for the BBC as a production co-ordinator, is a natural born entertainer and is gaining quite a following, so if you fancy a little light musical entertainment, why not follow his Instagram @tomjmcross, he even takes requests! Have a look here and we promise you won’t be disappointed!!

Kellie Joins The Many Sewing For The NHS

Old Princethorpian, Kellie Sweeney (1988-1990) has been using her sewing skills to help the NHS. Kellie is a member of a Facebook group called the Warwickshire Scrubbers, one of many across the UK that were set up to create scrubs, bags, caps, and headbands for local hospitals.

Kellie has been working hard producing colourful headbands and scrubs mainly for Warwick Hospital.

The group continues to look for resources such as local sewing help and fabric and can be contacted through Facebook.

Well done Kellie!


Henry, George And Tom's Souvenir House Photos

Housemates Henry Weston, George Harman andTom McNevin  from the class of 2012, have started marking the passing years.

Last year they decided to sign off from their house with something a little different, a special, souvenir photo.

This year in uncertain times they took the opportunity to add another element to the 2020 house photo. They all agreed not to shave during lockdown and to include their facial hair marvels (some much better than others) in this year's souvenir photo.

They promise that in 2021 the turtle necks and facial hair marvels will be back plus whatever creative thought next comes to mind.

Just a little bit of lockdown fun!

George Harman is middle back, Tom McNevin is back right and Henry Weston is sitting down.