OP Updates

To Beach Or Not To Beach?: Very Special Old Princethorpian Releases New Book

To Beach Or Not to Beach? Is the very good question raised by VSOP, Mary Wheildon, in her first book of the same title published this June.

Mary is renowned for her adventurous and energetic spirit and her love of travel. The book is full of tongue-in-cheek tales from her lifetime of travels, as well as fascinating insights into the challenges, catastrophes and lessons learnt along the way.

Mary studied at Princethorpe from 1956-1961 when it was still St. Mary's Priory under the care of the Benedictine nuns. She has remained an active life-long member of the community, still serving today on the OP Committee and helping others to maintain their sense of connection to the school.

With an enquiring mind, and a profound love of flora and fauna, Mary rarely travels alone, resulting in itineraries that have enabled her to trek through jungles, cross lakes in dugout canoes and travel by skidoo across the ‘Land of Nothing’ behind the migrating reindeer of the Sámi! Highlights and challenges are also part of 'expedition life', from witnessing the 5th King’s Coronation in Bhutan to being dumped at a remote airport hours from the intended destination.

In her book, Mary invites us to share the music, customs and environments of multiple regions. She also details the orphanages and hospitals that she has encountered, including Mother Teresa’s. By the end, the reader will be much wiser about the less-frequented corners of the world.

If you would like to secure a signed copy of Mary's fascinating book before they fly off the shelves, please email us at oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk and we can put you in touch with her. 

The cost of the book is £20, with £2.05 of that going straight to a charity close to Mary's and Princethorpe's heart, Mary's Meals.

OP Joseph Guest-Bourne Soon To Make His Boxing Professional Debut

Old Princethorpian, Joseph Guest-Bourne (Class of 2015) shares his story of how sports changed the trajectory of his life for the better. 

"Despite it now being my career, boxing was something I sort of fell into, regardless of my dreams of becoming a professional athlete. I first became interested in the sport after competing for Great Britain in Japan at the World Benchpress Games. I was 25 stone, unhealthy and unhappy. I’ve had issues with my weight growing up and was unable to shift any without a goal.

Four and a half years ago, I signed up to a charity boxing match and after winning the bout I went to the local nightclub. I was met by the bouncer who convinced me to continue boxing and join his gym. This bouncer, Edwin Cleary, is now my manager and coach, and he has helped change my life.

I’ve always loved sport, but never been the most talented at it, so I’ve always given 100% in every division I’ve competed in and managed to get to the top. I represented Bedford Blue’s U23 Rugby team at the age of seventeen, before multiple knee operations brought that to an end. I bench pressed over 200kg for Great Britain as a Junior competitor; the peak that the sport can reach.

Rugby was actually my dream career. When I was fourteen I told myself I’d be a professional athlete in the future, and I haven’t stopped working towards that goal. Thirteen years later, I can finally say I’ve done it. Doubts from within myself, the people around me, anger and poor mental health have impacted this journey over the past four years, so I advise anyone who is struggling mentally to walk into any sort of gym or get involved in a sport. Because of how sport has shaped my life, I’m now in talks to sign with a big promoter over the next upcoming months and have my professional Boxing debut. The next few years will prove that determination can get you there, and I’ll be able to look back and be proud of what I have achieved.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Joseph. We wish you success with your Boxing debut and your future career.

OP Jim Lowe Is Walking The South West Coastal Path For The MDNA

OP Jim Lowe (Class of 2013) is taking on the challenge of the South West Costal Path this August walking 630 miles from Minehead to Poole in 29 days. Jim is fundraising for the Motor Neurone Disease Association in memory of his Grandpa John.

Jim has been training hard for his upcoming adventure. He recently roped in two other Old Princethorpians, Ben Pearson and Andrew Partridge, to help him complete the Cyril Bean Annual Coventry Way Challenge of walking 40 miles in just one day.

You can find out more about Jim’s challenge and donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/page/jim-lowe-1693948672552

And you can follow his progress on his Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/jim_walks4mnda

We wish the very best of luck to Jim!

Clearly Not Winging It: Class Of ‘84 Head Boy Still Leads By Example

Jeremy Masding, who was a pupil at Princethorpe College from 1980-1984, showed great aptitude for leadership even at a young age, serving as Head Boy in his final year. Fast-forward forty years and it is clear this leadership potential has really flourished; one could say that he ‘wrote the book on it’, because in fact, along with his co-author Emil Ivanov, he did!

His book Leading Without Winging It: A Guide To Navigating 30 Timeless Leadership Issues is described as ‘a must read for all existing and aspiring leaders, general managers, and CEOs’. It serves as a practitioner’s guide to leading a business that significantly reduces the number of times one has to ‘wing it’, aiming to show aspiring CEOs and general managers how to maximise the sustainable value of their businesses by realising the potential of good people, good thinking and good doing.

Self-published in January 2024, reviews have hailed it as ‘the best book on management’, ‘a masterful guide’ and ‘a roadmap for sustained success’, amongst other inspiring accolades, so by all accounts it looks set to fly off the shelves!

We asked Jeremy to explain the motivation and background for writing the book:

“To be frank, ‘Winging it’ is just not a sustainable approach to leadership as team members will see straight through this at any level of an organisation. Being a leader means that there is nowhere to hide. Everything you do is out in the open. You can try winging it, but sooner or later, you will be found out. I wanted to try and help people make better decisions, take the right actions, and, critically, do so in a way that is underpinned by personal integrity, compassionate candour and without a blinding ego. Having observed, experimented, failed, and succeeded many times in the past, I hope that I understand what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ looks like in terms of setting strategy, engaging colleagues, building supporting systems and processes, and holding each other to account. In summary, it was the privilege of leading that inspired me to write the book.”

Jeremy has clearly been motivated to learn from his own experiences and to help others by sharing his acquired wisdom and insights; currently serving as a Senior Adviser at Cerberus Capital Management, and he was previously Group CEO of PTSB, a leading Irish bank that was nationalised after the global financial crisis.

Seemingly though, these driving forces have always been evident in his character, as his old Economics teacher, Peter Griffin recalls:

“The spring term of 1983 was my first as Deputy Head and I was heavily involved in the appointment of the Prefect Body. Jeremy, then in Lower Sixth, stood out as having outstanding leadership qualities and was a natural choice for the position of Head Boy for 1983-84. He certainly took his responsibilities very seriously and was fully committed to the role, whilst remaining popular with his peers. He managed to combine this role whilst continuing to work hard at his studies. My recollection is that Jeremy was hard working, very keen to improve and always took on board any advice. I’m sure these qualities served him well in his career and I wish him every success with his book.”

Jeremy, we wish you every success with the book and your future endeavours.

(The book can be purchased on Amazon and other leading online book websites.)

Spanish OP Brothers Return To Walk The Halls With Their Former Teacher

On Wednesday 22 May, Princethorpe was pleased to welcome two of three Spanish brothers who were boarders at Princethorpe in late 1980s/early 1990s. For Jose, this was not his first visit since leaving the college. He has made his home in South London and so is keen to pop in when work allows, and in 2019 was able to bring his elder brother, Juan, and their families to enjoy a trip down memory lane and provide some visual context for his children of the tales he tells them about his time here.

For Javier, the youngest brother, it was his first visit in well over a decade. He currently resides in Valencia and is an AI, Automation and Machine Vision consultant. He also cares for his mother, who incidentally was the driving force behind the boys coming to Princethorpe. She wanted them to study in the UK and profit from the well-known English education, having lived in London herself for a few years. She later progressed to an official English professor role in Valencia, Spain.

Jose and Javier were greeted upon their arrival by their former Economics teacher, and former Deputy Head, Peter Griffin. Peter is still an active member of the school community, serving on the Old Princethorpians Committee and giving his time generously to support the school's activity.

The group took a delightfully thorough stroll through the school, visiting what used to be their old bedrooms on the Upper Pugin corridor, the refectory, the chapel, and pointing out the secret places students used to hide for a cheeky cigarette. They enjoyed spotting themselves and other familiar faces in the school photos along the Cloisters corridor, and were impressed by the new Science Centre. Jose particularly enjoyed the display there of the components of an Electric Vehicle, as he currently heads up the UK departments of Gamma Solutions & Energy, Wenea, Diggia Group, and is Founder Director of Plenol Ltd.

It was an absolute pleasure to enable these OPs to share stories and explore their old school, which, as boarders, made a huge impact on their lives.

We enjoy welcoming all OPs so please do feel free to contact us at oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk, ideally with a little notice, if you would like to come and see the school, so that we can ensure you have an enjoyable, comfortable and memorable visit.

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Toby Lee Supports Jools Holland At Warwick Arts Centre

Former Crackley Hall pupil, and OP, Toby Lee returned to his Prep school on Wednesday 22 May, ahead of his evening performance at Warwick Arts Centre with Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

He met with, Headmaster, Mr Duigan who was delighted to catch up with all his news.

Some of you may remember Toby from his school days at Crackley Hall, when he was cast as the first original Zack Mooneyham in the West End production of School of Rock the Musical.

Toby is currently on a 100 date UK tour – 60 performing with Jools Holland and 40 with his own band. He will even be playing at Glastonbury. You can find out more here.

Laura Baskerville Basks In The Memories Of Her Southeast Asia Adventure

Old Princethorpian Laura Baskerville (Class of 2018), who went on to study Languages and Contemporary European Studies at university, returned to Princethorpe in 2020 to work for a while as a Teaching Assistant. Recently, she has been exploring Southeast Asia and she was keen to share with us her favourite moments:

"While I have been travelling Southeast Asia for 4.5 months now, it feels as though my adventures have lasted both a few years and a matter of seconds. I have made a lifetime of memories yet I can remember each and every one as if it were yesterday. Now that I have all these memories and experiences, one of the most difficult questions people can ask me is: “What has been your favourite place?”. There are simply too many amazing places to choose from! Each being totally unique and incomparable to the last. But, with a bit of effort, I have managed to narrow down my three happiest moments.

1. Ha Giang Loop tour, Vietnam: This tour involved 4 days on the back of a motorcycle, cruising through the Northern Vietnamese mountains. The scenery was utterly spectacular, and no photo can ever do this area justice. My amazing group and our drivers only added to the experience!

2. Getting my Scuba Diving qualification, Thailand: Koh Tao, one of the many islands in Southern Thailand, is the global hub for scuba diving schools. Spending 3 days learning the basics of diving and going for my first few dives in the ocean was incredible! I will always remember how I felt that first time I breathed underwater - it was magical. What’s more, I had the most lovely instructor and diving buddies. It was such an honour to get my certification and now to be forever free to explore the underwater world!

3. Reaching the summit of Mount Rinjani, Indonesia: This beast of a volcano lies in Lombok, an island just east of Bali. Reaching its summit was probably one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I have ever done! But seeing the sun rise over the horizon from the peak was just so, so special. I was above the clouds, in my own little world. I was so proud of myself that day!

If I were now to give one key piece of advice to anyone thinking about picking up a backpack and exploring the world, it would be: treasure every moment; the highs and the lows; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Everything you go through shapes your adventure into a beautifully personalised experience that’s yours to keep. So just ride the waves and enjoy it!"

Beautifully put, Laura. Thank you for sharing your treasured memories and thoughtful insights. We wish you every success in your future endeavours and we're sure your courage and adventurous spirit have inspired us all to embrace the world around us.

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OPs Out In Force At Premier Racing Events

It was great to see racehorse trainer OP Dan Skelton (Class of 2003), who kindly spoke at our recent Vision For Sport dinner, and his brother Harry having so much success at the Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle event of the jump-racing calendar. Dan and Harry claimed four wins at this year's festival as they took on a dominant Irish contingent. 

Then our alumni were also out in force in this year's Grand National too, with Dan Skelton joined by trainer OP Tom Ellis, who started at Princethorpe back in 1996, to give us two runners to cheer on in the race. They both had great success too, with Dan's horse Galia des Liteaux finishing in 8th place while Tom's horse Latenightpass came home 12th, fabulous results in what is always an incredibly challenging and competitive event.

It was a bit of a family affair for Tom as Latenightpass was bred by his mother, Pippa, out of a mare bought by Tom and his father, Tony (another OP), and ridden by his wife, Gina Andrews. You can read more about Tom's story in an interview that was published in The Telegraph here.


Class Of '71 Keep The Memories Alive

We were delighted to hear about a small social gathering of Princethorpe OPs that took place earlier this month; it is always a joy to hear that relationships forged within the Foundation remain alive and kicking years later. Here are the words of OP Nigel Hall to recount the occasion: 

"Nigel Hall (Pewsey, Wiltshire), Jerry Peacock (Biggin Hill, Kent), Mark Deacon (Praa Sands, Cornwall), and Gary Peacock (Pimperne, Dorset), all joined by their wives - Susie, Stephanie, Sue and Jacqueline - met up for an over-nighter with drinks and dinner at the Lakeside Manor Hotel in Honiton. We thought, 'if they can have an “alumni branch” in Hong Kong, we can have one  outside of Leamington and London too!'

We worked out the last time we were all together was at the Golden Jubilee in 2017, although we have all met up separately on a few occasions since then. Our first meeting as a group was in 2014 in the Seven Stars Inn, Bottlesford. We were all a part of the original Princethorpe pupils from 1967 and left the school between 1970 and 1971 (almost 54 years ago!) I think Gary Peacock left a bit later as he was a few years younger. It was good reminiscing about past experiences, fellow Princethorpe students from across the world, and what we have all been up to since leaving the school. We remembered Nigel was a Boarding Prefect and House Captain (Fisher); both Jerry and Mark were also Boarding Prefects back in the day when the school was a boarding school.

Apart from Gary, we are all retired; Nigel from Business and industry (Sodexo, DTI, TfL), Jerry from the Met Police, and Mark from Automation Engineering & Project Management Consultancy (AEG, AMEC & BAA).

We have made no immediate plans for another reunion as a group, but we will no doubt do so. We are always open to others joining us if they are in the south and wish to expand our group and join us. It is not just about us keeping in touch, as we have done since leaving in the early 1970s, but about keeping the spirit of the family flourishing. Many life-long friendships were made at Princethorpe; long may they continue. 

In the photo attached, from bottom left moving clockwise, the people are: Jacqueline Peacock, Sue Deacon, Jerry Peacock, Stephanie Peacock, Nigel Hall, Susie Hall, Mark Deacon and Gary Peacock."

If you recognise any of the OPs in this story and wish to make contact, or wish to share a story of your own OP reunions, please feel free to email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk

Meera Takes On The Race For Life

Meera Chauhan (Class of 2019) has been in touch to share that she, along with other members of her family, completed a 10k Race for Life on Saturday 18 May at Stoneleigh Park.

Meera takes up the story:

With cancer being a cause close to our hearts, my family and I joined forces to participate in a 10k Race for Life for Cancer Research on 18th May 2024 and in competitive spirits, I’m aiming to raise the most! 

I would be really greatful for any contributions from the Princethorpe community in support of our goal to exceed raising £1,000.

If you would like to support Meera, go to her fundraising page here