Welcome to the thirty-seventh issue of The Old Princethorpian, the Princethorpe Foundation's termly e-newsletter for past pupils, staff and parents, old and new.

Our newsletter aims to keep OPs in touch with each other and news, developments and events at the College.

This issue includes the latest Foundation and College news, plus plenty of news and updates from OPs across the decades.

If you have any comments on the e-newsletter or news to contribute to the next issue, which is due out in early October, please email us at oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

Coming up soon is the College's Open Evening in early June followed by the welcome return of our annual Summer Supper Reunion. Please see the Events section for more details on our events, this year and next.


Alumni News

Telethon Success Sees Princethorpe Reconnect With Hundreds Of OPs

During the Easter holidays Princethorpe College undertook its first-ever telethon, aimed at getting back in touch with Old Princethorpians and former parents of the College to catch-up, update them on our news and ensure we can stay in touch in the future.

A team of 13 recent leavers from 2015 to 2020 totalled nearly 700 hours of conversations with nearly 600 alumni and former parents being spoken to during the two weeks of the campaign.

The telethon was undertaken remotely with the call team doing their work either at home or university – from Glasgow to Bristol and supported by colleagues from Buffalo Fundraising Consultants.

Our callers were told many stories of years past from the 1960s onwards and also enjoyed catching up with more recent leavers and hearing how many of them are getting on at university or work.

The College would like to extend its thanks to all who participated in the campaign – especially our wonderful call team of recent leavers, as well as those from the Princethorpe community who took the time to give us their thoughts and feedback.

Michael Gucluer (OP 2018), who was part of the call team, said:

“The telephone campaign has been challenging but also really useful for developing interpersonal skills. It’s been great working from home and being able to engage with Old Princethorpians, many of which I was friendly with at school or had an indirect affiliation with. Miki from Buffalo was brilliant - keeping us entertained and always being available to answer any questions and for her inclusive attitude in virtual calls.

“A particularly funny moment was an Old Princethorpians’ story of antics in Austria where a group of them were berated by the fathers for nearly missing the flight home!”

Esme Down (OP 2019), who was also on the call team, added:

“I’ve really enjoyed doing the telethon campaign. It has been wonderful to chat to so many different people and to hear that the caring ethos of Princethorpe has been prominent throughout its history.

“People I’ve spoken to have such fond memories of the school and still feel a great affinity with it. It’s been especially interesting for me to chat to Old Princethorpians who have gone on to work in the scientific and medical fields. It’s been a privilege to be able to give back to Princethorpe and show my appreciation for my time there.”


Spanish OPs Virtual Reunion Proves To Be A Real Family Affair

Following a flying visit by Old Princethorpian, José Contreras to the College in March, a Spanish OPs Virtual Reunion was suggested, with the aim of gathering together as many of the Spanish former pupils from the 80s and 90s as possible.

Former languages teacher, Ed MacFetridge, who is in regular contact with his old Spanish charges via WhatsApp, leapt into action and in no time at all a date and time was set for Saturday 24 April at 8.30pm Spanish time.

Nine former pupils joined the Zoom call, along with host Alex Darkes, Headmaster, Ed Hester, OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler and Archivist, Janette Ratcliffe.  Also on the call were members of staff, former Headmaster, Fr Alan Whelan MSC, former teachers, Paul Adams, Peter and Liz Griffin, Bernie Moroney and of course, Ed MacFetridge.

Ed Hester invited the OPs to introduce themselves and what they are doing now, plus any memories they wanted to share with the group. Most of the group are still based in Spain and all have successful careers. Tall tales were told of Spanish football prowess, extra English lessons, the confiscation of illicit Spanish food and weekly calls home from the telephone box in the main corridor. Several of the group spoke of their initial homesickness and the warmth the whole group continues to feel for former Matron, Ann Grant, who they described as ‘our second mother’, was also very apparent.

Amongst the good-humoured exchanges and banter, what quickly became clear was that in true Spanish style a Saturday evening, even one conducted over Zoom, soon becomes a family affair. Alfonso Lechuga’s small daughter made regular appearances during the evening, along with some of Jose’s eight, yes eight children. Some of the wives also got in on the act, but the highlight of the evening had to be when the three Contreras brothers, Juan, José and Javier, were joined on the call by their remarkable nonagenarian mother, a phonetics expert, who in her excellent English, explained how her boys came to become pupils at the College.

After a look into the archives from their time at the school, the fun-packed evening came to a happy close with an invitation for our next Spanish OPs meet to take place at Francis Megias’ luxury hotel on the Costa del Sol. That sounds like an offer we can’t refuse!

Also on the call were Rafael Layna Fernandez, Santiago Lasa, Julio Monsalve and Gerardo Perez.

Muchas gracias to Ed MacFetridge for his invaluable help in organising the evening.

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New Clubs Feature On Princethorpe Connect

A new feature recently added to Princethorpe Connect are Clubs for our Hong Kong, USA and North America and Spanish Old Princethorpians.

If you would like to join one of these Clubs, visit Princethorpe Connect, go to Clubs and click on Join Now for the one you would like to join, then get connecting with your fellow Club members and share your news!


If you would like us to set up a Club for your group please let us know by emailing oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

The Bluebells Are In Bloom

Springtime is the season for wildflowers and here at Princethorpe that always means bluebells. The bright violet-blue perennials carpet the woodlands around the College site every year from late April to late May. They are at their best now, so we had to share a few pictures. For many of our Old Princethorpians they are a reminder of their time at Princethorpe, and we hope that they enjoy the photos. It's always a joy to see them bloom and, as always, they look just magical.

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Princethorpe Sixth Former Awarded Top Honours In Prestigious ISA National Art Competition

Recent leaver, Dominic Turner-Burr has been awarded first place in the Key Stage 5 Photography category of the Independent Schools Association’s prestigious National Art Competition.

Dominic’s winning work, titled Fighting Back, was part of his A-level Photography portfolio. His striking image explores the challenge of managing the negativity that people experience in their daily lives. It depicts how using numbers and codes helps people to identify and label different coping strategies.

His work took first place in the Regional ISA Art competition back in November and Princethorpe College Head of Art, Paul Hubball, is delighted that Dominic’s work has gone on to take top spot in the national event.

Paul comments, “Many congratulations to Dom, he was a worthy recipient of this award. His entry was exceptional and is a product of the many hours of work he put into it. It is marvellous to see his talent rewarded in this way.”

This recognition is also a testament to the depth and range of talent in Princethorpe's Art and Photography Department.

A huge well done to Dom!

Stateside Virtual Reunion A Very Convivial Affair

On Saturday 27 February the Old Princethorpians and Development Office hosted their first ever OPs in the Americas Virtual Reunion bringing together former pupils now located in the United States and North America and it proved to be a very convivial affair. The Stateside OPs were joined by a contingent from the UK including Princethorpe College Headmaster Ed Hester, former Headmaster Father Alan Whelan MSC, former Director of Boarders Father Teddy O’Brien MSC, lifelong Princethorpian and teacher Alex Darkes and the Chair of the Old Princethorpian Committee Peter Rollason.

The virtual reunion included a Blessing, a virtual tour of the school and a fascinating chance to delve into the Princethorpe archives. It also included plenty of time for former pupils to swap stories, share photos, reminisce and to renew their connections with each other and their former school.

We were joined by OPs from across North America from as far afield as California, Minneapolis, Nevada, New York, Illinois, Washington, Ontario and Barbados as well as the school staff team. The Old Princethorpians excitedly shared their news and caught up – telling of their lasting friendships from their time at school.

The former pupils had mainly attended the College during the seventies and eighties and with many having boarded there were plenty of memories of lively escapades to recount including one particularly tricky Chemistry homework incident where the boys were hauled before Headmaster, Father Clarkson expecting to be punished severely only to receive a masterclass in Chemistry to help them finish their work.

Foundation Archivist, Jannette Ratcliffe was especially delighted to see so many new photographs and hear so many stories about life as a boarder, and our thanks go to all the attendees who so willingly filled in the gaps.

Melanie Butler, Old Princethorpians’ Secretary said, “The virtual reunion was a wonderful chance for us to reconnect with our many Stateside OPs and bring them up to date with events at the College. It was a very enjoyable evening, afternoon or morning depending on where you were! We are very much hoping to organise a proper reunion in the States post the pandemic and would encourage any America-based OPs from across the generations to get back in touch so that we can keep you informed of our plans.”

Recordings of the reunion including the virtual tour and archive presentation are available to view please email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk and we will send you the link.

It was wonderful to reconnect with all our friends across the pond and if anyone is still in touch with former pupils Richard Burke, Mickey Hindley and Alistair Rumbold (at Princethorpe in the seventies) and Paul Brennan (who attended in the late eighties) then they have some old friends Stateside who would very much like to get back in touch.

Zainah Was Our 700th Membership Prize Draw Winner

Princethorpe Connect, the Foundation’s online alumni community, passed another amazing milestone in March with membership numbers reaching 700. Our congratulations go to OP Zainah Darr whose name was pulled out of the hat and was our latest membership prize draw winner.

Zainah was delighted to hear the news and to receive a lovely spring bouquet of flowers from the Foundation. She left Princethorpe back in 2018 and gave us an update on what she has been doing.

She said, “Since leaving Princethorpe, I have been studying Neuroscience at Queen Mary University of London. I have thoroughly enjoyed my degree and it has been fascinating to explore an area of science where so little is understood. Studying in such a dynamic and exciting city has also been amazing and I couldn’t think of a better place to be! With my university being in one of the most multicultural areas of London, I have formed friendships with people from all walks of life. Alongside my studies, I work part time at Selfridges on Oxford Street, which again, has allowed me to interact with a diverse range of people and even serve the odd celebrity! Over the past three years, I have also occasionally helped out at Save the Children in Leamington Spa on the weekends when I have come back home.”

“As fascinating as my degree has been, I have decided to pursue a career in law and have been accepted to study the GDL Law Conversion Course at the University of Law, starting this September - I will be studying at the Moorgate Campus so will be continuing my education in London. I am extremely passionate about child safeguarding and wish to specialise in family law, specifically, child protection as I believe all children deserve to excel towards a thriving future."

It was lovely to hear from Zainah and to hear of her future plans. The Foundation is keen to engage with all former pupils, parents and staff and build a thriving alumni community so please do encourage all those you know to register on Princethorpe Connect. They can do this easily themselves by going online to connect.princethorpe.co.uk and you never know they might be the next lucky winners in our next membership milestone prize draw.

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College News

Registrations For September 2022 Entry Now Open!

The countdown to the College's Entrance Exams for admission in September 2022 has officially begun and our friendly Admissions Team are already busy accepting registrations and answering enquiries from prospective families.

The Entrance Exams will take place on Saturday 6 November 2021 and with just five months until the registration deadline, Friday 1 October 2021, we have now opened bookings for our Open Events and Taster Experiences.

Our Summer Open Evening, Wednesday 9 June 2021, is by appointment only and will operate subject to government guidelines, in order for us to keep everyone safe. There are two sessions running from 6.30pm – 7.30pm and 8.00pm to 9.00pm. This event will give prospective families a chance to look around the school and to hear from Ed Hester, the Headmaster. Places are limited and filling up fast, so please book your place via our website.

In May and June, we are also able to offer our popular Year 5 Taster Experiences. These events are aimed at giving prospective pupils a taste of senior school life through a variety of sample lessons. Younger visitors will be welcomed by the Headmaster and get to enjoy refreshments, including the legendary Princethorpe cookies.

There are three Year 5 Taster Experience sessions, Saturday 22 May 9.00am to 12.15pm or Saturday 19 June, 9.00am to 12.15pm or 1.30pm to 4.45pm. These events will also be very carefully managed within government guidelines. To register please visit our website.

There will be further opportunities to visit in the Michaelmas Term, when we hope restrictions will be lifted and visitors can be welcomed as normal.

Our Open Afternoon on Sunday 19 September from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, will provide prospective families with a chance to meet members of staff and pupils, take part in activities around the different departments and tour the school and grounds.

The final opportunity to visit before the registration deadline for those wishing to join Years 7 to 10, is our Open Morning on Thursday 23 September from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Visitors will be able to look around the school on a normal working school day with our Year 8 and 9 pupils acting as tour guides.

If you are thinking of joining us for Sixth Form in 2022, we have a dedicated Sixth Form Open Evening on Wednesday 13 October 2021 from 6.30pm to 9.00pm. You will hear from Ed Hester, Headmaster and Head of Sixth Form, Ben Collie regarding key events and dates in the Sixth Form application process. You will also receive specific A-level subject information and advice provided by the Heads of Departments and general information on the Sixth Form experience at Princethorpe.

For more information and to book your place at any of our Open Events or Taster Experiences please visit www.princethorpe.co.uk/visit or contact our friendly Admissions Team on 01926 634201/262/297 or email admissions@princethorpe.co.uk

Entrance Exams for 2022 entry will take place on Saturday 6 November 2021. All candidates must be registered by Friday 1 October 2021. For those wishing to join us for Sixth Form in September 2022 you must be registered by Monday 31 January 2022.

Virtual Production A World First For Princethorpe

Princethorpe College’s entirely virtual production of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar School Production was a world first and the culmination of an astounding year of ingenuity for the Music and Performing Arts team.

Available for just eight days, over Easter, the powerful performance telling the story of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion was both moving and incredible. Together, Directors Jess Newborough and Gil Cowlishaw and their mighty team of Princethorpe players delivered a world first, a completely virtual production that simply took your breath away.

After the announcement of the lockdown in January, and in agreement with the rights holders, who also confirmed this had never been attempted before, pupils individually recorded virtual performances that were then edited together to produce a completely virtual show. Featuring all the classic rock musical numbers that everyone loves, including Gethsemane, I Don’t Know How To Love Him and the mighty anthem Superstar.

Gil Cowlishaw, Director of Music, explains, “In ‘normal’ times, we would have never been allowed to make a movie musical but the College has proved that virtual performances can work. It took a lot of determination and ‘can do’ Princethorpe spirit but the hours of rehearsing, performance and editing were certainly worth it.”

Huge congratulations to the cast and crew for their vision, tenacity and sheer effort in putting it all together and as feedback on the production enthusiastically said ‘You completely owned it’ and ‘We are absolutely astounded by you all!’

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New College Map Allows Visitors To Explore Princethorpe Online

Princethorpe College has just launched a new online interactive map that allows visitors and prospective parents to take a mini-tour around the school. Especially now, when on-site visits are limited, the virtual map provides a wonderful window into the school, its buildings and grounds and all those iconic places that are such a part of daily life here at Princethorpe.

The new College map is a good place for prospective parents to start exploring the school and getting a feel for the College before registering to visit the school. It is also great for prospective pupils helping them to imagine life here at Princethorpe amongst all their new friends.

The map will also be of interest to all Old Princethorpians allowing them to wander down the corridors of their yesteryears and will be sure to spark a host of memories of their time at the school.

If you would like to take a look at the new College map then you can find it here: https://www.princethorpe.co.uk/collegemap

More information on how to visit the school in person as restrictions ease and on how to join our happy school community, can also be found on our website here: https://www.princethorpe.co.uk/visit Alternatively you can email admissions@princethorpe.co.uk

Faye Roberts To Be New Head Of Benet House

Head of Benet House and English Teacher, Lisa Challinor, is to take up a new role from September, as Director of Wellbeing, Values and Skills at King’s High School.

Comments, Ed Hester, Headmaster, “We would like to congratulate Lisa on her new role. She has been an important part of the Princethorpe family for 11 years and we offer our heartfelt thanks for her commitment to and support of our pupils, as part of our teaching and pastoral teams. We wish her all the very best in her new endeavour.”

The College is delighted to announce that Faye Roberts has been appointed as the new Head of Benet House. Faye, who is currently Head of Biology and Acting Head of Science and was previously House Activities Leader, will take over the reins at the start of the Michaelmas Term.

Faye has taught at Princethorpe for 11 years fostering her many pupils’ love of the biological sciences and encouraging engagement and participation during her time as House Activities Leader. She has led the College’s Expeditions to Costa Rica, Ecuador and Borneo and during the 2018-2019 academic year took a sabbatical, to travel and volunteer in the developing world. In her spare time Faye likes to get outside and go camping and hiking.

Comments Ed Hester, "Faye is a long-standing and valued member of the Princethorpe community with a wealth of experience. Her warm, positive approach will provide a supportive environment for Benet pupils that will help get the best out of everyone."

Faye Roberts added, "The Spirit of Family ethos here at Princethorpe means so much to me and I am looking forward to getting to know all the Benet pupils over the coming months.”

Princethorpe’s Virtual Careers Fair Offers Insights Into A Wealth Of Opportunities

The College’s fifth Careers Fair took place virtually this year but that didn’t stop it offering a wealth of insightful information and advice about a whole host of careers. Headmaster, Ed Hester welcomed a capacity crowd of pupils, parents, staff and contributors, all online, on Saturday 20 March, for what proved to be an informative and very valuable event.

Thirty-seven speakers, including current and former parents and Old Princethorpians, gave their time to present on a wide variety of careers and professions. From Accountancy and Law to Veterinary, Engineering, Cyber-Security and Social Work, individual presentations gave pupil attendees from Year 10 to Sixth Form the chance to consider careers, research jobs, listen to advice and ask questions.

The morning began with a keynote speech from guest speaker and Princethorpe parent Dr Charlotte Cowie, Head of Medicine at the Football Association. Dr Cowie’s address was full of words of wisdom. She began by sharing her route to her current role, the challenges and opportunities faced along the way and the breadth of responsibilities it includes. Before moving on to talk about the different career opportunities available in her industry. Her three myth busters were applicable to us all, encouraging but to the point they summarised the reality of the working world. Her advice that ‘talent is not enough – it is discretionary effort that counts’, ‘you need to learn to love what you do’ and ‘you don’t have to know what you want to do – just fake it until you make it’ are applicable to anyone at any stage in their career in any industry.  Dr Cowie spoke from the heart and was inspiring to all.

Thanking Dr Cowie, Ed Hester summed up with the hope that the Careers Fair would succeed in ‘getting pupils on the right track’ and with that the attendees were off for a fruitful morning of exploring careers and universities and life post Princethorpe.

Across the morning pupils attended three virtual sessions, for many this was their first step on the career ladder and it enabled pupils to have a taste of some of the different sorts of career choices available to them.  Feedback has certainly been very positive with parents and pupils commenting on how useful and informative the event was including:

“Please pass our thanks on to all involved; really inspirational and helpful stimulus for the students.”

“It was a great insight into future opportunities and ideas. Dr Cowie’s initial talk was just amazing and so inspiring on so many levels.”

“The speakers made it very interesting and gave a lot of information. It was so helpful. Also we would like to thank Dr Cowie she was so inspirational.”

“Following the Careers Fair on Saturday, I now know exactly what I want to do!”

We are immensely grateful to all the Old Princethorpians, parents, contributors and staff who supported the Careers Fair and to the Careers Team for their organisation of the event.


Latest Editions Of The Pinnacle And Minnacle Published

Issue 29 of the Pinnacle and Minnacle was published in late February showcasing exceptional work by pupils from across the Foundation. 

A testament to the dedication of pupils and staff to continue with their studies in the face of the ongoing pandemic restrictions they included news of Oxbridge and Arkwright success alongside stunning sketchbooks and musical collaborations, Maths and Physics awards and creative writing challenges. The magazines showcased flair and ingenuity across a wide range of subjects and year groups.

The Pinnacle focuses on the work of pupils here at Princethorpe College, while the Minnacle includes equally impressive work by the Foundation junior schools, Crackley Hall and Crescent School. 

You can enjoy our celebration of their studies here: The Pinnacle and The Minnacle.

Do you remember featuring in the Pinnacle and if so why not let us know. The next edition will be the magazine's 30th and it would be wonderful to share examples of featured work from across the years. Email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk to share your memories.


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Despite The Pandemic Princethorpe’s Classrooms For Malawi Project Has Been Successfully Completed

Last summer, 25 pupils and four staff should have travelled out to Malawi to visit the African country where Mary’s Meals, a charity close to the College’s heart, first began. There they would have taken part in a two-week project with the charity Classrooms For Malawi, helping to refurbish a school block at Lauderdale Primary School.

Some of you will remember that Lauderdale School was the first school that Princethorpe College worked with in Malawi when back in 2007/8 pupils fundraised to provide new kitchens to support the Mary’s Meals feeding programme at the school.

Assistant Head of Sixth Form, Rod Isaacs, explains, “After more than 10 years of fundraising, we were looking to take the College’s charity work in Malawi one step further and a project to refurbish school buildings was a perfect choice, providing opportunity through education for the local community while allowing our pupils to actively contribute. We were introduced to Classrooms For Malawi and it all began from there.”  

A significant part of the Malawi 2020 project challenge was for pupils to raise the funds to pay for materials and supplies for the classroom refurbishment project. So, throughout 2019 pupils organised a series fundraising events that together raised £10,174. Marathon runs, wreath making, music concerts, stall at Christmas fairs, CDs, sponsored outdoor swims and sponsorship from the annual 24-mile Sixth Form walk around the Coventry Way all contributed to the total.

During their two-week trip to Malawi, Princethorpe’s pupils would have spent time helping to refurbish the school block while also assisting with teaching, sports and drama activities at Lauderdale School. They would have had the opportunity to visit the pupils at Princethorpe’s current sponsored school, Makalanga Primary School to meet the children and see Mary’s Meals feeding programme there as well as to visit the Mary's Meals headquarters in Blantyre.

With the onset of the pandemic, schools across the world were impacted and like many, the schools in Malawi were forced to close. Eventually the sad decision was taken to cancel the College trip. However, all was not lost as the classroom refurbishment project was able to continue. The work was undertaken by the local building contractors supported by the community, and the funds raised by the College were used to fund the materials and labour required.

Work on the project began in August 2020 with the removal of the roof and breeze block windows. Supporting beams were strengthened, new windows and roofing installed, drainage issues addressed, the floors levelled, the walls freshly painted, and chalk blackboards installed. The work was finished in January and the classrooms are now in use.

Amy Blake, Chief Executive of the charity Classrooms For Malawi, said, “This project has been amazing and the help and support from Princethorpe College has been so commendable especially given the circumstances, we are so sorry the team didn’t make it across to Malawi to help with the refurbishment. Lauderdale School and the local community are delighted with their building. It’s made a real difference to their ability to provide an education for their children. I really hope that one day the Princethorpe’s pupils can visit Malawi to see the result.”

You can watch a video on the Malawi project here.

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OP Friendly Faces Gears Up To Help The Next Generation Of OPs

Our OP Friendly Faces scheme aims to link new first year university students to past OP pupils already established at university. Providing a friendly, familiar face to meet up with over a coffee (compliments of the OPs) or having someone to call in their new Uni town or city, does, we know, make for a smoother experience in those first few weeks away from home.

We have just contacted our current Upper Sixth with more information, to introduce them to the OP Friendly Faces scheme and to the benefits of joining Princethorpe Connect and the Old Princethorpians Association.

Comments OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, "We have OP Friendly Faces in around 30 university towns and cities now and would like to expand on that this year and get more of our leavers matched up for the next academic year."

We are always on the look out for OPs at University who would be happy to be a friendly face so if you think you could help then do please email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

Development News

Pearson Family Support Princethorpe’s Science Campaign

Brothers Ben and Alex Pearson, leavers of 2014 and 2016 respectively, and their family have recently become the first donors to take up the opportunity to name a laboratory in Princethorpe’s proposed new Science Centre. The good news was communicated to the College recently at an opportune time for the fundraising campaign.

The new Science Centre, Princethorpe’s largest campus project to date, will cost £8 million and provide 10 brand-new, state-of-the-art science laboratories. The school is aiming to fundraise over £1 million towards the overall build cost and donors are being offered a variety of giving options including naming a laboratory ahead of work commencing. It is hoped that the centre will open its doors for teaching in autumn 2023.

The Pearson family’s major donation, given in memory of Ben and Alex’s late father and in thanks for the support given to the boys during their time at the school, is the first gift that the College has received to go towards naming one of the new Science labs – the Pearson Laboratory.

Commenting on the gift, Ed Hester said, “It’s wonderful that the Pearson family have been able to support Princethorpe so generously, and it’s exciting to see our first donors come forward to name one of the laboratories in the new Science Centre.

“Both Ben and Alex contributed hugely to College life during their school years here and this is a wonderful tribute to their legacy and that of their late father.

Since leaving Princethorpe Ben has completed a degree in Law at UCL and is now living and working in London as a solicitor for a City firm, working on investments into energy and infrastructure projects. Younger brother, Alex, studied Business at Liverpool John Moore’s and is still based in the city, now working in the hospitality industry.

Ben and Alex Pearson commented, “We are delighted that our family have been able to support Princethorpe with this donation towards the Science Centre which we hope will benefit the learning of generations of pupils.

“We both really enjoyed our time at Princethorpe and it’s fantastic to see the school going from strength to strength. We very much look forward to seeing the progress on the new Science Centre over the next year or so and visiting our named lab when it opens for teaching.”

If you are interested in opportunities to donate towards the Science Centre or to the College’s Bursary Fund, please get in touch with the Development Team on 01926 634265 or email makingadifference@princethorpe.co.uk.

Steve Kowal To Take On Princethorpe Foundation Development Director Role

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Steve Kowal to the role of Foundation Development Director. He will take up the position later in the summer.

Steve has a proven track record in fundraising and a wealth of development experience. He has spent most of his working life within Higher Education Development, including City University London, the University of Surrey, Coventry University Group and most recently the University of Buckingham as Director of Advancement.

Well versed in leadership and strategic direction over his 15-year career, he has a history of accomplishments including successful capital campaigns, corporate and major donations, grants, annual giving and data management.

Comments Ed Hester, “We had an outstanding field of candidates and Steve stood out both in terms of experience and most importantly his fit with Princethorpe. His arrival at this key juncture will be instrumental to the success of both the Science+ Campaign and the wider development strategy for the Foundation and I am very excited at the prospect of working with him.”

Steve adds, “I am fully committed to the values that education embraces and look forward to bringing my skills and experience to bear within the independent school sector at Princethorpe. The Foundation is relatively young in its development journey and I relish the opportunity to lead and manage its fundraising efforts and engagement with the whole community.”

Huge Thanks To Our Telethon Callers

Our wonderful Telethon callers were a team of recent Princethorpe College leavers who really enjoyed talking to the Old Princethorpian alumni. These young people are mostly all still studying at university or in the early stages of their careers and we were delighted they all stepped forward to support us in our first ever telethon event. Now following career paths that range from the Performing Arts through to Architecture and the Sciences, it is wonderful to see the confident and well-rounded young people they have all become. 

From the Class of 2015 there was actor, Ed Statham, who trained at the Birmingham School of Acting and artist, Matt Farr, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art.

From the 2018 cohort we had Ben Haden who is studying Biological Sciences, Ella Freiss whose is currently a Graphic Design student, Michael Gucluer who went on to study Electrical Engineering and Faye Lewis who is a student of Architecture, all still at university.

Then from the 2019 cohort we welcomed Sam Richards and Millie Higgins who are both studying Business and Management, Esme Down, a medical student, Charlotte Silvester, currently studying Anatomy and Human Biology, and Jasmine Rigg, a Biomedical student.

They were joined by 2020 leaver Gabriella Proietti Tocca who has just started her Biological Science degree and Lauren Pountney-Barnes who is a trained dancer currently studying at Trinity Laban.

It was great to re-engage with them and with the wider Princethorpe community strengthening our connections and relationships.

Thank you to them all for making the telethon such a success.


Crackley Hall and Little Crackers Open Evening

Wednesday 26 May - 5.00pm to 7.30pm

Prospective pupils and their parents are warmly invited to Crackley Hall's Open Evening on Wednesday 26 May from 5.00pm.

The evening will consist of a welcome from our Headmaster, Rob Duigan, and a guided tour around the school. Families will also have an opportunity to ask questions to our Senior Leadership Team. 

The evening will be split into two, hour-long sessions, so that we can manage numbers and adhere to government guidelines. A maximum of two family members will be able to attend with the prospective pupil/s.

To book your place, please click here.

For more information on admission to Crackley Hall and Little Crackers please email Jenny Vaughan at admissions@crackleyhall.co.uk or call 01926 514410.

Crescent School Open Evening

Thursday 27 May - 5.00pm to 7.30pm

Crescent School will be hosting an Open Evening on Thursday 27 May from 5.00pm to 7.30pm for prosepctive families and pupil/s.

On arrival families will be greeted by the Head Boy and Head Girl before taking a tour of the school. Our Open Evening will give prospective families an insight into life at Crescent and the opportunity to ask our Senior Leadership Team any questions that they might have. 

In order to adhere to government guidelines, the evening will be by appointment only. A maximum of two family members will be able to attend with the prospective pupil/s.

To register your interest please click here

The Seventeenth National Schools’ Two Day Event

Saturday 29 May – Sunday 30 May 2021

The National Schools’ and Riding Club Two Day Event takes place for the seventh year running on the magnificent Princethorpe estate. The competition is open to any school or Riding Club riders.

The 80cm class continues again, as well as Novice 90cm and Open 100cm classes and the event includes Independent Schools' Association Classes. Show Jumping and Dressage take place on the Saturday with Roads and Tracks, Steeplechase and Cross Country on the Sunday.

Please use this link to find booking forms.

We do hope you can come along and enjoy a wonderful weekend of equestrian events.

Princethorpe College Open Evening And Year 5 Taster Experiences

Wednesday 9 June 2021 - 6.30pm to 9.00pm

This will be a great opportunity for prospective families, for Year 7 to 10 September 2022 entry, to hear a welcome address from Ed Hester, the Headmaster and to follow a guided tour route around the school.

This Open Evening consists of two sessions that will be carefully managed within government guidelines and will operate on an appointment only basis. Places will be strictly limited.

Our 6.30pm to 7.30pm session is now fully booked. We still have places available 8.00pm to 9.00pm.

Click here to book your place.

Saturday 22 May 2021 and Saturday 19 June 2021

Our Taster Experiences are a great way for your child to really experience Princethorpe. Each session will involve a welcome introduction from Mr Hester, Headmaster and two taster lessons. The sessions will be carefully managed to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

We have three sessions available in May and June. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Saturday 22 May 2021 – 9.00am to 12.15pm
Saturday 19 June 2021 – 9.00am to 12.15pm and 1.30pm to 4.45pm

To attend please register your child here.

Crackley Hall and Crescent School Year 5 pupils have been invited to a specific Taster Experience and Open Afternoon. 


Leaving A Legacy To Princethorpe College - Online Workshop

Friday 11 June - 2.00pm to 3.00pm

This online workshop led by Princethorpe’s Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, takes a closer look at leaving a legacy gift to Princethorpe College in your will.
Many people have big demands on their finances during their lifetime which may preclude them from making a gift. Supporting Princethorpe with a gift or a donation in a will is a very personal way of giving that can have a hugely positive impact on the College for future generations.
The workshop will outline the different sorts of legacies that you may wish to leave, how you may wish to go about this and give an insight into our bursaries scheme.
Anyone that makes a legacy pledge will be invited to join the Jules Chevalier Legacy Society – and we want to hear from you about what you would like out of a legacy club, and how we should approach this during the COVID-era. We also want to hear about your views on legacies and their appeal.
The meeting will be hosted on Zoom and log-in details will be emailed to those that sign-up.
There will also be time to ask questions at the end of the session. If you want to find our more about Legacy Giving at Princethorpe, please view our legacies webpage for more information.

You can register for this evernt here.

*The content of this workshop will be the same as the event ran in October 2020 and March 2021*

The Summer Art, Photography and Design Show

Thursday 24 June from 6.00pm to 8.30pm and Sunday 27 June from 2.00pm to 4.30pm

A celebration of our pupils GCSE, AS and A2 Art, Photography and Design work will take place in the College's Sixth Form Centre on Thursday 24 June from 6.00pm to 8.30pm and on Sunday 27 June from 2.00pm to 4.30pm.

A range of design technology projects, from resistant materials to textiles, will be showcased alongside the stunning art and photography work the College is renowned for.

Comments, Paul Hubball, Head of Art, "This is a great opportunity to share our pupils' fantastic creativity with a wider audience and to welcome more art and design lovers to Princethorpe."

Added Head of Design Technology, Paul Scopes, "We look forward to welcoming all the exam pupils and their families from across Design, Art and Photography to enjoy the fruit of their labours."

All are welcome. On Thursday evening admission is free, on the Sunday admission will be £2 per car including entry to the College's Summer Fete and Motoring Festival.

The event is part of the Warwickshire Open Studios Summer Art Weeks.

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OPs Summer Supper Reunion - Calling The Leavers Of 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 And 2011

Friday 25 June 2021 - 6.00pm optional tour, 7.00pm drinks reception, 7.30pm supper

OPs who left the College in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 (or those who were in the same year groups) are cordially invited back to the OPs annual Summer Supper on Friday 25 June to celebrate their respective 50th, 40th, 30th, 20th and 10th anniversaries of leaving.

Leavers of year groups ending in a 0, who missed out last year, and other year groups are also most welcome. 

This will be one of the first events to take place at the College and restrictions willing, the evening will start with an optional tour of school at 6.00pm, drinks in the Quad at 7.00pm followed by a delicious three course meal with wine at 7.30pm in the Refectory. A vegetarian or vegan alternative is available. Please email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk if you have any special dietary requirements. The evening usually draws to a close around 10.30pm.

There is no charge for the event and the dress code is smart casual. Partners are most welcome to attend too. 

Comments OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, "We know many OPs are keener to come to these events if they can be sure of seeing some familiar faces.  By focusing on year groups ending in a 1 and a 0 we hope to get a critical mass of attendees, although OPs from other years will of course be welcome too!"

Numbers are limited to around 100 guests, so if you would like to attend please go to Princethorpe Connect or email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk by Friday 11 June to reserve your place.

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PTA Summer Fete And 25th Annual Motoring Festival

Sunday 27 June from 2.00pm to 4.30pm

PTA Summer Fête

The PTA Summer Fête takes place in the Orchard between 2.00pm and 4.30pm. Including plenty of entertainment for children and adults alike, refreshments and pupil and external stalls it is always a wonderful event for the family to enjoy. £2 per car for entry.

If you are interested in having a stall at the fête please do email pta@princethorpe.co.uk.

The Motoring Festival 

The Motoring Festival is open to anyone keen to bring any sort of classic, vintage, veteran or interesting vehicle along for the afternoon. There will be rally plaques for all pre-booked vehicles and awards for self-judged competitions.

For further information and on-line registration please visit the College website.

Or contact Alex Darkes on 01926 634207 or by email alexdarkes@princethorpe.co.uk

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OPs vs College Sports Day 2021

OPs vs College Sports Day – Saturday 4 September 2021 – 10.45am to 5.30pm

We are gearing up for the 10th annual Old Princethorpians vs College Sports Day (and 12th John Shinkwin Trophy Match) on Saturday 4 September 2021. 

All being well, we are planning to repeat the successful format or previous years with a relaxing day that mixes of sporting matches with music, a BBQ and a bar.

Points will be accumulated throughout the day, with the Alex Wallis Memorial Shield being awarded to the victors at the end.

We are keen to get as many OPs from across the generations participating. If you are interested in playing in any of the sports please email neilmccollin@princethorpe.co.uk or do watch out for more information which will be shared on Facebook in due course.

Old Princethorpians' Events Calendar 2021-22

We are just finalising the dates for the 2021-2022 OPs' events calendar and, after the last year of lockdowns, we wanted to give everyone the 'heads up' on all the opportunities for past pupils, former parents, staff and friends of the College and the Foundation schools to visit and to catch up.

From September we are very much hoping to be back to normal with plenty of 'in person' events but we have been delighted with how the 'virtual events' have reached out to OPs across the world so we are planning to continue to host those. 

All alumni, former staff and parents of Princethorpe College, St Bede's, St Mary's Priory, St Joseph's School, Crackley Hall, Abbotsford and Crescent School are welcome to participate in any or all of the events.

Don't forget you can visit Princethorpe Connect to sign up to our new online alumni community and register your interest or attendance at forthcoming events.

Coming up in the Michaelmas 2021 term: 

  • OPs vs College Sports Day – Saturday 4 September 2021 – 10.45am to 5.30pm
  • Heritage Open Day – Sunday 12 September 2021 – 2.00pm to 4.30pm
  • Princethorpe College Open Afternoon - Sunday 19 December 2021 - 2.00pm to 5.00pm
  • OPs London Meet, Balthazar, Covent Garden – Friday 8 October 2021 – 6.30pm to 10.30pm
  • Prize Giving – Friday 19 November 2021 – 7.30pm to 9.00pm with OPs Prize Giving Pre-Drinks – 6.30pm to 7.15pm, Warwick Arts Centre 
  • PTA Christmas Fair – Sunday 28 November 2021 – 2.00pm to 4.30pm
  • Christmas Eve Masses – Friday 24 December 2021 – 5.00pm and 10.00pm

Heritage Open Days At Princethorpe

Sunday 12 September 2021 2.00pm - 4.30pm

Heritage Open Days, England’s biggest heritage and culture festival returns this September and Princethorpe College is once again taking part.

On Sunday 12 September you are invited to come and explore St Mary's Priory, one of the first Catholic buildings constructed in England after the reformation. Join us for a tour of this magnificent building and learn all about its history, including the amazing women that made it the place it is today.

From 1833 until 1966, St Mary's Priory was home to a congregation of Benedictine nuns who ran a boarding school for girls. This community sold the priory in 1966 and a new school was established by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, who had previously run a boys' school in Leamington Spa. Today Princethorpe College is now a fully co-educational Catholic independent day school.

Our archive team are hoping to conduct free tours of the College on Sunday 12 September from 2.00pm - 4.30pm. Watch Princethorpe Connect and the College and OP Facebook pages for more information closer to the event date.


St Joseph's and Crackley Hall Postponed 75th Anniversary Celebrations - Save The Date

Saturday 19 March 2022

St Joseph's and Crackley Hall's 75th Anniversary celebrations, due to take place in March 2020, sadly had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortuitously St Joseph's Day (19 March) falls on a Saturday in 2022, so the school has decided to hold a Mass and Open House for former pupils, staff and friends of the school on that date.  More information will follow next year, but please do save the date.

We are still deciding on a date for the rescheduled Diamond Anniversary Gala Ball, but rest assured the plan is that it will go ahead before the end of the academic year 2021-2022.

We're sure both events will be worth the wait!


Old Princethorpian Interview

Tom Pilling

1. Bit of background, where you live, what you do for a living:

I am currently working as a DOP (Director of Photography) based in London. I mainly work on television and web-based adverts where I direct the visual aspects of the shoot and then light and compose the shots to get the production looking as best as it can.

I live in Kingston which is in South London and I have just bought my first house. From this I have learnt three vital things: buying a house is something that I never want to do again, deadlines are normally a random guess and no matter how hard you try, a sofa will never ever fit through a door.

2. Age:


3. When were you at Princethorpe - years from and to?

I joined Princethorpe back in 2007 and I was in 7JA if I remember correctly with the wonderful Mr Allen. I then continued up until Upper Sixth where I went on to study an Art Foundation at Central Saint Martins.

4. What was the school like in your day?

The school was how I imagine it has always been: full of noise, laughter and love. 

5. How did Princethorpe affect the person you are today?

The biggest thing I took from my time at Princethorpe was the knowledge that the more you put in, the more you get out. Princethorpe taught that it's not all about ticking boxes, it's about giving yourself to the things you love to do and the more you give, the more you will get in return. 

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

I don't know where to start with this one as there is just so much to choose from. Apart from the obvious choice that blonde highlights in Year 8 were maybe not the best choice then I would have to say: give your time to the things and people that you love and don't waste it worrying about things you can't even remember a few years later.

7. Who or what has been the greatest influence on your life?

Apart from my family and the brilliant Mr Isaacs then it would have to be the people I am surrounded by. Creative people - people who have passion flowing from their ears.

8. What keeps you awake at night?

The number 381 bus that always seems to beep right outside my window. 

9. What has been your proudest moment/greatest achievement so far?

Seeing my work on TV for the first time was very surreal and I would love to work on bigger productions in the future. 

10. What’s your biggest indulgence?

I know some of my answers have been a little way from sensible but I am totally serious when I say Biscoff cheesecake. I'm about seven times larger post-lockdown but I regret none of it.

11. If you had to have one last meal, what would it be?

... Biscoff cheesecake 

12. If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be and who would be with you?

If money was no object then I would say somewhere sandy, sunny and in close proximity to a large quantity of gin. Joining me ... anyone who want's a G&T and maybe my partner...

13. Lasting memories of Princethorpe:

There are too many to choose from but one very fond memory was going to Loch Lomond with the Youth SVP on a mini bus with a group of fantastic people. Pink day was also fantastic even though dressing up as a questionable belly dancer may not have been the best choice. The lasting memories are the little ones you have with your closest friends that make no sense to anyone but you. Those are the best memories.

14. Are you in touch with any other Old Princethorpians, if so whom?

I am but I am notoriously terrible for keeping in touch with people. The fab Helen Fitchett is always a great catch up but the time difference is tricky with Helen swanning off to Australia... I'm still saving up for my ticket.

15. Is there anyone you would like to track down?

I once forgot to get cash to tip a delivery driver who climbed eight flights of stairs to deliver my pizza. I should probably track him down to apologise, and possibly give him a long overdue tip.

Births, Deaths & Marriages

A Warm Welcome To Henry Robert Jenkins

We are delighted to share the news that Charlotte Jenkins (nee Pickin), a 2010 leaver, and her husband Oliver welcomed their son Henry Robert Jenkins on 15 October 2021. Henry was a week late and weighed in at 9lbs 9oz.

Luckily, he got to meet some of his immediate family before the November lockdown! Charlotte told us, "Now six months on he's eating everything in sight and can't wait to be on the move! He has been such a star throughout these various lockdowns - he's certainly kept us going!!"

What a lovely lad he is - our congratulations to you all. 

Good Friday Arrival For Baby Etta Perkin

Oly Perkin (Class of 2006) and his wife Beth are celebrating becoming a family of three with the safe arrival of their beautiful daughter, Etta Gwen Emily Perkin. Baby Etta arrived on Good Friday (2 April 2021) weighing in at 7lb 1oz.

Congratulations to them all!

Baby Artie - Best Birthday Present Ever!

Many congratulations to OPs Tom and Sarah Edwards (nee Ansell) (both leavers of 2003) on the safe arrival of baby Artie who arrived on 10 April 2021, bright and early at 5.55am. An early birthday present for Tom!

Wishing them all the very best with their new addition to the family.

Elaine Barry (nee Morris) RIP

We were very saddened to hear of the death of former St Mary's Priory pupil Elaine Barry (nee Morris). 

Elaine died peacefully in her sleep on Monday 12 April 2021, just a few weeks after her 89th birthday. Born Bryn Myrddin, Abergwili, Carmarthenshire 1932. She attended Princethorpe with her sisters, and loved attending the celebration events over the years. She really wanted to contribute to the Centenary memories, and just before she died, she managed in very scrawling handwriting, to write these words - which she wanted Princethorpe to have:

“Now aged 88 and no longer able to walk, my time at Princethorpe in 1943 and subsequent seven years there, should partly be shrouded in the mists of time, yet so much remains as clear as a bell, and I still look back on my time there with fond appreciation for its high standard of both academic and spiritual education.

There are many highlights, some of which I will try to record.

First, the red brick tower seen for miles around, made from the local clay, dug partly from the centre of the enclosure grounds, resulting in a small pond called Switzerland, in which we were allowed to swim in hot weather. The large wooden entrance gate only opened for taxis with trunks, at the start of term, and once I remember a small bus conveying the nuns out of their enclosure to the nearest polling station.

The whole geography of the place starting with the numbered lockers for hockey boots or tennis shoes in a kind of lobby from which we emerged for several different activities. My daily short run around the outside of the big walled garden- the walk through the lime tree avenue, on past the dark sunless side of the walled garden, then following the path to the left as it rose steeply to the close mown area-used for hockey in two terms and rounders in summer.

I loved watching the larks ascending high above, or the occasional flashing of a woodpecker or magpie. The nuns in their long black scapula with white face bands would follow the same track early on past the hockey pitch for a longer distance, down towards the brick kiln, in silent pairs.

I was games captain for a time, and in charge of matches both home and away.

Inside, I remember well the cloisters, the church with its splendid high altar, the nuns’ choir stalls from which I first learned plain chant; the postulants (on trial as nuns) in the front pews, Rev. Mother Prioress in her single seat beside the lovely statue. The organ played by M. Emmanuel, Fr Droyer, the chaplain.”

Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, who has had many dealings with the St Mary's Priory former pupils or VSOPs as we like to call them, remembers Elaine here:

I got to know Elaine through her visits to Princethorpe for St Mary’s Priory reunions and she was one of our most faithful supporters. The connection is very special to me, as I attended Princethorpe as a boy and have been on the payroll for over forty years, so the school has been absolutely central to my life. Meeting Elaine, with her vivid memories of her own school days, was fascinating to me, as it filled in so many pieces of the jig-saw during the St Mary’s Priory era. Elaine remained totally enthusiastic about Princethorpe and it was important to her; it would have been easier for her to concentrate on how things were, but she was very interested and engaged about the school of today and enjoyed its progress and success. She would also telephone from time-to-time and I had hoped when things improved that a couple of us would be able to visit her, but sadly that was not to be.

Elaine was someone with enormous warmth and integrity: she celebrated academic rigour, spiritual direction and a strong moral compass. In order to re-visit Princethorpe she also showed enormous determination and never let her lack of mobility get in the way of coming to see us.

Elaine is pictured at the far left of the front row of this picture from the September 2016 St Mary's Priory Reunion.

Our sincere condolences go out to her family and friends at this sad time. 



RIP Tom Williams

Tragic news reached the Old Princethorpians at the end of March. OP Tom Williams, who left Princethorpe in 2005, had passed away suddenly in Vietnam where he had been working as a teacher.

Our deepest condolences go out to all his family - his parents and brothers, Edward and Peter, to his girlfriend and his wide circle of friends.


Oli Perry RIP

The Princethorpe community was saddened and shocked to hear of the death of Oliver (Oli) Perry OP on 15 April 2021.

A pupil from 1986 to 1992, Oli was a keen and popular rugby player and went on to study at Crewe and Alsager, returning later to Leamington Spa. He was heavily involved with the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation, had been British Champion twice and held the double WNBF World Champion award.

Oli’s brother, David, is also an OP and the family were closely involved with Princethorpe, as key members of the Parents’ Association. Oli’s father, Martin, is a former Chair of the PA and also one of the first trustees.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Martin, Emma, David, their family and friends.



Memory Bank

Update From The Archives - Trinity 2021

Meeting Old Princethorpians

It has been another wonderful term for meeting Old Princethorpians that now live around the world due to the North American and Spanish reunions. Having time to share memories of their time at Princethorpe really helped get the conversation flowing and it also led to some brilliant stories that helped to bring the College to life for me. Some of the attendees also generously spent their time after the event completing the Boarding Questionnaire (link here), and altogether I now have 17 responses, plus donations offered by at least four Old Princethorpians. I can’t thank you all enough for your help and support in building up the archive so that it gives a fuller picture of life at Princethorpe!

Two of the donations included an image of students celebrating Chinese New Year in the 1970s, donated by Albert Yuen and a view of Princethorpe College in the 1970s, donated by Nelson Tam, both in the gallery.

It is probably no surprise that common themes included how much there was to do within the grounds at Princethorpe, the various ways that the boarders tried to supplement the food they had here and what a great sense of community and family coming to Princethorpe helped form. This response from Colin Downes, who was here in the 1970s, manages to capture the essence of the range of responses brilliantly:

‘The Tower and the large scale of the old buildings was a bit intimidating at first but in a few days in the environment, being surrounded by countryside, acres of land to roam in, the playing fields, the sports hall and the endless opportunities to do sport or other stuff, and encouraged to be myself, I knew I was in a special place… For me going to Princethorpe was like going to my second family. Princethorpe has an atmosphere of peace and calm, somehow removed from the madness of the world like a retreat, I felt like I was on holiday outside of lesson time…’

Discovering Princethorpe’s History

Although I have been here for nearly four years now, I am still learning new things all the time and last term was no exception. In March, we were contacted about the provenance of the beautiful stained-glass panel above the entrance to Main Reception by a researcher who is updating a book by Thomas Willement, FSA (1786-1871) titled ‘A concise account of the principal works in stained glass that have been executed’. Within the book, he included an entry you can see in the gallery and that you can also find online:


This was the first I had heard of Thomas Willement or his connection to the Priory so it inspired me to do some further research into him. It appears that he was a very notable and prolific stained-glass artist, sometimes referred to as ‘the father of Victorian stained-glass windows’. Having started in the early 1800s as a plumber and glazier (both trades that involved working with lead), he is credited with leading the return back to the ancient method of stained-glass design by joining pieces of coloured glass using lead, which had fallen out of favour after the reformation. He must have quickly established an excellent reputation as he was appointed the ‘heraldic artist to George IV’, and ‘artist in stained glass’ by Royal Patent of Queen Victoria. He was also one of only 25 stained-glass artists to exhibit at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Thomas Willement may have come to be involved in the project to design the new Priory through a number of connections. He briefly formed a partnership with Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, who is believed to have designed the window for the original chapel (now the theatre and library) here at Princethorpe. In his 1840 book, Willement also includes details of a project related to the sepulchral chapel for the Trafford family in 1828; it was the dowry of Hilda de Trafford that helped to fund the new chapel in the 1890s – were they the same Traffords? He worked extensively in the local area with repeated projects at Charlecote Park between 1831 and 1839, as well as projects at Stoneleigh Abbey, Hampton Lucy and Leamington Priors, so the Benedictine nuns may have become aware of his work through those links. Having such a notable individual involved in St Mary’s Priory was entirely in keeping with the grandeur of the building project as whole.

Whilst many of the stained-glass windows around the College were paid for by donations from family members of the nuns or students who attended the Priory, it is not entirely clear who Miss Lamouroux is and why she paid for the panel. She was a neighbour to Willement in London but her French name also hints at connections to the Benedictine community, who had been forced to leave Montargis in 1792. It certainly leaves some interesting mysteries that it may be possible to solve with further visits to the Douai Abbey archives in the future.

Included in the gallery is a photograph of the stained-glass panel above the main door at Front of House, taken by Helen Stephenson (March 2021).

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Inspirational Women At St. Mary's Priory

For her March's #ThrowBackThursday, Foundation Archivist, Janette Ratcliffe, looked more closely at three determined women from St. Mary's Priory's history to mark International Women History Month. Her post said:

Alongside the academic education that was offered at St. Mary's Priory, Princethorpe, building a girl’s character was key and this is clearly evidenced in the stories highlighted below.

Marie Granger

Whilst Marie Granger never stepped foot in Princethorpe, it is fair to say that without her there would have been no St. Mary’s Priory. Born in Paris in 1598, Marie Granger was of Scottish and French descent. After attending her older sister Genevieve’s Clothing Ceremony, Marie realised that it was also her calling to join a religious order. Despite initial opposition from her parents, she joined the Abbey at Montmartre and was accepted to the habit in 1619, adopting the religious name Sister Mary of the Assumption. In 1630, Marie Granger was persuaded by her brother Pere Granger to establish a priory at Montargis comprising of young, fervent nuns and she asked her sister, Genevieve, to join her to help.

In the gallery you can see a postcard of Our Lady Abbess, (ref: SMP.24.2.55).

Marie Granger initially intended the coat of arms for the new Community to be a figure of the Blessed Mary as Montargis was to be dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels (as is our Chapel at Princethorpe). However, shortly before she left Montmartre, she received a vision of the Lord bearing a cross on which a bleeding heart transfixed by three nails and surrounded by a crown of thorns was placed and realised that this should be the symbol for the Priory instead. This symbol can still be seen within Princethorpe College today. Marie Granger also insisted that Montargis was founded as a Priory rather than an Abbey. Her experiences at Montmartre had reinforced the amount of influence outsiders were able to have in the political and daily life of the Abbey, including the distribution of the wealth. To ensure that her clear vision of a devout priory was not interfered with, she named the Virgin Mary as the Lady Abbess, knowing that no one could interfere or displace such a holy figure.

Despite having multiple spells of ill health, Marie Granger was successful in founding a devout and successful priory that continued to flourish after her death. It was that Community at Montargis that were the Benedictine nuns who were forced to leave France in 1792, and eventually founded Princethorpe Priory in 1832.

Sicele O’Brien

Attending St. Mary’s Priory was a bit of a family tradition for the O’Brien girls. Sicele’s mother, aunts and sisters were all pupils too. Sicele’s aunt, Hilda de Trafford, also helped to fund the building of the new chapel through the dowry she brought when she joined the order.

In 1902, Sicele appears in the first Peeps magazine when she was a member of the Lower IV Form, and it was a very busy year for her. She managed to win prizes for Mathematics, English and Languages, Croquet in the Tournament of Games, alongside passing the senior Division of the Local School Examination for Music (which was held for the first time at the convent). She was also chosen as the ‘Angel’ for Sister Mary Gabriel’s Clothing Ceremony which was a very great honour for a pupil.

It was after Sicele left the convent that her life becomes even more fascinating when she becomes one of the first female aviatrix. After receiving medals for being a driver for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry Corps during the World War One, Sicele took that determination and bravery one step further. In the 1920s, Sicele was awarded a commercial pilots licence – only the second woman in the UK and Ireland to achieve this – and ran an air taxi service. This was not enough for her though; she also took part in multiple races winning the Aerial Oaks in 1926 and setting a British Altitude record in 1928 with Lady Heath.

Sicele’s luck was not to hold though as she was involved in a serious accident in 1928. News of the accident even made it into the Peeps with the following extract being published in the Peeps magazine, who were rightly proud of Sicele’s connection to St. Mary’s.

In the gallery you can see an extract from 1929 Peeps Magazine on Sicele O'Brien's accident (ref: SMP.27.3.17)

Sicele was forced to have her leg amputated as a result of the injuries but she remained passionate about flying and continued to write articles, organise air rallies and fly with her artificial leg. She even made time to become one of the founders of the Aviation Ambulance Association of England.

The 1931 Peeps alerts us the tragic end to this heroine’s life. Sadly, at the age of only 44, Sicele was not to escape from another aircraft crash. Shortly after take-off from the airfield at Hatfield, the plane crashed killing both her and Enid Gordon-Gallien. As you would expect, the Peeps committee offered their condolences to Sicele’s mother and family. They also took the opportunity to thank Lady O’Brien as she had donated Sicele’s Court train, which they promised would be made into vestments at the Priory and hoped it brought her some consolation.

Oonah Keogh

A trailblazer in the financial world was Oonah Keogh (also spelt as Una and Oonagh at various times). The first mention of Oonah in our St. Mary’s records is when she took the part of Clara in the Little School’s production of Uncle Jack in 1913 Peeps magazine. She was following in the footsteps of her sisters, at least four of her sisters were educated at St. Mary's. The only other mention of Oonah as a pupil in Peeps is when she was appointed as a prefect in October 1922 in what must have been her final year here.

Oonah wasted no time after leaving St. Mary’s in carving out her own path in life. After travelling in Africa and Europe, she joined her father’s successful company ‘Joseph Keogh and Company Stockbrokers’. In May 1925, she applied to join the Dublin Stock Exchange and was admitted after a short deliberation by the committee. In what was a case of perfect timing, she benefitted from the ‘Irish Free State Constitution Act’ which prohibited discrimination against women. There would not be a female member of the other major stock exchanges in New York and London until 1967 and 1973. That is not to say she had full access, in those days much trading happened in social situations from which she was still excluded. Old Princethorpians were proud of her achievements and an article appears in the 1926 Peeps magazine chronicling her success, including this photograph of her.

In the gallery is a photograph published in Peeps 1926 showing Oonah Keogh (ref: SMP.27.3.12)

She continued to work with her father’s company until 1933 when it appears that there was a disagreement of some sort after he returned from a bout of illness. Oonah’ s life then takes a new turn when she meets her future husband, Bayan Giltsoff, whilst staying with her sisters Eta and Genevieve. After marriage, Oonah moved to Somerset with Bayan and they began renovating Tudor houses alongside her new role as a mother. Unfortunately, despite ending her business relationship with her father, Oonah’s name was not removed from key paperwork and this would lead to financial difficulties for her in 1939 when her father was declared bankrupt. She was liable for the company’s debts and Hibernian Bank attempted to recover them from her personally. After losing a court case and appeals in 1944, she was liable for the £30,000 debt and all costs. During this period, the Peeps magazine make repeated references to Oonah’s ill health and the worries about the court case could not have helped!

Oonah and Bayan moved to Ireland in 1947 and Bayan’s talent for house renovation continued when he made the newspaper after making the family home out of a derelict roadside farmhouse. After seeing the renovations, the couple are asked to build houses for other people and the exclusive development is still known as 'The Russian Village' due to Bayan's heritage. Sadly, their marriage was not to last and in what must have been quite a shock given the time and their religion, the couple separated and Oonah spent the rest of her life living with her daughter, Tatiana until their death 8 days apart in 1989.

What the Peep’s magazine clearly shows is that St. Mary’s Priory remained a special place to Oonah. She made regular donations of flowers for the December 8th altars and returned for multiple visits over the years. Oonah’s daughter Tatiana also attended St. Mary’s Priory briefly, joining in the Summer Term of 1945. When Oonah moved to Ireland, Tatiana went too with a cryptic reference that ‘her health was stronger but not fit for boarding school yet…’ in the 1947 Peeps and it appears that she did not return as a pupil.

I hope that you enjoyed these short insights into the lives of three strong women who helped shape or were shaped by their time at St. Mary’s Priory. I know that there are many more untold stories and look forward to finding more as I continue my research, but I would love to hear from you too. Please do contact me with any stories you have to share at JanetteRatcliffe@princethorpe.co.uk


Marie Granger

Anonymous, 1930. Peeps Magazine. St. Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe. (Reference SMP.27.3.19)

Stapleton, F., 1930. The history of the Benedictines of St. Mary's Priory, Princethorpe. St. Mary's Priory, Princethorpe. (Reference SMP.27.1.06)

Sicele O’Brien

Anonymous, 1902, 1929, 1931. Peeps Magazine. St. Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe. (Reference SMP.27.3.02, 17, 20)

En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Sicele O'Brien - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicele_O%27Brien> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

Livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk. 2021. Life story: Sicele Julia Mary O’Brien | Lives of the First World War. [online] Available at: <https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/5151058> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

Oonah Keogh

Anonymous, 1913, 1924, 1926. Peeps Magazine. St. Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe. (Reference SMP.27.3.06, 08, 12)

En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Oonah Keogh - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oonah_Keogh> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

Nolan, B., 2014. Oonah Keogh - A Celebration. [eBook] Dublin: The Irish Stock Exchange plc. Available at: <https://dokumen.tips/documents/oonah-keogh-home-page-official-website-irish-stock-light-of-these-dates.html> [Accessed 1 February 2018].

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Carl Fivey Remembers Memorable Cup Win

OP Carl Fivey (Class of 1995) got in touch back in February asking if we could track down any evidence of a favourite memory of his time at Princethorpe, namely winning the County Football Cup around 1990.

He recalled scoring a hat trick during the memorable final with his 1st year team, who were managed by Mr Adams.

Sadly Janette Ratcliffe, our archivist, could not find any photographs or records of this event, but a chance reconnection with Paul Adams at the Spanish OPs Virtual Reunion bore fruit and resulted in the prized photograph being emailed to Carl just this week.

Paul has happy memories of running the football and recalls that the College teams were very dominant in the Rugby Schools’ league and the Cup.

He had virtually no photos from the time, but bizarrely, the one he did have is of Carl’s team sitting with a trophy which he thinks may well be the county squad. Carl is pictured to Mr Adams' left.

Carl was delighted to receive the photo, which brought memories flooding back

"I distinctly remember scoring a hat trick in the final and Fr. Sweeney (the then Head Master) walking up to me after the game and shaking my hand. Embarrassingly, the guys also chaired me off the pitch; I remember it like yesterday. We won the cup! Sadly, my late father (who watched every game that season), couldn’t make it for that game. Was and still is a great memory. I remember this team fondly, it was a great year at Princethorpe.

Please pass on my kind thanks and regards to Paul for coming back to you and forwarding the photo; crumbs I have changed......".

Carl now lives in Gloucestershire and works as an Engineering Manager for Rolls Royce Aerospace in Bristol, having previously been an Engineering Officer in the RAF.

If you can identify any of the rest of the winning team, do let us know at oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

Father Fleming - Princethorpe's First Headteacher

Many thanks to OP Adrian Charlton (Class of 1972) who contacted us after the last edition of the OP e-newsletter. 

Adrian explains: 

Frequently I read about Father W J Clarkson in your newsletters etc as being the first Headmaster at Princethorpe College. In fact he was the second. The first was Father John Fleming, who was Head from when the school opened (c1965), for around three years. Father Clarkson was during this time 'Dean of Discipline', the equivalent of Deputy Head. Father Clarkson was appointed Head when Father Fleming left for a post in Liverpool (as I seem to recall).

Father Fleming was something of an 'old school' figure, insisted that we all attended Mass each morning, and was something of a disciplinarian. But he was well liked, respected, and popular. The early years of Princethorpe College were somewhat chaotic, while the building was repaired following many years of neglect. When the school first opened, there was no central heating, very little hot water, and many missing panes of glass from the windows. That the school overcame these problems, and prospered, was due in a great part to the efforts of Father Fleming.

I well remember his words to me one evening during prep, as I produced my latest masterpiece in Latin. "My word Mr Charlton, we have got some work to do with you haven't we?"

Father Clarkson took the school on to the next level, bringing in a broader outlook on life, with a focus on developing the whole person, his character as well as the academic side. He once said to me, that he did not care what his pupils went on to do, provided they became decent, honest individuals, doing something constructive.

He kept in touch with me (and quite a few of my fellows) throughout his life until he died a few years ago. I still greatly miss getting his Christmas card with a little note about what he'd been doing during the year. He was a wonderful man, and I am privileged to have been his student.

The photos in the gallery are from the archives – the older one was from when the MSCs took over from the nuns at Princethorpe, the later appeared in the Tower 2006 magazine and we believe dates to around the 1980s.

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Just When Was This Taken?

This super shot of the College campus promoted a debate recently when our fantastic Foundation archivist Janette Ratcliffe posted it on Twitter.

Janette regularly shares items from the archive through her Twitter account @PFdn_Archives and it is a great way to find out more about the history of the Foundation's schools.

We couldn’t resist challenging our Princethorpe community to guess when this photo was taken and as it turns out, thanks to our eagle-eyed followers, we quickly established it was actually catalogued incorrectly.

If you take a close look at the campus that is so familiar to us all, you will see that in this photo there are some notable omissions. There is no Limes building and no Sixth Form building and instead there are portacabins. We now believe the photo dates to the late eighties or early nineties but if you know more then do let us know!

Missing & Found

OP Ciaran Timlin Gets Back In Touch

It is always good when we can put OPs back in touch with one another, so we were really pleased when we recently received an email from OP Ciaran Timlin (Class of 1987). Ciaran had only just seen an article in old edition of the OP newsletter from seven years ago, where one of his classmates OP Sean Bostrom was looking to try and get back in touch. We were delighted to pass on Ciaran’s contact details and the pair have subsequently met up via Zoom with their wives.

Sean commented, "It was great to catch up with Ciaran, thankfully we still have a lot in common regarding life priorities and what is truly important."

Ciaran updated us to say that he has just turned 50 and has spent most of his working life as an airline pilot, after a few years in Mechanical Engineering after university.

One of the best ways to find old friends from your school days is to sign up to Princethorpe Connect our online alumni community. Princethorpe Connect is an online social network for those in the Princethorpe Foundation community, giving you the chance to share your own news and stories, photographs, connect with old friends and send and receive individual or group messages with other alumni. We have been working hard in recent years to reconnect with our alumni and encouraging them to sign up to Princethorpe Connect and we are slowly building up the membership. If you haven’t already why not sign up here.

We are also always happy to post messages within the Missing & Found section of the OP Newsletter, just email us on oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

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Clive McNaney Looking For Richard Jones

Clive McNaney is keen to track down Richard Jones, the son of Madame Jones, to try and get him to join the 1977 Leavers' Group Zoom on a Friday night. Clive is pictured top left with some of the Class of 77.

If anyone is in touch with Richard, please ask him to email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk and we will put him back in touch with his old pals.

OP Updates

Chloe Eastabrook Is In The Final Year Of Her PhD

OP Chloe Eastabrook (Class of 2012) took time out from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Europe 2021 conference to share an update on her life since leaving the College. She told us:

Since leaving Princethorpe in 2012, I graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology, winning the Longbottom Memorial award for the highest research dissertation mark and publishing this work as my first journal publication. Shortly afterwards, I began a PhD in Marine Biology focusing on ecotoxicology. I am in the final year of my PhD, based across Newcastle University and the Norwegian Institute of Water Research (NIVA) in Oslo (as a part of the MixRisk project). NIVA have hosted me for a year during which I conducted research in their world class ecotoxicology labs. This has been an incredible experience travelling to and living in Oslo as it is a beautiful city with fantastic way of life.

My research focuses on the complex but hot topic of chemical management in our oceans and what happens when we pollute them with multiple chemicals that cause stress to marine organisms and microalgae. One aim is to understand how these chemicals are causing death and reduced reproduction by working out what’s happens at the molecular and cellular levels after exposure. I do this work with two marine species, a copepod Tisbe battagliai and a marine microalgae Tetraselmis suecica.

I am currently looking for jobs in ecotoxicology research following my PhD, and I am hoping to continue work with ecological risk assessments with practical applications and regulatory impact. For now I am enjoying living in Newcastle with my boyfriend who is also in his final year of his PhD, and we are excited to see what comes next following graduation.

OP Declan Kiely Recognised In The Times As One Of 2021 Top Rated Financial Advisers

OP Declan Kiely was thrilled to be recently listed in The Times and The Sunday Times as one of the top rated financial advisers for 2021 in the UK. He was singled out in the Vouched For 2021 Top Rated Financial Adviser Guide that was part of Saturday 10 April’s edition of The Times. What a fantastic achievement!

We caught up with him to find out what he has been up to since leaving the College back in 2008.

Declan takes up the story here:

After leaving Princethorpe I continued my education at a local grammar school in Leicestershire and then decided to pursue a career in industry rather than attend university.

I have been working in Financial Services since 2015, I started with little experience but a passion for wanting to help people, learning about finance and how people can manage their wealth. I began as an administrator and gained the necessary knowledge on the job to progress through the roles within practice I am associated with.

After two years I joined an internal academy for the next generation of financial advisers to complete my qualifications and to learn more about giving financial advice. Following my successful graduation from the academy I started the process to become a financial adviser. After passing the required checks with FCA (Finacial Conduct Authority) I was appointed in January 2019.

Since then I have spent a lot of time building my client base through networking, professional connections and client referrals. I currently have over 100 clients ranging from young entrepreneurs starting their financial planning journey to much older clients completing theirs, advising clients on different milestones throughout their financial life.

My next ambition is to setup my own financial planning practice from the start of 2022. Which seems quite daunting now, especially the prospect of employing staff!

I am very passionate about financial education and empowering people with the necessary tools to take control of their finances from a young age.

The past year has presented huge challenges for everyone and personal finances are at the forefront. Educating young people about debt, investing and the power of compound growth will only benefit them and their families in the future.

It was fantastic to get back in touch with Declan, and to hear news of his career, clearly his clients rate him and we wish him well with his plans for his new business.

Declan appeared in the Vouched For Guide that rates Financial Advisers on their client feedback and featured advisers with the highest volume of positive 2020 client reviews. You can find out more about the guide here.

We are very much hoping that Declan will be free to talk to pupils as part of their post exam sessions sharing his insights into financial planning for the future.

Tom Pillings' Short Film Controller Nominated For Four Awards

OP Tom Pilling's (Class of 2014) comedic short film Controller, made during the lockdown has so far being nominated for four awards. It’s brilliant and hilarious and, if you haven’t seen it already, then we recommend you watch it here: https://youtu.be/_osh7dQa5lA

After graduating from Kingston University, Tom went on to work in video production and, over the past few years, has established himself as a Director of Photography working mainly on television adverts. One of his most recent jobs was a TV ad for the Alzheimer's society with the wonderful Sir Tony Robinson.

During the lockdown, filming came to a stop and he spent a lot of time working on editing jobs and live-streaming, but as he was a lot less busy than normal he took the opportunity to make a short film Controller. It was a two-person crew consisting of himself and his partner Frankie, who is also in the industry.

In the film Sarah, who is just about to turn in for the night, suddenly finds her evening much more entertaining than anticipated. Is it cause and effect or is there is a far more whimsical reason? Begging the question, who or what is the controller?

The film is on the official selection for the 7Colours International Film Festival 2021, the London Shorts 2021 and the Phoenix Shorts 2021 and was a semi finalist for the Sunday Shorts Film Festival 2021.

Tom commented, “When life gives you a lockdown, make a lockdown lemonade and this was our lemonade. We are working on two more scripts and we plan to keep entering competitions to see how far we get so do keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming shorts: Sneezes and Braces ... yes, they are as odd as they sound.“

Huge congratulations for us all here at Princethorpe Tom. We loved your film!

OP Dr George Thien On His Motivation To Write A Book

Dr George Thien (Class of 1979) shared an update on his motivation to write his first book, Just Do More, An Option to be Above Average. He takes up the story here:

Every time Princethorpe College is mentioned, three names come to my mind instinctively; Fr Clarkson, then headmaster in 1977, and my first ever room-mates in the first floor corridor whose names I remember as Jeffrey Nego and Noel Ruddy. Of course, there are many other memories and experiences from those teenage years that had and are still developing me as a citizen of the world. For example, the culture of encouragement to do more in order to excel; so that instead of doing a minimum of four O-level subjects, we were encouraged to do more, I did ten, and reaped the benefits when I applied to enter my first University, as well as when I applied for the jobs during my young adulthood.

As with the common expression, "Everyone has a book in her or him", I too have a book in me. My book came and went many times over the years for many reasons - "It has been written by someone else," "I don’t have the time to write," "Who would want to read my book?" "I will wait for a better book idea," "I need to be financially independent first.” As fate would have it, the Covid 19 lockdown situation in 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand provided a space in time for me to action this book in me and make it a reality.

There were two key motivational initiators that prompted me to start writing the book. First, after teaching for about 17 years at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), I have received many ‘surprise’ emails from ex-students thanking and complimenting me over the years, not only about how I delivered the subject content but also about how I had motivated them even through their work-life. Obviously, I felt and feel very encouraged in this teaching vocation, so the Covid 19 situation somehow moved me to extend my motivation philosophy to others who are not or have never been my students. Second, a specific incident that involved my youngest daughter and her motivation in relation to her badminton ambition was really what sparked me to "put pen on paper" or "click words on computer." There was an incident when I was making preparation to deliver a topic about theories and concepts of ‘Motivations’ when my daughter, Farah lost a semi-final match in a national badminton tournament. I knew she had an ambition to be a badminton champion, and I also knew that she did not quite believe that she could be a champion, and from what I could see, she had not put in much extra effort in her journey to become a champion; just average in her context. It was a God’s will moment for the two moments to happen that initiated me to start writing a motivation book to help people who wish  to be Above Average and beyond, not just in badminton or sports, but also in their career advancement, business journeys, and other ambitions or goals (such as to be more healthy). Thank God, and Farah.

The rest, like they say, is History.

The targeted audience or readers for the book are those who are planning to achieve ambition or goal(s), as well as those who may need reminders about the critical factors that are involved in the journey towards the successful achievement of ambition or goal(s), so that their lives can be better, and consequently bettering the lives of those around them. The book is also very useful for those who have missed out on achieving their ambition or goals and would like to reflect on what to focus on in their next journey, or even the resumption of abandoned journeys.

George's book is available to buy on Amazon here.

Here is the extract about my bio from the book.

Dr George Thien (PhD, MBA, BSc (Hons))

Since joining academia more than fifteen years ago, Dr Thien, a Senior Lecturer has taught papers in various disciplines, such as the professional Masters paper, Managing Organisations and People, and coordinated the paper,Management of Small-Medium size enterprises (SMEs), and supervised students in undergraduate and post-graduate studies. In addition to his academic teaching at a university, Dr Thien’s area of  research  and publications  (peer-reviewed  academic  journals)  is related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and entrepreneurship. To supplement his academic pursuit, Dr Thien is actively involved in business mentorship for SMEs (in conjunction with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce) as a volunteer. Dr Thien is also a trustee for the Community Action Trust New Zealand (CATNZ), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that organises national and regional cultural events. Dr Thien is a Past Leader/Chairperson of the Auckland South East Asian Community, an NGO that  organises  cultural  events  for the public in Auckland. He has evaluated/judged national and regional business competitions in New Zealand. Prior to joining academia, Dr Thien’s business experience includes the following: Branch Manager of a commercial bank, Manager of a Merchant bank, Lead Auditor of AOQC International, ISO9001 Consultant,

Business Consultant/Trainer, Business Franchisor/ Franchisee, Director and business owner. Dr Thien holds a BSc (Hons) degree and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from universities in the UK, and a PhD in CSR from a university in New Zealand. With the unique combination of academic qualifications, teaching, and practical business-related experience, Dr Thien has much to share and contribute to the community.

Amy Cook Shares Her Love Of Physics Through Storytelling

OP Amy Cook (Class of 2017) has been sharing her love of science through an initiative called Physics Through Storytelling an outreach project with The City of Edinburgh Libraries. Amy is studying Astrophysics at the University of Edinburgh and, despite being in the midst of her finals, she has very kindly taken the time to tell us about the project.

Amy’s two passions are Physics and English and she has used her skills in both subjects to write two stories and produce a series of activities to help make Physics more accessible to the wider Edinburgh community. Forces Fiona And The Laws Of Motion and Spaceman Sam And The Solar System introduce key scientific concepts in a simple and engaging way.

The stories have been shared on the Children & Young People at Edinburgh Libraries Facebook page and are great introductions to the subject of Physics.

You can listen to Amy reading the fabulous Forces Fiona And The Laws Of Motion here and super Spaceman Sam And The Solar System here.

Amy has also written a blog post on the library website which tells you more about the initiative and why she took part, that you can also read here

Amy told us, “The response to the project has been very positive overall and I even heard that Sophie Rose, in the Physics department at Princethorpe suggested she would use one of the stories in a Year 7 lesson sometime soon! I am currently in my fourth year of an Astrophysics degree at The University of Edinburgh and am staying on next year to complete my Masters. After that I am hoping to either go into patent attorney work or potentially complete a PhD. We shall see what the future holds.”

It was great to hear from Amy and to find out about her creative outreach work and we think she should keep writing as that could be another career option for her too!

Dani Black Captains Khalsa Leamington Hockey Club Into The National League

We were delighted to hear that local hockey team, Khalsa Leamington Hockey Club Ladies 1st XI have been promoted to the National league. The team is captained by OP Dani Black (Class of 2009) and also includes OP Ella Bromley (Class of 2017).

The Ladies section of the club has been trying to get into the National League for five years but have narrowly missed every season. They started this season back in August 2020 with lots of uncertainty due to COVID, and an unconventional pre-season period where were they had to train in groups of no more than six or individually.  The season began well and by the second lockdown the team had six wins from six games.

Dani explains, "Just when momentum was high we were put into a second lockdown and were unable to train as a team or play any games – there was no information on whether we would even be able to play the remaining games of the season. As a squad we were determined to make sure that, if we were given the go ahead to be able to play, we would be fully fit and ready to give our best performance. During the period of uncertainty we had weekly Zoom meetings focussing on tactics and match analysis and also fitness sessions."

"When lockdown was over we were ready to go and fight for promotion once again, however we were then given the unfortunate news that no more competitive matches would be allowed but the silver lining was that, due to finishing second in the league last season, and also winning six out of six of our games, we would be awarded promotion into the National League. The whole club and squad are delighted with the news and very much looking forward to what the new season will bring."

As Captain, Dani was instrumental in keeping the team on track, organising weekly Zoom meets ups, leading weekly fitness sessions and offering welfare check ups throughout the lockdown. She also set group fitness challenges and targets.

Away from the hockey field Dani is a Sports Science teacher and has her own small honey/bee keeping business - The Warwickshire Honey Company which you can find out more about here

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OP Ian Higham's Online Performance Of The Weir

Back in February we shared news that Old Princethorpian, Ian Higham (Class of 1981), was directing an online play, The Weir by Conor McPherson, performed by Putney Arts Theatre. The drama was set in a pub in rural Ireland and involved a publican and three of his regulars who attempt to spook a newcomer from Dublin but end up frightening themselves. The production went out live on Thursday 25 February. 

Ian left Princethorpe in 1981 and after a degree in Drama and English has worked in theatre ever since, for the last twelve years as sales manager for the UK’s leading independent theatre publisher Nick Hern Books. He has worked for Putney Arts Theatre, south west London’s leading community theatre company, for over thirty years and directed over thirty productions there, having been Artistic Director from 2013 to 2016.

Comments, Ian, “The Weir was unusual for me in that it’s an online production, working with actors distanced at home with just their laptop cameras to create a believable and involving drama. It was watched across the world by old Princethorpians in Hong Kong, Chicago and New Zealand. The most international audience I’ve ever had.”

We certainly all enjoyed the performance here!

Peter Griffin's Latest Cycling Challenge

In May 2017 a hardy group of 30 ‘pilgrims’ set out from Princethorpe to Issoudon, France, the home of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart with the aim of cycling the 100+ miles from Issoudon to Montargis, where the Benedictine nuns that built St Mary’s Priory, now Princethorpe College, had originated. The cycling challenge was one of the highlights of the Golden Jubilee celebrations and raised thousands of pounds for the College’s main charity – Mary’s Meals. The French cycling pilgrimage was such a great success that two years later, in May 2019, plans were made for a second trip, this time to explore the Loire valley, cycling from Saumur to Amboise. Most of the original pilgrims immediately signed up and they were joined by several new adventurers. Despite a few hiccups and accidents this trip was another great success with a marvellous time had by all.

On both occasions the ’routemaster’ in chief was Peter Griffin, who most will remember from his time teaching at the College from 1978 – 2015.  Peter spent months planning the routes to minimise the use of main roads and maximise the pleasure to be enjoyed by all participants. On their return there were many calls for a third trip to be planned for May 2021.

Sadly Covid put pay to such plans causing Peter much frustration! However, in recent weeks he has set himself the challenge of planning a route from Princethorpe to his daughter’s home in Kent, via his son’s (OP Christopher – Class of 2004) home in London, a distance of over 130 miles. To avoid the capital’s main roads he has planned a route using 30+ miles of the canal network and he trialled this successfully last week. Originally Peter had planned his journey to coincide with Father’s Day in June but due to family commitments he now hopes to complete his challenge in July, probably over the course of 3-4 days. If there are any intrepid cyclists who would like to join him for a leg of his journey then Peter would love to hear from you.

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OP Alasdair Spencer Swaps The Stage For A Syringe

OP Alasdair Spencer (Class of 2012), one of the world’s best Irish dancers, has swapped the stage for a syringe and has been busy giving life-saving coronavirus vaccinations.

Alasdair who is better known for performing as Don Dorcha the Dark Lord in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance – has been playing a key role in the fight against Covid-19 by volunteering at Rugby’s vaccination centre at Locke House in Woodside Park.

Alasdair was out in China on the Lord of the Dance world tour last January when the virus first surfaced and when the pandemic grounded the ongoing Lord of the Dance world tour, he decided to help his home-town out.

He applied to be a volunteer vaccinator and completed all the vaccination training in January and has been kept very busy since.  He even met Headmaster, Ed Hester, at the centre when it was his turn for a vaccination.

His work was reported on in the local paper earlier this year and you can read the article in full here.

We say many thanks to Alasdair and all his fellow volunteers for all they are doing for us all.


Imo Is Running The London Marathon

April is traditionally London Marathon month, with runners from all over the country, including usually a number of OPs, converging on the capital to pound the pavements in aid of their chosen charity. This year, like last, the London Marathon has moved and will take place in October so all the lucky runners get to train in the summer sun rather than hitting the roads on dark, cold and windy nights.

One such runner is OP Imogen Butler (Class of 2018) who is rising to the challenge of this year’s test of endurance for Sarcoma UK. Imogen is running in memory of a family friend Ellen, who sadly lost her battle with sarcoma cancer last year.

At school Imogen was a swimmer who spent many hours training in the pool until a knee injury put paid to her ambitions. After leaving Princethorpe, Imogen went on to study English Literature at the University of Leeds and is currently in her final year. She is, however, very much a novice runner who only started running last year during lockdown when she completed the Couch to 5K. So alongside working on her final modules and completing her dissertation Imogen is slowly building up her distances and is aiming to run the Leamington Spa Half Marathon in July.

Imogen’s old Sixth Form Tutor, Assistant Head (Co-curricular), Neil McCollin, was delighted to hear about Imogen’s marathon plans, commenting, “Imogen was such a tenacious and determined swimmer who often represented the school. I am so delighted that she has overcome her injury and is now rising to the challenge of a new sport. I know her enthusiasm and positive attitude will really help her when she takes on the London Marathon. I will be willing her on all the way as she tackles her marathon challenge.”

Anyone wanting to support Imogen can visit her fundraising page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ImogenButler2


OP Rob Rollason Will Train With The Lion Alliance

OP Rob Rollason (Class of 2015) will be returning to Princethorpe in September to train as a teacher with the Lion Allaince. Rob will be teaching Physics and he gave us an update on what he has been doing since he left the school.

"After finishing at Princethorpe in June 2015, I went to Swansea University to do a BEng in Civil Engineering with a foundation year, which I absolutely loved. While at university my time was split between studying, the Welsh Officer Training Corp, the Swansea Snowriders (the snow sports society) and playing for the Swansea Uni RFC. I graduated in June 2019 and then went on to do a Ski season in Alpe D’Huez, my first season was unfortunately cut short by Covid and a second season was put out of the question by the second wave, but I definitely feel I made the most of my time there. Luckily Princethorpe came to the rescue when they ofered me a job on the Estates team. 

I have been thinking about doing teaching for several years, wanting a job which is practical, sociable and with lots of variation, which I think perfectly suits a constantly changing classroom. While working at the school during the lockdowns I made the decision to go for it. Physics was one of my favourite subjects at school and after studying engineering at university I have been practicing the skills used in Physics on a day to day basis. Hopefully, it shouldn’t be a too hard for me to apply them to a teaching role and pass on those same physics skills to students."

We are looking forward to welcoming Rob as a trainee teacher. He is pictured here at Crackley Hall where he has been working within the Estates and Grounds Team.



Sophie Takes On The Leamington Half Marathon

OP Sophie Marrow (Class of 2018) is also taking on a marathon challenge. Sophie is running the Leamington Half Marathon in July, in memory of her good university friend Tom Miller. She is raising money for the Adult Intensive Care Unit that looked after Tom at the Queen Medical Centre in Nottingham.  

However her half marathon run is going to be an especial challenge, for although Sophie was always a sporty person, back in October 2020 she was involved in an accident breaking her back in three places and injuring her brain. Sophie was also cared for by the Queen Medical Centre in Nottingham, where she underwent spinal surgery receiving amazing treatment and care from all the staff. 

Sophie said, "I spent four days in the same hospital as Tom receiving the very best care and spinal surgery. It took me months to recover and I can’t express how grateful and appreciative I am of my abilities since my accident."

Sophie has been training steadily and is looking forward to taking on the challenge.

Anyone wanting to support Sophie can find out more on her donation page: 

We wish the very best of luck to Sophie!

Clark McCallum Launches The Futures Life Coach

OP Clark McCallum (Class of 2013) has a new life coaching business launched at the end of last year. He shares details of his business and his motivations behind it here:

Anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of motivation and limited self-belief are just a few of the challenges that face teenagers as they develop over those crucial years. As a teenager myself I faced adversity with the unexpected death of my father followed by a significant period of depression and anxiety that had a significant impact on my teenage years. With the support of Princethorpe and personal mentors I found a formula which allowed me to overcome my adversities and achieve academically and in my adult life. Over the last seven years I have gained vast amounts of experience in the fields of Education, Elite Sport and various Personal Development arenas working with young people with gang affiliations, severe anxiety challenges, those dealing with grief and with complex additional needs.

As a qualified Life Coach and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) enthusiast I have made it my mission to ensure that the challenges of anxiety and limited self-belief are not only addressed but the foundations for future success are embedded to help ensure young people have the opportunity to be high achievers. In late 2020 I set up a Life Coaching business and personal brand of ‘The Futures Life Coach’ to work with teenagers and their parents to enable their ambitions in life to be achieved.  

My new business ‘The Futures Life Coach’ provides 1 to 1 Life Coaching programmes for teenagers and/or parents working with them to break down barriers and achieve their desired outcomes. These sessions are totally bespoke and I believe can be truly life changing opportunities.

I am also about to launch an online course for parents called the ‘The Confidence Creator’ providing parents with tools that I have developed to  implement with their own teenagers to reduce anxieties and help grow a confident young person with a vision and desire to succeed

My mission is to give as much value to people as possible and a lot can be found on my social media platforms @thefutureslifecoach (Instagram) Clark McCallum - The Futures Life Coach (Facebook) so if you are interested please give those a follow and feel free to drop me an email on thefutureslifecoach@gmail.com.

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OP Marco Is Raising Money For Blood Cancer UK

We spotted on Facebook that OP Marco Di Maria (Class of 2007) is also taking part in a fundraising challenge. Marco is raising money for Blood Cancer UK by taking part in their My London To Paris fundraising challenge this May. He is cycling the 300 miles distance from London to Paris across the month.

Marco told us, “I’m doing the challenge as I lost my Grandmother to this awful illness, and I wanted to raise something for the charity.”

You can find out more and support Marco here.

Good luck Marco, we hope it all goes well!