Bolton School Former Pupils
Lionel Price (1954-1964)
I spent most of my career working on monetary and international financial policy at the Bank of England where ultimately I was head of the economics division and director of central banking studies. Later I became Chief Economist at Fitch Ratings.
My schooling started at a primary school in Wigan (actually the same one Sir Ian McKellen had attended). I joined Park Road when I was eight and spent the next ten years travelling to School from Standish by bus and steam train – there were no school coaches in those days. I went on to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge to read maths but the abstract world of mathematics was ceasing to interest me and I switched to economics which seemed to me more focused on the real world.
The British economy was in dire straits at the time and I wanted to work on economic policy. After joining the Bank of England I soon found myself working not only on UK problems but also on international issues and in 1979 I was appointed as Alternate Executive Director for the UK at the IMF in Washington DC. When I returned to the Bank it was as chief press officer, a fascinating position from which I learnt much about politics and journalism as well as a broad range of financial matters. Later in the 1980s as head of Bank’s European division I was involved in the negotiations that led to the Maastricht treaty and, despite our efforts and advice, the creation of the euro.
In 1997 I decided to leave the Bank and drew on my experience of trying to spot and resolve international debt problems by joining Fitch Ratings to help develop its sovereign credit ratings. By the time I left in 2006, Fitch had established itself as one of the three major global rating agencies.
What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?
My brother, Derek Price, was at School from 1949 to 1958. He went on to read mathematics at King’s College, London. After teaching for a short time, he worked in finance and moved to the Cayman Islands in 1967 where he built up a property company. He died in Cayman in December 2012.
What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
My time at School was generally a happy one and it’s difficult to pick out a fondest memory. It certainly wasn’t swimming in the gloomy and heavily chlorinated old swimming pool (now the Arts Centre) nor playing football on a wet and muddy winter’s afternoon. Some of my best memories are from acting, not just in the main School play but more often in productions in the Miniature Theatre where we were free to experiment with modern drama by playwrights such as Ionesco and N F Simpson.
Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?
There were many devoted schoolmasters and mistresses from whom I learnt a lot, and not just academically. I must mention J C Blakey whose efforts succeeded in enabling me to gain a maths scholarship to Cambridge. Outside my own subject, I am particularly grateful to Kenneth Haigh who helped us share his love of the French language and culture, and to Jim Garbett whose youthful enthusiasm widened our horizons in general studies and English.
What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?
Obviously I learnt masses of facts and ideas across a broad range of subjects that stood me in good stead in examinations and in later life. But importantly too, it developed my instinct to question assertions and look for robust evidence and analysis – a trait not always appreciated of course by those whose views you challenge.
What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?
Pursue a career that really interests you. My parents had both taught maths and were puzzled and I think worried when I abandoned maths for economics; that’s a decision I have no cause to regret.
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its Bursary Fund?
Having had the benefit of the Direct Grant, I certainly regret the lack of similar provisions today and I know of children whose parents have been unable to accept the offer of a place at Bolton School for lack of money. It would be marvellous if more bursaries were available in future for such able boys and girls.