Bolton School Former Pupils

Ross Warburton, MBE

Ross Warburton, MBE (1969-1974)

Ross graduated in 1980 from Oriel College, University of Oxford, after reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics, (PPE). He then went on to work in the City for five years as an Investment Manager for Invesco before joining the family business in 1985.

In 1991, he became Warburton’s Executive Chairman, where he oversaw the rapid expansion of the Company. He stepped down from the position in 2001 and continues to play an active role in the family business. Ross was President of the Food and Drink Federation, where he worked to promote the interests of the UK food manufacturing industry in conjunction with government and other agencies. He was awarded the MBE in 2004 for services to the food industry.

Ross’s interests are firmly entrenched in the local community, and he was President of the Bolton Lads and Girls Club from 1999 to May 2015, during which time he encouraged the growth of the group into the largest youth club outside London.

He is currently a Director of OnSide, a charity formed to develop a network of similar youth clubs around the North West of England.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

A lot of Warburton family members have come through Bolton School. Both my mother and father attended the School and I was a pupil from 1969 to 1974. I came from Clevelands School, which today is still probably the leading external primary school from which Bolton draws. I was awarded a direct grant place for the Senior School – they weren’t means tested in those days but were instead more of a scholarship, which looking back is slightly unusual. My two cousins with whom I work closely now at Warburton’s, as well as my cousin Jill, all attended School roughly the same time as I did.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?

Probably when we started winning at rugby. In 1972/73 I was part of the first Colts XV team that the School put together, so we really just spent the first year being beaten by other, more experienced teams. Barry Pearce was our coach – a no-nonsense Geordie whose remit was to come to Bolton School to make rugby into a “proper sport”. In the second year, Barry made me captain and we had some great players, so we suddenly started to win again.

I also had some great times with Mark Radcliffe, in our band Berlin Airlift, which we named in one of George Lancashire’s History lessons by looking through the index of our textbook!

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at School?

John Taylor was our form teacher for a number of years. He was known as “Titch” but in spite of his stature, commanded great respect and was a very fair, balanced man who rekindled my interest in Maths. Barry Pearce was also an inspiring figure, as my swimming and rugby coach.

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given you personally?

Self-reliance. It gave me a sense of how hard you can actually push yourself. The ethos at the time I was a pupil was that it is up to you how hard you worked – you had to find your own drive. It wasn’t the School’s job to be cracking the whip every day, which was excellent preparation for university and later life.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

Find a vocation, however informal that vocation might be. If you can find the balance of doing something for which you have a natural capability and from which you also derive enjoyment, then you should pursue it. The worst thing you can do is to choose to specialise in something that you happen to be good at but in which you have little or no genuine interest.

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through the bursary fund?

I think it is trying to get us back to the great years of the 1960s and 1970s when there was a generous direct grant system, which reinforced the founding ethos in the School. It’s something that we have gone a long way to re-establishing over the years, but the job evidently isn’t quite done yet.

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