Bolton School Former Pupils
Message from the President of the OBA
At the annual dinner in December I was honoured and delighted to be installed as President for 2020, the year which marks the 125th Anniversary of The Old Boltonians’ Association. It is a remarkable milestone. WE (Willie) Brown in his excellent History of Bolton School records that HF Matthews, Headmaster from 1892 to 1906, called together several old boys to organise an Old Boltonians’ Dinner, and in March 1895 the first dinner was held.
A great debt of gratitude is owed to those worthies who established the Association and officers and committee members who have kept it alive and kicking through all the ensuing years and good and bad times including two World wars.
In 1953 I was awarded a scholarship to Bolton School which was then a direct grant grammar school. It was the philosophy pioneered by Lord Leverhulme that the School should take on the responsibility of providing education to children of all social groups and particularly those from homes of limited resources. The direct grant system was instrumental to the realisation of that aim.
My mother had attended Bolton School in the 1930s. She and my father valued the virtues of a good education enabling my brother Graham (1948 to 55) and I to attend School. My daughters Sarah and Helen also attended from Junior School to Sixth Form.
During my time at School apart from the curriculum I developed my interests in music choral singing and playing the clarinet, the scouts (not very efficiently) and sport. I was in the Rugby First XV, the Athletics team, and in my final year I was captain of the Tennis team.
I always felt that the strength of School was the commitment of its staff, who inspired so many of us to make the most of our abilities. They taught us also to behave with fairness and kindness. In my case I was greatly thankful to John Hyde who helped me to develop my physical abilities and to PAS Stevens with music. That level of commitment is clearly still prevalent amongst the current School’s staff.
After Bolton School I studied Law at Durham University and was a solicitor in private practice for some 30 years. I was much involved in Law Society matters. I served for 10 years on the Law Society’s Council Membership Committee and was President of the Association of North West Law Societies in 1990/91.
In 1999 I left private practice when I was appointed an Immigration Judge. The work was exacting but fascinating. When I first started the civil war in Kosovo was in full flight and the news was full of pictures of people fleeing from Kosovo after being bombed by the Serbs. The majority of cases that came before me were asylum cases. A person claiming asylum must prove that he or she is a refugee. The legal definition of a refugee is someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution and is not able to avail himself of the protection of his country of origin. Often the outcome of a case would turn on the credibility of the evidence. A lot were demonstrably not credible claims but all asylum cases had to be taken very seriously because if a judge got it wrong the appellant would be at grave risk. Even in unmeritorious cases it is important for a judge to be fair kind and compassionate and I very much believe that Bolton School taught me those qualities.
I am looking forward to meeting up with Old Boys at the various functions during the year. I am expecting to attend the dinners around the country, the next ones of which are the Cambridge Dinner at Downing College on 7th February and the London Dinner in the Long Room at Lords on 6th March.
Earlier in these remarks I mentioned the Direct Grant System which ended in I think 1997 and is now replaced by the Bursary Fund. I understand that the Governors remain committed to growing the Fund to be able to support one in three students in the two senior schools which was the ratio when the School was a direct grant grammar school. I very much hope we will continue to support School in its drive to make significant increases to the Fund.
Roy Battersby (1953-1961)
Old Boltonians’ Association President, 2020