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125 Years of the Old Boltonians’ Association

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Schoolboys at Bolton School Boys’ Division were joined by former pupils for a special assembly celebrating 125 years of the Old Boltonians’ Association (OBA).  

Headmaster Philip Britton told the 921 boys that a good number of them would, after leaving school, attend Old Boltonians’ Association events, even if they found that difficult to imagine right now. The OBA, which has a world-wide membership of over 5,500 former pupils, provides the link between Old Boys and their former school and offers social and sporting opportunities. Mr Britton told how 26 former Presidents of the OBA are still alive and thanked the 14 of them who were present today. He told how an affinity with the School never leaves most Old Boys and they are always keen to return to deliver talks, career advice and sagacity. It was Headmaster Matthews back in 1895 who conceived the idea of an Alumni club and who organised the first dinner. 330 invites were despatched to all corners of the land and a group of 63 gathered at the Commercial Hotel in Bolton on 21 March 1895 for the inaugural dinner. One of the first endeavours of the Old Boys was to raise funds to enable the education of young men through what are now called bursaries. 

School Captain Ruairi McCabe took the audience back to 1895 and told of a not altogether unfamiliar world where the UK had uncertain relationships with Europe, had experienced a number of relatively short-lived governments, was worried about the climate and had an ageing monarch at its head! 

Deputy Captain Krishnan Ajit considered what the school looked like in 1895 with its 40 pupils and based in the centre of town and, there too, somethings sounded familiar such as a school production of Julius Caesar and Popplewell Scholars heading off to university. The Girls’ Division, then the Bolton High School for Girls, was situated where the current Boys’ Junior School is on Park Road and, despite the distance between the two schools, Headmaster Matthews had to reprimand boys for climbing over the wall into the girls’ playground! 

After the singing of the school song “Forty Years On”, Old Boy Peter Acton, who is a former President and currently President of Old Boltonians in the South-East, recalled how after a chance encounter with Headmaster Baggley in 1972 at Russell Square tube station he resolved to go to the next London dinner in 1973. In those days it was a formal black-tie event for Old Boys only. The London dinner now is shared with the Old Girls’ Association and no longer black-tie, something Peter had helped bring about as he had found it frustrating that he could not take his own wife to an event when he was President. The London dinner, which has run for 117 years, is one of five Alumni regional dinners held in the UK each year and with an average 100 attendees is one of the most popular. 

Another Old Boy and current Russian teacher, Mr Wyatt, spoke of the conviviality of Old Boy reunions and delivered amusing recollections which involved other Old Boy teachers including Mr Teasdale, Mr Watkinson, Mr Lees and Mr Brace. 

The morning ended with a rousing version of the unofficial school anthem, “Jerusalem”. Here’s to the next 125 years!

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