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Boys Celebrate Successes at Prizegiving

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The annual Boys’ Division Prizegiving was a wonderful way to bring the school year to a close by looking back and acknowledging the many achievements of boys individually and of the school as a whole.

Mr Nic Ford welcomed a large audience of boys, staff, parents and family members to the Great Hall for the occasion. He noted that in his first year as Head of Boys’ Division, he has much in common with a previous headmaster, Mr Lipscomb, who also saw much change in his time: the beginning of the Bolton School Foundation, a war in Europe and a pandemic. However, Mr Ford went on to say that the School continued and thrived amidst these circumstances, and the same is true today. He also mentioned his predecessor Mr Britton’s legacy, which included the reintroduction of the School Song, which was sung to open Prizegiving.

Mr Britton himself then took the podium as Head of Foundation to give his address. It has been 14 years since he joined Bolton School, and he reflected on his previous role as Boys’ Division Headmaster as well as his new position. He said that the ‘trick’ of being a leader is not to conserve the past, nor to try and make your mark out of a sense of ego, but rather to ‘make a difference for the school and those in it’ and ‘craft what it looks like in the modern age’. He spoke about an ‘interesting year’ in which there has been a focus on identifying, celebrating and promoting the differences between the Divisions. Looking to the future, he said that the school will look thoughtfully at which differences are important, and which are artefacts of history that can be changed to create a new and better version of the school we know.

Prizes were presented by Mr Iain Ross (Class of 1972), an Old Boy who is chair of several biotech companies in the UK, US and Australia, including Silence Therapeutics PLC. He has over 40 years’ experience in the international life sciences and technology sectors, and has advised banks and private equity groups on numerous company turnarounds.

However, he began by calling himself a ‘bad example of success’. He was involved in many different activities in his time at Bolton School, such as camps, sports and stage management of theatre productions, but did not get the grades he needed to study medicine as planned. The headmaster, Mr Baggley, turned down his bid to re-sit his A Levels, and he therefore had to take a different route. Iain went to study Zoology in London, as that was the only course with places remaining, though he eventually transferred to Chemistry and then Biochemistry. He called this a rather ‘inauspicious start’ to his post-school career!

Moving on, he told the boys that he had done some market research into what his friends and family remembered from their Prizegiving ceremonies (which on the most part was unfortunately nothing!) and what others had said in their speeches. He shared some of the highlights, including ‘the only scientific thing’ he found: wear sunscreen!

Looking back on the things he has learned, he said that ‘timing is everything, and sometimes it’s the wrong time’. He said that there is ‘no such thing as entitlement’ and that failing to plan is planning to fail. However, he went on to say that ‘you are always allowed a second chance, but you must recognise it’.

He shared a story from his own career: for nine years he had watched the fortunes of a company he had merged with an American company, who had then fired him immediately after the deal was complete, and eventually ended up chatting with its biggest shareholder. The shareholder claimed the company had ‘gone down the pan’, and Iain told him he could turn things around. He ended up getting his old job back, and said it was all because he wasn’t afraid of ‘sticking his neck out and saying he could sort it’.

Iain also shared his ‘best interview ever’ which was with another Old Boy, Malcolm Stevens. Malcolm had developed a brain cancer product that only worked in a third of patients, and wanted to do more but lacked funding. Iain said he could raise the money and got the job! He said, ‘You can take the boy out of Bolton School, but you can’t take Bolton School out of the boy!’

He advised the boys to get to the answer quickly and not waste time or money, learn from mistakes, and learn to love whatever they do as having the right attitude is important. He also said that, when investing for a company, he always uses the ‘red face test’: if he can look in a mirror and ask if it’s the right thing to do, he’ll know. He said to ‘treat it as if it’s your own money’ and ‘don’t fool yourself’.

Finally, he told the boys to ‘make the impossible possible’! He explained that he had been allowed to watch a heart transplant  simply because he had asked whether he could. In another example, he spoke about successfully getting both Republican and Democrat representatives to ‘open’ a factory in the US for him, separately, to avoid political bias, again because he asked them. Therefore, his final piece of advice was the old adage: ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

Rishi Narla, the Captain of the School, gave a vote of thanks to Iain for sharing his advice in an entertaining and memorable Prizegiving address.

Mr Ford then gave his review of the year, looking back on the past months of sporting triumphs, theatre productions and more. He bid farewell to colleagues who are retiring or moving on from the school. During Prizegiving, he also highlighted the work of the Governing Body. This year, the school has welcomed seven new Governors, who along with their colleagues are great examples of the importance of service and giving back. The Governors this year created the post of Head of Foundation, helping to take Bolton School to the next level while also maintaining the continuing ethos of the school.

The evening also included musical performances. Billy Burrows (Year 11) sang ‘Maybe This Time’ from the musical Cabaret, accompanied by Mrs Whitmore, and Freddie Audley (Year 11) played ‘All of Me’ by John Schmidt on the piano. The audience was invited to raise their voices twice in the programme: for the school song ‘Forty Years On’ which opened proceedings and for ‘Jerusalem’, which brought the evening to a close. Organ music as guests arrived and departed was provided by Organ Scholar Xuan Wang (Year 12).

After Prizegiving, everyone was invited to congregate in the Riley Centre’s Leverhulme Suite for refreshments.

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