Versa is a biannual publication and will be published every autumn and spring term. Versa will replace the former magazine, OA Bulletin and will offer a comprehensive insight into the many facets of alumni life.
16 LA GRANDE finale by John Meulkens (OA 1935) JOHN MEULKENS VISITING THE SCHOOL IN MAY 2017 Notwithstanding the fact that I am very much in my twilight years, it was once again possible to pay a visit to my alma mater last May and profit, as so often from its traditional hospitality. With EasyJet to Luton, it’s a short 45 to 50-minute flight from Amsterdam Airport. Comparing favourably with the taxi drive from my home to the airport that, depending on the traffic, might take twice as long. The programme was again executed in grand style: Tea at Woollams, a visit to the School Museum and drinks at the Fighting Cocks with the following OAs who so graciously came over to meet me; Roy and Merle Bacon, Ian Jennings, Mitch Parker, Chris Harbour, Geoffrey Dale and Robert Sharpe (all the way from the South Coast!). Then, to top it off, we had dinner in the Refectory with Headmaster Jonathan Gillespie and his charming wife Caroline. It was great to meet, for the first time, our OA President Mike Hodge, who so interestingly told me that my first Maths Master in 1929 “Pi” Walker was, in fact, his grandfather; a severe and much respected teacher. All in all, a truly delightful visit and again much appreciated by my cousin-by-marriage who, incidentally joins me on such expeditions, as it is not advisable to do it on one’s own – especially at the airport. Although life now is quiet and peaceful, there is “never a dull moment”. Besides working incidentally on an oil painting and reading a great deal in order to increase my knowledge of the world’s history – music is constantly an important element in my day-to-day life. Hardly a day goes by without playing the piano. In addition to this “homework”, I attend piano recitals wherever possible. As a result of these visits, I had the privilege of being introduced to a Hungarian master pianist (who now lives in Amsterdam) – Klára Würtz. Accepted as a student at the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy at the early age of 14, Klára went on to win a scholarship to study under Sir András Schiff in England. She has now performed over 200 concerts in countries such as America, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Slovina and Ireland. During our chat, after being told of my advanced age she promptly said; “I’ll come and play at your 100th birthday”. My immediate reply was; “you promise?” and her answer was, “yes, I promise”. Since then I have been present at several of her recitals in nearby towns and I am happy to say that she has become a very dear friend. As I still had to wait a couple of years and everything was very much in “the lap of the Gods”, I thought it practical to organise the recital a year earlier, to celebrate the start of my 100th centenary. The idea was readily accepted and a Saturday afternoon in November agreed. The organisational work involved has kept me busy during many months. The result may well be seen as a highlight in my long life. During my May visit to the School, Jonathan Gillespie told me about the plans for the New Hall development – to make it into the Centre for Performing Arts, complete with a purpose built Music Faculty. A project that most certainly enhances the School’s already impressive reputation. During our talks I suggested that we might consider having pianist Klára Würtz give a repeat performance of her November recital, as and when the Centre is officially opened. In order to discuss this matter, we have provisionally planned a visit to St Albans in January. Needless to say I will do my upmost to be present at the concert. “Although life now is quiet and peaceful, there is never a dull moment”
17 THE OA LODGE then & now… by John Williams (OA 1964) The first Master of the Old Albanian Lodge was Edward Percy Debenham. He was born at Ivy House in St Albans in 1858 and educated at the School. He qualified as a Solicitor in 1881 and following the death of his father in 1883, joined the family firm of Thompson & Debenhams of London and St Albans. He was initiated into Halsey Lodge No. 1479 in St Albans in 1882 and was installed as Master in 1890. Debenham was a Clerk to the Governors of St Albans School – at the time still referred to as St Albans Grammar School. After the ‘Great’ war, in the 1920s there were numerous members of Freemason’s Lodges in St Albans who had been educated at the School. They established a committee in 1925, with the aim of founding a new Lodge in the Province of Hertfordshire, the Old Albanian Lodge No 4999, for the benefit of Old Boys, staff and those connected with the School. The Old Albanian Lodge was consecrated at Freemason’s Hall on Saturday 19th May 1928 by Bro. Charles E. Keyser, FREEMASON’S HALL Provincial Grand Master of the Masonic Province of Hertfordshire. For the remainder of 1928, Lodge meetings were held by dispensation in St Albans Town Hall. Afterwards, the members and their guests dined at the Red Lion Hotel. In early 1929 however, the Lodge began meeting in the Old Assembly room in the School’s Gateway, but continued to dine in the Red Lion. In the 12 months from October 1928 to 1929, no fewer than 14 candidates – including the then Headmaster, Major E. Montague Jones – were initiated into the Lodge and with additional ‘joining’ members, the Lodge was on course to becoming one of the foremost in the Province. Old Albanians who received a copy of the ‘black book’ containing ‘Notes on St Albans School’ at the start of their School careers may recall that Sir Francis was the son of Sir Nicolas Bacon, one of the School’s early patrons and instrumental in obtaining the ‘Wine Charter’ which was later confirmed and extended by Charters, granted by King James 1st. King James had been initiated into the Masonic Lodge of Scoon and Perth in 1601. Sir Francis, also a Freemason and one of history’s finest philosophers, played a large part in the development of early Freemasonry. 20 years after his death, in 1645 during the turmoil of the civil war, Freemasons in London established what was to become the Royal Society. It was the world’s first assembly of scientists and engineers dedicated to understanding the wonders created by the ‘Great Architect of the Universe’. As continues in all Freemason’s Lodges today, ‘all discourses on divinity and state affairs’ is barred – i.e. there shall be no discussion of religion or politics! EDWARD PERCY DEBENHAM The Lodge ‘year’ commenced at the Installation meeting on 13th May, when the outgoing Master of the Lodge, Alex Bain-Stewart, installed the Master Elect, Alistair Cooper (OA 1988) as the 90th Master of the Lodge. The incoming Master was initiated into Harrow St Paul’s Lodge, and joined the OA Lodge in 2010. He is now a successful property developer and residential landlord. He was proposed into the Old Albanian Lodge by Colin Harris and Ian Parker (who taught him economics at School). Alistair was a St Albans councillor from 1997 to 2005, chairing the Planning Committee from 2002 to 2004. He is a charity volunteer for the local homeless drop in centre, Centre 33 and is a keen supporter of the RSPCA and other animal charities. ALISTAIR COOPER (OA 1988) The Lodge meets five times a year and all those connected with the School, including fathers of past or present pupils are welcome to apply for membership. Members of other Lodges, be they OAs, parents, staff or Governors, are encouraged to visit the Lodge whenever they wish. The Secretary or Assistant Secretary will be delighted to hear from them.