The 127th OJ Dinner at the House of Lords on Friday 19th May was attended by OJs right across the age ranges, from early 20s through to mid-80 year olds. By tradition the OJ President, Ben Searls, hosted the Headmaster and his wife, The Head of School and his partner Julia Philips together with the Head Boy and Head Girl. Sadly, Chairman of the Governors Tony Jarvis and past headmasters were unable to attend.
As we sat down for dinner after a champagne reception on the Terrace overlooking the Thames, we were asked to pause for a moment's reflection on the life of OJ Admiral Lord Michael Boyce. We lost Michael last November and he had helped plan the dinner which was originally to take place before Covid.
The menu was as well received as the venue and the selection of wines greatly appreciated, so too was the placing of a bottle of port on every table.
By tradition, Ben Searls rose to propose the "9 o'clock Toast", to OJs overseas, the Loyal Toast was proposed by Oliver Rodbourne and Sebastian Probert-Broster then proposed a Toast to The School. Responding, Dominic Mott gave a witty state-of-the-nation style speech concluding by proposing the Health and Longevity of the OJ Club. This brought Ben Searls to his feet who surprised the room by deviating from the norm.
In a wonderful moment, he presented guests Jan and Tim Leeper with a silver salver each in recognition of their wonderful service to Hurst, the community and OJs over more than 25 years. Their awards led to thunderous applause, a wonderful moment as presentations normally take place during Headmaster's notices in the Common Room.
Ben then quietened the room and delivered the sad news that former OJ President, long time Treasurer and friend to so many, JRC (John) Hall - Red Cross 1963, was receiving palliative care. Naming John's children and wife, he asked everyone present to hold him and his loved ones in their thoughts and prayers.
Ben then responded to the kind toast from Dominic Mott and told those present about his plans next year for the 175th Anniversary of the founding of Hurst before saying appropriate thank yous to the organisers of the dinner. He concluded by asking everyone to stand and share the traditional Toast, Floreat Hurst.
There was plenty of time to chat once the formalities were done. Guests were mingling in the Cholmondeley Room and on the Terrace where the London skyline never ceases to amaze at night but were brought together when one of the guests, spotting that the announcer's microphone was not switched off, led the whole room (headmasters and wives included) in a gutsy impromptu rendition of Jerusalem.
With one OJ being joined by a guy he first knew as a 9 year old in his form in 1973 to another who found a fellow Hurst Tennis Team member from the late 60s, there were plenty of 'reunions'. The years 'melted away' for some of our 1980s leavers and it was lovely to see a group of Hurst's first girls from 1997!
Check out the photos in the Gallery!