Wishing Old Cottonians where ever you are
A VERY HAPPY NEW Year.
Since I discovered OCA (UK) in 1972 I have attended every Annual Reunion under the Chairmanships of Dick Bayliss, Tony Sinha and Gay Niblett, Vivek Bhasin & Kuljinder Bahia.
That is a proud record of an ordinary pupil of Bishop Cotton School in Simla.
Completely unaware of the Association’s existence when I first arrived in England on a cold winter’s afternoon in December 1958 and made my way to the home of a girlfriend from New Delhi, living in Brighton.
My elder Brother John Stringer (L42-45) who many years later followed me to London was employed by a refrigeration service company. After completing his service duties at the then great departmental store of Elyes of Wimbledon he was directed to the manager’s office of Mr. Elye-Dodds. Taken by surprised to find it was no other but Sparrow Dodds (I 40s). ‘Spaggy’ gave my brother information details of the Old Cottonians’ annual reunions organised by Lumboo Woods the legend co-founder of our School’s Association (London Chapter). Unfortunately I have never met Dodds at any reunion.
For me all this discovery has been a profound experience and pleasure. It created outside my family and working life an endearing circle of dear chums brought on from our unique heritage and formal school years. Sorry to recall that my eyes moisten up when rekindling memories of individuals, so many of them that are no longer with us. I will not recall their names – many of them older before I was born and some even far older; a very ‘chota’ youngster, compared to the Bigsters we called the Seniors during my School years.
All a rewarding relationship that has inspired me after taking over hesitantly the reins of the UK Fraternity when Ted Cuzen deposited the books and files of the Association on the table in front of Chairman Dick Bayliss. It was the year after Ted’s retirement, as Head Teacher for a parochial school of Inner London at Clarkenwell. At that Reunion perhaps no more than a dozen OCs and some wives were present over 30 years ago at the public house, The Merlin Caves around the corner from Ted Cuzen’s place of work. It was Dick Bayliss with his gentle manner and direct approach that guided me to the stewardship of Secretary and Treasurer. Luni Dunne, Roy Nissen and Henry Lincoln championed me and I was forced to accept this official undertaking. With my wife Margaret’s help we held it together and Dick the Godfather steering us on. Maggie’s domestic commitments forced her to hand over the Funds & Treasury to veteran Henry Lincoln for awhile. Our numbers kept steady and from nowhere Anil Bhasin (C 62-69) appeared. He at the time owned in family partnership the Green Park Hotel off Piccadilly. With him he ushered in younger OC life & generously offered to stage our future Annual Luncheon in the Green Park Hotel at much reduced cost.
Dick Bayliss and I ceased the opportunity and embraced the influx of younger Indian Old Cottonians. We formed a committee of six in all. Dick, Tony Sinha, Vinod Nanda, Kamal Behal, Tony Verma and yours fraternally!!
By this time OCA India began to take note. Deep C Anand was President elect OCA New Delhi and Surinder Jain his Secretary. OCs late Mudoo McBean and Robert Reed with Arthur Jones (L 42-49) and their wives visited BCS on an organised tour by an old Sanawarian in 1990. Spearheading the welcome Col. Bill Dewan and some other OCs in Simla and New Delhi promoted closer links. DC Anand sent SM Jain to attend our 1991 Reunion at the Green Park Hotel with open invitations and persuade our Chairman and me to come out to India and visit the School. All paid for and settled they flew us out, Ron Plunkett (C 43-50) and Arthur Jones accompanied us, at their own expense – 1992.
It was a poignant visit filled with nostalgia – dear Dick was our treasure (returning 70 years after leaving Patina) and I coming back after 45 years brought a tear to my eyes as I walked across the “First” flat. It was even more emotional when departing back to Delhi and the lump in my throat was staunch. We had presented an English oak Shield (I had designed and carried to Simla) -Dick presented it to further encourage learning; it now features as The Bayliss Challenge Shield.
Setting the trend in motion I have returned with parties to Simla in 1994, ’97 and 2000, with Maggie; 2004 in a smaller party and by myself in 2006.
Finally in 2009 we joined in the eventful Sesquicentennial Founder’s Celebrations. Every visit has been warmer and the response closer, meeting many OCs and making good acquaintances. A chapter of my life has harvested sheer joy and shared with Old Cottonians of all ages and scattered around the globe.
I have personally met the last two and present Headmaster and have tried to offer my support without interference.
At the Reunion Luncheon 2006 members of OCA(UK) in London honoured me handsomely for my diligent tenure as Secretary. The main donation endorsed my own finance and encouragement from Johnny McLaughlin (I 41-48) to visit North America with my Maggie. What an epic adventure! John made all the arrangements – Helen & John met us when we landed at Detroit and welcomed us to their home in Williamston. We four attended a Canadian OCs Reunion in Toronto.
A fleeting stopover at Niagara Falls, before returning south of the border to sleep the night and then John drove us down to New Jersey. Stayed a few days at the home of Gurdip Sidhu (L 48-52) & affectionate wife Jagdish – taking in the sights of New York & Liberty! On to Maryland to meet with, once ex-Treasurer Kamal Behal (I 58-67) and his charming wife Nawel, staying at their home. A whistle-stop-tour of Washington – onto a lunch in Virginia with a few more OCs, followed next day a long drive back to Michigan.
Resting up days for Maggie – two of us flew down to Gracelands. Three day stopover then we flew to LA to join again with Johnny. Staying a few days doing the sights & finally for a Dinner Reunion with OC Californians on Wiltshire Avenue. Up in the air next morning we followed the Rockies to Vancouver. Met with Paul Jones (L 36-46) – spending a few more days & finally to meet at a Lunch Reunion with West Canadian resident OCs. Lucky to meet a Stringer cousin Paul arranged to meet in his penthouse flat. Our return was a long tiresome flight back through Dallas to Michigan. Few more days rest with Helen & John in Williamston – too soon IT was all over & we crossed the Pond for Home.
Old Cottonians have come and found us; we have extensively laboured to locate others. We found some of them and our numbers increased and then we lose some, but life must go on. Through the years we have held Reunions at Steak Houses, Public Houses, The Overseas Club, Veeraswamy Restaurant, The Green Park Hotel, The Cumberland Hotel, The Regent Hotel, The Bombay Palace and the Bombay Brasserie. Year on year the Committee guided by each Chairman has boldly achieved success, the Luncheon better every time. But without doubt Marlborough College, in the name of our Founder, has secured a divine place in our hearts and unforgettable. For me the Commemorative Service in the magnificent College Chapel lifted our hearts and voices to remind us of our dear Holy Trinity Chapel and years at BCS. What a dignified honour to the man George Edward Lynch Cotton after 150 years founding our place of learning.
We pray for the good and future of Bishop Cotton School, Marlborough College and Rugby School the strength in fellowship grows to usefulness to one another.
Grateful thanks to everyone for giving me the honoured privilege & experience
OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD
Peter A Stringer (L43-47)