I spoke last week about Rwanda, and about how we could watch history develop in front of our very eyes.  Today I pick up on that theme again, about how the history of an area contributes to its current position, but very much closer to home – in this school in fact.  I am often asked by prospective parents what this school is good at.  It is a gift of a question in many ways, because you are (between you) good at almost everything, so it gives me the chance to talk about the way that you boys grow up able to look people in the eye, shake a hand firmly and hold a conversation, qualities key to this school, the strength of the House system with its vertical tutoring, the relationships between staff and boys, the quality of academia, music and drama, the amazing buildings we have and the myriad of clubs and societies on offer.  Two things almost always come up, and those are sport and fundraising.  Sport comes up in two ways – firstly through the extraordinary successes of our top sides and the sheer number of national finals you play in.  Secondly through the number of teams and the fact that the 14 E team and the 6th XV play matches and have the same opportunities to learn about competition, teamwork and getting on with each other as the 1st XIs.  This is just as important. Fundraising shows the spirit of you boys in the school and your thoughtfulness and care for others, particularly when it is bound up, as it so often is in this school, by a desire to educate us all thoroughly about the charities we are raising money for. 

Well, in the New Year’s Honours list this year, there appeared an Old Bedfordian called Roger Fennemore.  He was here from 1952-1961, ie over half a century ago.  Just listen to this citation on his life’s achievements, which you can find on our school website: 

“We are absolutely delighted to announce that former Chair of the OB Club, Roger Fennemore (52-61), has received a much-deserved MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for his services to sport.

Pictured here with the 1959/60 1st XV Rugby team, Roger has loved sport since School, and attributes the positive influence of various sports coaches here such as Owen Bevan (34-73), in making him realise that sport can and does change lives. Always active in the world of sport, Roger has served on the committee of Bedford Rugby Club having played for them in his youth, was Captain of Woburn Golf Club, Secretary of the Lord’s Taverners Charity when it was set up locally and is an Honorary Life Member of MK Rugby Club.

Becoming Director of SportsAid Eastern in 2000, he successfully instigated the creation of fund raising and networking lunch clubs across the region. Approaching £2m has now been raised to support talented able bodied and disabled young athletes including Greg Rutherford, Gail Emms, Louis Smith, Victoria Pendleton and a host of other successful Internationals and Olympians.

Alongside this, Roger has also been hard at work as Deputy Chair of SportEngland in the East and Chair of its’ Finance sub-committee leading financial decisions on 65 million pounds of funding on behalf of SportEngland. He recently Chaired a review panel for SportEngland on the operation of Stoke Mandeville stadium and currently is Chair of the Bucks and MK Sports Board ‘LEAP’. He also sits on the Bucks Legacy Board.

On behalf of the OB Club and the rest of Bedford School, we would like to congratulate Roger most heartily and are sure he will keep on with his fantastic work.”

Mr Fennemore, it must be said, has also had a career as a criminal lawyer, has sat on the board of directors for MK Hospital trust, a pharmaceutical company, a travel company and a school.  So he is obviously a talented man.  But it was his love of sport and his commitment to fundraising for others in that field which has been recognised by
his MBE.  It is often the way that boys grow up wanting to be a professional sportsman and it is wonderful when that dream can be realised – if you are one of those boys in here, keep with that dream.  However, it is inevitable that only a few boys will make it (and they may not be the ones you think), so it might be interesting for you to hear about a man who has loved sport, played to a high level and then has made a huge success of sport, not by playing himself but by using his talents to the benefit of thousands of others.  60 years on, and given the continuing strength of sport and fundraising at Bedford School, I wonder whether there might be others in this room who might just do something very similar?


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