About Millfield News
Millfield honours leading former pupils
Millfield held its tenth annual Old Millfieldian of the Year Award ceremony on Thursday 6th November, honouring former pupils who have gone on to achieve great things. The school’s Concert Hall was packed with pupils, staff, former staff and Old Millfieldians who had gathered for the event, which saw four Old Millfieldians praised and an honorary award presented. The occasion was also notable for being the first time that a new “Lifetime Achievement” award was given out.
This year’s four winners of the Old Millfieldian of the Year Award were British Paralympic sprinter John McFall, judge Barbara Mensah, former Head of Men’s Tennis in Britain Paul Hutchins and former England hockey goalkeeper David Luckes.
John McFall, (Orchards 1994-97), who was absent when he won the award last year, was introduced with television footage of his bronze medal win in the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. He sprinted 100 metres with one leg in just 13.08 seconds. He said. “When I was at Millfield, for me the most important things were learning about joining in, about interacting with others, about sport, getting involved and being part of wider society. I don’t think there are many schools in the world let alone Britain which can teach you skills such as that better than Millfield. If I had not gone to Millfield I don’t think I would have been as well equipped to deal with what life had to throw at me in the future.”
Barbara Mensah, (Kernick 1975-77) became the first Circuit Judge from African origin when she was appointed to the South Eastern Circuit in December 2005. She was called to the Bar (Lincoln’s Inn) in 1984 and was appointed as a Recorder in 2003. Born in Ghana, she came to the UK at the age of six. She described how Millfield made her more independent and focused and told the audience that she found her husband-to-be (a fellow pupil) and decided to do Law, not Medicine, because of the school. “The most positive thing I gained was development of my character. I am who I am because of Millfield”.
Paul Hutchins (Etonhurst 1961-63), the former Davis Cup captain and LTA Head of Men’s Tennis arrived at Millfield on a tennis scholarship which meant his family (of modest means) only had to pay £100 a year. “Without Millfield I definitely would not have achieved all that I have achieved albeit very modestly in my sport of tennis. I would not have been such a good player, I would not have travelled so much, I would not have gone to the LTA.”
David Luckes, (Day 1982-87) from nearby Bridgwater is the Triple Hockey Olympian and one of the key members of the team that won London’s Olympic bid for 2012. Impressed by the three water-based artificial pitches and other Millfield facilities, he said. “Millfield is a microcosm of what we are doing on the Olympic front and it shares similar values and shares the values that everyone should seek in terms of personal achievement: to be the best that they can be whether that is winning Olympic medals or simply competing.”
The first recipient of the new ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ was Sir Roger Gibbs. John Davies, Secretary of the Old Millfieldian Society, heralded him as “a man who has written more books than he has read and the only man to have more honorary degrees than O Levels”. He continued: . “People like Sir Roger have been called late developers. But whatever you call him, he certainly developed into one of the most inspirational OMs that the school has ever produced.”
Sir Roger said his debt to Millfield was immense. “I arrived at Kingweston (boarding house) as a wilting rather disappointing stick of asparagus and I left feeling so much more confident and even being able to express myself adequately from time to time. I owe Millfield so much and I really do think of Millfield very often.”
He described how Eton told his parents that they could not do anything more for him, that he was a lost cause and would have to go somewhere else. Luckily his inspirational parents had the good sense to choose Millfield. “I arrived at Millfield and came to a school where the formula for education was light years ahead of other schools. Pupils at other major schools were all in classes of 25 to 30 people – those with no potential, some potential, big potential were all treated the same and late developers came off worse. It was a pretty hopeless system but you came here and you found that you were in a class of 7 or 8 boys and girls and you were taught by absolutely magical people like Robert Bolt and John Paxton. I owe those two people and (former Headmaster) ‘Boss’ Meyer so much.”
Sir Roger left Millfield in 1953 to take up a job as goods porter at Oxford Railway Station. The next year he gained a job in a small discount house. Twenty years later he became Chairman of Gerrard and National, the largest traditional money market house. In 1989 he became Chairman of the Wellcome Trust and transformed it in just 10 years from a minor national organisation into the world’s biggest medical research charity with assets of over £14billion. Other successes included raising £40m for St Paul’s Cathedral and a record sum of £440,000 when he ran in the 1982 London Marathon after being severely ill from cancer.
The event also saw a non-Old Millfieldian given an honorary award for only the second time ever. Former Chairman of the Governors Adrian White, who stepped down after nine years earlier in the year, followed former Headmaster Peter Johnson in receiving the accolade. Introducing him, Professor Robert Clark, former Chairman of the OM Society, said that he was the closest you could get to being an Old Millfieldian without having been a pupil, having had five children at the school and being one of the school’s most generous donors sponsoring the swimming pool and the Mathematics Block. He had presided over the school’s transformation. “He’s red, green and blue all the way through”. In an audio message broadcast from New York, Mr White spoke humorously and with pride of the school which he called “the best in the world”, over which he had governed.
The Headmaster commented that: “The lessons learnt here through day to day interaction and leadership of the people they have worked with while at Millfield has really provided the tools to achieve in areas of life beyond school.”
Photo 1 (l-r): John Davies (Secretary of the OM Society), Paul Hutchins, Craig Considine (Headmaster of Millfield School), Barbara Mensah, John McFall, Rod Speed (Chairman of the OM Society), David Luckes, Sir Roger Gibbs.
Photo 2: John McFall
Photo 3: Barbara Mensah
Photo 4: Paul Hutchins
Photo 5: David Luckes
Photo 6: Sir Roger Gibbs