Alumni Dinner 25th February 2017


A large attendance of 36 members and guests enjoyed a sumptuous five-course meal at the Alumni Dinner on Saturday 25th February. Those present included a group of regulars (mainly from the 1960s and 1970s), a similar number of "occasionals" and a good helping of first-timers from across a wide range of years. These very welcome newcomers included Pete Chambers, Head Boy in 1978/79; Keith Traynor, who left in the mid 1980s; and much more recent leavers Ben Gibson, Aaron Lyons and David Cook and James Driscoll. This combination of ages ranging from one of the oldest past pupils through to one of the youngest, complete with three former teachers, made for a very entertaining and enjoyable evening.

The three surviving Alumni Presidents were all present and one of these, Paul Hutchinson (1966), was our speaker on the subject of his year as Mayor of Chelmsford. Chelmsford has been a borough and, therefore, had a mayor since the 1800s and, of course, received City status in 2012. Paul has lived in Chelmsford for more than 40 years and has been a councillor for many of those years. He was elected Mayor for the year 2015/16 and in the course of those 365 days attended more than 400 engagements in his official capacity.

In response to a particularly relevant and searching question from one of the school's current Assistant Headteachers and former pupil Matt Hardiman, Paul explained that his interest in politics was due partly to the fact that his mother had been a local councillor but also to two particular experiences whilst at STM back in the early 1960s. Firstly a mock council meeting when he had to present one side of a debate and, secondly, when he had to represent one of the main political parties in a mock parliamentary debate that the school staged in 1965 to commemorate to 750th anniversary of the first English parliament (Headmaster of the time, Don McGregor, had performed the role of Speaker). Interestingly one of the other main protagonists on that occasion has gone on to become an eminent QC!

Paul regaled us with many interesting and amusing anecdotes concerning some of the many engagements he undertook - some very serious such as the Remembrance Day and Armed Forces Day parades when it seems the most he could coax out of any of the participants was a very official "Yes, sir"; and some much more light-hearted and social such as a Buckingham Palace Garden Party and an official visit to the Essex County Cricket ground when he was officially received and welcomed by none-other than former STM geography teacher John Barker!

Paul explained the origins of mayoral civic robes as coming from the time of Queen Anne and that the design of all civic maces in the country (including those at the Houses of Parliament) was created by King Charles I.

He remained impressed and moved by what he termed "the goodness of people" that he had encoountered so much during his year in office when he had engaged with all ages and walks of life from very young members of the Beavers scout troupes right through to the elderly stalwarts of such organisations as the WI. Throughout the year he had been amused by way in which some people had become totally flustered upon being introduced to the city's "First Citizen" which manifested itself both in terms of speechlessness and unexpected gestures such as whole classrooms of college students standing up when he walked in and women dropping elaborate curtsies in his presence.

His charity for the year had been the YMCA for which he was proud to have raised £27,000.