My time at school was between 1975 and 1980, and I was a boarder despite living
fairly close by in Bloxham. My father had suffered a stroke several years earlier, making
life difficult for all of us, so I was despatched to Sibford.
In those days our education was about more than the three R’s – but having said
that I could have done with someone teaching me how to properly iron a shirt (anyone
who was after me in the laundry room will attest to my ineptitude with the iron!).
The Quaker ways were subtle in some ways and routine in others, I remember my
Mum saying that she was always impressed at how the whole school would be silent at
the start of meetings, plays, or concerts for those few moments.
The teachers all had an effect on how we grew up – some more than others, a few that
come to mind are Mr Shields and Mr Jarvis – probably the reason that I went into
engineering, and Mr Sagar for arranging visits to various companies in 5th form.
Our careers officer had persuaded me that I wouldn’t be able to be a helicopter
pilot (something to do with being a girl!) so I decided to go into engineering, and was
offered a four year apprenticeship with IMI Norgren. As their first girl apprentice –
something that I didn’t actually think about at the time – it must have been quite difficult
for the men who taught me. I’m still (30 plus years later) the only ‘girl’ who completed the
4 years there. It’s a shame that more girls were not encouraged to take up this interesting
career. Having been told that ‘I wasn’t good enough for A levels’ at school, I took my ONC
and HNC ending up in Research and Development.
A couple of years after my apprenticeship I got the wanderlust, doing a couple of
overland trips, through the African continent first, and Asia and the Middle East after.
These were fascinating times, and I look at some of the places I visited, and have
photographs of, knowing that after the past few years they will be quite different, if they
still exist. I’m so glad that Mum encouraged me to go when we talked of it, I saw life in a
very different way, some of it good, some of it not so.
After getting my travelling out of my system, I ended up down in Hampshire,
working for the next 11 years in a few different roles from Development Engineer, to Sales
Engineer to Engineering Buyer. Industry was changing, and several redundancies later, I
had had enough and set out on my own, doing lawn mowing and gardening. Another few
years at college was in order and an RHS Certificate and HNC in Horticulture joined my
1996 saw me married to Terry, who has managed to put up with my “why don’t you
do it like this” comments when doing something to his Frogeye Sprite, a legacy of my
training. Going to car shows was traded for airshows – yes I’m still nuts about helicopters!
Since childhood I had been taken to steam fairs, so was very aware of the
wonderful steam traction engines that were on the show circuit. Recently I somehow
managed to get involved with helping to run a fabulous McLaren agricultural engine, this
led me to start and run a company which sells miniature (Quarter, third and half size)
traction engine castings and machining services. It is due to this that I have gone back to
my engineering roots, and have enjoyed the ‘regression’, including starting to use
machines I last used 25 plus years ago. It goes to say that a good training in whatever
your chosen career is, will stand you in the best stead.
Old Scholars has been a part of my life before – in the 90’s for several years, and
now. I truly believe that keeping in touch is very much a two way thing – between School
and Old Scholars, for those that wish it.
I hope to see some more of my contemporaries this year especially, but in subsequent
years too. To quote an elderly advert “It’s good to talk”.
It hardly seems like twelve months ago that I was preparing to submit my presidential profile from my first time of office back in September 2012. It was quite special to have also taken over the reigns, once more from last year’s present Caroline Mills, someone I was at actually at Sibford with, although a few years apart.
My hopes and aims this year are, as it was in 2012/13, is to build upon the relationship with the school and the old scholars that left the in the 1980’s. I started my time at Sibford in the mid 80’s. Currently the SOSA membership seems to be very light of past pupils during this time. It would be fantastic to entice some more old scholars back, building upon the momentum from two years ago. Two years ago we invited and were joined by ex-members of staff Chris Bateman, Bryan Holliday, Stuart Headley, David Foulds, Chris Guy and Anne Muir. They all returned and we very much hope they will again this year as invited guests and I will certainly be looking to invite more staff from my time at the school again next year. 2015 happens to also be 25 years since I started my time at Sibford as a pupil. Being that very small, blonde and cocky 11 year old boy seems a life time ago.
Next year’s Open Day and Reunion on June 13th we in SOSA are planning to provide a lunch for past pupils from the 80’s together with the ex-members of staff that we can get hold of who also were at the school. These lunches have been a real success over the last few years where different year groups have gathered and enjoyed their time together celebrating 50 years and 40 years of being at the school. I very much look forward to serving my second term of my presidency and very much hope to fulfil the aim once more of a reunion and giving those attending Open Day at Sibford for the first time in many years a real opportunity to see the Sibford as it is today and the fantastic changes that have taken place.
Caroline Mills, President, 2013-2014
Isn’t it remarkable how colour can influence a child’s decisions? Edd Frost (current SOSA President) wrote of his horror at the prospect of wearing a green blazer upon his arrival at Sibford. I, by contrast, was delighted to wear bottle-green in preference to the alternative – a shocking striped green and brown number. With loathing for the mint-choc ice cream design of the local grammar school and, likewise, the ice-blue walls of the First Year dormitories – with an infinite double row of beds – that chilled my thoughts of attending The Mount in York (a Quaker-led, girls-only school), I entered Sibford in September 1982 enthralled with the colour of my new uniform … bottle-green gym knickers excepted!
Music and Drama For five years, I threw myself into everything, making life-long friendships with both fellow pupils and staff. Like Edd, I was a part of the Sibford 80’s era of unique musical productions. Music and drama at Sibford became a major part of my life and influenced much of the following years. I overcame my aversion to The Mount dormitories and spent Sixth Form in York. Wrapped in the relative peace of Sibford life, I struggled with this new-fangled urban world of noisy night trains and rush-hour traffic and it took me a while to settle. But, just as I had at Sibford, I threw myself into the drama of York and became involved in the celebrated Mystery Plays, set against the stunning backdrop of St Mary’s Abbey ruins. The York Mystery Plays had been the career introduction to former Mount School pupil Dame Judi Dench and, so it appeared, it was to be for me. Following a gap year studying drama in Stratford-upon-Avon, with work experience at the RSC, I ventured to London to train in stage management at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). But the strain of seedy London bedsits and late-night Tubes got too much. I cut short the course and became a ‘mature’ student in Oxford studying part time for an Honours degree in English and Music while I began my career in publishing. Life has never been void of things to do but in the last 15 years it has been intensely engaging. Following marriage to my husband Paul, we set up a farm producing organic free-range eggs just a few miles from Sibford while I continue to work freelance as a travel writer, penning books and articles for magazines. Meanwhile, we began to self-build our own house. With virtually every last detail built or made by us, it has taken more than 10 years to complete, and we are on the final stages. I’m also Chairman of a local swimming club, inspired to develop swimming opportunities for children in the area following our own children’s love of the sport. I’ve been involved with SOSA intermittently since leaving Sibford but I feel incredibly honoured to be asked to become Vice President and look forward to rekindling lost friendships with old school friends and making new acquaintances.
Generation game I am proud to be one of five generations – and one of 21 members of my family – to attend Sibford School. The first was Ernest Quinton not long after the school was founded; our three children, currently at the school, make up the fifth generation. I think you could say, that we have our feet firmly under the table.