Welcome to the Old Aysgarthian Association (OAA) pages of the website. Membership of the OAA enables old Aysgarthians to stay in contact with former classmates and the wider OA community, as well as maintain a connection with the school.
As another busy year for the Old Aysgarthian Association (OAA) draws to an end, it is once again time to reflect on our activities from the past twelve months, but before I do we must first welcome all the new members who have joined the Association this year. As well as the school leavers, each year we reconnect with a few old boys who left the school prior to the OAA’s existence and we are delighted to welcome them all to the Association.
The Wintersgill Pavilion
Many people visiting the school during the past couple of months will be wondering who the Wintersgills are and why a pavilion was built in their name in such a prominent place within the school grounds. To any Old Aysgarthian of a certain vintage however, no explanation or excuse is required.
In 1924 Tommy Wintersgill joined the staff. Amongst other things he maintained the school grounds and, in particular, the sports pitches. In 1942 Tommy was joined by his son Bill, who at 15 became the school boilerman, and later by his elder son Wal. Bill and Wal continued to manage the school grounds until 1992. Every morning they would tend to the grounds and in the afternoon retire to their ‘hole’ to clean hundreds of pairs of shoes or whitewash cricket pads and boots. During my time at the school, it was in ‘Bill and Wal’s hole’ (located in what is now the changing rooms) that boys could grab a few minutes of sanctuary and catch up with news outside of Aysgarth, more often than not an update on how Leeds United had fared at the weekend or the latest score from Headingley. Boys could immerse themselves in the Yorkshire Post and enjoy the wonderful banter and counsel of Bill and Wal. Tommy, Bill and Wal were not just groundsmen, they were trusted friends to generations of boys at the school.
Bill died in 2015, leaving in his will a legacy to the school of £3,000, to be spent on a memorial in the Wintersgills’ name. For many years the Trustees of the Aysgarth Foundation had considered raising funds to restore the old summer house (or dovecote pavilion) in the corner of the headmaster’s garden; other projects, however, had taken priority. Last year it was therefore agreed by all that Bill’s legacy was the perfect catalyst to initiate a fundraising campaign not only to restore the old summer house but also to create a new pavilion alongside it to host match teas, school BBQs and other such events. It was agreed that we would approach old Aysgarthians in the hope that we might raise half the funds to help the school justify the project. The response was incredible and in a matter of weeks we had raised considerably more than we had hoped from the OAs enabling the school to proceed and build the pavilion which now stands proudly as a fitting memorial to Bill, Wal and Tommy, thus ensuring that the Wintersgill family will be permanently associated with Aysgarth and with cricket – as it should be.
Following our 30th anniversary drinks party in London last November, this year it was the turn of a northern party and what better excuse than the opening of the Wintersgill Pavilion. In September we welcomed over 100 OAs, staff, former staff and friends of Aysgarth to the school for the event. It was a wonderful occasion and huge thanks must go to those who so generously donated funds to the Wintersgill Memorial Fund. Our thanks go also to Andrew Francis, Chris Hughes and the rest of the team for the design and build of a wonderful memorial.
The other significant event for the Association in the past year has been the retirement of Eileen Harrison-Topham, from the post of Honorary Secretary of the OAA. It has been a day we have dreaded (and put off) for years, however it only seemed appropriate that in our thirtieth year Eileen should finally be ‘allowed’ to step down. As I have written previously, without Eileen there quite simply would not be an OAA and we cannot thank her enough for her tireless devotion to the Association since it was established in 1986. Eileen has also very kindly put pen to paper and on page 91 reflects on the first thirty years of the Association.
We had three OA cricket fixtures this summer, starting with the annual match between the previous year’s leavers and the School X1, which this year was won by the school. On a scorching hot day at the beginning of July the Harrow Wanderers visited the school during their annual Northern tour. The OAs put on a score of 250 with Harry Adair (06-11) and James Francis (07-12) both scoring half centuries and, thanks to a five wicket haul from Jonny Darbishire (02-06), the Wanderers were bowled out for 180, giving the OAs their first win of the summer. Many thanks to Sam Biker (99-02) for putting together the OA team. We also resurrected the Old Bramcotian fixture after a gap of a few years, however unfortunately in a very close game we ended our innings just nine runs short. Oli Thornton-Berry (98-03) was the pick of the OA bowling with three wickets for ten runs, also topping the batting with thirty-five runs. There were supporting innings from Sam Biker and Jonny Darbishire, both scoring thirty and Harry Scrope (82-87) whose thirty-two runs at the end of the innings very nearly saw us home. We hope to run all three fixtures again next year and I would love to hear from any OAs looking for a game next July.
Our new school archivist, Ted Haslam continues to do an amazing job of finding, maintaining and cataloguing so many artefacts relating to the school and its colourful history. It was a little over a year ago that Ted took on this vital role, following the retirement of Stuart Tate. He has thrown himself into it and is currently busy documenting memories and facts gathered from many people currently associated with the school. We hope to publish some of Ted’s findings in next year’s Aysgarthian.
We have still to award an OAA Bursary this year and are looking for applicants. If you are embarking on a new business venture, endeavouring to conquer your Everest or have any other cause that would benefit from a £500 boost, please email me with your application.
Finally, I would like to thank Diny, who has taken on the role of OAA secretary, and Niki Pargeter for the help and support they have given the committee this year.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
With best wishes,