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Chairman's Blog

george buntingRead news here from and about OWs that comes to me directly or on the grapevine. I will also draw attention to and comment on matters of interest. If you were at Wells, do send me snippets or tweets about what you or other OWs are doing to make this blog live, up to date and interesting!

You can add your responses and comments to my blog posts on our Facebook Group.

(Please note that throughout this site, OW years refer to the year the group left Year13 (Upper Sixth). Individuals may have left earlier)

George Bunting, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Emily Smith’s runaway success


Congratulations to Emily Smith (OW 2014) who is studying a Business Major at The Eastern Michigan University and is a member of the EMU women's cross country team which recently won pole position at the George Dales Invitational in Three Rivers, Michigan. EMU finished the 5k with all nine runners within the top-15 and Emily claimed fourth place, running to a time of 17:56.6

Emily was a renowned athlete throughout her years at Wells, including competing at county and national levels. She was Captain of Athletics and of Hockey, was a CCF NCO and on a Lower School Ski trip won an award for the ‘noisiest skier’!

After Wells, Emily went to Loughborough University to study Physics and Sports Science and earned first team honours in both cross-country and track and field. She was placed second in the 3000S at the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championship in 2018, achieving a personal best of 10:16.

Our very best wishes to her in her sports and in her studies.

Hannah Wheeler at the Met

Hannah Wheeler

We are delighted that Hannah Wheeler (OW 1988) has agreed to join the Executive Committee of your Association, her energy and enthusiasm will be a big asset as we move into a new era with a new Head Master at Wells.

Hannah is a Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police Service where she has served for 25 years. Her varied career has taken her from uniform and CID roles in Ealing Borough, work on the Crime & Disorder Act crime audit, a move to Brent Borough on promotion to Sergeant and to Hendon Police Training School as Inspector. Further promotions followed and she is currently seconded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services where she has a portfolio concerned with mental health inspection - how effectively police in England  & Wales respond to mental health crisis.

At Wells, Hannah captained in hockey and was noted for her drama performances. She keeps in close touch with her school friends and will now be known to many more OWs.

Nicola Lewis – a leading vet

Nicola Lewis

Thank you so much to Dr. Nicola Lewis (née Morton, OW 1991) for sending news. Nicola is Associate Professor in Infectious Diseases at the Royal Veterinary College and also the Deputy Director of the International Reference Laboratory for avian influenza, swine influenza and Newcastle Disease at the UK APHA-Weybridge laboratory.

She recalls “I met up with Simon Shercliff (OW and Head Boy 1991) in Nigeria a couple of years ago for Remembrance Sunday when my husband was working in Lagos; Simon was with the FCO in Abuja and he kindly put us up. It was humbling to have OWs in remote parts of the world observing the Armistice (whilst somewhat sweltering in local conditions).

Nicola was Head Girl at Wells and played oboe, reaching the second round of Young Musician of the Year. She won her hockey colours and played 1st VII Netball. From her early years she was a keen member of the Young Ornithologists Club and her interest in animals became her vocation when she went on to the Royal Veterinary College. After qualifying as a vet she worked in general vet practice in a number of countries around the world.

She says “I'm still based Cambridgeshire/Essex though my husband is working in Bangladesh now. Our two teenage girls are at Uppingham maintaining the family hockey and netball feats. The younger one plays for Cambridgeshire hockey, the older for Leicestershire.

Nicola is maintaining her City of Wells connections, “we were fortunate to be invited to the 690th Lord Mayor of London's inauguration and procession. During the Mayor's tenure we were invited to a dinner at Mansion House where we met up with residents of Wells and villages.”

Nicola has been a good supporter of our Association over the years and we hope to see her again soon.

Siân McInally - many strings to her bow

Sian McInally

Nice to hear news from Siân McInally (OW 1988). She has now been a violinist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for over ten years and has performed concerts all over the world. She has played on hundreds of classical & commercial recordings, including If I Can Dream featuring Elvis Presley archive vocals and regularly works with Graeme Stewart (OW 1988) who mixes albums for Radiohead.

At Wells, Siân was a specialist musician and played netball for the School. After Wells she studied the performer’s course at the Guildhall and then freelanced and taught in London before joining the orchestra of Northern Ballet Theatre and touring the UK for five years. She now lives in Calne, Wiltshire with her son and three stepdaughters and has an extensive local teaching practice which currently includes Primary School workshops with Emily Isaac (OW 1992).

Hamish Martin still yomping

Hamish Martin

Our picture shows that Hamish Martin (OW 2008), who was a 35 mile Ten Tors yomper at Wells, is still enjoying big treks in all weathers. He returned in the summer to celebrate his ten year reunion and said, “Thank you for some of the best years of my life. So good to come back and see how much things have changed for the better!”.

Hamish was a 1st VI tennis player and academic prize winner who went on to Bristol University to study Geography. After uni he joined Grant Thornton and qualified as a Chartered Accountant. He has achieved several promotions, previously working in the commercial audit team, leading to his current position as Corporate Finance Manager advising clients on mergers and acquisitions and raising finance.

We hope he treks back to Wells again soon!

Caroline Hamilton – Island musician

Caroline Hamilton

We were very pleased to see Caroline Hamilton (née Cowan, OW 1998) travel from Jersey to join a very select party of contemporaries for her twenty year reunion. She has long been a Channel Islands resident and is now married to Max and they have three children.

In the LVI Caroline was shortlisted for the national Spirit of Enterprise award for a piece of work on West End musicals and was “outstandingly believable” as Jocasta in Oedipus. In her final year she was Captain of Haversham House.

She was also a vocal specialist at Wells and went on to Warwick University for a BA in English & Italian Literature. A legal career followed and she was called to the Bar at Inner Temple. However her music has continued to be her main love and she is a jazz singer performing at festivals and other gigs. She did a charity concert recently for Afrikids, to celebrate the arrival of her new Steinway piano!

Caroline is also a perimusic teacher and Talitha Arts practitioner - this is a charity which supports, through creative arts, clients who have suffered extreme trauma.

She will be moving next year from one beautiful island to another when she relocates to Barbados for a term in Jan 2009, but promises to keep in touch.

Anna Jackson keeps in touch

Anna Jackson2

I hear from Anna Jackson (née Lake OW 1992) that she always likes meeting other OWs and catching up about Wells even if she has not been in touch for a while. We were very pleased to see her at our reunion along with her sister Catherine Shakespeare (OW 1990) and to hear news of her sister Victoria Lake (OW 1997).

After Wells Anna went to the Royal Veterinary College and qualified as a vet. Following several years in equine and small animal first opinion practice, she then completed a clinical residency at the University of Bristol in veterinary dermatology in which she holds the RCVS certificate. She now works in the pharmaceutical industry as Ethics and Compliance Advisor for Elanco and lives in Midhurst, West Sussex with her husband and two sons.

At Wells she was a notable sportswoman from her early years, remembered for her determination and going on to captain basketball and play first team hockey and tennis. She was also Captain of her house. Our Living Archive recalls sundry snippets of her school life - she opened the door for the Queen Mother to enter her car after visiting Wells, movingly recited Siegfried Sassoon's poem Everyone Sang in the cathedral and played Alibius's wife “with sweet brutality” in The Changeling.

We hope all three sisters will continue to keep in touch!

Fabian Todd in the spotlight

Fabian Todd

We were delighted to see Fabian Todd (OW 1978) at our reunion. He recalls that some of his best memories of Wells are of drama, the beginnings of a lifelong love of the theatre.

“I have many happy memories of productions in which I took part; Herod Do Your Worst, The Royal Pardon, Gerda, Toad of Toad Hall, Zigger Zagger, Under Milk Wood and others (including The One That Never Was due to a chicken pox outbreak). Mrs Judy Burns was a tremendous inspiration for me and many others. She also helped me get a place in the National Youth Theatre (which for various reasons I couldn’t take up). I did however join an amateur theatrical group for many years very much influenced by my experiences of treading the boards in the Ritchie Hall. I am a regular theatre goer, which adds so much enjoyment to my life all thanks to a love of theatre which began at school”

He said at the dinner that it is “great to be back and to catch up with old friends.”

Fabian qualified as a lawyer over twenty years ago and now practices as a solicitor in Cardiff specialising in Children’s and Family Law.

Tamara Britten out of Africa

Tamara Britten

All her OW friends were delighted that Tamara Britten (OW 1988) travelled from Nairobi for her thirtieth anniversary reunion in Wells this month. Tamara is based in Kenya where she founded award winning tour operators Karibu Kenya and Exclusive Ethiopia and she is also an accomplished travel writer, English teacher and Yoga instructor.

Tamara has also lived in Thailand where she divided her time between teaching English in Bangkok and serving cocktails in a bar on the beach at Koh Pha Ngan.

She discovered her business acumen at an early age. At Wells she was secretary of Bright Young People, a Young Enterprise Company which produced and marketed personalised stationery.

After Wells she took a gap year before going to University of London to read History, and later a Masters in Creative Writing at University of East Anglia.

Karibu Kenya and Exclusive Ethiopia give access to some of the most remote and exciting destinations in Kenya and Ethiopia providing personalised holidays in East Africa from the budget to the boutique. Tamara would love to see OWs there – and we hope to see her back in the UK again before too long.

Nick Ralph gathers 50 year OWs

1968ers in 2018

A warm thank you to Nick Ralph (OW 1968) for over a year’s work with friends to get his yeargroup together for our summer reunion this year. Over half of the year returned to celebrate their 50th anniversary of leaving Wells and enjoy a weekend of activities and memories including singing the former school song and planting a tree.

Nick has spent much of his accountancy career in Ottawa and is now semi-retired but says “full retirement seems to get further and further away! I follow soccer avidly, play the piano and sing bass in one of Canada’s last two remaining men and boys choirs (repertoire about 60% of Wells Cathedral). I have rather catholic reading tastes ranging from mathematics to Le Carre to Adichie to anything Bletchley Park.”

Nick is fondly remembered at Wells; he played for the 1st XV and once spoke to the Debating Society motion that “This House prefers handles to chains” (Lost), which will probably mean nothing to anyone under a certain age! He also performed the role of a Pirate’s Daughter in The Pirates of Penzance, of course before Wells could supply real girls.

He says he is now looking forward to another reunion opportunity in 2023 and we very much hope to see him and his contemporaries then, if not before.

PHOTO: Jane Pickles

Jenny Phillips – Yeargroup star

Jenny Phillips

Jenny Phillips (née Boddy, OW 1978) once again did a great job in organising her yeargroup to return to Wells this summer for their fortieth. She was one of the first girls and she says Wells gave her “amazing opportunities and friendships with some very fond memories and she is forever grateful for her experience at school”.

After Wells, Jenny went to Selwyn College, Cambridge for a veterinary surgery degree and MRCVS, a six year study. She has since been practicing as a vet, firstly in Southampton and now at Beech House Veterinary Centre at four sites in Surrey. She lives in Leatherhead and has a grown up daughter and son.

At Wells she was an early star in sport, drama and as an editor of The Wellensian. She went on to become Head Girl, House Captain, Captain of Netball and Tennis and she played 1st XI Hockey. She even found time also to be Head Librarian. She still plays tennis and loves her beautiful garden. We look forward to seing her and friends again soon.

Catherine Shakespeare joins the party

Catherine Shakespeare

Many OWs to catch up with at our wonderful Summer Reunion last week and my first mention is for Catherine Shakespeare (née Lake, OW 1990) who joined her sister Anna and a group from her year to party late into the night.

Catherine is Head of Nursing for Danone Nutricia UK & Ireland, based in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. The company has been providing medical nutrition products and services for over a century. Catherine is also studying for an Executive MBA at Bath University School of Management.

Our Living Archive first mentions Catherine in her performance aged 10 in Good King Wenceslas and goes on to several mentions of her hockey team successes. After Wells she went to New College, Durham to study Business Management.

Catherine is tells me she is an avid bath Rugby fan. She is married to Alexander and lives in Norton St. Philip and our photo shows her with their two gorgeous children, Charlie and Jemima.

Rebecca Roberts - a Wells friend

Becks Roberts

A long overdue mention for Becks Roberts (née Palmer, OW 2006) who is the WCS Foundation genie behind alumni/ae relations and greatly facilitates the Association working with the School.

At Wells, Becks was a Specialist Musician Violin player and regularly performed in the symphony and string chamber orchestras. She also won external prizes including two at the Mid-Somerset Festival.

After school she went to Canada for two years to teach music at Ridley College in Canada, just 20 miles from Niagara Falls. On her return to the UK in 2011 she joined the staff at Wells as Outreach Assistant in the Music Department. In 2014 she got married to Andy and they now have an 18 month son. Her current post at Wells is Foundation Finance Officer in addition to looking after OWs.

In Y10 she devised the business plan for the LionHeart Challenge in which the Wells team had to present a case for Cosyfeet shoes, footwear for senior people. We greatly appreciate her still making life easy for OWs (old and young) who get back in touch with the School.

Jos Felton – music mogul in the making

Jos Felton

Jos Felton (OW 2013) is coming to the end of the final year of her degree in Music Industry Management at the London College of Creative Media. Her course prepares students for a career in the music industry as business-astute artists and executives.

She also works as Guest Relations Assistant at the O2 Arena and various festivals for Live Nation Entertainment who say that “somewhere in the world, every 20 minutes there is a Live Nation event.”

Jos also keeps up her sport, playing for the University of East London Hockey Club. At Wells as well as hockey she was Swimming and Lifesaving Captain. She was also CSM in the CCF and was a member of the Exercise Wyvern Warrior champion team from Wells and a 2* kayaker.

After Wells, Jos spent a gap year as a tutor at the Cathedral Grammar School in Christchurch, New Zealand, a prep school with a cathedral choir very like Wells. She of course arrived after the earthquake in 2011 and so did not see the cathedral as it had been. It is good to hear that the cathedral is to be restored, even if this will cost over £70m.

Good luck for that big music discovery Jos!

John Glass celebrates 50yrs

John Glass

Among those looking forward to their 50 year reunion at Wells on 30th June is John Glass (OW 1968). John will be joining some 30 contemporaries and friends (along with 60 from other yeargroups) for our celebration.

After Wells, John studied geology at Leeds University and he has spent his life in the profession, mainly in the oil industry. He has worked all over the world including in Aberdeen, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Bahrain, Germany & Nigeria. He says he is now “probably retired but is hoping the oil price goes up which might entice me out of retirement.” Perhaps not all OWs will share this particular wish.

In his junior days at Wells John was once judged “the smartest cub in Mid Somerset” and he enjoyed his scouting in his later years. He was also a good rugby player and for much of his later life has played squash, once representing the Association vs the school.

The reunion weekend promises to be quite an event and we very much look forward to it.

David Young – a sporting life

David Young

At a very pleasant London Social yesterday I met David Young (OW 1963) who is now retired from his career in teaching and sports management culminating in a post at UK Athletics until his retirement in 2008. Since then he has focussed on less physical pursuits; he has written three novels under the nom de plume David Lowther and a non-fiction title Liberating Belsen.

He was a fine sportsman at Wells, playing first team rugby and hockey, was Captain of Athletics and was selected to represent Somerset in national cross-country event.

After Wells he read Physical Education at St John’s College York which he described at the time as “dangerous, yet great fun”.

The Wellensian records that he was head of his house and presided over the Debating Society. He also had dramatic talents - at an end of term concert when in the Lower V he performed in a comedy skit of What’s my Line? and “reduced us almost to tears when he gave a demonstration of a matron putting lumps in school porridge.” He was also a member of the Chorus of Pirates, Policemen and General Stanley's Daughters in The Pirates of Penzance.

David has promised to come to future reunions and we greatly look forward to keeping in touch with him.

Home Wongwechwiwat – Wells Ambassador

Home Wongwechwiwat2

Home Wongwechwiwat (OW 2009) is a well remembered specialist violinist at Wells who has demonstrated that the school also creates wide opportunities beyond music. He went to Royal Holloway College, University of London for an Economics Degree, then to the LSE for an MSc and is now with Citibank’s treasury operations in his native Bangkok

His music is still important to him and it was a pleasant surprise for Mr Ashley Deacon, Director of International Recruitment at Wells to find that Home had arranged to support a WCS recruitment seminar at the Yamaha Bangkok Music School. The conversations he had in Thai, and recounting his own experience, led to a registration at Wells from a specialist level pianist.

Home joined the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra at age 14 and he reached the final round of the Young Musician of Thailand competition. He has been equally committed to his studies, winning an award in his undergraduate year and his interpersonal skills – he once had a vacation job at Royal Ascot soothing unhappy punters.

We wish him well in both his money and music making and hope to see him back in Wells one day.

Becky Blackburn – a Master in sports

Becky Blackburn

An OW who keeps in close touch with her yeargroup is Becky Blackburn (OW 2013). Becky is in the final year of her psychology degree at Exeter University and plans to go on to an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology in September 2018.

Becky was a keen sportswoman at Wells and was Equestrian Captain in her final year. She previously had success with her horse Merlin’s Mist at the National Novice Eventing Team Championships. She was also a DoE Gold Award winner.

After Wells she took a gap year and travelled – we look forward to seeing her again soon.

A hug from Harriet Birkett

Harriet Birkett

Good to have news of Harriet Birkett (OW 2013) who while at Wells took part in a mass hug of the cathedral in celebration of 1,100 years of the School.

She also won a year prize and was a great Netball captain. After Wells, Hattie went to The University of West London to do a BSc in children’s nursing and came away with first class honours. She is now a practicing paediatric nurse.

She also enjoys travel and joined Darcey Bussel’s Diverse Dance Mix, meeting Darcey several times. We look forward to hearing more news and hope to see her again soon.

Tony Lake and breaking the bank

Tony Lake

Nice to have news from Tony Lake (OW 1967) who retired ten years ago after over 40 years with Lloyds Bank –  a single employer career unavailable, even unimaginable to millennials. Tony worked on the Lloyds-TSB merger in 1998 which took him all over the country. He finds it ironic that the brands have now been broken apart again.

He has happy memories of Wells where, coincidentally, there was quite a sea of Lakes. “I have amusing memories of how the guest giving out the medals on Sports Day got quite confused with so many ‘Lakes’ in the open events : 100 yds - C A B Lake (Tony); 220 yds - C A B Lake; 440 yds - R V Lake (OW 1967); 880 yds - R V Lake ; 1 mile - M F Lake (OW 1968); 3 miles M F Lake; Hop Step and Jump - C A B Lake.”

He has his Ruby wedding anniversary coming up with wife Sue and they have daughter Stephanie whose husband reports directly to Chris Dawson, billionaire owner of The Range and whose car registration is DE11BOY. They also have daughter Joanna working for National Research.

He says “I see David Oatley, Roger Parsons and Jon Allen (all OW 1969) on a regular basis, and I hope to get to one of The Wellensian Association events and meet old colleagues.”

Colin Linford – a long time supporter

Colin Linford

I am pleased to mention Colin Linford (OW 1962) who has been a staunch supporter of your Association since he left Wells and we have been glad to see him at many events over the years.

Colin has now retired from his career in data communication planning with BT Radianz and previously with Thomson Reuters. This work took him to Germany, Switzerland and the Middle East but he now travels every year for pleasure to Greece where his wife Georgia has family connections. He has two sons, one of whom married last year.

As a former chorister he still has a great interest in music, along with genealogy. Our Wells Living Archive reveals that he was also an accomplished pianist - he played a solo Handel piece in a school concert. In his junior house he was keen stamp collector and later he performed in The Pirates of Penzance. He was a member of the Debating Society and once proposed (and won) the motion that “Stink bombs are of more use than H. bombs.”

He keeps in keep in touch with David Chapman (OW 1962) and Malcolm Brinson (OW 1962) and we look forward to seeing Colin and Georgia again at another reunion.

Freya Ballan-Whitfield ahead of the game

Freya Ballan-Whitfield

Currently in her final year of a Consumer Behaviour and Marketing Degree at Reading University, Freya Ballan-Whitfield (OW 2013) has already secured a marketing job for September. She has been associated since 2016 with Opsview which delivers smarter integrated IT solutions for business.

At Wells Freya achieved high academic grades and also revealed her creative talents early on. When aged 13 she designed a pair of shoes which were then made by Clarks and at an even younger age she appeared in the local press in the role of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I see that in those days she lived in Henton, not far from Ripple Farm where I grew up. I wonder if she cycled the 3½ miles to school and back every day like I did from age 12?

In her Gap year she visited Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Fiji where she joined a community project teaching in school and providing a village with sanitary facilities.

At Reading she has continued her hockey and says that in her first years at uni “I spent more time on the sports fields or going out, rather than actually in lectures doing work!” This evidently hasn’t set Freya back as she looks forward to a great career. We wish her all the best!

Steve Moss hears the people sing

Steve Moss

We are pleased to be back in touch with Steve Moss (OW 1996) who has been appointed Musical Director and Conductor with Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre in London from June 11th.

Steve has had a successful career in musical theatre both as an instrumental performer (clarinet & sax) and as a musical director. He has worked on many west end and touring shows, including Miss Saigon, Evita, Funny Girl, White Christmas, Porgy & Bess, West Side Story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sister Act, The Wizard of Oz, War Horse, Privates on Parade & Mary Poppins. He also has film and TV credits.

He is Musical Director of The Bourne Orchestra which has worked alongside Lemar, Leona Lewis, Sarah Brightman and Estelle, as well as specialising in live film music.

Steve was a specialist musician at Wells and then won a scholarship to Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He has since played in the English Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras

He is married with a son and daughter and says that he “still see loads of people from School.” We hope that we shall see him again this summer in between his visits aux barricades!