The remarkable impact and legacy of founder William Jones was celebrated in Monmouth School for Boys’ inspiring Speech Day and Prize-Giving ceremony on Saturday 8th July.
Head of School, Shay, gave a heartfelt address in which he said that Monmouth School had been the best thing that had happened to him.
“Together, we belong to a spectacular 409-year-old legacy; the legacy of William Jones,” said Shay.
“It was his belief that every child should be entitled to an education. The belief in every individual that passes through its walls and graces its grounds.
“It is the belief that we are not merely a statistic that will be forgotten, but that each of us will play a part in Monmouth School’s rich history.
“It is incredibly easy to forget that we are extremely fortunate to call this place our home. Remember every interaction, cherish every friendship, every relationship, represent our school on sports pitches and in concert halls like it is your last time, and do it with pride.
“Love every minute. Because one day you will be sat at your last Speech Day, listening to the Head of School, whilst awaiting your imminent departure, wishing you could turn back the clock and have all those minutes again.
“Do this and who knows, maybe one day you will realise – like I do – that Monmouth School has been the best thing that has ever happened to you.”
Long-serving teacher of Drama and playwright Andy Shakeshaft, who leaves this summer, was presented with a Long-Service scroll by Mr Christopher Hardie from the Haberdashers’ Company.
And School House Matron, Mrs Lynn James, who is departing after almost 30 years’ service, was also recognised with a Long-service certificate from the Haberdashers’ Company.
Guest speaker, Professor Richard Carwardine, spent seven years at Monmouth School in the 1960s – and later acted alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Professor Carwardine, who grew up in the Welsh valleys, was a William Jones scholar, with his boarding and tuition fees funded by the Haberdashers’ Company and the Monmouthshire local education authority.
“My years at the school had a profound impact and Monmouth launched me towards a career in history,” said Professor Carwardine, a former Head of School, who enjoyed a career as an American historian at The University of Sheffield and University of Oxford.
“Monmouth made me an historian; taught me a lot about leadership and gave me a cultural hinterland of literature, politics, classical music and, above all, theatre.
“I left Monmouth with an appetite for acting which I have never lost. I found myself as an Oxford University undergraduate performing on stage and film with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s. They thanked me for helping them advance their careers and I am told they did pretty well!”
Later Professor Carwardine helped found the Abbey Shakespeare Players in St Dogmeals Abbey in Pembrokeshire.
“Monmouth continues to sustain William Jones’ purposes of widening educational opportunities without regard to financial means,” said Professor Carwardine, who was Head of School for Monmouth’s 350th anniversary celebrations.
“Monmouth strives to raise aspirations so that ability and merit are not held back by a lack of ambition and means. Monmouth’s bursary and scholarship provision gives the school a distinguished and striking place within the Independent School sector.”
Headmaster, Mr Simon Dorman, reflected on an outstanding year, which included an incredible musical concert at Hereford Cathedral, three boys selected for the Wales Under-18s rugby squad and a student-led International Culture Evening that celebrated the diversity of the schools.
Mr Dorman said: “Our outgoing Year 13 students have been an outstanding year group who have contributed so much over the last seven years. They have set the bar high for their successors. Whether academically, on the sports fields, through music, drama or countless other pursuits, our Year 13 students have been the best possible ambassadors for our schools.”
During the ceremony, prizes were handed out to students for outstanding achievements in academics, art, sport, drama and music and other fields.
Delightful musical arrangements included Max Spencer singing I’ve grown accustomed to her face – which he performed so well during the senior musical production of My Fair Lady.
A junior choir also took to the floor, under the baton of Miss Sarah Fowler, to give a surprise flash-mob rendition of the uplifting Mr. Blue Sky (Electric Light Orchestra).
Mr Dorman delivered a very positive update on the progress being made as the school moves towards co-education in September 2024 – and cited the book, A Time Of Gifts by Patick Leigh Fermor, about an 18-year-old who embarked on a year-long journey by foot from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul.
“We are combining the best traditions from both senior schools, along with ambitious new aspirations supported by the investment of the William Jones Endowment,” said Mr Dorman.
“What I like about the narrator in A Time Of Gifts is his determined and clear individualism. When discussing the plans for September 2024, I have often asked colleagues how we should adapt our teaching styles to suit a co-educational classroom.
“The answer which has come back time after time heartens me greatly. We don’t teach according to whether we have boys or girls or both in front of us; We teach individuals.
“That is the hallmark of a great school, one in which individuals of all characters, backgrounds and aspirations can thrive – and that will continue to be the hallmark of a Monmouth education for generations to come.”
Speeches were also made by the Chair of Governors, Lord Colin Moynihan; and The Master of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, Mr Christopher Hardie.