A Brief History
THE MITRE CLUB – A BRIEF HISTORY
by John Eldershaw (49), Convener 2008-10
The instigator of The Mitre Club was Dr Raymond George Rokeby Robinson OBE who was a pupil at Shore from 1926 to 1935. It was while attending a gathering to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Shore Prep School in 1996 that he conceived the idea of an ‘Over 70’s Club’ which was to result in the launching of the Mitre Club on 20th May 1997 at a planning lunch attended by the steering committee and a group of 52 Old Boys.
Before that lunch took place, however, a great deal of preliminary work was required. Ray Robinson sought advice from a friend who was a member of a similar club already in existence at Knox Grammar School. Then, in conjunction with the Old Boys’ Union (represented by its Foundation Chairman, Tim Holden) and the Bequest Committee (represented by Roger Paton) and the Headmaster (Robert Grant), Ray Robinson gathered a group of Old Boys to form a steering committee to launch the new club. The founding members of the committee were Ray Robinson (Convener), Steve Mayne (1938-41), David Spring (1925-33), Alex Tonkin (1929-35), Alistair Urquhart (1935-36) and Brian Wileman (1935-39).
The steering committee established the aims of the club which were:
- To keep Old Boys in touch with each other and the School
- To preserve and strengthen the ideals, traditions and history of the School
- To raise the level of pride in being a Shore Old Boy.
It then set out the rules under which the club would operate:
Membership is by invitation to Shore Old Boys in Alumni years based on the Alumni being of about 70 years of age.
- The Development Office will provide appropriate administrative support.
- At least one social gathering will be organised each year and on this occasion an Annual General Meeting will be held at which six members will be a quorum.
- Members present will appoint a Convener who will hold office for two years.
- The Convener will appoint an Organising Committee to help achieve the aims of the Club during his tenure of office.
- The rules of the Club may be altered by a majority vote of those present at an Annual General Meeting.
It was decided that membership of the Mitre Club would be offered to Alumni groups in May of each year and that there would be no joining fee or annual subscription.
The decision to form the Mitre Club was warmly endorsed by Old Boys although a small minority initially expressed some reluctance to join, fearing that the Club might be another fund-raising vehicle for the School. Ray Robinson reassured members that that was not the case and that the Club’s activities would be of a purely social nature.
It was agreed that administration of the club’s affairs would be handled by the School’s Development Office and would not fall under the control or supervision of the Old Boys’ Union. It was felt, however, that it would be advantageous for a representative of the Mitre Club to attend OBU committee meetings and Steve Mayne was elected to fill this role.
Administration of the Club’s affairs would include:
- Maintenance of the Club’s data base
- Preparation of meeting agendas and mailing to committee members
- Preparation of minutes for meetings (approximately 5 per annum) and distribution
- Production and mailing of Mitre Club newsletter in April and October
- Coordination of mailing to new Alumni Group each year
- Production of luncheon flyers, booking forms, programmes, menus etc
- Coordination of luncheon bookings, banking of cheques, credit cards etc
- Coordination of luncheon budget and catering with School contract caterers
- Preparation of luncheon guest lists, name tags and allocation of seating
- Responsibility for equipment and staging requirements
- Liaison with Headmaster regarding functions and events
- Advise committee of deceased members so that sympathy cards may be issued
- Preparation & improvement to Mitre Club section of School website
- Reservation of School facilities (eg Dining Hall) for Mitre Club use
- Total responsibility for all events of the Mitre Club and School approvals.
* * *
1997 – 1999
Over 300 Old Boys had joined the Mitre Club by the time of the inaugural luncheon which was held on a beautiful sunny 14th October 1997. 135 Old Boys assembled on the Chapel lawn before proceeding to the Dining Hall for an occasion of nostalgic memories. One Old Boy was returning to the School for the first time in 59 years. Ray Robinson, as Convener, welcomed the guests and Alastair Urquhart proposed the toast to the School. The Headmaster (Robert Grant), who was the guest of honour, brought the gathering up to date with the school’s academic and sporting achievements.
In the first newsletter of the Club issued in April 1998, the Convener was able to report that a second lunch held on 9th April 1998 was attended by 176 guests including 67 ladies. Ray Robinson acknowledged the support of the Development Office staff and in particular Ian Guild (who was about to return to Scotland), for his help and infectious enthusiasm in establishing the Club. It was also reported that Ross Alexander had assumed the role of executive director of the Club’s affairs.
1998 was also the year in which the popular ‘Legend’s Luncheons’ were instituted. That year’s TorchBearer noted that ‘the OBU was very pleased to be able to support the ‘Legends of Shore’ initiative of the Foundation which seeks to collect archival and anecdotal material from Old Boys…’ Perhaps because of the committee’s uncertainty as to whether the concept would be successful or, more likely, because the inaugural lunch came just a month after the previous lunch, the attendance at the inaugural Legend’s Lunch on 6th May 1998 was a disappointing 32. This necessitated the function being moved from the Dining Hall to the more intimate confines of the Council Room. Nevertheless, this lunch at which J.F.E.Monckton had been nominated as the inaugural ‘legend’ was so enjoyable that word of its success spread quickly. ‘Monkey’, as this endearing and eccentric master was known, presided over Shore’s Form 1 from 1929 to 1947. John Sutton (1944-48) proposed the toast and Mr Monckton’s daughters, Jean Taylor and Pat Ellis responded, reminding guests that it was their father’s practice to ride to school by bicycle and when it was wet, to tie newspapers round his legs to keep them dry. Ted Bagot (1935-44) presented the daughters with bouquets of flowers and the Mitre Club presented a framed tribute of Mr Monckton’s life to the School. This has remained a feature of subsequent Legend’s Lunches.
1999 - 2000
Ray Robinson stood down at the end of his two year term as Convener and was succeeded in 1999 by Graham Thorp MC (1935-36). Membership of the Mitre Club had now grown to 467 and the pattern of a lunch at Christmas and a Legend’s Lunch in the middle of the year had become established. The first Legend’s Lunch of Graham Thorp’s convenership was to honour Sir Leonard Robson (headmaster of Shore 1923-58). Fittingly this lunch, organised by Bruce Cormack (1939-44), was held at the Gladesville Rowing Sheds and attracted in excess of 150 guests which was to become the pattern for attendance at future lunches. The third Legend’s Lunch, which returned to the Dining Hall on 30th June 2000, honoured the service of Pat Eldershaw, a master at Shore from 1924-65 and was organised by Bob McGregor (1939-44). Among the 177 present was one of Pat’s earliest pupils, 89-year-old former Prime Minister of Australia, Sir John Gorton (1924-26).
2001 – 2002
Brian Wileman (1935-39) became Convener of the Mitre Club when Graham Thorp’s tenure concluded at the Christmas lunch on 28th November 2000. The fourth Legend’s Lunch, organised by Struan Robertson (1934-42), was held on 29th June 2001 and honoured Clem Tiley whose connection with the School spanned 11 years as a student and 41 years as a master. Speakers at the lunch were Don Taylor (1930-39), John Warden (1945-52), Robert Blanshard (1943-47) and Richard Tiley (1938-48).
During this period an important matter of principle was re-confirmed. At the October 2001 meeting of the Mitre Club committee the School’s Development Officer Ross Alexander (1956-61) had reported that approximately $25,000 would be required for the scanning, digitising and indexing of Torch Bearers up to 1949, the current range of the Club’s membership. His initial suggestion of seeking donations from Mitre Club members was unanimously rejected.
Prior to the Christmas lunch in November 2001, Brian Wileman reported in the Club’s newsletter that the Committee had heeded advice to improve acoustics and to limit the number of speeches in favour of freely flowing table conversation which was a primary aim enunciated by the Club’s founder, Ray Robinson. The Legend’s Lunch for 2002 was organised by Edmund Playfair (1938-44) and honoured the life of Neville Emery (1939-42) who was an Old Boy (Senior Prefect), rugby international and a member of staff for 31 years. The guest speaker at this function was Neville’s former Wallaby colleague, Trevor Allen, and the attendance was a record 200.
The conclusion of Brian Wileman’s convenership coincided with the retirement of Robert Grant who had been Headmaster for 19 years. Mitre Club members were able to farewell him at the Christmas lunch on 3rd December 2002 at which Bishop Donald Robinson (1936-39) delivered the tribute to Mr and Mrs Grant.
Greg Hodgson (1939-48), who had succeeded Steve Mayne as the Club’s representative on the OBU committee, reported that he attended the OBU meeting on 21st October 2002 when it was suggested that the Mitre Club be asked to raise the funds for a project to digitise all the bound copies of The Torch Bearer. Recalling the October 2001 decision mentioned above, Greg correctly advised that the Mitre Club was not a fundraising group, a statement that was not well received by the OBU committee.
In order to clarify the Mitre Club’s attitude for the benefit of the OBU, Brian Wileman wrote to the OBU President that ‘such an act [seeking donations from Mitre Club members] would breach our unwritten “charter” which is that Mitre should not seek funds in the promotion of a project of its own but rather leave it to its members to respond, as they have always done, to any major fund raising thrust for projects initiated by the Foundation/School or its agents’. As an alternative Ross Alexander suggested that the Mitre Club impose a levy of, say, $10 on each attendee at the Mitre Club’s twice annual lunches. This suggestion was also rejected by the Committee. Ross did not dispute, however, that Mitre Club alumni had always been excellent supporters of the Foundation’s fund-raising programmes.
In an attempt to address the perception of the Mitre Club’s negativity to fund-raising per se, a sub-committee interviewed Andrew Warden (1948-56) early in 2002 to enquire if Mitre Club volunteers could assist in defraying costs of the digitisation project. However, on 25 November 2002, Andrew advised Brian Wileman that as a result of donated funds from the 1956 and 1971 reunion dinners, the project was already under way and that next year there would be a call for volunteers to assist in the process. In the end, it transpired that the bulk of the digitising project was completed at no cost to the School by Arthur Chapman, a Shore parent.
In an effort to neutralise the fundraising dispute, it was agreed at a meeting of the Mitre Club committee on 20th November 2002 that ‘fundraising would not be marketed on Mitre Club letterhead but the Mitre Club will always support the School and the Foundation with its objectives’. It was resolved at the next meeting that a sub-committee of Bob McGregor, Edmund Playfair and Brian Wileman would meet with a representative of the School Council to clear up the misunderstanding regarding the relationship of the Mitre Club’s with the School, the Foundation and the OBU on the subject of fundraising.
Robert McGregor took over the reins as Convener from Brian Wileman on 3rd December 2002 by which stage membership of the Mitre Club had grown to 550.
On 5th March 2003, as a result of the Mitre Club’s deputation to the Council, the President of the Old Boys’ Union received advice that the Executive of the School Council had determined:
- The Mitre Club to be the responsibility of Shore Old Boys’ Union and not of the Shore Foundation.
- Shore OBU to accommodate the administrative needs of the Mitre Club from its current resource.
The service provided to the Mitre Club to be restricted to:
- Maintenance of membership register on the School’s data base
- Printing of membership lists
- Printing of tags, address labels etc
- Provision of limited secretarial services, ie typing of invitations etc.
In the light of this directive it was decided at the following month’s meeting that Greg Hodgson and Gavin Wilcox should represent the Mitre Club at future meetings of the OBU. However, on 1st April 2003 after only four months at the helm, Bob McGregor was forced on medical advice to stand down as Convener and Greg Hodgson (1939-48) accepted the position in a ‘caretaker’ capacity. Greg accordingly relinquished his role as a representative at OBU meetings.
At this time Ross Alexander (Executive Director of the Shore Foundation) expressed the view that focussing on former staff members as subjects for Legend Lunches was contrary to the concept of ‘Shore community’ and that a non-staff member should be considered for the next lunch. However, instead of nominating a ‘legend’ for the lunch on 30th June 2003, the committee opted to use the occasion to formally welcome the new Headmaster, Dr Tim Wright and his wife Sue. They were warmly welcomed by 150 members of the Mitre Club and a posy of flowers was presented to Mrs Wright.
On the following day, administration of the Mitre Club’s affairs was transferred, as directed, to the Old Boys’ Union. It was considered that this would not only free up the time of Foundation staff but was a more natural fit with the OBU. Clive Longstaff, Secretary of the OBU, therefore took over from Ross Alexander. This also freed Gavin Wilcox from the necessity to attend OBU meetings as Clive Longstaff would be able to relay any matters of relevance.
A further change took place on 28th July 2003 when the Constitution of the OBU was amended at a Special General Meeting to provide for a representative of the Mitre Club to be a full member of the OBU committee, rather than being an observer at meetings as previously. In response to a letter from the OBU, the Mitre Club accepted the offer that the Convener or his representative be a member of the OBU committee.
The Headmaster’s welcome having become the focus of the mid-year function, the Legend’s Lunch was postponed to December and, organised again by Struan Robertson, honoured the life of Keith Anderson who was a member of staff from 1940 to 1971.
An innovation of Greg Hodgson’s term of office was a Spring garden tour to the Southern Highlands of NSW. Thirty-two (including wives) took advantage of this outing.
2004 – 06
In February 2004 Greg Hodgson announced his intention to stand down as Convener. His successor was Gavin Wilcox (1944-49) who occupied the position for two and half years.
The 2004 Legend’s Lunch honoured the life of R. G. H. (Bones) Walmsley, the longest-serving staff member in Shore’s history from 1901 to 1945. An organ recital in the Chapel preceded the lunch and Archives featured a display of ‘Walmsley’ memorabilia lent by three grandsons who were among those present at the lunch.
In May 2005 Clive Longstaff retired as Secretary of the OBU and the Mitre Club welcomed back Ross Alexander in his place until August when the new Secretary of the OBU, Rick Clive (1963-67) was installed as Secretary of the Mitre Club.
Following an earlier recommendation by Ross Alexander that the definition of ‘Legends’ be expanded to include the entire Shore community, the 2005 Legend’s Lunch honoured a former Senior Prefect, Sir Adrian Curlewis CVO CBE (1913-19), District Court Judge, President of the Surf Life Saving Association, Chairman of the National Fitness Council, Founder of the Outward Bound Movement and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia. Rawdon Dalrymple (1942-47) delivered the tribute and Sir Adrian’s son Ian (1940-48) and daughter Philippa Poole responded on behalf of the family.
The 2006 Legend was another Senior Prefect, B.H. (Jika) Travers AM OBE (1928-37), Rhodes Scholar and Headmaster of Shore from 1958 to 1984. Over 150 attended the lunch and heard tributes to Jika from Bishop Donald Cameron (1941-42) and journalist David Marr (1956-64), a nephew of Margaret Travers. Prior to the lunch, the Friends of Shore arranged tours of the impressive new Prep School for those attending the lunch.
At the conclusion of the Travers’ lunch, James N. Creer (1941-47) became the Mitre Club’s seventh Convener.
For the first time, the Legend’s Lunch was devoted to a group of Legends rather than an individual. The group selected were those members of the Shore community who have been awarded the ‘Baggy Green’ cap of the Australian cricket team. Six Old Boys and one Master have achieved this distinction. Jim Creer nominated Greg Hodgson as the principal organizer and chairman of the function and, rather than confine the occasion to members of the Mitre Club, the invitation was extended to the entire School community. Three former Australian captains – Neil Harvey, Ian Craig and Brian Booth – also attended and significant memorabilia were collected and displayed in the Colebrook Room, including a number of items borrowed from the Bradman Museum. Rod Tubbs (1960-64) publicly interviewed the two living wearers of the ‘Baggy Green’ – Philip Emery (1973-82) and Peter Philpot (Master 1961-73). A power point presentation accompanied the lunch which attracted a crowd of 160 in the Dining Hall.
In February 2007 it was decided to do away with the need for eligible Old Boys to make written application to join the Mitre Club. The committee also decided that awareness of the Mitre Club and its activities might be heightened if a country representative was added to the committee. David Brownhill (1947-53) was unanimously elected.
The Legend selected for the 2008 Luncheon was John Colebrook, formerly Deputy Headmaster, Housemaster of Robson House and Master of Studies. Tributes were delivered by Bill Pulver (1972-77) and Rod Morrison, Assistant to the Headmaster. At the lunch, attended by 160, John’s widow Margaret Colebrook was also honoured by being admitted as a Fellow of the Shore OBU.
Jim Creer stood down on 1st July 2008 and Dr Ian Watson (1941-45) took over as Convener. Unfortunately, less than a month into his incumbency, Ian suffered a heart condition which obliged him to relinquish the position, although his knowledge of Mitre Club affairs was retained by his remaining on the committee. John Eldershaw (1943-50) was asked to take on the role as Convener.
It was announced that the 2008 Christmas luncheon would be held in the magnificent new grandstand at Northbridge but, unfortunately, inclement weather resulted in delays and the building was not completed in time. The Headmaster kindly offered the Early Learning Centre at Northbridge as a substitute. This was much appreciated as many of those attending had not previously visited the complex. Fortunately the next year’s Christmas luncheon was able to be held in the grandstand where the Emery Room was filled to its capacity of 120.
Following the success of that Christmas lunch, the Executive Director of the Shore Foundation, Peter Murphy (1980-85), offered to fund the next year’s lunch on the understanding that he could address the assembled gathering. After much consideration the committee reiterated its view that the Mitre Club should not be seen in any way as a vehicle for the School’s fund-raising activities. In order to maintain its independence, it therefore felt with some reluctance that it must decline the generous offer. In conveying this decision, the Convener stated that the decision should in no way be taken to suggest that members of the Mitre Club were not fully supportive of the Foundation or the School. It was also pointed out that members of the Mitre Club have been generous supporters of the School’s fund-raising efforts but the Committee’s belief was that the Foundation is the avenue through which fund-raising appeals should be conducted.
The Legend’s Lunch for 2009 honoured the life of Canon Nigel Backhouse who was a master and School Chaplain from 1928-1952 and a former member of the 7th Australian Light Horse Regiment in World War 1. Bishop Glenn Davies (1963-68) opened proceedings before a huge gathering of 180, Brian Shearman (1941-47) delivered the eulogy and Bob Backhouse (1936-44) responded on his father’s behalf. Andrew Warden again organized a fine power-point presentation which was screened during the lunch.
On the suggestion of David Brownhill, it was agreed that the Senior and/or Second Prefects and their parents should be invited to Legend’s Lunches in order that they might gain an understanding of the role of the Mitre Club and how it allows Old Boys to maintain contact with the School.
Following the success of the Baggy Green lunch in 2006, it was decided that periodically it would be appropriate to honour a group of Old Boys as well as individuals as subjects for Legend’s Lunches. Accordingly it was resolved that Shore’s Rhodes Scholars would be the subject of the 2010 Legend’s Lunch and that in 2012 – to coincide with the Olympic Games – Shore’s past Olympians would be honoured.
Shore has produced 16 Rhodes Scholars and, of the eight still alive, seven were able to attend the occasion. The Convener outlined the life of Shore’s first Rhodes Scholar and the seven guests in attendance spoke about the lives and careers of the Rhodes Scholars who had passed on. A very comprehensive power-point presentation prepared by Andrew Warden accompanied the lunch and by a happy coincidence, the father of the Senior Prefect who was at the lunch was himself a South African Rhodes Scholar.
After conclusion of the Rhodes Scholars lunch, John Eldershaw passed the Convener’s baton to Andrew Warden who invited Peter Murphy (Executive Director of the Shore Foundation) to address the first meeting of the Mitre Club committee. Peter expressed the view that the OBU, the Foundation and the Mitre Club all needed to modernise and adjust to several areas of modern technology. In presenting a fifteen-minute power point presentation on the revamped and updated OBU website, he foreshadowed that the website would in future include features and articles of interest, as well as a ‘Hall of Fame’ of prominent Old Boys in all walks of life. The Convener indicated that the next issue of the Mitre Club newsletter would be the last one mailed to all members. In future, members on email would receive the publication electronically; those without email would continue to receive hard copy by post.
The 2010 Christmas lunch was again held in the Northbridge pavilion whose capacity could now be increased to 130. The 2011 Legend’s Lunch honoured the life of John Carington Pope, the School’s first Sportsmaster and a member of staff from 1928 to 1950. Among those attending were the Legend’s 92-year-old son Dr D.C.Pope (1928-36) and his grandson D.J.C.Pope (1960-65).
Appendix: Old Boys who have served as members of the Mitre Club Committee
|Charles Barnett (56)||John Minnett (48)|
|Warren Boyd (44)||David Nock (55)|
|David Brownhill (53)||Brian Northam (50)|
|James Creer (47)||Edmund Playfair (43)|
|Bruce Cormack (44)||Struan Robertson (41)|
|John Eldershaw (49)||Ray Robinson (35)|
|Greg Hodgson (47)||Paul Sinclair (52)|
|Adrian Lane (56)||David Spring (33)|
|Mac Jacob (56)||Malcolm Swinburn (55)|
|Michael McCredie (47)||Graham Thorp (36)|
|Robert McGregor (44)||Alex Tonkin (35)|
|Steve Mayne (41)||Alastair Urquhart (36)|
|Denis Meares (49)||Andrew Warden (55)|
|Pat Mills (45)||Ian Watson (45)|