Pupils at St John's Beaumont School in Old Windsor, Berkshire, enjoyed a thrilling afternoon yesterday when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth came to officially open their new Dermot Gogarty Sports Centre.
On her arrival, the Queen, dressed in a pale turquoise suit and hat, was greeted by a group of young pipers playing one of her favourite Scottish tunes. British Jesuit Provincial, Fr Michael Holman SJ, the Chair of Governors, Fr Kevin Fox SJ, and Headmaster, Mr Giles Delaney, and Head Boy, Victor Keunen, then proceeded to escort the Queen on a tour of the school.
Their first stop was the new Sports Hall, where boys were demonstrating the school’s state-of-the-art cricket nets which are helping them improve their sporting skills.
The Queen also watched some boys abseiling up a new eight metre high climbing wall, and met some boys on rowing and running machines in the gym, being coached by past pupils Oliver and Jamie Cooke who are now in the Great Britain rowing squad.
In the playground her Majesty met children standing on a huge map of the world holding flags from their countries of origin. She heard the choir singing in the school chapel, before returning to the main hall where the school orchestra played Land of Hope and Glory, and there was a solo performance by young violinist Joshua Steeds of the Rondo From Conc No 5.
Mr Delaney, recalled the passion his predecessor Dermot Gogarty had for the Jesuit education principles, ensuring the development of the whole person, spiritually as well as academically. He reminded the audience, among them the High Sheriff, Lady Toulson CBE DL, the Mayor of Runnymeade, Mr Paul Tuley, Deputy Chief Constable, Craig Denholm, parents, pupils and staff, of Mr Gogarty’s energetic support of sporting activities among the boys and his ambition to provide St John’s Beaumont with excellent facilities. This, Mr Delaney said, had now been achieved in his name. He then invited Her Majesty The Queen to unveil a plaque commemorating the official opening of the Dermot Gogarty Sports Centre.
On signing the visitors book, before she left, Queen Elizabeth recalled visiting St John's Senior School, Beaumont College, in 1961, on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation. A painting of that event still hangs in the entrance to St John’s Beaumont.
The new block, which cost £2.8m to build, is dedicated to the memory of Dermot Gogarty, Headmaster of St John’s Beaumont from 1987 until his untimely death in a car accident in 2005. His widow Katherine was also present.
The day was a memorable one for all the staff, the boys and their parents. Before the Queen arrived, one pupil told ICN: "I think this is the most exciting day of my whole life."
Set in 70 acres, St John's Beaumont is a Jesuit preparatory school for boys aged 3-13. It has 300 pupils, including 60 boarders. Founded in 1888, it is the oldest purpose built preparatory school in the country.
For more information see: www.stjohnsbeaumont.org.uk/
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