The lecture series was established by the Headmaster in 2011 with a view to providing pupils, staff and parents with opportunities to be inspired and motivated by people who have made an extraordinary impact in their respective fields. Speakers come from diverse backgrounds, yet at the heart of each is a desire to educate and enlighten.
Previous lectures include:
- Richard van Emden, World War I Expert and Author
Richard van Emden is a well-known historian of the Great War, having interviewed 270 veterans and written, so far, twelve books. He is also a television documentary producer who specialises in the First World War.
Richard's book, 'Boy Soldiers of the Great War' recounts the stories of the boys, some as young as 13 years, who enlisted for active service, and the reasons why. Many, caught up in the overwhelming tide of patriotism, believed the war would be over by Christmas, and with the promise of three square meals a day, fresh air and being on an adventure with your friends, signing up appeared very attractive. The realities were terrifying; the letters home, heartbreaking.
'Boy Soldiers of the Great War: Their Own Stories for the First Time' is published by Headline.
- Denis Clarke, Deputy Head, Prior Park College
Denis Clarke has worked at, and some would say lived and breathed, Prior Park College for the last 38 years. He retires at the end of the 2015-16 academic year and in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the College, was privileged to be the first member of staff to be asked to give a Ralph Allen Lecture.
‘Looking Back, Looking Forward’ allowed Denis to reminisce on his tenure at the College. When he first arrived the College was run by the Christian Brothers. James Murphy-O’Connor is Denis’ fourth lay Headmaster.
Denis and his wife Jennie, lived at the College whilst Denis was Housemaster for Roche House. His family grew up and went to school here. Laura, one of his daughters, got married here just a few weeks ago.
Denis spoke about the deep pride he has for the College and in every individual who has been here, how touched he is that so many students keep in touch and that the College has certainly been a beautiful place to work each day.
Grateful colleagues, former staff and alumni attended the event.
- Iby Knill, Holocaust survivor
Iby was born in 1923 in Czechoslovakia to a Jewish family. She spent the early part of WW2 in Hungary where she was initially arrested for assisting resistance activity and subsequently for being an illegal immigrant. Her journey of internment led her to Auschwitz and she was eventually liberated along with 700 women by American troops on a forced march to Bergen Belsen.
After a period in a German hospital, she worked for the Military Government and Control Commission, Germany until September 1946, when she returned to her mother and brother in Bratislava. Her father had been gassed on 28th October 1944 in Auschwitz, just before the Germans destroyed the crematorium and gas chamber.
Through the help of friends who supported her throughout the trauma of recalling the harrowing details of what happened to her during the Second World War she has been able to write and speak openly about her story as “the woman without a number”.
- Colin Parry, OBE, JP
“The Cost of Peace and the Price of Extremism”
Colin will recount the circumstances of the loss of his 12 year old son Tim who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1993 its impact on him personally. He will discuss how the media entered and influenced the lives of his family and the subsequent creation of his charity,The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. He has since established a unique £3m Peace Centre, with the notable help of some prominent individuals.
Colin is the author of “Tim: An Ordinary Boy”, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1994. He has appeared in many articles and has made many media appearances.
- Mr Jack Sutcliffe - Second youngest Briton to reach the summit of Mount Everest
Jack Sutcliffe was the second youngest person to conquer Everest, at just 20 years old. In itself, this is an amazing achievement and a tribute to his determination and ambition. He told his Housemaster at Sherborne, whilst still a young student, that one day he would climb Everest, and this he did, raising a large sum of money for charity. The nature and scale of his feat only really becomes clear, as you hear his story.
- Mr Richard Buckley - Archaeologist and team leader of the Richard III discovery
Richard Buckley, renowned archaeologist, was team leader in the highly publicised 2012 discovery of the body of Richard III in Leicester. The discovery of the remains and the subsequent identification were the result of years of research and were described by the BBC as “one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time”.
Richard offered a very entertaining insight into the years of research that proceeded the dig, and then the complex identification procedure required to verify the identity of the corpse.
- Ms Sophie Andrews - Former Chair of the Samaritans
Ms Andrews was appointed Chair of the Samaritans in October 2008. Following a harrowing family life during her early years, she found support and hope in the Samaritans and became a volunteer nearly 20 years ago. She proved to be an inspirational Chair for the organisation. She is also Head of Volunteering for the NSPCC.
- Brian Keenan CBE - Hostage Survivor & Writer
Mr Keenan is a reputed non-fiction writer and likes to draw from his own experiences and musings in his books. An Evil Cradling is an autobiographical book that Keenan wrote, describing his own experiences of being held hostage in Beirut for four years in brutal conditions between 1986 and 1990.
- John Hoskison - Professional Golfer
John Hoskison, whilst not a household name, impressed the Headmaster when he heard him speak at the HMC Conference in Belfast in 2012. John was a successful, professional golfer who played on the European circuit for a number of years. John spoke about this, and more importantly, about his stint in prison when he served time for accidentally killing a cyclist in a road accident. John’s reflections on his life allowed him to draw some powerful lessons. His tale was moving and inspiring as he explained his unlikely road to redemption through the widow of the man he had killed.
- Simon Weston OBE - Falkland Veteran
Simon Weston OBE, a veteran of the British Army who sustained horrific burns during the Falklands War, spoke to a full house at Prior. Simon's inspirational talk did not dwell on the injuries and countless operations he has had, rather he captivated the audience with tales of love, family, amazing friends, experiences in the Army and the people who have inspired him. Simon Weston's story will feature in the upcoming issue of Heart & Soul.
- Ann Widdecombe - Politician
Ms Ann Widdecombe spoke to a sold out audience about her life in politics – and the lessons she has learnt. She spoke about her 23 years in the House of Commons and serving in the Cabinet, as well as her life as an author and, more recently, her time as a dancer!
- Freddie Knoller - Auschwitz Survivor
In October 2012 the College welcomed Auschwitz survivor, Freddie Knoller. Now in his 90s, his positive approach to life belies a youth in which he and his family suffered tragically under the Nazi regime. At the tender age of 17, and for his own safety, Freddie’s father sent him from their home in Vienna. He fled to Paris and made a life for himself as a tourist guide for Nazi soldiers before joining the French Resistance. But, betrayed to the authorities by a spurned lover, the French police handed him to the Gestapo and he was sent by cattle truck to Auschwitz, where for four years, he was humiliated, degraded, violently beaten and virtually starved.
Freddie describes himself as one of the ‘lucky ones’ and his story Living with the Enemy is a lesson not only in the brutality and insanity of Hitler’s policies, but in the ability of the human spirit to endure and overcome hatred.
- Alistair Hignell - Former England Rugby International
Former England rugby international, Alistair Hignell talked about the life changing effects of the Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis he received in January 1999. From a world renowned sportsman and high profile BBC commentator, his exciting life changed overnight. Alistair spoke of how he coped with the news of his illness and the gradual onset of the condition which makes the performance of everyday tasks a struggle.
He also spoke of the loving support of his wife Jeannie and his family. As one of the leading campaigners for those suffering from the disease, Alistair Hignell proved to his audience that heroes can be found both on and off the sports field.
- Andrew Graham-Dixon - Art Historian
Art historian, Andrew Graham-Dixon, gave a compelling lecture about Caravaggio to a full audience in the JS Theatre. His theme of ‘Sacred and Profane’ in Caravaggio’s life (reflecting the title of his book) was explored by tracing the early traumatic influences on the artist of the death of many members of his family falling victim to the plague, through a tempestuous life involving a steady rise in fame and infamy to being one of the leading artists of his day.
- Tracy Edwards MBE - Yachting Sportswoman
Tracy Edwards MBE was our inaugural speaker. Tracy shot to international fame in 1989 as the skipper of the first all female crew to sail around the world in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. Then in 1990 she was awarded the title of ‘Sportswoman of the Year’ and an MBE. Following her groundbreaking success with the maiden voyage, Tracy set to consolidate her position as one of the world’s top sailors by entering Trophy Jules Verne in 1998, again with an all female crew. Tracy and her crew broke seven world records during their two-year programme.
- Sir Christopher Frayling - Cultural Historian
Sir Christopher Frayling, a Cambridge historian, has been Professor of Cultural History at the Royal College of Art, President of the Art Council in England, Chairman of the Design Council, and a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was also Governor of the British Film Institute. In 2001 he was awarded a knighthood for 'Services to Art and Design Education'. Sir Christopher’s talk was entitled ‘Slaying the Sixth Giant’ and tackled how successive governments have failed to support the world of the Arts. In particular he championed the importance of film in History. His talk was an inspiration, especially for our Oxbridge candidates.
- Jason Gardener MBE - Olympic Gold Medal Winner
Olympic gold medal winner, Jason Gardener MBE, spoke about ‘Chasing the Dream’. Jason described his 20 year journey from schoolboy dream to Olympic gold medal winning reality, achieving Olympic Gold in the 4x100 metre relay. Expressions like 'bounce-back-ability', 'breaking through the pain barrier', 'yearning to win' and 'never losing sight of the dream', drew Gardener’s audience into the story of his life. The evening was an inspiration to our students as Jason explained how he overcame all sorts of obstacles, and realised his dream through sheer determination, talent and hard work.