20 October 2021

Image of OKA Centenary Dinner

Over eighty KGS alumni and partners gathered in the School's atmospheric Old Hall for a special edition of the Old Kirkhamians’ Association Annual Dinner.

Not only was this a joyful return to in-person events after eighteen months of enforced inactivity, this was also a delayed celebration of the Association's centenary.

The OKA was set up in 1920, with the express purpose of remembering and celebrating the lives of the many old boys of the School killed in the First World War. The forming of an Association was the idea of the newly-appointed Headmaster Rev'd Creswell Strange, under whose leadership between 1919 and 1945 so much of the School's modern-day ethos and traditions were established.

The Old Boys gathered for the first time on January 21, 1920, for an evening of fine food and drink and camaraderie, in the same Hall which is used to this day. One hundred (and one) years on, much has changed, but much hasn't. Guests at Saturday's event received copies of the menus from that inaugural dinner, the 50th Anniversary one in 1970, as well as for their own centenary one. Side by side, these gave a fascinating insight into the evolution of fine dining over the past century; few would have preferred the rich and simple 1920s fare.

Yet so much else would have been familiar and recognisable to that war-ravaged gathering in 1920, or indeed to the long-haired, sideburned 1970 gathering, dressed no doubt in kipper ties and flares. One guest from Saturday was also present on that day: Arthur Baines, School Captain from 1957, Head of Biology from 1967 to 1997 and OKA stalwart for decades.

In the oak-panelled Old Hall, where portraits of former Heads keep a watchful eye on their legacy and gold-lettered boards speak of the successes of alumni in academia, culture and sport, Old Kirkhamians of all ages feel the intangible togetherness that belonging to a proud old school brings.

Saturday's gathering was diverse in age and background, mixed in gender yet united in an affection for the School which was wonderfully expressed in the Speech by OKA President Mike Ward, whose irreverent yet deeply respectful memories of his own 1980s schooldays struck a chord with all present. Likewise, 2020-21 School Captain Thomas Hewitt, already an authority on the School's and the Association's history thanks to his subject specialism, evoked perfectly the Association's founding principles and enduring values in his speech proposing a toast to the Association.

The presence of students, musicians, sportsmen, teachers, armed forces officers, healthcare professionals, business people, farmers, civil servants, a recent Mayor (Fylde) and Lord Mayor (City of Portsmouth) and many others represented all that is good about KGS. Guests chatted, laughed and reminisced long after the end of formalities and took home an engraved commemorative port glass and a new edition of the OKA lapel badge, and each and every one departed with their love for the School enriched and renewed. “My first OKA Dinner, but certainly not my last” wrote more than one on social media.

The OKA is in safe hands for another century and more.

Adrian Long

A selection of photographs from the dinner are now available to view on our KGS Flickr page via the link below...


Tags: 2021-2022 OKA