The date was carefully chosen and listed on the school Fasti to give the school Fives players stiff competition and practice and to take advantage of the balmy and heart-warming spring weather.
The Saturday fixture was a Grant Williams Invitational Event that also happened to coincide with St Patrick’s Day; the omens were all lining up nicely.
As we started to gather on Saturday at 1.45pm, the snow was starting to fall as the temperature dipped below freezing. Perfect for an afternoon’s Fives!
As anyone who has ever organised a Fives event will attest, there are always some last-minute adjustments to the pairings – and this was no exception.
Due to the fantastic attendance and the tremendous effort that the Old Salopians made travelling from afar afield as Durham and London, we were able to run two fixtures concurrently. The first was a 14-pair rubber of the G Williams friends against the School, including two ladies' pairs; the other being six pairs of Old Salopians against the School.
The Old Salopians were very strong at the first Fives pairs, and special mention must be given to Jeremy Lees and Martin Griffiths, who were brought out of Fives retirement having not played since leaving Shrewsbury in 1984. They had a practice game with their sons, who are both at The Schools now, and were then thrown in at 6th pair.
The Old Salopians were too strong for the School, fielding five current and past Barber Cup players. But special mention should go to Tom Brunskill and Dan Humes, who gave forrmer Fives Captains Tom Breese and Guy Williams a run for their money, despite losing in straight games. The first four OS pairs all won 3-0. The sixth pair of Lees and Griffiths, gradually rediscovering their form of 1984, went 3-0 down to Hinwood and McLoughlin, spoiling the Salopians clean sweep. The Old Salopians won this fixture 5-1.
Beyond the Salopians, the Friends of Grant Williams had a much tougher challenge. The ladies' pairs of Fiona Mitchell and Emily O’Malley went down 0-3 to Sophia Breese and Lizzie Ware, and Mandie Barnes and T Walters suffered a similar fate to Emma Graham and Katie Oswald, which bodes well for this week’s Nationals.
Elsewhere The Schools were dominant, with only the OS pairings David Wray & Bill Christie and Will Sillar & Dom Dootson victorious. The overall result: Grant Williams Invitational Team 8 versus The Schools 6.
A great day was had by all, with Christie and Wray finally overcoming Legeais and Kynaston 3-1 at 4.15pm, the last remaining spectators looking forward to a cup of tea which was provided in the Quod.
Many thanks to all of those who participated, to Chris Hughes for his invaluable help in generating such a good Old Salopian turnout, Seb Cooley and Andy Barnard for organising the School pairings, and to Shrewsbury School for use of the courts and the excellent tea in the Quod. Hopefully this fixture can become a staple of the Shrewsbury School and Old Salopian Fives calendar.
We should never forget that your life at Shrewsbury School doesn’t end on Speech Day. Friendships made at The Schools can carry on thoughout your life, and Old Salopian Sport is a fantastic way to nurture those friendships for people with similar interests, both girls and boys. The Old Salopian Fives Club in particular is a warm and welcoming group who encourage players of all abilities. Financial help is available for students travelling to matches and events, and an online community makes it very easy to get involved.