An alarming sub-title to begin with this month I know, but this is not in reference to any indoor fireworks experiments a la Mario Balotelli of Manchester City FC. No, the Rigg’s Hall Bonfire Night celebrations were a much more sophisticated affair, as one would expect from such upstanding Gentlemen of Salopia! Indeed, the entire house decamped on the evening of Saturday 5th November to Mytton Hall, the country residence of ‘Mrs B’, who is not only my secretary but also relief matron to the boys in Rigg’s. Every other year we are invited for an evening of fine food and explosions (no different to any other Saturday perhaps), and it is an event that the boys all really look forward to. In fact, this year the fireworks clashed with the Sixth Form Fashion Show, but such is the lure of Mytton Hall that every single member of the House made the short trip down the road, with the Sixth Formers to a man declining the invitation to sit in Quod ogling scantily-clad girls strutting down the cat-walk. As I say, these are gentlemanly sorts, the Rigg’s boys!
After a sumptuous barbeque feast and the toasting of marshmallows, the firework display ensued in the field below the lawn. A vast armoury of explosions that day had been placed in my care by Matron, who had been sent on a covert munitions mission to source enough fireworks as to pose a sufficient threat to national security. She succeeded. With much whooping, oohs and aahs, the evening came to a close with a firework that was rather unambiguously named ‘The Beast’. I must say I was rather tentative about lighting that particular explosive, but fortunately all my limbs are still intact and any singed hair has regrown. We all had a fantastic evening, and are enormously grateful to Joan and Anthony Bovill for hosting such a terrific event.
House Table-Tennis Championships
Undoubtedly the event of the term, however, was the table-tennis final played on the evening of the last Sunday of term. Every member of the house (and indeed the tutor team) was entered into the knockout competition put together by Bosco Ho. In the weeks leading up to the end of term, some thrilling matches were seen in the hall at Rigg’s, with many members of the house taking the competition very seriously (including Alex Norman, whose evening bicep curl routine seemed to intensify significantly, and even matron was alleged to have been heard practising her backhand smash in the confines of her flat). 3rd Former Jake Carter was wise to ‘throw’ his First Round match against his new Housemaster (this will of course be taken into account when selecting Head of House in four years time), although similar mercy was not shown by Freddie Aitken who dispatched Mrs Middleton unceremoniously, though Guy Leslie did (allegedly) concede 19 points to Mrs Bovill, who had somehow managed to get a bye not only into the second round but also into the third round!
The final itself was a suitably extravagant and dramatic affair as the whole house relocated for the evening to the atmospheric pantheon that is the Ashton Theatre. Our table-tennis table was wheeled over to take centre stage, and the lifeguard’s chair from the swimming pool was borrowed so that Freddie Aitken would have suitable vantage in his role as Umpire (not really needed given that Freddie is approximately eight foot tall). Under lights, Nick Douglas provided music in his role as DJ, and the two finalists entered through the centre aisle in dressing gown and hooded top respectively a la Rocky Bilboa. They were preceded in their entrance by the four ball-boys carrying the Rigg’s flags (one of whom managed to knock off and decapitate the impressively tacky trophy of ‘Strong Man with Globe on Shoulders’ as he swung the flag pole past the plinth). There ensued introductory speeches from the two competitors’ ‘Team Managers’ Paddy Lynch-Staunton and Josh Mason. These speeches proved particularly entertaining, even if they did appear to be largely borrowed from various Hollywood blockbusters, ranging from Gladiator to Any Given Sunday.
The three-set encounter between Alex Norman and Guy Leslie was a thrilling affair, though Mr Leslie’s investment in very small white shorts and sweatbands seemed to pay off and in the end he was able to dispatch the younger Mr Norman in a 3-0 victory. Perhaps Alex was distracted in between sets by the glamorous high-heeled figure of Matron strutting across stage with placards indicating which round we were now entering. Nevertheless, he will be keen next year to take the title and hold aloft himself the now-decapitated trophy.
Of course, as yet, table-tennis is not one of the recognised major sports at Shrewsbury School, and it is doubtful that Guy’s herculean efforts in the Ashton arena will be recognised by the Headmaster at the end of term assembly. However, notable success in one of the major sports did occur in the final week of term with Rigg’s taking home the overall trophy in the Hope Simpson Ergo Championships for the third year in succession. In the Top Squad individual event, Sam Lapage was on impressive form and in taking the individual gold medal was only a matter of seconds away from taking the school record for the 2000m distance. Out of the top eight competitors, in fact four came from Rigg’s, with Fred Day in 2nd, Rob Morgan in in 5th and Judah Rand in 6th. As a result of the competition, Rigg’s now extends its lead in the overall Leadbitter Cup standings, and with a 20-point margin over second-placed School House, the boys have once again demonstrated the significant rowing talent that continues to thrive in the house.
In house football, we concluded the term in a respectable 4th place in 1st Leagues, 6th in 2nd Leagues, and were just one point away from winning B Leagues where the majority of our 3rd and 4th formers play their House football. The emerging talent from our new intake has been clear to see, and it has been a real pleasure to watch the two lower yeargroups playing so cohesively as a team and establishing good relationships amongst themselves in so doing. No trophies, then, for our footballers, but in many respects that is not what is important about the various House leagues. It is about taking a pride in representing your house; it is about building strong bonds with your fellow housemates; it is about participation and the involvement of as many boys from the house as possible. This was seen most clearly in the knockout 1st House competition, where the top footballers from Rigg’s came together and demonstrated tremendous spirit and camaraderie in taking on a very strong School House outfit in the first round. Whilst we were knocked out in extra-time, the attitude and commitment of our boys was first-rate, and at least we can say that we had better musical support from the sidelines, with Tom Fitzpatrick’s bagpipes fairly silencing the School House on the other side of the pitch!
We are looking forward to next term’s sport with the various Fives leagues, further cross-country races, and a busy rugby season for many of our boys. I am delighted that the school 1st XV captain for rugby next term is Rigg’s Hall deputy head of house Paddy Lynch-Staunton, and I have no doubt that he will do a sterling job in that regard.
In the busyness of the final week of term, and with most of the boys utterly exhausted after the long twelve-week term, everyone was looking forward to a number of traditional Christmas events that take place in the final week of term. With the christmas tree having been put up and decorated by matron and the 3rd form (miraculously, it maintained upright status without being knocked over once!), on the final Tuesday break-time we were treated to Matron’s Coffee Morning, with Helen laying on a veritable feast of goodies. Cakes, biscuits and assorted treats provided a blanket of confectionary across tables more normally accustomed to the 3rd formers’ textbooks and Top Schools. The event provided an opportunity for the boys to thank not only matron for her tireless work in the house, but also cleaners Wendy, Gill and Katie, relief matron Mrs Bovill, and indeed Jenna and Isla as the first female members of house for some time!
The following evening we enjoyed a Christmas Curry evening, with bucket-loads of curry (literally) being delivered from a local take-away, and a special visitor making a surprise appearance in the guise of Father Christmas. Each of the boys received a ‘Secret Santa’ gift, expertly selected by Santa’s anonymous helper, although some of the boys were slightly tentative in approaching Santa, largely due to the fact that when he sat down on his seat a very large and unfortunately-placed rip appeared in his red fur trousers! Rather cynically, there were those who did not believe this was the real Father Christmas and the comment was made that he did bear a striking resemblance to a certain upper sixth form rower. However, there was still a hope that the younger members of the house may have been taken in by the bearded one. As Upper Sixth former James Aston queried, “Do you think any of the 3rd Form thought it was really Santa?”.