Shrewsbury School

Former Head of MI6 delivers the inaugural Thomas Pryce VC Memorial Lecture

Thursday 15 January 2015

We were delighted and honoured to welcome Sir Colin McColl (SH 1946-50), who was Head of MI6 from 1989-94, to give the inaugural Thomas Pryce VC Memorial Lecture at Shrewsbury School on Tuesday.

Sir Colin held his audience in thrall as he described his recruitment to MI6 and gave a brief glimpse of some aspects of his fascinating career and the world of Secret Intelligence.

The event was conceived and organised by Heads of School, James Plaut and Esmé O’Keeffe, who have now established a new Salopian tradition: a centrepiece lecture in the School’s annual Lecture Programme, to be delivered by a high-profile public figure and organised each year by the Head of School. 

The lecture is in memory of Thomas Pryce, one of two Salopians who won the Victoria Cross during the First World War. Pryce was a pupil at Shrewsbury School from 1900-04 and a member of Chance's, which later became Severn Hill (and James Plaut's house). He joined the Army in August 1914 and was in the Honorary Artillery Company. He was later transferred to the Grenadier Guards in October 1915. He received the MC in November 1915 and was awarded an added bar some time afterwards, for further acts of bravery, having been twice wounded. He was reported missing on the Western Front on 13th April 1918, but is now known to have been killed on that date. He was awarded the V.C. in May 1918 (posthumously) "for most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice".

His Army Commander later wrote: “There is no finer stand in the history of the British Army than this to which Captain Pryce contributed very largely."

Similarly his Colonel wrote this to his widow: "Your husband was perfectly splendid and his company did wonderfully. Its record will be one of the finest episodes in the war."

Introducing the lecture, James Plaut commented that the School's other VC winner, Harold Ackroyd, already has a memorial lecture as well as a scholarship in his name at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. The Harold Ackroyd Lecture has been delivered by no fewer than five Nobel Prize winners. "Although Pryce is somewhat playing catch-up," said James, "it is a satisfying thought that the set is now completed - and an especial honour that another great Old Salopian should deliver the first lecture in his memory."

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