Each year we return to the School to meet old friends, reminisce, to tell our partners and children embellished stories of our youth, enjoy perhaps a glass of wine or beer, watch the sport, climb Winder, listen to the singing in Chapel, laugh, bump into old masters, and generally remember the spirit of Sedbergh.
This year, with our weekend set to coincide with Remembrance Weekend, the returning members of our tribe encountered an altogether different experience. By bringing these two special events into the one occasion we were able to celebrate the end of our Pilgrimage, a unique and fantastic achievement by the Sedbergh community in which we have visited every grave or place of remembrance of those Old Sedberghians and masters who died in the Great War.
At a sell out dinner Neil McKerrow gave a carefully crafted speech and with words that held us all transfixed. As I wrote to him afterwards, he asked brave questions about the War and answered them. He articulated our thoughts eloquently and in a way that resonated. It was a most intelligent piece of prose, expressed with feeling and understanding. His speech brought to a conclusion a journey that had in fact started in 1914. There was a sense of history when he spoke and we felt we were, and had been, part of something truly special.
Afterwards we rose in unison to applaud Neil for his fine words, in gratitude for his leadership and endeavour throughout and, most importantly, for those names on the Cloisters which Neil has helped to bring to life, and whom we remembered and celebrated at a most memorable and moving OS Weekend.
Well done, Neil, and well done everyone who has helped with the Pilgrimage. You have, we have, honoured the commitment our Nation once made, that we would never forget. It brought to an end a most remarkable five years. Poignant, historical, interesting, even fun. There has been a sense of camaraderie throughout.
If I have a lasting memory – Neil’s speech aside – it is the last grave, Captain Leake, which I visited alone at a cemetery set on a remote hillside next to a disused and overgrown railway track that once brought the wounded and the dying to the military hospital.
As the sun was setting I placed a cross and read out the words of Winder. Afterwards I sat there until it got too dark to see. It was a most spiritual end to an incredible journey.
Keep well, travel safe, enjoy life,
Jan van der Velde
OS Club Chairman