Edinburgh is a beautiful city. I can highly recommend it, not least for the trams which run regularly and take the stress out of driving. If you catch the right tram then you can find yourself at the quayside in Leith, which is what a number of us did on 17th November when we stood staring up at the grandeur of The Royal Yacht Britannia.
This was a very grand ‘Black Tie’ event attended by seventy OS and guests. As we walked up the red carpeted gangway, with the piper in all his refinery playing his pipes, we were met by champagne and elegance. This was a night when the ship was ours and we could glimpse a time when the Queen and Prince Philip carried Britain to the World, when Charles and Diana had their honeymoon, when Heads of State discussed matters of great importance while dining in the very same room where we were about to sit.
It is an interesting fact that two OS served on The Royal Yacht Britannia at the same time. There may even have been others but Katy de la Rivière best summed it up in her toast to them:
Tonight, we mark the contribution of two Sedberghian naval officers, Admiral Sir Jock Slater and Captain William Canning. This is particularly fitting this evening as Bill and Jock both served here on the Royal Yacht Britannia in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. At that time they were both young and fairly inexperienced sailors. Bill Canning went on to Captain HMS Broadsword, leading the ship safely through operations in the Falklands war. Sir Jock was the first Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious, was the Queen’s Equerry for six years and was proud to have been able to serve Her Majesty so closely, and served as the First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy from 1995 to 1998.
Sadly, neither could join us on the evening, but their photos on our display boards were a fitting reminder of our connection with the Yacht’s past.
This aside, we were given an extended tour which set the scene for a most memorable dinner. The food on the Yacht, being a menu of the Chef’s own devising is exquisite. I have eaten in many places (and being a second row forward I do not shrink from such duties) but this was exceptional.
The new Chair of the OS Club, my good friend Duncan Berry, acted as Master of Ceremonies. He brought his own charm and charisma to bear, while operating a gavel, which caused shock waves to go through our wine glasses and indeed our heads. But he is skilled at such things and brought us to order at suitable times.
Once such suitable time was when the Headmaster, Mr Dan Harrison, rose on his hind legs to address us. As at HMS Belfast he gave a robust and inspiring address. Our applause echoed along the quayside.
Now, of all things that impressed me, and indeed most of us, was that the Yacht has 10 bars. Only one was open for us but that stayed so until 1.00am. This was quite refreshing, and we were able to catch up with old friends and new. I was particularly delighted to meet with Major Simon Collins and Dr Nick Spencer, neither of whom have I seen since my Sedbergh days. I much enjoyed catching up after all these years.
Thank you to the staff of The Royal Yacht. You looked after us well. And a particular thank you to OS Bob Peters, Travel Counsellor, for so generously sponsoring the dinner. It was another great evening for the OS Club and thank you to all who attended and supported us. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.
Jan van der Velde
Director of Alumni Development