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Sadie Julian (Cooper)Sadie Julian (at Hymers 1990 -1997) was last year's Old Hymerians Association President.
Jonathan ClarkJonathan Clark (at Hymers 1980 - 1990) is the current President of the Old Hymerians Association

Life after Hymers

 

Alfred Morris (at Hymers 1952 - 1957)

 

I was born in 1941 and family legend has it that it was without benefit of electric light under the kitchen table of a farm in Tunstall during an air raid.

 

My mother named me Alfred in memory of her father, a trawler skipper recently torpedoed off Iceland, and from early childhood I aspired to follow in his footsteps.

 

At the age of ten, I took the ’11 plus' exam and then, whilst waiting for the results, achieved a more important  ambition by embarking on a 21 day trip into the Arctic Circle on the coal burning steam trawler Lord Rowallan. I returned to the news that I had been awarded an East Riding Scholarship to Hymers.

 

That pleased my mother but it did not please me as I had hoped to follow my elder brother to the Nautical School. However, the woman who lived next door to our terraced home, Mrs Dickens, consoled me with stories of how her son Geoff had been to Hymers and was now Pro Vice Chancellor of University College Hull. 

 

That was confirmed when I arrived at Hymers in 1952 and discovered the name A G Dickens on the honours board immediately above ‘A 8’, which was to be my ‘form room’. It recorded that he went from Hymers to Magdalen College Oxford. Later, he became a very distinguished academic historian, holding a professorial chair at Kings College London before becoming Director of the Institute of Historical Research.

 

I didn’t understand what ‘Pro Vice-Chancellor’ meant but it sounded quite important and stuck in my memory as a possible fall back if I failed in my larger ambition to become a trawler skipper.

 

My earliest memories of Hymers include the celebration feast held in the flag bedecked main hall to celebrate the coronation of HM The Queen, at which we were each given a suitably engraved silver spoon.

 

I remember that every day at Hymers began with morning assembly and that Saturday school - we attended six days a week - began with extended rehearsal of the hymns chosen for the following week. I also half remember that the unofficial version of the school song included a verse with the words “… now way back in history, this town was called Wyke … there were just a few mud huts called Hull Grammar School … “.

 

All boys were required to join the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and we wore military uniform on Fridays, undertook weapons training on Tuesday afternoons and regularly participated in live firing on the school rifle range. We were schooled in such important martial arts as how to approach and ‘eliminate’ an enemy sentry silently from behind. In later life, I often warned difficult colleagues that, thanks to Hymers, I became a trained killer at the age of thirteen.

 


Me - left on the front row

 

From time to time, the CCF was divided into rival companies and, having drawn British army rifles from the school armoury, we were transported in a fleet of double decker buses to Beverley Westwood for manoeuvres.

 

During our battles, Major ‘Sally’ Lund, who taught English and had served with the Chindits in Burma, and Captain ‘Mo’ Mitchell, my French master and organiser of the Hymers sword dancing team, strode around the Westwood pronouncing people dead and ordering the corpses to walk back to the buses.

 

For my first battle, I choose a Bren gun rather than the standard British army rifle. My reward was to be ordered to bury myself in a deep thicket of thorns and await the attack. Every one else then had fun firing the ten ‘blanks’ with which they had been issued. But, as a Bren gunner, I only got to wave a large Hull City football supporters rattle over my head in simulation of machine gun fire.

 

My interests included the Debating Society where I achieved the distinction of winning a ‘balloon debate’. That owed little to my oratory and more to the fact that I had been chosen to impersonate Elvis Presley. I also appeared in the CCF concert, impersonating a much feared master, for which purpose I goose-stepped onto the Memorial Hall stage dressed as a storm trooper complete with swastika regalia. Those were the days before political correctness. 

 

In more serious vein, I spoke in a debate about Britain's Suez military adventure in 1956 which was recorded in the minutes with the words ‘Morris also spoke, but said nothing of any consequence’.

 

In my day Hymers was ‘for boys only’. There was briefly just one female ‘master’. I remember that the headmaster ordained that ‘to avoid confusing the boys’ she should be addressed as ‘Sir’ but that on meeting her we should doff our caps, as we did for his wife, rather than merely ‘tipping’ the brim as for other masters.

 

The headmaster was H R Roach (HRR), a former Eton housemaster who lived with his German wife and daughter in the long since demolished School House and whose imminent arrival was invariably signalled by the advance appearance of his labrador Dinah.

 

The ground floor of the School House served as the ‘tuck shop’ and also as the school dining rooms which provided a discipline free environment in which chaos often reigned. I remember the arrival of a new master who attempted to introduce order by making copious use of a whistle. The attempt failed in the face of the school’s traditional indication of disapproval by the loud and vigorous stamping of feet under the tables.

 

The use of physical punishment was embraced with enthusiasm. Indeed, I suspect a staff vote on appropriate punishment for boys like me whose names appeared regularly in the weekly detention and imposition book might have produced a majority in favour of the introduction of capital punishment. The authorities also condoned forms of torture imposed on younger boys by senior boys with the status of prefect or corporal or above.

 

I remember that once I was sent to stand outside the headmaster’s study and await a ‘caning’ and that after what seemed like an eternity he called me in and said “ …Morris, I find you a perfect gentleman … and those who know you better tell me I could hardly be more mistaken … bend over ! “.

 

I continued to harbour my ambition to be a trawler skipper until one day, struggling to read the blackboard, I realised I would not be able to pass the eyesight test necessary for a ‘skippers ticket’.

 

That was the moment at which it dawned that I might have to settle for a lesser career, possibly even as a Vice-Chancellor but I realised that I had neglected the need to demonstrate outstanding academic ability. So, having rejected the idea of becoming a statistician as likely to prove too exciting, I decided to ‘take articles’ with a local Old Hymerian firm and train for five years at a salary of £156 per annum to become a Chartered Accountant.

 

I think the headmaster was less than impressed with my career decision as he recorded in my final school report that “ … Morris has wasted his time here … “. That final verdict rather spoils the report book which I still treasure and in earlier years includes such gems as “behaviour - good, with lapses - frequent”. However, on reflection, HRR was right.

 

The last act of my time at Hymers involved a midnight expedition with others in which we scrambled over the Sunny Bank perimeter fence and climbed the school’s main hall roof to decorate its pinnacles with the uniform berets of most of Hull’s girls’ schools.

 

 The next morning, at the end of year assembly, the headmaster expressed his displeasure and remarked that at Eton the boys had usually presented him with an appropriate gift such as his treasured walking stick whereas at Hymers he was presented only with a bill for roof repairs.

 

At this distance, I remember Hymers with affection and the story of John Hymers endowment “… to train intelligence in whatever rank it may be found amongst the population of the town and port … “, with gratitude.

 

In particular, I delight in the successes, attributable to the efforts of both staff and pupils and to the leadership of the present and previous headmasters, which allow me to claim an association with what has become recognised as one of the finest schools in Britain.

 

I am sure that much of that success reflects the wise decision to admit girls. 

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Editor’s Note:

 

Alfred Morris, having qualified as a chartered accountant, went on in his late twenties to enrol at the then very new Lancaster University, without support and paying his own fees.

 

His professional career progressed in London with Deloitte Haskin and Sells before he switched to

the academic world where he became a Senior Research Fellow at Sussex University and a visiting lecturer at Warwick. He was appointed as a specialist advisor to a House of Commons Select Committee before serving as head of two polytechnics and then Vice-Chancellor of three universities. He holds three honorary doctorates and his several honorary fellowships include that of the Royal West of England Academy. He was awarded the title ‘Commander of the British Empire’ for services to higher education.

 

In public life, Alfred Morris has served as a trustee, and in many cases as chair, of many charities and similar organisations, including a large NHS hospital trust and the Bristol Old Vic theatre company. He was granted the freedom of Bristol and made a burgess of the city at a ceremony in the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House in 2015.

 

He is listed in ‘Who’s Who’ and Debretts ‘People of Today’ and was at one time described by the Sunday Times as one of the 500 most influential people in Britain.

 

Today Alfred Morris heads an international consultancy business specialising in corporate mergers, acquisitions and strategic consultancy, mainly in the education and training sector. He is a director and vice-chair of two private universities in the UK and involved in a similar institution in Canada.

 

In 2007, Alfred Morris CBE was appointed by HM The Queen to be her personal representative in Gloucestershire as High Sheriff which is the oldest secular office in the UK other than the crown itself. He remains a Deputy Lieutenant of that County.   

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Livvy Thompson (at Hymers 1998 - 2003)

 

For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with fashion and clothes, however being at Hymers (and not being the greatest at art) it never even crossed my mind that it was a viable option for a job in the future. At school my focus was on subjects that would get me good grades, so I could keep my options as open as possible when it came to Universities and degrees – this even meant doing Physics at A-Level (not just because of my dad).

 

Looking back I do wish I’d focused on subjects that I loved, like English, because the books that are read at A-Level are total classics and it would have been a lot more fun reading them with my friends 14 years ago, than on the Northern line now.

 

University, if I’m truly honest, is genuinely a walk in the park compared to Hymers – although I was obviously not doing any sort of medicine, which I imagine would be slightly harder.

 

The work ethic that’s instilled in you at school, sets you up for all of the solo working that Uni requires, not to say that there were not still a few group assignments that involved staying up until 4am the night before they were due.

 

For me, Uni was the greatest balance of figuring out who you are in life, as well as starting to think about what you want to do when you leave. Other than wanting to earn a million pounds a year though, it wasn’t until my last year, when someone gave a talk on a Fashion Masters they had done, that I suddenly realised that there might be a way into the industry I loved. Plus it also meant that I could stay at uni for another year; a lot of my friends were on four year courses and I wasn’t ready for the real world on my own!

 

Doing a Masters in Fashion Marketing was one of the best things that I ever did. It taught me such valuable information about the industry, including things that most people would find boring about supply chains, costing and lead times; plus all the fun more creative elements. As well as also allowing me to have the word ‘Fashion’ on my CV, which may seem so inconsequential, but knowing how many CVs are submitted for jobs, every little thing that can show your passion helps. That is a major downfall of this industry, there are so few jobs in comparison to the number of people who are desperate to work in it, and a lot of people will work for free just to get their foot on the ladder.

 

After Uni I made the decision to move to London, before I had ever been there, and without even considering what job I would like to do – a totally sensible decision. I just figured that it would be better to be in the heart of it, rather than trying to find jobs from Hull.

 

Thankfully I have very supportive parents who are happy to let me make these rash decisions. A friend of mine worked in an advertising agency, which seemed like it was a fun first career move, so when I got offered a job in a marketing agency (working on toilet paper and women’s incontinence pads) I moved down into a friend’s spare room within a week.

 

I definitely wasn’t on the million pounds that I was sure I should be, but the experience of working in a London agency really did give me a wealth of skills above and beyond what I had learnt throughout my education. I ended up staying there for almost five years, but I would always be constantly checking fashion websites to see whether any Marketing roles were available.

 

Going for the job at ASOS was one of the most excruciating processes of my life because I wanted the job so much; it was three interviews across a two-month period – I even cried after one of them because I was convinced that I had messed it up.

 

I’ve now been at the company for five years, which in ASOS years, is equivalent to about twenty-five. I’ve worked on some absolutely amazing projects over that period: creating videos with Nike and A$AP Rocky’s Director; sponsoring festivals in Sweden; and launching ASOS’ own House Band (which probably only the team that worked on it remember!).

 

What’s amazing about my job is that not only do I get to work surrounded by dresses and trainers every single day (and sometimes get free samples if the Buyers are in a good mood), I also work for a company that is constantly looking to be ahead of the Amazons and the Googles in tech innovation, so it feels like I am constantly learning more and more in areas that I never expected. The ambition of the company is to be truly Global, so we get taught so much about cultural nuances across the world, in both fashion and calendars (in Russia they give presents on NYE and not Christmas).

 

It’s weird how interesting these things are when you’re taught outside of a school environment, and sometimes I’m even lucky enough to travel to our other offices across the world. This isn’t intended to be a brag, and it can be incredibly hard work, especially when we are tasked with billion pound trading targets that we have to meet; or when there’s a flood and the whole website goes offline for a few days; or when one of the many 22 year olds uses a ‘cool’ acronym that I have to pretend I know what it means. However, it is a job that I am so proud to say I do, and something that I don’t think I could have been doing without everything I learnt from being at Hymers.

 

School is absolutely amazing, but I wish that I had done more outside of school to really further my passion. Nothing has dwindled there, and I now know how to use a sewing machine and I’m learning to knit, it just would have been nice to know all of these things before I was 32.

 

Doing a lot of research into the 16-21 age bracket with work though, I think kids nowadays are way more savvy than I ever was, and will probably all have their own businesses before they are 18, so don’t need that advice from me. My only advice would just be to enjoy every minute of Hymers, I had some of the best times and made the best friends; apart from doing the 1500m, no one likes the 1500m.

 


Our last day before A Level Study leave (Left to right - Sophie Hall, India Francis, Charlotte Franks, Charlotte Collen, me and Stephanie Duodu)
 

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John Kenneth Smart (at Hymers 1934 -1939)

I was not an academic scholar and started in Lower 3C in 1934 and continued in the lower forms until my last year in 1939. Much to the surprise of my teachers, I passed my matric exam and also gained a distinction in chemistry; the only distinction in a science subject at Hymers that year!

My distinction in chemistry helped me gain employment as a trainee Analytical Chemist at Premier Oil Extracting Mills (POEM) in Stoneferry. I was soon competent in quality control and analysis of products at various stages of their production.

After six months, at the age of seventeen, I supplemented my quality control work and started working on the night shift. I had four steel helmets at that time, as I was the First Aider, Air Raid Warden, Home Guard and I /c Works Fire Brigade. I survived many nights of the Hull Blitz, putting out incendiaries dropped on the mills.

After eighteen months of being in the front line of the war, I decided to become a volunteer in the Army. I joined the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in August 1941 and enjoyed a much calmer time for three years as a Weapons Instructor (for the Home Guard) and then a Battle School instructor before being posted abroad to join the 14th Army in Burma. I was promoted to Company Sergeant Major in HQ Company. After “looking after” 80,000 Japanese prisoners near the Thai border, I was posted to Malaya. My company became the warders of Penang Jail where the Japanese Generals accused of war crimes were incarcerated.

I was demobbed in December 1946 and eventually joined a partnership with my elder brother and father in the wholesale fish trade which we expanded to Europe. It was a hard life starting on the fish dock at 7.00am and often getting home after 6.00pm.

I married Patricia, daughter of Master Mariner Joseph Boothby in 1950 and enjoyed a very happy marriage with two children Paul and Victoria. Our leisure time was mostly outdoor with the CHA Rambling Club, enjoying walking the footpaths of Yorkshire as well as climbing the mountains of Wales, the Lake District and in Scotland. Patricia and I also became proficient in Scottish dancing.

I left the partnership with my father and brother in 1962, became a Colonial Officer and was posted to Aden with the brief to form Fishermens’ Co-operatives and to modernise the preservation and marketing methods of the large artisanal fishing industry.

During one of my visits to Lodar, in the mountains, I received a message from the resident Political Officer that he was in another town’s fort surrounded by rebel tribesmen. I mustered two platoons of Federal Guardsmen and went to rescue him - this was the start of the Radfan war.

When I suggested that I should have an armed guard on my travels it was refused as I was apparently not on the rebels wanted list! Three bombs exploding outside our flat provided some excitement and one occasion, Old Hymerian, Major Bill Todd came past me shouting “Can’t stop Ken!” as he chased after a terrorist who had thrown a bomb at the petrol station, where I was filling up. Eventually PM Harold Wilson announced independence for Aden, so I left on the last flight in November 1967.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nation offered me a post as Marketing Expert in East Pakistan. After six weeks advising the Egyptian government on the fish processing and marketing facilities for the new fishery in Lake Nasser, I arrived in Dhaka in January 1968.

A cyclonic storm hit the coastal villages in 1970 and I was able utilise a research vessel to give the first assistance of food and shelter material stockpiled by the local Red Crescent Director. I then made an appeal on “Radio Free Europe” for funds to alleviate the problems of survivors.

I was then transferred to the Tanganyika Lake Research and Development Project, based at Kigoma. Zoologist Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees at a research camp on the shores of the lake 15 mile north of Kigoma. One morning she ran to Kigoma to inform the Chief of Police that six of her USA and Dutch graduate students had been kidnapped by Congolese “freedom fighters”.

 I was asked to help in finding them and after searching Tanzanian waters, with no result, the remaining two students were brought to Kigoma. Within days, six parents of those from Harvard University arrived and stayed in the project’s rest house. Then, three CIA looking Americans came to put up their communication equipment and negotiations started. After a week, I was asked to take a Guerilla General, with two underlings, the “CIA” men and ransom across the 25 mile wide lake to the Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) shore where it took three hours to obtain their release.

I had told my wife, Patricia, that I was going out to rescue an American Baptist Minister whose boat had broken down! She was taken aback when one of the parents knocked on her door to tell her how brave I was to help in the rescue.

I handed over the project to my Tanzanian Counterpart in 1977.

I spent the next year at home with my wife and daughter, and completed studies for a post graduate Diploma in management and was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Management.

I resumed my career with the FAO of the United Nation and went back to Aden, to negotiate with government a project to assist the management of the National Corporation for Fish Marketing (NCFM). As the newly appointed Project Manager I was pleased to see that the freezing and cold storage plants that I had introduced in 1964 were still being used and progress was being made.

The completion of the project was interrupted by Civil War; on hearing machine gun fire I left my office and went to see what was happening. After checking the safety of my nearby colleagues, I loaded my car and successfully drove through gunfire to my flat, with a few bullets hitting the car. I prepared a bunker for the night, putting mattresses and pillows around the small kitchen so that I might have some protection from bullets and shrapnel. A shell did hit the flat that night, but entered the lounge, so I was safe. The next morning I put the UN Flag on my car and went to rescue a Sri Lankan UN volunteer and his wife from a flat where his neighbour had been killed. I then accompanied the UN Head of Mission to rescue the German Consul and his wife.

After a brief return to Aden and a year at FAO headquarters I retired.

I undertook several consultancies for the governments of Italy, Germany and the UK in Goa, Kenya and during the Civil War in Somalia. I then became a British Executive Service Volunteer (BESO), serving in the West Indies and Yemen, which was to be my last overseas work at 77 years of age.

Retirement activities have included being President of the Hull CHA Rambling Club, Chairman of the British Association of Former United Nations Civil Servants (BAFUNCS) – Northern Region, Royal British Legion Standard Bearer and Chairman of two Probus Clubs and member of four Bridge Clubs.

I am also writing my autobiography – I am up to 1962!

‘Ken Smart sadly passed away on 11th August 2016, aged 93.  He was a real character, a true gentleman with a ready smile. As he was so supportive of the Old Hymerians Association I saw him often and over my four years at Hymers I became very fond of him. He will be sorely missed.’                                                                                                                    

Bridget Renwick

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 Barry Latter (at Hymers 1946 - 1955)

Receiving my Hymerian magazine just before Christmas last, sent my mind spinning as to time at school and beyond.  Those thoughts were no doubt also triggered by my authoring an autobiography to record some of the fun that I have had over the years.  A request for an image of Vic Cavill from the school resulted in a conversation with Bridget Renwick …. and here we are!

So, what of the intervening years?  First a little background.  I entered Hymers Junior School in 1946 as my father ended his career as an engineer officer in the RAF.  Mother had grown up in Hull and vowed that, if ever she had a son, he would go to Hymers.  Mother was determined!

Those early years at Hymers were marked by dramatic progress in the air.  I had grown up surrounded by aeroplanes and had no trouble nurturing that interest as school years progressed.  Needless to say, that rendered me somewhat unbalanced in the academic world and I was doomed to the “C” form throughout.  I remember well a comment made to us by Bob Bennett, then Deputy Head: “The A formers” he suggested “will take the academic honours, but you C formers will be survivors”.  I consider myself a survivor!

Having risen to the dizzying heights of the Upper Fifth, and at last being able to concentrate on Maths, Physics and Chemistry, I left Hymers in 1955 and started an Aeronautical Engineering apprenticeship with the local Blackburn Company.  Five years of study at Hull Technical College, integrated with factory, laboratory and drawing office training, resulted in an HND (which in the USA is recognized as a BSc degree).

The Society of British Aircraft Constructors (SBAC) awarded me a scholarship to Cranfield University (then the College of Aeronautics).  Two years later it was back to Brough with a DCAe (later converted to an MSc by the University).  The 1957 government White Paper on aircraft had crippled the British aircraft industry and many of us began looking for opportunities elsewhere. 

In the early 1960s I had developed a computer program that allowed a gas turbine engine thermodynamic cycle to be matched to an aircraft mission.  We had a degree of success with it at Brough.  The Royal Navy became very interested in the engine analysis and in 1965, a fellow engineer (from Beverley) contacted me from the USA to say that the Boeing Company was doing similar research to me - “Get here …. fast!”

Our young family flew to Seattle on January 3rd 1966 and I started working installed engine performance on potential large passenger aircraft.  Five months later, as my wife Susan gave birth to our second son, the world learned that the high temperature, high pressure, 5:1 bypass ratio JT9D-1 engine was also being born to power the newly designated Boeing 747. 

It is only with the benefit of hindsight that one can realize the enormity of that opportunity of being in the right place at the right time. Developing a brand new aircraft and engine concurrently is always hazardous and that first generation “high bypass ratio” engine gave us fits.  We spent hours in flight test developing (with the engine company) the solutions to some pretty deep technical problems.  Eventually we gained the ascendency and life returned to what we laughingly called normal. 

In 1973 I was promoted into engineering management and can honestly say I never suffered a dull day afterwards.  I moved over to manage 747 Fuel Systems group, and the US Air Force turned up one day to ask if we could make a 747 fly for three days without landing?  That started a fascinating inflight refueling system design which led to lots of flying and working with a young Edwards Air Force Base test pilot, Major Dick Scobee.  Dick later became an astronaut and perished as pilot of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986 – great guy!

In those days, the control laws of a jet engine were implemented by machining three dimensional metal cams, which took weeks to get from design to flight test.  In the mid seventies, digital electronics appeared – another opportunity!

We had learned a lot from the 747 and by using electronics we were able, along with the engine manufacturer, to not only control the engine stability and transient behavior but also give the airlines engine characteristics they had been craving for years.  We fitted the engines for the 767 with hydro-mechanical controls having an electronic trimmer.  If the electronics gave trouble the crew could merely switch off and revert to what they were used to.  With a few (non hazardous) teething problems we gained enough experience to go full Fly-by-Wire on the 757 fitted with the Pratt & Whitney PW2037engines, certifying the airplane for commercial service in 1984.

Our family was happily enjoying life in the beautiful Northwest and I was often reminded of the graphic descriptions of the area given by Joe Gillbanks in his geography classes at Hymers those many years before. 

After three years in Boeing central Engineering rebuilding a “broken” organization, I was assigned as a Chief Engineer to the Renton Division managing Airplane Performance and Airworthiness (AP&A) for the narrow body fleet of the 737 and 757.  During that time we designed a new wing for the classic 737 and started the so-called Next Generation 737 fleet.  By first flight time, I had been assigned to Everett to do the AP&A job on the 747 and 767.

After years that literally seemed to have flown by, we decided to retire in 2000.  Since then, I have become closely involved with the Museum of Flight in Seattle as a docent and the Historic Flight Foundation in Everett (we get to fly there!).  Regular gigs on the local speakers’ circuit add to the enjoyment of family, now blessed with our first great grandchild.

I’m proud to say that the values and life lessons given to me at Hymers are still here and contribute daily to our continued joy of living.

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John Kittmer  (at Hymers 1978 -1985)

I left Hymers in 1985, with a very clear plan of my life ahead.

I was heading off to Cambridge, to read Classics, with the intention of switching to Hebrew after completing Part 1 of the Classical Tripos. I would then train for the Anglican ministry. It was quite a good plan: mastery of the sacred languages would prepare me for scholarship and training for ordination would turn me towards the “real world”. I knew what I was doing and wouldn’t drift aimlessly into adult life. 

But, as seems often to happen, university proved a joyfully disorienting experience. My faith fragmented, I thought harder about my sexuality, and I became very, very attached to Greece: its ancient civilisation, its astonishing landscapes and seascapes, and the tangled complexities of Greece in the here and now. For eight years, I studied Classics at university, Oxford after Cambridge, specialising in classical Greek drama, while, in my spare time, lazily acquiring the rudiments of modern Greek.

In my early twenties I didn’t have much of a plan at all. I realised eventually I wouldn’t become an academic: the best of my contemporaries were just much, much better than me, and, in any case, I had always wanted and intended to face the real world. I had an abiding interest in politics, wanted to understand how the economy worked, and was intrigued by world affairs (the Berlin Wall had fallen in my second year at Oxford and the end of history had been prematurely pronounced). In 1993, I entered the “fast stream” of the civil service, in the then Department of Employment.

For me, the public service opened up a range of possibilities that I could not have imagined in 1985 or even in 1993. I am now writing this piece in the Ambassador’s study of the British Residence in Kolonaki, the plushest of all the central districts of Athens. The house, with its study and other grand rooms, set in a beautiful garden, was built in the 1930s for Eleftherios Venizelos, by almost any standard the greatest of all the Greek Prime Ministers. Through the door into the ballroom, I can glimpse Thomas Phillips’s commanding portrait of George Gordon Noel, the 6th Lord Byron, poet and philanderer, who sacrificed much of his fortune and paid the final price for the cause of Greek independence. The house is full of art that tells the story of Greek-British relations. And the Byron portrait, which is a masterpiece, is the first thing I see every morning as I come down the grand stairs from the flat. It always moves me. Art, poetry, the life of the mind, a decisive moment of commitment and action – Byron’s life brings so very much together. 

My journey here was not a straight course. The development of a career requires a lot of orchestration: planning, hard work, training. But it also requires a certain openness to different experiences, as they unexpectedly offer themselves. And luck plays a big part. My career has taken me in various directions over the last twenty years or so. After five years in the Employment Department, I worked for the Foreign Office in Brussels and in London, as an international negotiator on employment, discrimination and labour law, and then as head of teams working on enlargement of the European Union and international peacekeeping. For the Cabinet Office, I led our international and European work on the quality of regulation. For the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I have been a jobbing actor on animal health and welfare, corporate reform and the denationalisation of British Waterways; I also served two Secretaries of State as their Principal Private Secretary, working at the intersection of Government, Parliament and the public life of a Minister.

Does all of this make some sort of sense? I think it does. Since 1995 at least, I have had a reasonably clear plan, based on my interests in employment and the environment, and in international and EU affairs. And through all of this a single thread has continuously run: my love for Greece, the Greek people and the Greek language. That love, which began at Hymers, took me back to university nearly ten years ago, to study Modern Greek properly: studies which continue in a slow-boil doctoral thesis on the Greek poet, Yannis Ritsos.  

I count myself one of the luckiest diplomats and civil servants, in that I have been able to carve out a career that combines my professional, my personal and my intellectual interests. And, of course, my schooling has played a big part in all of this. Hymers taught me to value fiercely the acquisition of knowledge and skill (from the physics lab to the obscurities of Homeric syntax), and encouraged me to be receptive to ideas and open to experience. The ancient Greek I learned at Hymers did not, in the end, prepare me to be a priest, but, through the byways, detours and occasional blind alleys of accumulated experience, it turned out to be a pretty useful preparation to become Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Greece.  For this and much else, I am very grateful.

 John has been British Ambassador to Greece since January 2013.

He tweets daily on @HMA_JKittmer (in English and Greek), and blogs monthly (in English) on http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/greekblogyssey/ and (in Greek) on http://blogs.in.gr/blogger/post/?aid=1231335639&cid=977  

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Abbie Green (at Hymers 1992-2002

I left Hymers College in 2002 in a flurry of excitement for what would await in the Big Smoke. Off to London I went in my yellow Nissan Micra to study Physiotherapy at King’s College in London. The degree content was excellent with the opportunity to do full body dissection and attend some interesting placements. I came back to Hull to work at Hull Royal and Castle Hill on completing my degree. This was bizarre as I knew many of the Consultants who were friends of my parents or parents of my friends. I took on extra work outside the hospital working for Hull Ionians rugby club and going on extra courses. This gave me the opportunity to work with Hull FC and a few other old Hymerians (James Rule and Matthew Roberts). 

After four years at the Hospitals, I started working full time for Hull FC and part time for the bomb squad as their physiotherapist. The bomb squad were fascinating, had some amazing stories (as well as horrific ones) and were a little bit crazy. I once accused one Officer of being an adrenaline junkie...his reply was that the adrenaline only flows once you are getting shot at the same time as diffusing a bomb. I rest my case! I worked my way from Hull FC Academy to the first team and had my television debut whilst covering the Hull FC/Hull KR game at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in front of thousands of fans. During the off season I regularly went away with various university teams covering netball, judo, hockey, rugby, even trampolining and lacrosse. I attended the UK School Games, was the lead physiotherapist for the combat team at the British University Games and supported the GB Women’s rugby 7s team. 

I get a great buzz and enjoyment from covering the multisport events, meeting people from around the world and being involved in fantastic sporting events. This obviously meant that the London 2012 Olympics would be my ultimate goal. I went through 2 different interviews and got assigned to the hockey. The atmosphere and experience of the London Olympics is impossible to describe and I am so fortunate and grateful to have been a part of it. Highlights include meeting Eddie Izzard, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) and watching GB women winning Bronze. I am disappointed that I have not been able to get involved in the Commonwealth Games due to current work commitments, but I am able to cheer on many friends I have made that are there.

  

I moved to Cheltenham in 2011 to work with a different rugby team, work part time for the NATO base in Gloucester and teach at the University of Gloucestershire. This was a fantastic experience and gave me an insight into being in the Army and Army life. It incorporated my interest in sports injuries and trauma, maintained my inability to stay in one place for too long, allowed me to continue travelling and work with different people, cultures and nationalities, and yet has the stability of a permanent job. The 2 year process to join was one of the hardest things I have done and required determination, resolve and perseverance. After many assault courses, bruises, assessments, interviews, essays and exams I finally made it through to the final interview.

From 500 applicants to 8. I don’t know whether it was luck or just shows how far reaching the grip of Hymers is, but one of my interviewers was an old Hymerian from Swanland. I was instantly more at ease. I got the call to say pack your bags and say goodbye to your loved ones, you are off to Sandhurst! I had never even considered cadets at Hymers, but here I was and I was loving it. As a Professionally Qualified Officer I only had to do 3 months. However, this was just as tough as we had to fit the standard 44 weeks into 12. There was a lot of crawling through the mud, digging holes in the ground to sleep in, polishing boots at 3 in the morning, walking in step, surviving on minimal sleep, getting shouted at, doing exercise until your feet bleed and your arms don’t move and shooting rifles.

I paraded in front of the famous Old College Steps on my Commissioning Parade in front of my family, with Captain pips and a brown suit hiding a thousand cuts, bruises and scratches, every one worth it and proud as punch. This has been my biggest achievement to date and one year in I am thoroughly enjoying my job. I still can’t stay away from the sports though and I am now the Army Rugby League Lead Physiotherapist. I have completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Physiotherapy and hope to complete the MSc next year. 

At every step in my career I have met someone from Hymers or someone who has had an association with it. This is testament to the successful young adults that the school produces and I am sure, will continue to produce. I look forward to meeting those to follow on their way through.  

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Holly Platten (at Hymers 2001 – 2008)

 "Life is Either a Daring Adventure, or Nothing” (Helen Keller)

After leaving Hymers in 2008, I ventured down to London to enjoy the delights of pioneering the South whilst studying Physiotherapy at King’s College London. As three years flew past and graduation grew imminently near, I needed a plan. Having not taken a gap year I wanted to at least escape Europe for a little while, and with the recession nibbling away at chances of employment I gathered it was time to step into the real world. I applied for a volunteer teaching program in Thailand for six weeks; this included a one week fast track Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course and five weeks of living in with a host family, teaching English in a local school and absorbing the real Asian culture. I aced the interview, drained the remnants of a student loan, revised for (and procrastinated through) my finals successfully, and most surprisingly secured the perfect job before the adventure was upon me! I met my new friends at Heathrow airport, at an ungodly hour on a Thursday morning as we plunged into the unknown bonding over airport security, naked body scans and our anticipations for the six weeks ahead.

Following a sixteen hour flight to Bangkok via Mumbai; numerous curries, films and another continent later we arrived in Bangkok. Our visas were sufficient, deportation was unlikely. We were each adequately unprepared with barely any information to guide our expectations (this, according to the co-director, was all part of the recruitment strategy).

So we began our journey with a casual bowl of noodles for breakfast, neon colored beverages and confused body clocks; overcome by the sights, the smells and the vibrancy of what we had entered. The following day we took a seven hour coach ride to the island of Koh Chang, where we were to stay for the following week studying TEFL. We lived in bamboo huts on the seafront, had a swimming pool overlooking the ocean, a private beach (almost) and an open plan balcony with glorious views of our surroundings for lessons: Paradise?

The teaching was daily and fun packed, with regular "cooling” (swimming and milkshake) breaks. TEFL training focuses mainly on numerous forms of communication and teaching without translation through a variety of different skills transferable to any career; invaluable for anyone interested in a medical or health professional career path. Many of the volunteers had no intention of pursuing a career in teaching, and instead were looking to discover new skills, explore Asia and be part of a volunteering project benefiting the local Thai community.

Our introduction to teaching soon came to a close, and we flew to Chiang Mai to meet, and move in with, our host families. The friends we had made remained in travelling distance, some were to live in pairs, but many of us (again unprepared) were placed alone with the families. The first week proved a daunting prospect for us all as we faced another month challenging our comfort zones, and the teaching was yet to begin! I was placed with a family local to Sapothong in Chiang Mai province. They spoke very limited English, had two children, and a vast garden with a crop field and a fishing lake. Our conversations were generally made up of pointing, demonstrating and laughing. Most days I would climb into the car heading to a destination unknown. Over the weeks I spent at the home I quickly became an integral member of the family. Their laid back approach to life was happily accepted, I was given the freedom to do as I pleased in the evenings. The Project team provided steadfast support as it was easy for those of us living alone within families to feel distanced in the evenings, yet after school I would practice Muay Thai boxing, go to the markets, help with traditional dinner, meet with other volunteers and exhausted - early to bed.

I spent the weekends riding elephants, visiting temples including Wat Pan Sow (the holiest temple in Chiang Mai), wandering around evening markets, gawping and tasting the local foods (namely insects on sticks/ in paper bags/ BBQ’d…), enjoying craft markets, bamboo rafting, eating delicious food, drinking from coconuts, taking boat trips in the Shrilanna national park (Mae Tang), and VIP audience Muay Thai boxing in Chiang Mai city.

Overall this was an experience of a lifetime. It differs from your generic "travelling gap year” and my experience will be individual from all of the volunteers I was there with. It has added a wealth of qualities and experience to my CV; a charity background, volunteer work, communication skills, working with children, pushing beyond the comfort zone, culture awareness, demonstration of accepting and overcoming difficult situations, awareness of equality and diversity, development of others. All of these qualities add to employability raising the calibre of you as a candidate and challenging what others can offer. What could you give to a charity like Experience Teaching Abroad and what could you take away from that experience?

Having been on the career ladder for over 8 months now I am able to realize the importance of such opportunities; they allow the space for you to revitalize, home in on your ambitions, appreciate what you have and help you refocus on what you really want. After all, you’ll never be as young as you are today; so take the chance whilst you’ve got the time, you never know – you might just enjoy it.

Holly is currently working as an Orthopaedic Physiotherapist at the Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust.


 

 

Sean Scott (at Hymers 1996 – 2006)

My name is Sean Scott and I started Hymers in 1996 by virtue of the Assisted Places Scheme supported by the Government of that time, otherwise I would have never have had the opportunity to do what I’m doing today. I left after a fantastic 10 years in 2006 and here’s what I’ve been doing since.

My final years at Hymers were some of the best; being placed 2nd in the European stages of Young Enterprise in Oslo, Norway (still a record for the UK); winning the national CIMA competition 2007 and being a finalist in the Ogden Trust Business Competition. My personal efforts awarded me the title of ‘Next Generation Entrepreneur of the Year 2007’ at the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, presented by Adrian Chiles.

These events led to an offer of a two week interview at JP Morgan placed at their Centre of Excellence in Bournemouth. I was subsequently offered a job in the Actuary division but turned it down. I had worked hard to achieve 4 A’s at A Level and received a place at my first choice Warwick University studying International Business with Spanish. I again turned that down and took a career as an Entrepreneur.

 I started a business called Socks On with a fellow Old Hymerian, Daniel Burton and Edward Boyes in 2006. We had some significant national success in a matter of months with appearances in Esquire Magazine (meeting Girls Aloud during the photo shoot) and being interviewed on the Richard and Judy Show (search "Edge Richard and Judy” on Youtube). But with Daniel going to LSE and Edward going to Oxford, Socks On was wound down, but my career in e-commerce, which Socks On was primarily based, was to continue.

Whilst running Socks On I used my step-brother’s office space where he ran his business. That eventually led to a job offer which became 3 years working in the world of Industrial Flooring Installations – the sort of floors that the likes of Smith & Nephew, Greencore and Roach Bros use. Within two years we won the industry award for Contractor of the Year 2008, and we were on the shortlist in the National Construction Industry Awards 2008. With my step-brother emigrating to Australia I set up in the same industry by myself but with the addition of selling my own unique products to the market.

My first recruit was an Old Hymerian, James Dawson (at Hymers 1998 - 2006), who helped found the Vuba Group. We created a sophisticated e-commerce platform and nationally distributed catalogue. The business has grown from my living room and almost no start-up capital, to a warehouse off Witty Street with a net profit in six figures this financial year. We export to 15 countries including to the US Military in Kuwait; we have a distributor of our products in Antrim, Northern Ireland and are in the process of setting up a base in Poland with Vuba Zaopatrzenie. Another Old Hymerian, James Cameron (at Hymers 2005 - 2007), is doing an excellent job as our accountant. We won several local awards in 2010, and were shortlisted for New Business of the Year by ‘The Business Desk’.

Besides building the Vuba Group, my job has given me a love of travelling, having clocked up over 200,000 miles of UK and European car travelling (enough to circle the globe 8.33 times!). I’m currently midway through studying to achieve my Pilot’s License at Humberside Airport and Coastal Skipper License. I still volunteer as an advisor for Young Enterprise at various Hull Schools, guiding the Hymers team ‘Tops Off’ to the National Finals in 2008.

Two of my old teachers have had a big influence on my post Hymers life. The first, Mr Gravelle, helped give me my passion for business. The second, Doña Isabel once told me she’d like to see me start a business in Spain, and from that moment I’ve always been determined to run a business internationally. ‘Vuba Suministros’, a branch of our business directed at Spain is already taking shape and I hope to let her know her efforts to make me study ‘Réquiem por un campesino español’, weren’t entirely in vain.


 

 

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