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John McFall, who was absent when he won the Award last year, was introduced with television footage of his bronze medal win in the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. He sprinted 100 metres with one leg in just 13 seconds. He said: “When I was at Millfield I could not remember anything about quadratic equations. I don’t remember much about Geography. I don’t remember much about History. I’m not saying that those things aren’t important. But for me when I was 13 to 17-years-old the important things were learning about joining in, about interacting with others, about sport, getting involved and being part of wider society. I don’t think there are many schools in the world let alone Britain which can teach you skills such as that better than Millfield. So if I had not gone to Millfield I don’t think I would have been perhaps as well equipped to deal with what life had to throw at me in the future.”
Paul Hutchins, the Davis Cup player and LTA Head of Men’s Tennis, also remembered a feeling of awe and Nissen huts when he arrived at Millfield on a tennis scholarship which meant his family (of modest means) only had to pay £100 a year. “My memories of Millfield are of my father’s A 40 car being very modest and coming to Parents Day and being in awe to start with of all the very wealthy people here and their wonderful cars. It took me quite a long time to settle in but once I had got over this, I really enjoyed my years at Millfield. Coming down in the car today I was thinking: ‘What has Millfield done for me?’ It has forced a character on me and without Millfield I definitely would not have achieved all that I have achieved albeit very modestly in my sport of tennis. I would not have been such a good player, I would not have travelled so much, I would not have gone to the LTA.”
Judge Barbara Mensah, who won the award for being the first Circuit Judge from African origin, said: “Thirty years ago when I first arrived here I was completely awestruck by the fame, wealth and talent of my fellow pupils.” She described how she had come from a small girls’ boarding school. But Millfield made her more independent and focussed. She also found her husband-to-be (a fellow pupil) and decided that Medicine was not the subject for her and to do Law.
Sir Roger Gibbs (1952-53; Kingweston) left Millfield in 1953 to take up a job as goods porter at Oxford Railway Station. The next year he used his experience of gambling, horse-racing and deal-making at Millfield to gain a job in a small discount house. Twenty years later he became Chairman of Gerrard and National, the largest traditional money market house. In 1989 he became Chairman of the Wellcome Trust and transformed it in just 10 years from a minor national organisation into the world’s biggest medical research charity with assets of over £14billion. Other successes included raising £40 million for St Paul’s Cathedral and a record sum of £440,000 when he ran in the 1982 London Marathon after being severely ill from cancer. Sir Roger said his debt to Millfield was immense. “I arrived at Kingweston as a wilting rather disappointing stick of asparagus and I left feeling so much more confident and even being able to express myself adequately from time to time. I owe Millfield so much and I really do think of Millfield very very often.”He described how he spent his early teenage years at Eton hanging on by the skin of his teeth. “They told my parents that they could not do anything more for me, I was a lost cause and I would have to go somewhere else.” Luckily his inspirational parents had the good sense to choose Millfield.“I arrived at Millfield and came to a school where the formula for education was light years ahead of other schools. At Eton, along with other major schools, we were all in classes of 25 to 30 people – those with no potential, some potential, big potential were all treated the same and late developers came off worst. It was a pretty hopeless system but you came here and you found that you were in a class of 7 or 8 boys and girls and you were taught by absolutely magical people like Robert Bolt and John Paxton. I owe those two people and Boss Meyer so much.”He described how he became the school’s bookmaker one Derby Day, ousting Boss Meyer from the role, because he offered better odds without the Boss knowing it, but the great man soon guessed who was probably the culprit.“I was sent for and we had quite a strong interview. He said ‘but how did you make money out of this?’ I explained the technicalities of it all. He said: ‘You are so ingenious. I am so impressed but for goodness sake concentrate your ingenuity on your work and not on your betting. One final thing: you think that you are the school bookmaker but you are not. There is one bookmaker here and that’s me and it’s always going to be me!”
David Luckes is a Triple Hockey Olympian and one of the key members of the team that won London’s Olympic bid for 2012 and of the team preparing for it. He was almost lost trying to find where to park his car having flown in late the previous night. “When I arrived here this morning, bleary-eyed, I did not realise that the whole car parking structure had changed and that there were multiple buildings where there used to be car parks.” Impressed like the others by the three water-based artificial pitches and other Millfield facilities, he said: “Millfield is a microcosm of what we are doing on the Olympic front and it shares similar values, shares the values that everyone should seek in terms of personal achievement: to be the best that they can be whether that is winning Olympic medals or simply competing.”
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