As is traditional on Speech Day, the outgoing Head Boy and Girl addressed the whole school community including fellow Oakhamians, parents, staff, the Headmaster and Trustees. Their speeches were well received, and for many, were the much-anticipated highlight of the ceremony.
They both described the honour of holding positions at the head of the School. Meghan highlighted a little known fact that “more or less every year one or both of the Head Boy and Head Girl has happened to be a prominent hockey player”. This year was certainly no exception, with both Meghan and Hamish playing first team hockey.
In time-honoured fashion, much of their speeches focused on their successes and failures over the years at Oakham. Hamish confessed to never quite reaching his potential – in particular the shame of never growing to fill the oversized blazer his mother purchased for him at the beginning of Form 3. Meghan referred to her ‘malapropisms’, as well as some of her house ‘failures’, notably the ‘day of sporting non-achievement’ that is Sports Day for Hambleton House.
On a more serious note, Hamish outlined how “education, or growing up generally, is not all about successes: it’s also about learning from our failures”. He stated “I think that one of the great things about Oakham is that it provides an environment in which our mistakes aren’t allowed to define us, but in which we are encouraged to persevere until we get it right. I believe it’s said that ‘we learn more from our failings than we do from our successes’. I am certainly not advocating making mistakes, but it’s a saying that I urge all Oakhamians to consider, because it’s only if you have the confidence to fail that you can ever hope to succeed in the longer term.”
Meghan took the time to outline just how much of a “privilege it had been to be Head Girl of such a great school”. Mainly because “it has been a lot of fun – and that’s because I have been surrounded by such a brilliant group of people.” She particularly praised the support she’d received from her deputy and the rest of the Decem team.
Both also took time to thank the teachers who have supported them during their time at Oakham. Hamish thanked those who helped him “find his path” and “all those who have helped the Class of 2017 find their different ways”. He gave a special mention to Mr Hayes: “As for so many generations of Oakhamians before us, Mr Hayes has passed on to my generation an immense passion for cricket, establishing a special bond between us that will remain long after we have left.” Meghan focused on the sources of teaching inspiration she has encountered during her time at Oakham, most notably the “incredible” Mrs Greaves. She described how her ‘house-mum’, Sue Healey, was “the best we could possibly have had, always supportive and always on hand with a word of good advice when we needed it”. She also played tribute to Val Harvey, on behalf of the Class of 2017, many of whom knew him as the Master of Jerwoods in their earlier years, and “who have all benefited greatly from his guidance.”
Whilst Hamish urged all the pupils in the lower years to “make the very best of Oakham while you can”, Meghan levelled her advice to next year’s incoming Decem: “Don’t be fooled. They tell you the Decem is all about hosting champagne receptions and enjoying high tea with the Headmaster. But in truth it mainly involves car park duties and looking after the younger years at events.”
Finally, Hamish also used his speech as an opportunity to think about what defines an Oakhamian. He concluded that “it’s summed up in the idea of finding your own path.” This was indeed a fitting summary for Speech Day, given the wide range of talents on display that showcased just how successful all our students have been in finding their own particular path.