The road to writing Henry Cecil’s book is taking me to some interesting places. This week it will be Newmarket again, next week it will be his family home at Crathes Castle near Aberdeen. On Monday it was Sunningdale Prep School just five miles from Ascot where Henry (Cecil Major) went with his twin brother David (Cecil Minor) as seven year olds in 1950.
The weather was a lot wetter than when the newly knighted Sir Henry rode opposite the Queen at the head of the royal procession on Friday but the welcome was warm enough from the headmaster Tom Dawson, the son of one of the two Dawson twins who were joint headmasters in Henry’s time. His father (as an identical twin) should have fascinating memories as to how Henry and his brother coped with what, according to Henry’s 1985 book On The Level, was not a very happy time for them.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of that, Sunningdale are proud enough of their ex pupil now and a caricature of H Cecil in Ascot kit has pride of place in the gents loo alongside a couple of distinguished academics and former headmasters. On the wall in the main passage there is a picture of what was Sunningdale’s worst ever First X1 soccer. 1956 : played 13, lost 13, goals for 8, against 63. H Cecil was goalie and got his colours for being the busiest man in the team. They lost the opening match to Ludgrove by the somewhat conclusive margin of 10-0 and things didn’t improve much afterwards.
I have taken home photocopies of all kinds of school lists which beg for a time capsule. Amongst the fellow pupils was B (Bamber – “University Challenge”) Gascoigne who won prizes for both singing and fives, and I (Ian “The Saint”) Ogilvy who was top of the General Knowledge Exam with H Cecil languishing 43rd of 66 runners. There must be some rich memories here.