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News > Old Girls' News > Old Boys' at Francis Holland School

Old Boys' at Francis Holland School

Francis Holland used to accept boys in the kindergarten and junior school, until around the age of 8 when it was time to move on to prep school. We have been looking at entrants registers and found four Francis Holland old boys.

1. Peter Opie.  Along with his sister (also at FHS), he is the most renown folklorist of our age. His exploration of oral traditions and nursery rhymes is most interesting, and his book is recommended wholeheartedly.
2. Tony Benn. He was at our school alongside his brother David in the late 20s for a couple of years before going on to boarding school.  
3.  David Sheppard. Bishop of Liverpool and a rather good cricketer, David is the late uncle of alumna Sarah Maxwell (class of 1973) and was a pupil in the kindergarten. His full title was Rt Revd Lord and his biography by Andrew Bradstock – ‘David Sheppard, batting for the poor’ was published a year or two ago by SPCK.
4.  And lastly, Mr Duncan Strachan. An old boy born in 1922, still alive at the age of 98 years old, which makes him quite possibly contender for the oldest Francis Holland alumnus!

If you have any stories relating to Francis Holland Old Boys', we'd love to hear from you! Please get in touch at

Alumnus Tim O'Rorke has kindly sent in his recollections of his time at the School:
I was sent to FHS aged about five or six, after the war ended, to join my sister Sally who is a couple of years older than me. I don't remember much about it. Standout memories include sitting in a semi-circle with the other children, being taught the alphabet. The teacher held up a card with a letter printed on it, and we all had to say 'dee' or 'Gee' etcetera, depending on the letter, accompanied by the appropriate noise. I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Apart from that, a girl peeing in the middle of class and the rude version of ' Oh dear what can the matter be/ three old ladies stuck in the lavatory......' not much remains. 
Apparently, When I returned home after my first day at school, my mother asked how it had gone and whether I had made any new friend and to both questions I replied positively. The next day she started getting me ready for my return but I announced I didn't want to go back. 'But you'll see your new friends again' she said in encouragement. 'I saw them all yesterday' I replied. No one had explained to me that there were 'term' and 'holidays'. My worldly ignorance at that time now amazes me.
There was another boy, Hugo Rallie (Raleigh?) who was there with me. Only the name lingers.

Just to add to your list of 'Old Boys'....

My great uncle, Ernest Thesiger (CBE), born 142 Sloane Street on 15 January 1879, attended FHS.  My brother John Thesiger tells me a previous FHS archivist has very kindly provided him with archive material about his attendance, including a photocopy of the application form completed by his father on January 24 1885.  John also had access to several pages from Dunning, Beatrix (ed) 'Graham Street Memories'.  My brother was also able to confirm that Ernest's mother, Lady Thesiger, was on the school committee.

Ernest went on to Preparatory School in Weybridge, and to Marlborough College.  He trained at the Slade, served in the trenches in WW1, where he injured his hand, meaning he could no longer be a professional artist.  He became an actor, for which he gained his CBE.  He was also a proficient embroiderer, designing and then stitching his designs.  He contributed 2 tiny 'carpets' for Queen Mary's Doll's House in Windsor Castle.

Anne Towner (née Thesiger) at FHS 1956-69.


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