Evensong and Picnic Mark Stephen Cole’s Retirement
Since Stephen Cole announced his retirement at the start of the academic year there have been a number of occasions and events marking his 21 years as Headmaster of Woodbridge School. The rendition of A Gaelic Blessing, sung at the end of the senior school carol service by scores of former members of the Chamber Choir, and the evening at Snape Maltings celebrating 21 years of school music will both linger particularly long in the memory.
The retirement events culminated over the last two weeks of term with Evensong at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on 22 June and, a week later, “Picnic in the Park”.
The Foundation and the School were honoured to be granted the opportunity by the Dean and Chapter of the cathedral to celebrate at Evensong Stephen Cole’s years at Woodbridge . The Dean, the Very Reverend Frances Ward, spoke in glowing terms of Stephen Cole’s contribution to the school and the community; Roger Finbow, chairman of the Seckford governors, gave a tribute; the Head Boy, George Cook and the Head Girl Chloe Hembry read the lessons; and the School Chamber Choir sang My Soul There Is A Country . It was a magical occasion culminating in tea in the cathedral cloisters for the thousand or so worshippers comprising current and former pupils, parents and friends.
The final public opportunity to bid farewell to the Headmaster was a week later, when a crowd of over 1500 gathered in front of the cricket pavilion for a picnic, accompanied by the School’s Swing Band. It was intended that speeches and presentations would take place there, but the weather was a little unkind, the heavens opening at about the time hampers were being packed away. Fortunately, the Bursar was able to implement Plan B, with everyone decamping to the sports dome which had been the venue for the leavers’ Ball the night before but was mercifully both empty and still beautifully dressed from the previous evening. So deck chairs, picnic tables and rugs were reassembled there. Roger Finbow began the formal proceedings with a tribute to Stephen and Jane Cole, following which George Cook, Head of School, gave a magnificent and haunting flute recital of “The Great Train Race”. Michael Streat, deputy head, gave his own tribute, , and after presentations to Stephen and Jane, Stephen took to the microphone to reflect on his years in the school. He had, he said, enjoyed every single minute.
The standing ovation for the Coles was long, heartfelt and loud as could be, making the afternoon a fitting finale to 21 glorious years.