Alumni Area > Roll Call

Here are the details of some of our former pupils describing their achievements and successes since leaving The Chorister School.

David Amos
Attended from 1981 to 1988

Since leaving Durham Chorister school in 1988, I went to Uppingham until 1993. Having gained my A-Levels I took a gap year in order to travel for four months before attending the Royal Scottish Academy of Dramatic Art where I gained an HND in Technical Theatre. Since then I have been lucky enough to work in numerous theatres including Perth Rep, Dundee Rep, and the Orange Tree in Richmond, Surrey. I am presently working at a Sixth Form College called "Hurtwood House" near Dorking as their Technical Manager. I would love to hear from any choristers that were around 1981-1988.

Rowan Atkinson

Attended from 1964 to 1966

The actor who is known all over the world as Mr Bean attended the school as a boarder from September 1964 until 1966, and then a dayboy until July 1968. He was in Langley House, the youngest of three brothers, and went on with an exhibition to St Bees School.

In this photograph taken in November 1998 he is in our music room with one of our former choristers, having decided to pay the school a visit. The children were amazed to see Mr Bean coming into their classrooms. Their eyes widened, their mouths opened ... they grabbed their pencils and their paper and asked for autographs. He signed several.

The Prime Minister, The Right Honourable A C Blair, MP.

Attended from 1961 to 1966

Mr Blair attended the school from September 1961 until July 1966. He was in Pudsey House. He attended the school as a dayboy, as did his elder brother, William. . In 1993, as the Labour MP for Sedgefield, he returned to the school to open the new Pre Prep department. In July 1994 he was elected leader of the Labour Party and on May 1st 1997 he became Prime Minister, and was elected for a second term on June 7th 2001.

Mr Blair has returned to Durham from time to time; he lived in the College as a small child, and has said that he regards Durham Cathedral as his spiritual home.

Rowan Atkinson and James Fenton both overlapped with Tony Blair at the school.

Rear Admiral J A Burch, CBE

Attended from 1957 to 1962

Jonathan Burch was a dayboy from 1957 until 1962, and went on to Durham School with a King�s Scholarship. He is now Director General Aircraft (Navy) at the Ministry of Defence.

John Burdekin

Attended from 1959 to 1961

John Burdekin was a chorister from September 1959 until 1961, and a member of Flambard House. He was Assistant Conductor at the Paris Opera House and is now a freelance conductor based in Marseilles.

Incidentally the school record for throwing a cricket ball set in 1960 by Adrian Burdekin, John's brother, still stands! Adrian's son Conrad visited the school in June 2001 and was amazed to discover that we knew a lot about his father and his uncle, and that his father's name remained proudly on the Athletics notice board as a record holder.

James Fenton

Attended from 1957 to 1962

Poet, war correspondent and journalist, James Fenton has worked for The Times, The Guardian, The Independent and The New Statesman. Elected Newdigate Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1994, his published volumes of poetry include The Memory of War and Children in Exile (1983) and Out of Danger (1993). James Fenton was spoken of as a possible successor to Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate in 1999, but was said not to wish to be considered.

James Fenton was at the school as a chorister and a member of Langley House from September 1957 until December 1962.

Tony Fox
Attended from 1956 to 1961

Tony writes:

"I joined the Choir in 1956, coming from another school in Manchester now famous for music - Chethams School. I was keen to sing in Manchester Cathedral but the Choirmaster (Alan Wicks who went on to Canterbury Cath) and my dad (who was an Odeon Cinema Organist in his youth, and Organist at our village church in Worsley) conspired to send me up to Durham ! Actually I was glad at the time as I sometimes had to walk to school wearing a smog mask - before the Clean Air Act, I was a boy from the blackstuff.

Jumping on, I managed to survive 5 years at school - despite a fall over the school staircase and having to sing a ten minute Latin Grace before the Judges of Assize in the Deanery. I was proud to leave as Head Chorister in 1961, and my second favourite job about the Cathedral was having to check for breakages in the Rose Window, and report them to the Cherk of Works office. After Durham School where I learned to play the double bass and shared a study with Rod Clements (in Poole House) who went onto play his famous fretless bass in the band Lindisfarne. I went to join the theatre in London, studying at RADA and working at Hampstead Theatre but never met John Burdekin who was a Chorus Master of Sadlers Wells Opera while I was Director of the Bloomsbury Theatre where all the London orchestras performed. In my spare time I taught movement with special needs teachers which took me to Portugal, working with the World Bank project in teacher training.

Coming back to Birmingham in 1978 I did post-grad study in educational technology - which explains my interest/ notes on ICT - and taught film studies, worked in the community including playschemes, unemployed youth, and older people, before now working for the new Govt Office and Regional Development Agency for West Midlands as a Regeneration Officer. My wife Gill who teaches history and is Senior Teacher at a local school enjoyed meeting some Choristers old and new at the last DCOCA get together. We reminded Mr Crosby that he was a newly qualified teacher in the mid 50s - now the choir of '56-61 are all ' 50 Somethings'. It is good to see so many on the Alumni pages.' "

Mr Fox will happily exchange news with other OCs.

Paddy, Nick, Richard And Tim Hall

Attended from 1958 to 1963

The Halls have made contact recently via Paddy, who was at Choristers from 1958 until 1963, a member of Flambard (Brian Crosby, their housemaster, tells me) as were his three brothers. Richard and Tim both now live in Halifax, as does Paddy; Nick lives with his family in San Francisco.

Paddy found the school site while surfing around and emailed with this brief update on the family.

Christopher Haughton
Attended from 1963 to 1967

Chris Haughton (1963 - 1967 - Flambard) sang on the first (?) 45 Single Record produced in 1967 and has still got a very scatched copy. Now bass in the Lancaster Singers (and sang with them in the Cathedral in August). After a career in the Merchant Navy with Cunard, he moved into maritime education and is now Head of Maritime Operations at Blackpool and The Fylde College, training today's seafarers. Regrettably he finds the 60s lot a bit thin on the ground, but via the website has reeastablished contact with Peter Botcherby after 25 years.

Daniel Hyde

Attended from 1987 to 1993

Dan Hyde was a chorister from 1987 until 1993 and went on with a Music Scholarship to Oakham, obtaining his FRCO there.
Having been assistant organist at Perth Cathedral, Australia, he came back to Durham as Organ Scholar for a year in September 1999 and did a great deal in and around the Cathedral, including helping Dr Jeremy Dibble conduct the Durham University Consort of Voices and contributing to a CD of organ music called 'Melody and Medley', the other contributors being James Lancelot and Keith Wright, the Cathedral's organist and sub-organist. Dan took up the post of Organ Scholar at King's College, Cambridge in September 2000.

If you would like a copy of the CD please email the Durham Cathedral Choir Association via the link on the Cathedral's website at . If you live near Durham simply call in at the Chapter Office and find the Precentor, who will sell you a copy for �13.99.

Stuart And Richard Harbinson

Attended from 1955 to 1961

Richard Harbinson is spending a year out in Argentina (January 1999) and his e-mail address starts with the letters beardedwonder, of which we can make what we will.

His father, Stuart Harbinson OBE, was a dayboy in Pudsey from 1955 - 1961 before going to Durham School with a King's Scholarship and then on to a distinguished career as a diplomat.

Michael Kipling

Attended from 1988 to 1995

Michael writes:

"Dear old Choristers,

Since I am rather pleased with myself, I thought I may as well proclaim myself as having recently had a lucky break since leaving the school. My name is Michael Kipling, and I attended the school between 1988-1995, my achievement is one that may rub rather against the grain with some of the more proud Englishmen among you (until you see the result that is). During my time at the school I was very ably coached by Mr John Bland: and yet, despite being the perennial 2ndXV captain (tries hard but never quite makes it), I never made the 1stXV in any more than a gap filling capacity. I always thought I was good enough to make the grade in the pressure-cooker environment of an under-12s scrum (myself being then a rather portly young individual and hence a tighthead prop). However, my dream was never realised, and despite my feeling incredibly unfulfilled I left the school for the Newcastle Royal Grammar School in 1995.

Here I suddenly sprouted from the young porker I had been so well fed to be by the kitchen staff at Choristers, to a healthy size and discovered I could actually run more than 15 yards with the ball in hand without keeling over in a breathless, nay LIFELESS, heap. My rugby career then started to take off, and despite a number of bizarre positional changes including my playing a large proportion of games on the right wing, I finally settled as the schools 1stXV second-row a year early at the age of 16. During this time I also played for the West Hartlepool junior academy (R.I.P), and was approached by the Newcastle Falcons for their own equivalent (how I now regret the heart, rather than head-based decision to turn them down as West folded the next season). Since then I have turned 18 and applied to study medicine at St. George's Hospital Medical school in London, to which I have been accepted.

During this time I responded to an advert in Rugby World magazine, for Irish qualified players based in England. This was to lead to the assembly of an Irish Exiles U19 squad that is a breeding ground for an U21 team that competes in the Inter-Provincial championship in Ireland. I qualify (as I am sure many of my contempories and teachers will remember all too vividly) through my thoroughly Irish mother, Joan Kipling (ne.O'Connor), and was thrilled to receive an invitation to a selection day. Having negotiated this day of torture (which left me confined to bed for three days sponging attention from my mother), I was even more pleased to receive a call up to play for them in two matches this season, which I accordingly did; the first a narrow loss to a settled Brunel University team containing 8 internationals, and the second (Which is the catalyst for my writing this piece) against the England Students Under 19 team. This was the greatest honour of my life, and to dump tackle my opposite number, who stood at 6'7" and 17 stones, a good 5 inches taller and 3 stones heavier than myself, felt great. I proceeded to run the legs off myself, only to see the final whistle signal a 42-6 victory to the enemies in white (such is life!). I did after all say that the result would be better liked!

To have played for a representative team against an internatinal team of such standard and recognition was the highlight of my rugby career, and I would never have attained it had it not been for the honest hard work ethic, and "never give-up" attitude imbued into myself by the dedication and love of the game shown to us by John Bland and John Keys. To these finest of rugby gentlemen I remain eternally grateful, and hope to see them in the near future at one of the DCOCA's dinners. I sign off by saying that I still think we were robbed, and it was only a few late tries that.............And so to the current 2ndXv captain, I wish good luck, and to the rest of your good selves, I hope to see you at the next DCOCA dinner. Yours M.Kipling.

(P.S I wish all my old teachers well, in particular Linda Lawrence, who once said of me that despite the fact that she couldn't read my homework, she was sure there was some quality in there somewhere and gave me a B accordingly!)."

The Rt Hon Lord Justice Laws

Attended from 1953 to 1959

Sir John Laws started at the school in September 1953 and left in March 1959. He was a dayboy and went on to Durham School with a King�s Scholarship. He was a High Court Judge between 1992 and 1999, when he came to the Court of Appeal.

Speaking at the Luncheon in the Great Hall at Durham Castle following Matins for the Courts on July 11th 1999 Sir John revealed that he was the only boy known to have coxed his crew into one of the arches of Prebends Bridge, rather than through it; and the only one to play for the XV and emerge at the end with clean knees. Regrettably these heroic exploits were achieved while he was at Durham School; presumably it was in deference to the Headmaster of The Chorister School, who was also at the luncheon, that he forbore to delight his audience with similar exploits at a younger age.

Sir Donald Limon

Attended from 1942 to 1945

Donald Limon was at the school as a chorister from October 1942 until December 1945. He became Assistant Clerk to the House of Commons in 1956 and then Clerk to the House of Commons, from which position he has recently retired.

He retains his interest in Durham Cathedral and, with his wife, is a member of the Durham Cathedral Choir Association.

Paddy MacDee

Attended from 1958 to 1963

Patrick McDermott was a dayboy at the school from April 1958 until June 1963. He once ran a mobile disco in County Durham. He is now known as Paddy MacDee and is a well-known face on BBC television and a well-known voice on radio in Newcastle, as programme host, newsreader and commentator.

Andrew Potter

Attended from 1958 to 1962

Andrew Potter was a chorister from September 1958 until December 1962, and a member of Pudsey House, proceeding with an academic exhibition to Clifton College. He returned to Durham as a Choral Scholar. He has been publicity officer for the London Symphony Orchestra, promotions manager of the Oxford University Press, general administrator of the Wexford Festival and now combines the post of Director of Music, Trade paperbacks and Bibles publishing at OUP with being Chairman of the Performing Rights Society.

Timothy Popple

Attended from 1990 to 1994

Timothy left The Chorister School in July 1994 and took to singing bass at his next school, but is now singing Alto in the choir at Carlisle Cathedral.

Tim writes:

"I have finished the first year of my film course, which is very interesting! I'm also making use (profit!) of the piano skills honed at Durham, as I am a casual pianist at a local hotel. So you see, music is still prevalent in my world, however much removed from my time at Durham it may be! The tour of the East coast of America last October was a resounding success. It was similar ground covered to the 1994 tour undertaken by Durham. Only, we visited Carlisle, Pa, while it was Durham, NC visited in '94! In news to come, we are singing a Live Choral Evensong in November 2001, as well as the Border Cathedral's Festival in Carlisle this year."

Dr Owen Saxton

Attended from 1960 to 1962

Owen Saxton was in the school from 1960 until 1962 as a dayboy and a member of Pudsey House. He then won the top scholarship to Glenalmond and subsequently a scholarship to St John�s College, Cambridge, to read Physics and Theoretical Physics, in which he took a first. His Ph D in 1975 was in Electron Microscopy and his career thereafter has been based at Cambridge.

He was awarded the Ernst Ruska Prize, offered every four years for the biggest contribution to Electron Microscopy across Europe, in 1996. Since 1983 he has been a tutor at New Hall College, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate physicists as well as continuing his own research, examining doctoral and masters� theses, and, amongst other non-academic interests, playing the organ.

Dr Peter Scott

Attended from 1955 to 1960

Peter Scott was a boarder and a member of Langley House, from 1955 until 1960 and went on to Glenalmond school on a scholarship. He has been Professor of Education at Leeds University and Editor of The Times Higher Educational Supplement; he is now Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University.

Peter Silver
Attended from 1988 to 1994

Peter Silver (Chorister 1988 - 1994) sends news that he and three other OCs (Leo Batchelor, 1990-93, Richard Allen 1988 - 1993, Alex Bozic 1989 - 1994) now comprise a band called Portnoy, in which Peter's sister (not an Old Chorister, sadly) sings.

Peter went from Choristers to Edinburgh Academy and is moving to Huddersfield University to become a sound engineer. Leo studies English and History at Glasgow, where Richard also studies English, History and Philosophy. Alex is a Mechanical Engineer. We look forward to his emergence as the Old Choristers' answer to Anthony Gormley.

John C N Slater, Q.C.

Attended from 1954 to 1959

John Slater was a dayboy in Flambard House from 1954 until 1959. His was called to the Bar in 1969. His first �leading brief� was in a long fraud trial at the Central Criminal Court; since then he has specialised in Commercial and Common Law civil work.

He took silk in 1987 and is now Head of Chambers, Recorder of the Crown Court, Deputy High Court Judge and Arbitrator, both domestic and international.

Tim Slatter

Attended from 1978 to 1983

Tim Slatter was a chorister at Durham Cathedral from 1978 - 1983, along with his twin brother Alec. He is now a full time proffessional artist, an etcher, living and working in Bedale.

He graduated from The University of Kingston, London, with a B.A. (Hons) in Illustration. He works from his studio, and goes into the Dales, and onto the moor, to draw from life. He uses steel etching plates: the image is acid-bitten into the steel, the plate is then aquatinted, and adjusted with diamond tipped tools. Colours and textures are added with ink, then more colour is added with a large roller. Handmade paper is laid onto the plate and then run through three tons of pressure on an etching press, producing the final print.

Tim was awarded a Princes Trust Bursary 1999, and a Northern Arts Bursary 2000.He was a Northern Finalist in the 2000 Shell Livewire Young Business of the Year Awards . He has 16 Etchings in the Permanent Collection of the Houses of Lords and Commons, also artwork in the Collections of Railtrack, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, and Bank Julius Baer. Tim Slatter�s work is featured in �Dales Diary� for Tyne Tees Television. He has exhibited at numerous exhibitions including two Joint shows at Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers, Leeds, a one-man show at Lotherton Hall, and a one-man at the Pyramid Gallery, York. The Prince of Wales opened the first of two one-man Shows at the Princes Trust Head Office, London. Also two joint shows at the Mall Galleries, London and a three-man at Bank Paribas, New York City. Also two shows in January 2002 in India - Calcutta then Delhi with the British council.

Sir Peter Vardy

Attended from 1956 to 1961

Peter Vardy was a chorister in Skirlaw House from January 1956 until March 1961. He is now Company Chairman of Reg Vardy plc, the motorcar business which his father started and which is now a household name in the North East and, indeed, all over the country.

Peter Vardy was honoured by her Majesty in the 2001 Birthday Honours.

Dr Dyfri Williams

Attended from 1960 to 1965

Dyfri Williams was a dayboy in Langley House from 1960 until 1965. He won a scholarship to Repton School. He is Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum.

James Wood

Attended from 1973 to 1979

James Wood was a chorister from 1973 until 1979, and won a scholarship to Eton. He has been chief literary critic of The Guardian, and was a Booker Prize judge in 1997. In January 1999 he published a volume of essays in literary criticism, The Broken Estate, which was very favourably reviewed by John Bayley in The Times and whose introductory pages allude to Mr Wood's time at The Chorister School.