Old Farnhamians' Association

Politics, People & Principles

2003 Lecture

 The Rt. Hon. Virginia Bottomley MP

Friday, 19 September, 2003

Virginia Bottomley has been the Member of Parliament for the SW Surrey Constituency for 20 years, during which period she held senior Government positions, including six years as Secretary of State for Health. With her announced intention to quit parliament at the next election, this was a good time for the 400 Trust to invite her to deliver the Farnham Lecture on the above topic. Although frequently touching on political events and issues, this was not a party political speech, but a well-balanced, reflective discussion of the political process and some examples of the characters who have filled key roles.

Following an introduction by college principal Sally Francis, Mrs Bottomley described her pleasure at being in Farnham College, which had such a well-deserved reputation as one of the country’s best sixth form colleges. This was a continuation of the excellence that had existed in the Grammar Schools from which the college had sprung. It brought to her mind one of the key characters still living in Farnham, George Baxter, who had become the headmaster of Farnham Grammar School fifty years ago. After his successful career in education, he had retired but continued to play an important role in the life of the town.

From this base, her talk ranged over a string of characters from the local, national and international level. Locals current and historical included Sir Ray Tindle, Dame Elizabeth Anson and William Cobbett; national and international figures embraced people such as Sir Keith Joseph (who had greatly influenced her at an early stage of her political career), Margaret Thatcher, Julian Critchley and Nelson Mandela.

The nature of our society was profoundly influenced by the tapestry of people who, rather than passively accepting the state of affairs, took an active role and tried to make a positive difference to the world. We should be equally grateful to those who did this at all levels of society.

The lecture was filled with a stream of amusing quotes and anecdotes that captivated its audience. The question period showed that Mrs Bottomley had not just held their attention for over an hour, but carried her audience every inch of the way. 91-year-old Leonard Evans, a master at Farnham Grammar School for over 25 years, provoked a round of applause by announcing that, despite being a committed socialist, he was one of her greatest admirers and he wanted to thank Mrs Bottomley for being an outstanding MP who had looked after the interests of her constituency with great diligence. Cyril Trust, Chairman of the 400 Trust, closed the event by thanking Mrs Bottomley for a memorable 2003 Farnham Lecture.

Ian Sargeant

L to R: John Crotty, Maurice Sturt, Sally Francis, Cyril Trust, Virginia Bottomley, Roy Robins


400 Trust
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