Winter 2023



Sandy Lodge, Northwood, Middlesex, HA6 2HT Telephone: +44 (0)1923 820644 Email: Editor: Jon Rippier Contributing editors: Nick Latham, Emma Bindloss, Hamish Stewart, Jonny Taylor Photography: Patricia Rayner, Sonal Galaiya, Emma Bindloss, Richard Dixon Designed & produced by: 3Sixty Creative Front cover photo: Lower-Sixth Arkwright Engineering Scholarship winners Zachary Scott, George Killigrew (back), Aaditya Bhandarkar, Rohan Aggarwal (centre), Andrei Antohe and Ciaran Davies (front) in the Design Centre. Photo by Patricia Rayner

George Turner (Lower Sixth) in this year’s senior play, Enron

Dear Reader

I n this edition we lead with a feature on the East African Asian community, which lies at the heart of Merchant Taylors’. On the 50th anniversary of their arrival we recognise their contribution both to the school and to Britain more generally. My sincere thanks to OMTs Ameer Kotecha, Pranai Buddhdev and Zakiy Manji for sharing their families’ stories. May I also commend to you this year’s Archive feature on subject reports. Jonny Taylor’s article illustrates how they go back to the founding statutes of the school in 1561 and changed considerably in the latter part of the twentieth century. Chris Roseblade’s evocative recollection of the SCR of the 1990s captures a time in the school’s recent history which was often mirrored in the written style adopted by staff. As ever, I would like to thank Chris Wilsdon at 3Sixty for all his work in designing the magazine. Jon Rippier (SCR 2003-2023) Editor

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In this issue

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Third Formers on a trip to the Lake District

4 Head Master Simon Everson examines what defines a great education. 6 Ameer Kotecha (2005-2010) considers the contribution and impact of the East African Asian community. 8 Pranai Buddhdev (1997-2002) reflects on his family’s journey from Kenya and the challenges they faced in building a new life. 10 Zakiy Manji (2005-2010) reflects on his family’s journey from Uganda and the wider contribution of the Ismaili community. 12 Charlie Merriman (2006-2011) writes on his award-winning, stand-up comedy show, WONDER DRUG . 14 Max Kendix (2012-2019) recounts his early experiences as a journalist at The Times . 16 Veeru Kasivisvanathan (1996-2003) looks back over his career as a Urological Surgeon. 20 Chris Humphrey (1981-1986) reflects on his passion for photography and how it has led to his second career. 24 The Julian Hill Cricket Centre 26 News from MTS 30 News from MTP 32 History master Jonny Taylor delves into the Archive and considers how report writing has evolved at MTS. 36 Former English master Chris Roseblade (SCR 1994-2015) recalls the Senior Common Room of the 1990s and a very different era of report writing. 44 Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Nick Latham , gives an overview of the year’s activities. 46 The Roll of Benefactors celebrates the generosity of the Merchant Taylors’ School community. 50 Highlights from the re-launch of the Clubs and Societies Fund . 52 The Events Roundup reviews a year of over 50 gatherings. 56 Forthcoming Events gives details of school and OMT Society events now booking. 58 News from OMTs around the world in Class Notes . 62 Obituaries

We have made every attempt to locate copyright ownership of archive photography but have not always succeeded in doing so. Any owner of copyright of individual images is invited to contact the editor.

Supporting MTS To find out more about how you can support the school, please go to: https://development.mtsn.

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The Purpose of Education

Head Master Simon Everson examines what defines a great education.

W e all know that Merchant Taylors’ question. What exactly is a great education? I think that a good education is about well informed and well-intentioned teachers handing on the best that is thought and known to young people, feeding their intellect, their cultural capital and their curiosity. So what do I want for our pupils? I want to offer them a liberal education, underpinned by Enlightenment values, offered by highly knowledgeable practitioners of the craft of teaching. A liberal education offers an education across many different disciplines. It emphasises creativity and fluency of communication, while requiring academic rigour. It is valuable in itself, rather than for some other purpose. Its intent is to foster curiosity, underpinned by knowledge, understanding, courtesy and wisdom. It is founded on Enlightenment values which foster a sceptical independence of mind. The philosopher Michael Oakeshott had much to say about education. For Oakeshott, education is a ‘transaction between the generations’ in which the younger are initiated into our culture. Our sense of ourselves as human beings is created by our social and cultural context – there is no hidden essence of a person lurking within us. “Human beings are what they understand themselves to be; they are composed entirely of beliefs about themselves and about the world they inhabit.” In other words, we are made up of the stories our culture tells itself about what it means to be an autonomous person in a shared society. The purpose of education is to make this cultural world available to the next generation. The duty of adults, whether parents or teachers, is to pass on this “inheritance of human achievements”. That “inheritance” is what we might now call cultural capital. Pupils must engage with ideas, value their cultural inheritance and be prepared to commit offers a great education. But I would like to take a moment to ask a deeper

themselves willingly to the acquisition of it. The pupils must also be equipped to challenge the culture into which they are being initiated. This lays a heavy duty upon teachers, who must first demonstrate the value of what they have to teach, and then actually impart it. A good education is hard to acquire – it calls for effort and perseverance. What we are teaching is nothing less than how to operate as a fully fledged human adult within our specific, albeit ever-changing, cultural context – surely the most important thing of all. My next attempt to explain what I wish for our pupils is encapsulated by two great poets. In his Essay on Criticism , written in 1711, Pope gives his definition of a perfect critic. In my opinion the definition also defines the perfect teacher, and that not much has changed since: But where’s the man that counsel can bestow, Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiased, or by favour or by spite, Not dully prepossessed, nor blindly right. Though learned, well-bred; and though well bred, sincere; Modestly bold, and humanly severe... Blessed with a taste exact, yet unconfined; A knowledge both of books and humankind, Generous converse; a soul exempt from pride; And love to praise, with reason on his side? In Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself we find, in my opinion, the perfect definition of learning: Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much? Have you practised so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems? Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, You shall possess the good of the earth and sun (there are millions of suns left), You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,


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bird’s beak hits the tree trunk, that tongue acts as a shock absorber to protect its brain from injury. I find that knowledge irresistible, but it fits into no category of learning that is obviously useful. However, I bet it made you smile. And that is important too: sometimes it is good for us to know something, just for the sake of it. What is the essence of a great education? What should we stand for? I think that five words can define what I wish for our pupils. They are these: innovation, bravery, confidence, inspiration and joy. That is why those words lie at the heart of a Merchant Taylors’ education. They define us, not as an aspiration, but as a daily reality. They ground us, as we hold the more abstruse philosophical arguments of this article in our thoughts. It is good to see that the end of the definition of a good education is the simplest of words: joy.

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. But we can go yet further in our exemplars of teaching and learning. What if we were to try to make our pupils more like Leonardo da Vinci? We find Leonardo at the spot where technological skill and creativity meet. He not only connected art and science; he refused to make any distinction between them. That made Leonardo a mathematician, surgeon, architect, visionary inventor, painter, sculptor and engineer. Leonardo used his notebooks to guide his learning. Here is a favourite extract: ‘Describe the tongue of the woodpecker’. Let us take that challenge Leonardo gave himself. The tongue of the woodpecker is many times longer than its beak and is coiled around inside the skull of the woodpecker. Amazingly, at the moment that the

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The Remarkable Success of the East African Asians Ameer Kotecha (2005-2010) is a British diplomat, pop-up chef and writer on food, travel and culture. He outlines the trauma Ugandan Asians experienced and the success they went on to attain in so many different spheres. W hen Idi Amin’s voice crackled through the radio on 4 August 1972 with his fateful ultimatum, my family paid Reality soon dawned that Amin meant every word of his decree. He claimed the instruction had come to him from God in a dream.


little notice, save for wondering briefly why a government announcement had interrupted the blaring Bollywood tunes. My father’s two sisters were getting married the next day (both tying the knot at the same time meant half the wedding cost) and preparations were in full flow. In any case my family – like many of Uganda’s 76,000-odd Asians who were subject to Amin’s expulsion, giving them 90 days to leave the country – thought the President could hardly be serious. Despite being a small minority of the country’s population, the Asians were responsible for 90 per cent of Uganda’s tax revenues. To expel them would be madness. But madness came easily to Amin. This, after all, was the man who claimed to be the uncrowned king of Scotland (hence the 2006 film in which the dictator is played by Forest Whitaker). And this was the man who styled himself, in full: “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”. So expulsion it was, and to hell with the consequences.

Asians – whom he denounced as economic “bloodsuckers” – were to leave the country with a maximum of £55 and two suitcases, a stipulation enforced at gunpoint by troops at army checkpoints where deportees were stripped of valuables. Women were sometimes raped or left for dead. My grandfather endured overnight torture before being able to prove himself innocent of anti-Amin sentiment. He ended up stateless and forced to go to India while the rest of the family headed to the UK, but he was at least thankful to live to tell the tale. Some 29,000 Ugandan Asians were granted entry to the UK by Ted Heath’s government. Crucially, the vast majority were British passport holders. Smaller numbers ended up in Canada, the USA, Europe, India or Pakistan. My father’s family landed at Stansted Airport before being given food and water and taken by coach to Heathfield Army Camp in Honiton, one of the 16 temporary centres run by the Uganda Resettlement Board. My father, an aspiring civil engineer, put his education on hold to take up work as a security guard at Heathrow to help pay the family bills.

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Asians were to leave Uganda with a maximum of £55 and two suitcases, a stipulation enforced

at gunpoint by troops at army checkpoints

he and my mother had settled in north-west London and the 6th Northwood Scouts group was short of volunteers, he donned the khakis once more. Many opened corner shops – as my aunt and uncle did in Southend-on-Sea – which have since grown into large, successful enterprises. But while the business success of the East African Asians has long been evident, it has been their growing prominence in British public life in the past few years that has been most striking. Nowhere is this more evident than in politics: Shailesh Vara (Uganda), Priti Patel (Uganda), Suella Braverman (Kenya) and, of course, Rishi Sunak (Kenya / Tanzania) are examples of the group’s political success. They are joined in the Lords by the likes of Baroness Vadera, and Lords Verjee, Gadhia and Popat. The latter, who is now the PM’s trade envoy to Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, has pointed out that had the Asians become more involved in Ugandan politics the expulsion might never have been allowed to happen. Since moving to the UK, he and others have made up for lost time. As Lord Popat said in a debate in the Lords last week to mark the 50th anniversary: “In the 1970s, there was a common joke – “What is an Indian without a shop?” The answer is a doctor. Now, we might say the answer is the Prime Minister.” It’s been quite the journey. This article was published in The Spectator , 2nd November 2022

Today, 2 November, is the 50th anniversary of the expiry of Amin’s 90-day deadline. His Majesty the King will mark the occasion with a reception for British Ugandan Asians at the Palace. Uganda has put the past firmly behind it: the Ugandan High Commissioner to the UK is also a Ugandan Asian – Her Excellency Nimisha Madhvani – and President Yoweri Museveni has gone out of his way to welcome back the Asian community. But it is a good moment to pause to consider the remarkable success that this group of immigrants has made of itself. The expulsion from Uganda is the most vivid example, but Asians from all over East Africa have made the UK home, largely since the “Africanisation” policies of the 1950s and 1960s when Asians’ businesses were expropriated. Significant numbers came to the UK from Kenya and Tanzania. My mother’s family came to the UK from Malawi. Most emigrated from British India to East Africa in the late 19th century. In the 1890s, some 30,000 from British India were brought to East Africa under indentured labour contracts to build the Uganda Railway. Others came of their own volition, to open shops and start businesses. The largest number came from the Indian state of Gujarat. The success and wealth they achieved in their former African homes may have often been confiscated, but they have managed to replicate it here in the UK. As the journalist David Goodhart has said, the East African Asians have proved to be perhaps the ‘most successful non-European minority group in post-war Britain; a result he attributes to a flair for entrepreneurialism and a willingness to engage in the civic institutions of modern Britain. As a boy, my father was a member of the 5th Busoga Scouts Troop in Jinja, Uganda. Years later, when


Ameer’s father (left) in his Scouts uniform

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From Adversity to Achievement


Pranai Buddhdev (1997-2002) is a Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon. He writes of his family’s journey from Kenya to London and the challenges they faced in building a new life.

A s I write this piece on 15th September 2023, I am on an aeroplane taking the reverse journey that my father and his family did exactly fifty-one years ago today; returning to East Africa from England. But this time it’s different; and it is only because of their sacrifices, hardships and commitment to ensuring that my generation had the best education that I am returning as an OMT and a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon. I am proud and humbled to be returning to Tanzania, the country where my father was born, to deliver specialist healthcare to children who have inadequate access to basic surgery. Like many other families of Indian origin living in the UK, my family had moved to East Africa in the early 1900s during the Gujarat famine, with the promise of land in return for helping the British to build the East African railways. They were victims of the ripple effect of the panic caused across East Africa as a result of Idi Amin’s expulsion policy from Uganda, which abruptly uprooted so many from the land they had called home for three generations. Like many of these families, who had been given British Subject status by Queen Victoria, ours chose to make Britain their new home.

Landing in the UK on a brisk autumn morning was a shock to the system after a long journey from Kisumu, Kenya. They brought with them only what six wooden crates could hold and a small amount of jewellery stitched into the lining of a toy doll, to avoid it being stolen during security searches by the army and border forces. This was the sum of their belongings from a life far away. With four children in tow, my grandparents took a long bus ride from Heathrow to East London to stay with family to build a new life and new memories. What followed were years of turmoil. For the first year, the family had to live apart because everyone old enough had to find work to get the family settled. My father, his brother and parents lived in a single rented room where the boys were permitted to sleep on the floor of the living room only after the owners went to bed, often after midnight! My two young aunts were of school age, so they joined local schools almost as soon as they arrived, living with different family members. Although this separation lasted just for a few months, it felt like years to them before they were reunited and able to live together as a family.

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Despite the challenges and exposure to racism, a tenacity born from their previous experiences of Empire ensured they adapted well and began to lay the groundwork for a brighter future. They learnt English, found jobs and lived modestly to save money. But they still felt unsettled or ‘non-citizens’ as my aunt described it. However, helped by the preservation of cultural identity and the nurturing of community ties, over time England began to feel like home. This is what enabled them eventually to harness the opportunities they had with exposure to Higher Education. A defining characteristic of families like ours is their unwavering commitment to education, aware of its transformative impact. Being a professional meant a secure job, reasonable pay and respect in society, and so their remarkable path was carved. My father gained his accountancy qualifications, my uncle an actuarial degree, one aunt qualified as a podiatrist and the other as a teacher and eventually the youngest headmistress appointed in the UK at the age of twenty-nine. Many others like us followed the professional route, some excelling in entrepreneurship and business. It was something of an inevitability that they would thrive. As the first of the British-born generation I have been fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of their thirst for progress and success. My family held steadfast to the belief that education would be the bridge connecting their children to a world of opportunities, investing in our future by enrolling us at Merchant Taylors’ School. Atop the incredible education, we had the freedom to explore sport,

A family photo in Kenya, 1971

music, drama and other extra-curricular activities that allowed us to develop into well-rounded individuals who were encouraged to find careers that matched our skills, interests and passions. Now, it is my opportunity to give back, to serve, and to honour the resilience of my family and countless others who have overcome adversity to create meaningful contributions to society. Alongside my brother Anique (OMT 2002-2008) who has also excelled in his chosen path, we carry the torch, cognisant of the responsibility to pay forward the opportunities we have been afforded. My son entered Year 2 at Merchant Taylors’ Prep this year. I cannot think of anywhere better for him to find his identity, his community and achieve his own dreams in years to come.

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Fifty Years Ago

Zakiy Manji (2005-2010) is the Director of Parliamentary Relations at BAE Systems. He recalls the journey of his family from Uganda and reflects on the contribution of the Ismaili community to the United Kingdom.


refugee agency and representatives of the AKDN (including Prince Sadruddin, the Aga Khan’s uncle), he finally arrived in London. The horrors of that period were recounted to me and my sisters and cousins as children, like folklore, something from a distant past, but they were memories that still sent shivers down the spines of my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Those who dared to defy the troops who were sent in Amin’s name had the skin of their stomachs sliced open, and chilli powder and salt rubbed into the wounds, causing agony. Friends, family, anyone who was of Indian descent was to be imprisoned. Families were torn apart. While we might think it unimaginable today, it is sadly still a reality for many across the world. My late grandmother, ten years after arriving in the UK, wrote a short piece describing her arrival in this country, a place that would be her home for the rest of her life. I copy out a short extract on my laptop, while hers was written, I think, on a word-processor of some sort. “Marianne Faithfull’s song reminds me of my past when I was in Uganda. I had to come to Britain leaving all my things behind. I wasn’t allowed to come with all my family – only my two small daughters joined me. […] We landed at Stansted Airport and were taken to an army camp. Our plane was the first one there, and it was very cold in September, 1972. We had just one bag of clothes between three of us as we came as refugees.” I am incredibly proud of my heritage, my family, and everything they have achieved, and I have never lost the humility that was instilled in me when my family arrived in the UK as refugees – the word implies something dirty, an other, something to regard perhaps with disdain or pity. My grandmother who, until the moment she stepped foot on British soil, had never worked a day in her life, did what she had to do to survive

Fifty years ago. September 1972. Two buses are making their way from Kampala to Entebbe Airport, each tightly packed with families, young children, all desperate to escape the atrocities being committed. The bus in front is halted by a group of soldiers at a checkpoint, and a family is forcibly removed. A ten-year-old girl recalls seeing the family taken away, and then the haunting sound of gunshots. That ten-year-old girl was my mother, and her story is one that is familiar to Ismailis dotted around the world. In that year Idi Amin, the self bestowed President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular, took everything from my family. Several weeks earlier, my late grandfather, Nanabapa (or Bapsi, as he became), smuggled suitcases for my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother to the house of Emmanuel Blayo Wakhweya, Idi Amin’s Finance Minister – a close friend of the family. Miraculously, those suitcases met the fleeing trio at the airport, although soldiers quickly saw to it that they were confiscated. My mother sits next to me as I write and describes how she was dressed in what she calls a velvet sack, with some money and jewellery sewn into the hem, to try and leave with something. My grandfather, who helped so many get out, made sure that the family’s beloved African Grey parrots, Romeo and Juliet, were duly cared for, too – he paid for full-price seats for them to travel to London (in comfort), and an additional fee to some friendly British Airways pilots to ensure they would look after them in quarantine. Six months later, after he had travelled to Italy to support others, and work with the UNHCR

– firstly working in a shoe factory and later for Maynards Sweets factory. She still smiles every time she has a Wine Gum. And so the Ismailis from East Africa came to be settled in London, a small community in the 1950s and 1960s, which grew rapidly in the decade that followed. Those who had been businessmen and entrepreneurs back home started afresh. Some began by cooking food in their kitchens at home and selling it from their car boots, and are now well-known caterers in the Indian communities in the UK; others retrained; some never worked again. My own grandparents trained as seamsters – we still find things around the house today that they made for us. In 2008, on a Golden Jubilee visit to the UK, the Aga Khan gave a speech in which he recognised the role of Ismailis in the UK: “Our story in this country is a case study in the settlement of an immigrant community – one which originated from East Africa, the Indian subcontinent and now Central Asia. Upheavals in their native lands – wars of independence, civil wars, collapsed economies and other dislocations affected the Ismailis and millions of others around them. Today almost one third of my community in this country have been born in the United Kingdom. They have maintained their religious and cultural identity and they are well integrated into their local environment. It is a community in which over 90 per cent of the university-age population participate in tertiary education. The average household income is a third higher than the national average – although I say this with some trepidation as I hope we are not being overheard contribution it has made to the fabric and society of the UK is significant: you just have to look at the Asian Rich List (or indeed the Sunday Times Rich List) to see where people have ‘made it’. But it’s not just about wealth – Ismailis are known for their strong ethic of service. In keeping with the values of the faith, many give their time, knowledge and material resources within the community as well as to wider society, on a voluntary basis to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Around by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs!” Though the Ismaili community is small, the

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A family photo from Uganda

Zakiy’s grandfather, Bapsi, with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in Naples in 1972

700 Ismailis participated as Games Makers during the London Olympics in 2012; and during Spring 2020, at the height of the pandemic, I was pleased to lead the team that launched Ismaili CIVIC in the UK, an organisation of several hundred volunteers, engaged with communities, charitable organisations and all levels of Government. Faith, rather, is a force that should deepen our concern for our worldly habitat, for embracing its challenges, and for improving the quality of human life – and it is these qualities that will continue to drive Ismailis throughout the world.

Zakiy’s mother and aunt outside their home in Islington

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Photo: Anna Watson

WONDER DRUG: A Comedy about Cystic Fibrosis After taking a new drug for cystic fibrosis, Charlie Merriman (2006-2011) decided to write a show about the condition. After performing WONDER DRUG at small theatres in London, Charlie took the show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where he won five-star reviews and an award nomination.


I t had been in the back of my mind for years to write something about my medical condition, cystic fibrosis (CF). CF causes a build-up of mucus that affects the whole body, especially the lungs and digestive system, meaning I have to do daily chest physiotherapy, take pills to digest food, and so on. I wanted to change the fact that the condition is rarely portrayed. I also wanted to show that stories about health don’t have to be fundamentally solemn, as is so often the case: it’s dehumanising, foregrounding the symptoms rather than the person who has them, someone who experiences silliness in life just like anyone else. The time felt right at the start of 2022 to begin work on what would become WONDER DRUG: A Comedy about Cystic Fibrosis , my autobiographical debut one-man show. By this point I’d had a year’s experience of a new medicine for CF, Kaftrio, a daily pill that essentially “corrects” the faulty cystic fibrosis gene and the ‘Wonder Drug’ of the show’s title. Thanks to Kaftrio, my lung function is now even better than that of someone who doesn’t have cystic fibrosis; there’s been a significant reduction in CF hospitalisations the world over, and the outlook for increased life expectancy is promising. What an opportunity, I thought, to

shine a light on the miraculous things medical research achieves and inspire people to support such causes with renewed vigour – especially since, sadly, not everyone with CF can take Kaftrio. For the principal content of the play, I wrote about my own experience of shielding from COVID in 2020 right up to being put on Kaftrio in December that year. When the pandemic hit, I had just started seeing someone, and then I had to learn how to prepare and administer my own intravenous antibiotics at home in lockdown for an E. coli infection – all of this, especially the threat to my physical health, was in turn a challenge for my mental health. “Sounds hilarious”, I hear you say, and your sarcasm isn’t misplaced: a great deal of the humour came from how to translate these experiences to the stage. When I don’t want to tell my new girlfriend I have a worrying hospital appointment the next day, I ask the audience to suggest an excuse for what I’ll be doing instead (it’s ranged from having diarrhoea to auditioning to be the next James Bond); lockdown TV starts to infect the play with gameshow sequences, such as an X Factor esque singing competition between syringe puppets full of antibiotics vying for the audience’s

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and it was especially encouraging to hear from healthcare professionals who happened to see it that they had connected with the show’s core tenet: people are people first and foremost and sany other label such as ‘patient’ is secondary to that. What meant the most to me, however, was hearing from others with cystic fibrosis who had watched the pre-recorded online stream (people with CF are advised not to congregate as there is a risk of cross-infection), many of whom said they felt seen in a way they never had been before. If I were to give advice to aspiring performers, it would be threefold: apply to a reputable drama school (this can certainly be done after study elsewhere), create your own work and/or collaborate with others, and be kind to yourself - don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go your way, do a side-job you enjoy, remember other things that make you happy. It’s a draining industry in all senses, so a sustainable approach is vital. At the time of writing, I’m taking a break from WONDER DRUG: A Comedy about Cystic Fibrosis for precisely this reason, and I don’t know what’s next. What I do know is that I’ll always be proud of what I’ve achieved with this show. If you would like to learn more about cystic fibrosis, please go to this link:

Charlie Merriman as Fagin in Oliver in 2010

votes; and the play is set to a soundtrack of 1980s bangers. This is the music my girlfriend and I first bonded over, and its light-hearted, yet heartfelt, tone suits that of the show perfectly. After many rehearsals with my wonderful director Helen Eastman, I presented the debut run of WONDER DRUG: A Comedy about Cystic Fibrosis at London’s VAULT Festival in February this year, and I was humbled that it sold out. From there, the show went straight to the King’s Head Theatre in Islington, where I was touched to have the support of many MTS teachers from my time at the school and since: Dominic Howell, Head of the Phab team of which I was a part, Michael Bond, former Head of Upper School, Tristan Greenaway, previously Head of Lower School and now Deputy Head Co-Curricular, and current English teachers Eleanor Trafford and Alan Richardson. Since conceiving of the show, I had always wanted to take it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and fortunately my application was successful to the Pleasance Courtyard venue, often regarded as the heart of the festival. Performing there throughout August this year, I was thrilled that the show received multiple five-star reviews and an award nomination,


Photo: Anna Watson

Photo: Anna Watson

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Georgia, where I was to stay for at least a week, and which I was reliably informed had no connection to electricity, never mind internet. With the deadline for the task only three days away, I arrived in the “capital” of Tusheti, a village called Omalo (population: 37). Organised students as we were, we had not booked accommodation and relied solely on the hospitality of local grandmothers with spare rooms. On one of our many knocks round, a tall man opened the door, cigarette in hand, and said in a perfect English I had not heard since being in London two months previously, “sorry guys, full”. He turned out to be a journalist from Croydon – and a science journalist with a laptop and a car booked to take him down the mountain the next day. Sure enough, I joined him and passed to the next round (a full-day, in-person assessment in London) and would start at The Times two months later. It has been a dizzy year since, being sent on several different “rotations” on different sections of the paper. Graphics, social media, obituaries, business, Scotland (where I spent four months in the Glasgow office), world, and finally news, where I will become a general news reporter. There have been several whirlwind moments, not least my week-long trip to Norway, where I spoke to fishermen on the Arctic border with Russia, or to the Costa del Sol where I met a real-estate agent who, in a former life, gave botox treatments to Russia’s political elite. Writing obituaries was a particularly illuminating experience – it may sound morbid, but colourful stories about the incredible lives people have lived are a joy to write. On From Backbench to The Times Max Kendix (2012-2019) started writing on MTS student publications such as Backbench before going on to write for the Durham University newspaper, Palatinate . After initially gaining a place as a graduate trainee he is now a news reporter at The Times .


I n retrospect, I probably should have known sooner that I’d become a journalist. A group of us made a website in the Fourth Form to host articles with updates on school life. In the Sixth Form, you could hardly move in the Dining Hall at the end of term without being confronted by a loyal brigade of distributors of the Backbench magazine, to which I dedicated far too much time. My dear friend Xavier and I spent hours perfecting an entertainingly excoriating review of a Head Master’s assembly on Marxism which, looking back, is perhaps proof that with age comes wisdom. Instead, I spent my days at Durham University convinced a career in finance awaited, all while admittedly skipping lectures to put together the student paper, Palatinate , in a dingy office in the Students’ Union. My friends would ask which newspapers I’d applied for, and the question would bemuse me – journalism wasn’t a career, it was just a bit of fun while preparing for the real world. Lady Luck, as ever, gave me a push. While on a post-university holiday around the Caucasus, I received a curious email saying I had been accepted onto the second stage of The Times graduate scheme. On a dull day in February, I had speculatively applied for a few journalism jobs, but really I was already signed up for an entry-level corporate job elsewhere. The emailed assessment was to rewrite two scientific press releases into articles suitable for The Times . Beyond finding the releases a completely incomprehensible collection of jargon, the real issue was that I read this email on a bus on my way to the mountainous region of Tusheti,

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graphics I charted the NHS winter crisis daily, on business my 22-year-old self could interview chief executives on most days of the week, and on social media I pressed the button to release posts to millions of online followers. It is a trope, and one that used to put me off journalism, that the profession is dying – nobody buys newspapers any more, Gen Z don’t even bother visiting websites as they sit glued to TikTok. There’s an element of truth in all that, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a dying trade. I’ve never been anywhere more vibrant than a newsroom, and I’ve been in a Fourth Form class on the last day of the summer term. Newspapers often feel like the front line of journalism. Radio and television producers read the morning papers to decide what goes on the bulletins; CEOs and ministers read The Times every day. Journalists at newspapers now know that they’re working for a website that also has a physical paper, not the other way round. The business model of subscriptions has put quality publications in rude financial health – and fundamentally, there is always a market for decent news and analysis. It’s great value: if you’re about to go to university, you can sign up for The Times for just £9.99 a year. The best advice I had was that you can always be a journalist. You don’t need to wait to get work experience, shifts, or fret that you don’t know anyone ‘in’. Find your own stories now, something “marmalade dropping” as we call it, about your local area, university, hospital, and

email it to individual journalists. If it catches their eye, you’ve done the most valuable thing you can do for a future employer by taking the initiative. I’d like to bust some other myths too. The journalists I’ve met are absolutely lovely people. It’s a vocation not a job, granted, and the environment of breaking news is exhilarating but intense. But from my own and my friends’ experiences, there’s not a newsroom in the country where the editors aren’t warm, friendly and welcoming to new recruits. And when several of us junior reporters end up in the same place – in the High Court eyeing up a fraudster, or out at the site of a murder halfway across the country – they get along and help each other out. It’s a job where you can really feel you’ve made a difference. Seasoned colleagues of mine have had countless laws passed, criminals arrested and lives saved, as a direct consequence of their work. Authors of books speak of the power to make their readers laugh and cry through their words. Journalists have the privilege to do that every day.


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A Life in Medicine

Veeru Kasivisvanathan (1996-2003) is an internationally renowned Urological Surgeon. He is an Associate Professor of Urology at University College London and Consultant Urological Surgeon at University College London Hospital. He performs surgery using a robot and runs clinical trials evaluating novel forms of treatment for patients with prostate, bladder and kidney cancers.

Memories from MTS Some days one never forgets; one of those was my first day at the school, entering by the Head Master’s entrance and not being sure how to get to the History block to my form 3T. The school seemed so big and daunting to an eleven-year old from a small state primary school. Another thing that seems to stick in my mind were the end of year assemblies in the Great Hall, singing “Homo plantat, homo irrigat […]”. There was a sense of communal pride at having completed the challenges of the year together and being ready to move forward to the next phase. Having recently enjoyed a nostalgic return to the school for our 20-year reunion, we relived a number of memories that haven’t changed a bit since we left: the smell of the Great Hall, the phosphorus smell in the Chemistry block, those wooden classroom doors in the maths block and the Beast, which seemed to have aged far better than we had.

Who inspired you the most at MTS? There were probably two teachers who inspired me, one of whom was Mr Brown, our English teacher. I very much enjoyed reading through texts like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Crucible . To my surprise, he gave me the James Graves prize for English Literature. I think it was the first time I’d ever won a prize. His belief in me made me believe in myself and was important in giving me further drive to succeed. Secondly, Mr Richards, our Biology teacher. I remember his teaching and character vividly. When he spoke, you listened, while scrambling to write down his booming words in the blue Biology A4 hardback books we used. To this day, I still haven’t forgotten: “Osmosis: the movement of water from high water potential to low, through a semi-permeable membrane…”. He had a big role in my interest in Medicine. What did you do after MTS? I studied Medicine at Imperial College London, then started working as a junior doctor at

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Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. I was always interested in being able to fix problems with my hands and being able to see patients’ conditions improve quickly, so I wanted to become a surgeon. I completed more than a decade of surgical training around London, working at hospitals such as Guy’s Hospital, Wexham Park Hospital and University College Hospital. I had a strong interest in research so I also completed a full-time PhD in prostate cancer research and additional degrees in Epidemiology and Clinical Trials. I also spent some time working at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, which was a great experience for the whole family.

Below: Working at the state-of-the-art Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Australia


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Above: A picture of the Da Vinci Robot that I use during an operation

What is your current role? I have two main roles, both of which are great fun. I spend half of my time doing clinical work, in which I use a robot to perform surgery on patients, removing organs such as the prostate when cancer has been found. It’s like advanced computer gaming but with high-pressure stakes! I also perform focal therapy, which is a novel type of cancer treatment using minimally invasive heat or cold energy, ultrasound or electricity to destroy prostate cancer cells in a precise way with fewer side effects. Being able to see the difference that treatments can have on peoples’ lives is an extremely rewarding experience, though of course, in Medicine, due to the disease process, there are times when things aren’t always plain sailing. In my research time, I lead a research group designing and running clinical trials focussing on using novel imaging tests to improve the way that we diagnose cancers and deliver precision treatment. Being able to combine cutting-edge research with clinical practice is a fantastic combination and I learn something new every day.

You have been recognised widely for your achievements in Medicine – can you tell us a little bit about this? My research has led to the first major breakthrough in the way that we diagnose prostate cancer for 30 years, introducing MRI scans as a standard of care around the world. A key clinical trial that I led was published in the New England Journal of Medicine , the world’s leading medical journal. It has led to benefit for millions of men worldwide. In 2015 I founded and currently direct a national urological research collaborative called BURST. We have a team of 30 committee members and more than 3000 collaborators around the world. Our studies have recruited more than 30,000 patients in the past seven years, leading to significant patient benefit. Being able to build an organisation from scratch which operates on a global scale and help to develop our next generation of future research leaders has been extremely rewarding. For these achievements, I was given the John Anderson Award for Outstanding Contribution

to Urology from the British Association of Urological Surgeons, a Hunterian Professorship in 2021 from the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Evening Standard Award for being one of London’s most influential people in health. This culminated in one of the most prestigious awards in global urology: the Crystal Matula Award from the European Association of Urology for being the top Academic Urologist in Europe. How did MTS influence you going into medicine? MTS gave me some core values which have been important in my career: resilience, professionalism, kindness and independent thinking. As with all careers there are lots of highs and lows, and Medicine is a long, hard grind, so these core values have been important in being able to succeed. I remember around the time of leaving, Sir John Sulston OMT was given the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work in genome sequencing. Achieving something like that seemed so far away but opened my eyes to the possibility of what could be achieved in life after MTS.

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Below: Being awarded the Crystal Matula Award in Amsterdam by the European Association of Urology

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New Tricks

Chris Humphrey (1981-1986) worked as an accountant for over 30 years before deciding he needed a new challenge. Having kindled a passion for photography while at Merchant Taylors’, he decided to return to this by creating a new business specialising in dog photography.

I joined Merchant Taylors’ in September 1981, having been awarded an Entrance Scholarship in May. Even though both my older brothers and my father had been pupils at the school, it was still quite a culture shock. In those days, as a Scholar you were automatically “promoted” one year, and I found myself in Div I (Division Ingram) with some of my classmates being eighteen months or so older than me. The range of activities at the school was far greater than at my prep school and I was very pleased to become involved with the Photographic Club, run by Bob Le Rougetel. I had already developed an interest in photography before I joined, and I was particularly excited to learn that the school had a dedicated, working darkroom, which seemed to me to be a quite magical place. I had only ever seen darkrooms portrayed in films (where inevitably a vital piece of evidence came to light), so the thought of being let loose in a fully equipped darkroom myself was quite mind blowing to a fourteen-year-old. Mr Le Rougetel patiently took the time to explain to me how to develop prints: a wonderful fusion between art and science. And then he encouraged me to give it a go. That was part of the wonderful culture at Merchant Taylors’ at that time. You got the opportunity to be “hands-on”, whether it was learning how to fire and then strip and clean a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle in the Cadet Force, spinning for pike in the cold winter months on the lakes, or crawling through pitch-black tunnels on the assault course, the culture was always about getting on with things and learning from experience.


This hallowed darkroom could be accessed by obtaining a key from Mr Le Rougetel and then making your way up towards the top of the main school building. The room contained a wonderful range of equipment – the Enlarger, which shone light through the negative on to the photographic paper, the Safelight, which provided a dim red light in which it was safe to handle the photographic paper without spoiling it, various trays for the chemicals (developer, stop and fix) and tongs for handling the prints. The darkroom had a very distinctive smell – the chemicals gave off a pungent, metallic-like odour which I can remember over forty years later. The Photographic Club would meet intermittently. Because most of the school week was already filled with educational and other extracurricular activities, I can remember meetings taking place on Sundays, the one “clear” day of the week back in the days of Saturday school. Mr Le Rougetel would give up his time to teach us about the fundamentals of photography – apertures, shutter speeds, depth of field, film speeds, focal lengths and composition. Photography has changed immeasurably in the intervening years: the darkroom of old has become extremely powerful editing software such as Lightroom Classic and Photoshop, but the principles of what makes a great photograph, which Mr Le Rougetel patiently explained to us, remain the same. Mr Le Rougetel was an accomplished photographer himself – I only learnt recently that he had within his own portfolio an image that he had captured of Alfred Hitchcock, taken in the 1960s. As I progressed through school, my interest in photography stayed with me, but other

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family with a great love for dogs and this was something which was now part of our family life. I found that I loved taking pictures of our working spaniel Basil and I was struck by the huge increase in dog ownership that occurred from 2020 onwards. So, the idea of ShutterDog Photography was born. After many hours of training, practising, and honing our skills, ShutterDog Photography opened for business in June. We have developed a dog-friendly studio at a beautiful location in Wingrave, Buckinghamshire. Later this year we will be adding a carefully landscaped, secure outdoor space so that we can offer customers wonderful images taken indoors and out. We have designed ShutterDog photography to be exactly the kind of business that we ourselves would want to transact with. Responsive customer service, high-quality images and products, timescales that are adhered to, a clearly communicated and fair pricing structure and no hard sell. Mastering the social media side of things has been quite a steep learning curve, but the chance to have a completely new second career, based on a passion that was ignited at school forty years earlier, has been exciting and challenging. Perhaps you can teach an old dog new tricks.

activities meant that the time I devoted to it was reduced. I ended up on the “Science side” and when the time came to complete university applications, I flirted with the idea of applying to Heriott-Watt to study for a degree in Brewing. I had by this stage become moderately successful at home brewing beer (there was no Brewing Club at the school, no doubt for the best). However, when I discovered that the Brewing course had an annual intake of just eight people, I’m afraid to say that I concluded the odds were rather against me and my life took a different course. I ended up at the University of Aston, graduating in 1990 with a 2:1 degree in Business Administration. After training with KPMG in Birmingham (and finding the audit work interminably tedious) I joined my uncle, Julian Humphrey (1959-1966), and we successfully ran a small accountancy practice in Buckinghamshire until his retirement in 2008. I then soldiered on with the business right through until 2021 when I decided that enough was enough and I needed a change of direction. I sold the business in March 2021 and then considered my next move. Having never derived much pleasure from the accountancy world, I determined that in my next career I would do something that I enjoyed. My wife Ruth was brought up in a

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