The Old Cicestrians’ Association – Where it all began

Frank Haill joined the teaching staff of the School on his demobilisation from the Royal Air Force at the end of World War Two in which the majority of his service years were spent as a Flight Lieutenant. He had previously been on the staff of the Henry Thornton School who were evacuated to Chichester to share the Boys High School premises in the earlier days of the war and which they vacated in July 1943.

On joining the High School teaching staff, Frank quickly established himself as a keen sportsman from both a practical and administrative point of view. With the retirement of “Mobby O’Brien”, he became head of “games” (correct title unknown) which included association football and cricket in addition to his full-time academic involvement in the classroom. He figures prominently in many of the team photographs published on the website. Out of school, he was prominent in golfing circles.

Frank Haill

There must rarely have been a term-time Saturday when Frank was not involved in a sporting activity either by way of refereeing a home fixture or supervising the teams travelling to “away” matches. Little did we know at the time that such time expended on his part did not form part of his contract and I fear that much was taken for granted on the part of us members of the various elevens. It was only after our days at the School had come to an end that we realised – and I am sure that I do not speak for myself alone – that we appreciated how much we owed to Frank,  not only for the development of our sporting careers but also in conducting ourselves; “esprit de corps” was one of his favourite terms, both on and off the field of play. His judgments generally were considered to be fair and he was certainly a firm but respected disciplinarian when the need for action required to be taken.

As an aside, his involvement in organising continental holiday visits in company with colleague Eric Smedley strengthened the bond which he had established with his pupils over the years. Residing all his life in Chichester since his arrival in 1946, both he and his family – Mrs “Bunny” Haill, son Richard, and two daughters Lynn and Sandra – became well known in the community especially with those old boys who remained in the area.

With the approach of Frank’s 90th birthday, one or two old boys, including me, were invited to attend his formal family celebration luncheon which was held, if my memory serves me correctly, at the Goodwood Golf Club on a Sunday, being the previous day to his actual birthday, Monday 7th December 1998.

On accepting the invitation, I learnt that he would be spending his actual birthday alone on the Monday and spoke to one or two of my contemporaries to see if we could organise a luncheon for him on the day at a hotel on the outskirts of Chichester. I had in mind an attendance of somewhere in the region of six to eight. Numbers blossomed, however, as news reached three or four ex-teaching staff who expressed an interest. Speaking from memory, the final number was twenty to twenty-five.

Maurice Hall, Frank Haill and Geoff Wills

The success of the function led to it being repeated the following year on the first Saturday in December and I believe it was held at the Goodwood Golf Club. It was at this function that the numbers had increased further and the possibility of re-forming the Old Boys Association was discussed. 

John Richards, John Smale and Doug Murgatroyd

There are now well-documented records available of further meetings taking place. The principal one was held at Goodwood Racecourse and was attended by some sixty or more old boys; approval was given for steps to be taken to re-form the Old Cicestrians Association. A preliminary step was the appointment of a committee presided over by Sir John Herbecq – an old boy who left in 1939 and a first eleven goalkeeper.

Robin Wills and Peter Thompson

It was known that sundry groups of former contemporaries occasionally met and one of the initial aims of the Association was to act as a vehicle for publicising such events. It was also agreed to provide support for the school in whatever manner was deemed appropriate; it is pleasing to record that initially, it was possible to hold committee meetings on the school premises leading to significant current day teaching staff contact. Above all, it was agreed that there would be a Christmas Reunion luncheon held on the first Saturday in December. The 21st anniversary of this regularly held and popular event approaches.



Geoff Wills


November 2018