Former pupil Captain Nick Cooke-Priest OBE returns to Great Ballard for Speech Day

July 28, 2016

Captain Nick Cooke-Priest OBE returned to Great Ballard School for the annual speech day. As a former pupil of the school in the 1980s, he was delighted to accept the invitation to address this year’s pupils, parents and teachers and present prizes to children for sporting, academic and personal achievements.

Whilst a pupil at Great Ballard, Nick was a keen sportsman and Richard Evans, today’s headmaster talked about some of Nick’s successes at cricket, billiards and triathlons where he had won various competitions back in 1983 and been captain of the football team. This was one of his early chances to be a captain! Mr Evans was then delighted to talk about Captain Cooke-Priest’s successes since leaving Great Ballard.

After joining the Navy in 1990 and training at Dartmouth, he specialised as a Lynx helicopter observer and was then deployed throughout the world serving on various ships being promoted to Commander in 2009. In July 2014, he was selected for Promotion to Captain and assumed Command of the Fleet Flagship, HMS Bulwark, on 20 January 2015 which is based in Devonport, Plymouth.

This year, he was awarded an OBE. During the summer of 2015, he was at the helm of HMS Bulwark during a huge humanitarian operation in the Mediterranean rescuing over 3000 desperate people fleeing Syria and Africa. He was interviewed during the BBC Remembrance Service last year from the Royal Albert Hall talking about the experiences of the migrant search and rescue missions.

Before Prize giving, Captain and Mrs Cook-Priest met some pupils including the Head of school, Margaux and took a tour of the school before enjoying a delicious lunch. School dinners have changed over the years and all the children at school are treated to delicious home cooked meals and choices each day by their chef, David who is famed for the best match tea and cakes locally!
During his address to the children, Captain Cooke-Priest talked about his days at Great Ballard, which he looked back on with great fondness. He explained how many of his experiences as a full boarder at the school had helped to mould his character which had undoubtedly enabled him to thrive in his chosen naval career. He developed an appreciation of the importance of teamwork, taking responsibility for your actions, and being a good role model prepared to make the right decision, even if it was not necessarily the easy one to make.

Captain Cooke-Priest congratulated all the children on their successes over the last year and encouraged them to make the most of all the opportunities that they can while they are at Great Ballard. The importance of trying different things in a supportive environment where sports, academic work and the Arts are all part of the everyday school life gives young people great grounding for their unknown futures ahead of them. Great Ballard and its grounds were fondly remembered – from the canon that used to be in the woods, teachers that were influential, sports pitches and the woods where camps were made and playtimes spent. Nick enjoyed reminiscing about his own school days with today’s children. Although technology has changed beyond recognition since he was at school, he was pleased to see how the ethos of the school was still very much one of a caring supportive family community encouraging everyone to do their best and that children still have the time to learn in the outdoors, climb trees and enjoy their childhoods as children.

One of the cups that is presented every year to a pupil is the “Cooke-Priest Cup” which is awarded for making an outstanding contribution to school life. This year’s recipient was Saoirse Osborne and Nick was thrilled to be presenting the cup and to talk with Saoirse about this.

He wished all the Form 8 leavers well as they move from Great Ballard to their chosen senior schools.

After the inspiring address by such a successful former Great Ballard pupil who we are all very proud of, Mr Evans concluded the school year by congratulating all the pupils for their hard work and thanking Captain Cooke-Priest for returning to Great Ballard over 30 years since he left. The final thought of the term was to wonder just what today’s pupils might be doing themselves – 30 years after leaving Great Ballard!

Follow the story of 2016 prize giving day on the Facebook page and also see website to find out a bit more about Great Ballard School and the opportunities for today’s children

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