It was a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon in September when there was a knock on the Vinehall front doors. A lovely gentleman stood there in the porch, his old Vinehall prefect badge clasped in his hand. He introduced himself as Donald Hayes, the very first Vinehall child. Donald had returned to look around his old school and Joff and I had the immense honour of showing him around.
Donald joined Vinehall in 1938, and he showed us the photo displayed in the Drawing Room where he stood dressed in the Vinehall uniform with five other boys. He pointed at a little boy on the far left of the photo and said “Look, that’s me with the sticky out ears.” Donald recounted the most amazing stories of his childhood at Vinehall, and the Drawing Room was brought alive with the chatter of vivid memories etched in his mind. He remembered coming off the train with his fellow boarders at Mountfield and walking up the hill to Vinehall; falling asleep upstairs in his dormitory with the sound of John Jacoby (the founding Headmaster) playing Beethoven on the grand piano in the room below; and the day that a window cleaner fell off his ladder and all the lessons were disrupted in the commotion. The incredible Vinehall grounds he would play in, the secret hideouts he made in the woods and the ice house (which is still here), are very much part of his school boy life. Donald kindly donated his prefect badge to the school; the crest has barely changed in the last eighty years, yet Donald’s metal badge is heavy with a deep sense of belonging to Vinehall. It is often said that we always remember our first day at school and our last day at school, and yet Donald clearly remembers all the bits in the middle. Tuck was quite clearly as important to children back then as it is now! I hope that as our Year 8s prepare to move on to their senior schools and become Vines themselves, custodians of an incredible legacy, they will always look back at their time at Vinehall and cherish their badges and memories in the same way Donald has for all these years.