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Long Room at Colets_Sept 2009.JPGI thought it might be useful, for the benefit of younger members, to describe how the Old Pauline Club built up the ground and premises at Thames Ditton that we know today.

Teams of Old Paulines have been playing competitive cricket and rugby since the 19th century and regular matches were organised using either the school grounds or rented playing fields, usually in Ealing. Such was the success of these ventures that an appeal was launched among OPs to raise money for the purchase of the freehold land at Thames Ditton and a new clubhouse was opened in 1930.

By the early 1970s it was becoming apparent that that this "traditional" clubhouse was in need of extensive refurbishment and the necessary costs were far more than the cricket and rugby clubs could afford without outside finance. The OP Club was not prepared to provide it.

Various schemes to rectify this situation were considered and it was decided that we should enter the leisure business by building six squash courts. Membership of the squash club was open to anyone including active OPs who were encouraged to join and many of us did. The calculation was that this would generate enough extra income to cover all costs and so both Old Pauline 'user clubs' could continue to thrive. The 'new' clubhouse opened in October 1977.

The company which trades as 'Colets' (the name of the school's founder) is actually called Thames Ditton Sports and Squash Club Limited (TDSSC): it was formed in 1977 with purpose of maintaining the clubhouse and grounds on behalf of the OP Club. It is limited, not by shares, but by guarantee. All members will be required, in the event of it being liquidated, the sum of �1. All members of the Old Pauline Club are members of TDSSC. What this means, in practice, is the right to drink in the bar and to attend and vote at the AGM. All non-OP members of the squash club, gym users &c are also members of TDSSC. It is important that everybody understands that. The main OP Club also controls the make-up of the board of directors and often supplies money by way of loans for investment in new projects. The real purpose of TDSSC is to administer the clubhouse and grounds on behalf of the OP Club and to make money in the process.

There was a lot if hard work needed to get the project off the ground and the person who worked hardest at the necessary task of seeking loans and donations from OPs was Basil Moss. He fully merits that plaque in his honour on the stairs.

We realised that we were heading into unknown territory, the leisure business in general, but considered it worth the risk even if it did mean a certain loss of independence. Since then, of course, we have added the gym, the 25metre swimming pool and (most recently) the children's centre. While, as is obvious, there is a lot of work still to do in areas adjacent to the bar, there are plans for further investment. The leisure side of the club has now almost 4000 members and is a going concern. The management of TDSSC has to consider their interests as well as those of the three team sports clubs.  While we have had our disagreements with some goings-on at the club, we are still using far better facilities than we use when away from home.  The decision made 30 years ago has been vindicated.

The ground is about 14 acres (5.7 ha) in extent and comprises the playing areas and the surrounds. It is administered by the ground committee on behalf of the OP Club, which is still the landlord. It is our aim to keep the playing areas in first-class conditions so that OPs and their opponents can continue to play on surfaces which have few, if any, equals at the level we play.

Ian McNicol (1960-64)


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