General News

Chris Stephens Reports…

William Pennington (1740-1829)

William was born in Bristol England where his father was a Custom Officer at what was then a busy inland port. This was not surprising as his distant relative, Sir Joseph Pennington MP was Commissioner of Excise for the British Empire, a post he held in succession to his grandfather. In due course William’s brother James succeeded his father as Custom Officer at Bristol but William, who seems to have been well educated, joined the Guards. In 1764 he was appointed colonial Customs Officer for the port of Brunswick, which at that time was North Carolina’s leading port. He travelled out to America with William Tryon, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Scots Guards who had been appointed Lieutenant Governor of the colony. The two soon gained a high regard for eachother and were to remain friends for life.

On their arrival they found themselves facing colonists rebelling against the Stamp Act of 1765. This was to lead to the American War of Independence ten years later. In the interim William Pennington, though facing increasing hostility, acquitted himself well and remained at his post until finally driven from office in February 1776. He now fled to New York where he joined the British forces under William Tryon, now promoted General, who had succeeded Lord Dunmore as Governor. After the final British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown William Pennington took ship for England. During the long voyage home he befriended another colonist who was retuning to England in the hope of finding his lost relatives and leaving them his wealth. Sadly he fell ill on the voyage and William nursed him in his final days. Before he died at the man rewrote his Will in Pennington’s favour. However on arriving in England William, being a man of proven honesty, destroyed the new Will and sought out the beneficiaries of the original and put them in possession of all the man’s property.

It is likely that when he arrived home William, having lost everything when he fled N Carolina, thought of himself as returning to a wealthy family. Sadly trade in Bristol had been drastically affected by hostilities with America and France and he was now a poor man. However there was strong public support for loyalists returning to England and William, supported by Tryon, made a successful claim to the Loyalist Claims Commission for a small pension of £60 p.a.

In 1785 in an effort to regain its reputation as a centre for entertainment, the Bristol Hotwell followed the example of the city of Bath and established a “Master of the Ceremonies”. William was appointed to public acclaim. (More than one account describes him as being elegant and witty and many Americans as well as British had left the American colonies at the outbreak of the War of Independence and settled in Bristol). William was now responsible for organising the Hotwells programme of public breakfasts, balls, cotillions, country dances and other entertainments during the Hotwell’s season from May to September each year. This he would do for the next 30 years.

One of William’s first acts as Master was to publish “Rules of the Hotwell” to ensure that all who attended behaved with decorum, and these were soon copied by Bath. In 1791, now enjoying a comfortable income, William learned of the distress of Penelope Weston one of Mrs Thrale/Piozzi’s intellectual circle which included Hannah More, Anna Seward, and Dr Johnson. Through no fault of her own, Penelope and her mother had been brought to financial ruin by the criminal acts of her wayward brother. Learning of this, William, who had met her when he first arrived in Bristol, proposed marriage though he was 52 and she 41 years of age. After some hesitation, but encouraged by Mrs Piozzi, she accepted his offer and they lived happily in Dowry Square for the remaining years of their lives. When a frail Mrs Piozzi returned to Bristol in 1821 Mrs Pennington visited her almost daily until she died, and then wrote a moving obituary which was widely published. Penelope Pennington died in 1828 and William the following year. Both had memorial plaques placed in the Dowry Chapel which were lost following its demolition in 1872, and the site of their final resting place remains unknown.

On October 3rd 2015 a plaque organised and paid for by the Clifton and Hotwells Preservation Society was unveiled at 12 Dowry Square, Hotwells Bristol where William and his wife lived from 1813 to 1823.

General News

Bristol Orthodontic News

Postgraduate and Alumni member Soo Ching Choo dropped by on her way from her busy Malaysian Orthodontic Practice  last week. First stop the White Hart for a reunion with Prof Sandy and Stephens  and PG colleague Joe McGill. Then she was off to the International Orthodontic Conference in London  where Bristol was well represented by speakers Jonathan Sandy, Nigel Harradine and David Birnie  while Prof Tony Ireland and James Spencer donated their genes!

Soo  Joe and Jonathan 2015 Soo and Nigel H IOC 2015

Jonathan with Soo and Joe in the White Hart.                Nigel & Soo

General News

Tony Chivers MBE

For some years now I have spent five days at the end of May in Alton, Hampshire, as it is a more convenient launchpad from which to attend the PGA Golf Championship at Wentworth than making a very early morning start from North Somerset. When I became Membership Secretary of the BDAA I noted that one of our members, Tony Chivers, lived just outside Alton and it was always in the back of my mind that I should look him up whilst there. Somehow, however, I never did. It was only this year when an e-mail was being drafted to encourage the 2015 graduates to join the BDAA that I came across the fact that there were one or two members with graduation dates in the 1950’s and this prompted me to find out who they were. It so happened that Tony Chivers was one of them, having graduated in 1951, so this year I decided to give him a visit.

Medstead is a village on the outskirts of Alton and, as I later found out, Tony was a very active and prominent member of the local community there. I found the house, rang the doorbell and was greeted by someone who looked a little on the young side of what I would have expected for a 1951 graduate. Having announced the purpose of my visit, the response was “I’m sorry, but you’re just too late, Tony died a few days ago”. As I then found out, Tony was in his 95th year at the time of his death (!) and the three people in the house were there to arrange the details of his funeral. They kindly invited me in for a chat and it was during this that I became aware that I had just missed meeting a remarkable and interesting man. The following is a brief account of his life and achievements.

Tony was born in Somerset in 1920, where he received his early education at a small private school.   He went from there to a school in Gloucestershire where he developed an interest in running. His potential in this area was quickly spotted and it wasn’t long before he was competing at the English Schools Athletics Championships where, at the age of 16, he came third in the mile race. He was equally competent academically and gained entry to Bristol University to study Dentistry in 1939. Whilst in his first year, Tony joined the Territorial Army and was almost immediately called up to join the war effort.   The first combat that he experienced, however, was as a boxer and he soon became the brigade champion.

The war years obviously put his main sporting activity on hold and Sergeant Chivers was assigned to an anti-aircraft battery in Bristol during the blitz. From there he joined the Army Flying Corps and, after seven hours of training, he was considered good enough to fly solo. In time he added a skill as a reconnaissance photographer and used this to obtain such good pictures of the bridge at Arnhem that these were used to aid the Canadian Army advance on it. This gained him a commendation from his brigade.

Tony returned to civilian life at the end of the war having attained the rank of Captain. It was time to resume his studies at Bristol and his running activities. While still a student, he represented England in the Five Nations Cross Country Championship, finishing third. He then went on to win the British Six Mile Championship in 1948 and just missed out on representing his country at the London Olympics through injury. There then followed a period of selection for the national team. He ran the 5000m for the British Empire team against the USA, coming fifth, and won at the same distance for Great Britain against France in Paris. In 1950 Tony was selected to run in the Empire Games in New Zealand, winning the bronze medal in the three-mile race and coming sixth in the mile. Through all of this, he still maintained his studies and, as many did in those days, preceded his BDS with an LDS, being awarded the Dental Gold Medal in the former.

After qualification he spent a year in practice in Bath before setting up on his own in Chandlers Ford in Hampshire. While in the process of building up his new practice, Tony also worked part-time in the Community Dental Service and he maintained a link with this until, in 1975, he had to make the choice of whether or not he put all his energies into expanding the general practice or look for a more permanent position in his part-time role. This came with his appointment of Senior Dental Officer in Hampshire, in which he thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of treating patients with disabilities.

From very early on in his career Tony had taken an active role in the local BDA. He was Secretary and then Chairman of the Southampton Branch and this led to him becoming Treasurer and then President of the Wessex Branch Council. He served as President for ten years and, in 1982 was made a Fellow of the BDA. During his time with the BDA, Tony became aware that the Benevolent Fund had no provision to help those who volunteered for service within the Fund’s activities but who subsequently had financial difficulties through their own ill health. He set up a trust fund to help these individuals and managed to attract monies from various sources including the Ministry of Health. Thus it was that he was responsible for setting up the Dental Health Support Trust in 1991. This was entirely separate from the BDA Benevolent Fund and Tony became its founding Chairman. He was awarded an MBE for his services to Dentistry in 1996 and subsequently, on retirement from the Trust, was made a Life Trustee.

Tony’s sporting activities continued throughout his working life and into retirement. He was a founding member of the Medstead Tennis Club and was made a life member of this, having the club pavilion named in his honour after he raised funds to have it rebuilt following an unfortunate fire. Running however was at the beginning and end of his remarkable life.   In 2012, at the age of 92, Tony became one of the oldest torchbearers to run a stage for the Olympic games and he regularly walked his dog for about two miles each day right up to the time of his death.

Ken Marshall

General News

Sister Davison’s Centenary Celebrations

The sun shone and the venue was the Hilton Bristol Hotel where exactly one hundred people gathered for a very special occasion. The guests had come from far and wide to celebrate the 100th birthday of a very special lady; namely, Sybil Moores BEM. Many of those reading this may not instantly recognize the name, but when you realize that we are talking about Sister Davison, later to be Matron of the Dental Hospital, most dental staff and graduates from the 1970s and before should now have a very clear picture of the lady in question.

Sybil’s birthday was on the 26th of August 2015 and the immediate event was celebrated with her family in Bristol where she still lives independently in her flat in Clifton. Such, however, is the respect and affection shown to her, particularly by her ‘girls’, that throughout her years of retirement a small but dedicated group of them have ensured that all of the significant milestones in her life so far have been appropriately celebrated. Following this tradition, the same small group under the leadership of Vicki Townsend could not let such a significant birthday pass without an equally significant party to celebrate it and this was duly done on Sunday, September 6th.

Along with a small group of Sybil’s family and non-dental friends the guest list of one hundred was made up mainly of the nurses who had trained at Bristol Dental Hospital during her reign from 1952 to 1976. Many of these had married and were accompanied by former Bristol dental students who had also experienced her eagle-eyed supervision. The remainder comprised retired dental and medical consultants and staff who had worked with her. A sign of the respect and affection shown for Sybil was the distance travelled by some of the guests to attend the event, not only from the far reaches of the UK, including Scotland and Guernsey, but one who had come all the way from Canada.

Lunch was preceded by a short reception and the excited hubbub that accompanies the renewing of old acquaintanceships; the noise level only dropping when everyone sat to enjoy the excellent food. Towards the end of the meal Sybil was invited to cut a giant birthday cake embellished by three large candles showing the number 100. Lunch was then concluded with a few words from Ken Marshall to celebrate the occasion and pay tribute to a “one in a million” lady. Matron was then presented with flowers and a specially engraved crystal vase.

There then followed what was probably one of the highlights of the occasion. Vicki asked anyone who had any special anecdotes concerning their experiences as trainee nurses or students during Sister/Matron’s time at the Dental Hospital to share them. The microphone was then passed around and what emerged was a highly amusing and revealing half hour or so.

Sybil was then able to meet up with many of those present, who also had the opportunity to renew old friendships and exchange memories of sometimes best-forgotten exploits. The final tribute to the success of the event was the general realisation that, having gone into lunch at 1.15 pm, the next time most people looked at their watches it was almost five o’clock.

We look forward to the 105th!

Ken Marshall & Vicki Townsend

The guests included, in no particular order:

Reg Andlaw, Ken Marshall, Peter Easton, Reg Bleakman, David Baker, Geoffrey Burton, Trevor and Yvonne Thomas, Chris Stephenson, Maureen Erskine (Mahood), Clive Jenkins, Catherine Gunnery, Hugh Willis and Rod Young.

Here is a picture of how some, of a certain age, may remember Sister. Click on the image for the full-size version.


More photographs of the event may be viewed by clicking here.



General News

New Appointments…

NHS England has announced the appointment of Sara Hurley (nee Skinner) BDS(U. Brist.) MFGDP(UK) MSc(UCL) MA(KCL) as Chief Dental Officer. Sara qualified from the University of Bristol Dental School in 1988.  Commissioned into the Royal Army Dental Corps, she has continued to broaden her clinical dentistry portfolio gaining Membership of General Dental Practitioners (UK) in 2003, a Masters in Dental Public Health at University College London 2004, and a King’s College MA in Defence Studies 2007. Her career has flexed across the domains of dental public health, wider healthcare policy and healthcare commissioning as well as undertaking operational healthcare management and strategic leadership assignments in a range of UK and overseas locationsIn fact she is the third Chief Dental Officer from qualify from Bristol; she follows Prof Raman Bedi (BDS 1976) who also holds the unique distinction of being the first and only Bristol dental graduate to  be awarded an honorary degree from his alma mater ( DSc 2003). In the meanwhile Kosmas Tolidis MSc (1993)  has been appointed Chief Dental Officer of the Helenic Republic.

Alasdair Miller BDS (U. Brist. 1977) has been appointed President of the British Dental Association and took up the post in April 2014.

Alasdair MillerFor over 20 years Alasdair was a partner in a mainly NHS dental practice in Taunton and he brings extensive experience in the clinical and education sectors to the role of President. From 1997 to 2013 he held the position of Regional Postgraduate Dental Dean at the University of Bristol where he was also Programme Director for the University’s Open Learning for Dentists Diploma programme. In 2009 he was the first dentist to become Fellow of the Academy of Medical Educators. From 2007 to 2010 he was consultant to the Peninsula Dental School. He currently sits on the Council of the MDU and is the interim Chair of the Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire Dental Local Professional Network.This is an enormous recognition of his interest and energy in dentistry for many years and his role as Post Graduate Dental Dean for the South West over the last 16 years.

General News

From the Chairman

A significant event this year will be the 100th birthday of Sister Davison (or Sybil as she is now happy to be called). Details of a special lunch organised by one of her ‘girls’, Vicky Townsend, are given in this newsletter. Sybil is keeping well, living alone and coping well in her Clifton apartment. She attended a reunion of the 66Society (graduates of 1966 and thereabouts) in February this year, where Bob Binnersley paid glowing tribute and she was presented with an impressive bouquet. She looks forward to receiving very special congratulations from the Queen on 24th August.

It’s always been extremely gratifying to see how many year-group reunions are held each year. Last year was no exception: eight reunions involving the classes of 1964, 1966, 1968/69, 1969/70, 1974, 1989, 1999 and 2004 (reports of some of these reunions can be found on our website). Can there be any other department of this or any other university that can boast of alumni who so enthusiastically maintain contact with their old colleagues and school?

Membership of our BDAA continues to grow as we recruit many of each year’s graduating students. We now number in excess of 1000 members. Finances are in a healthy state and we will continue to use the income from your subscriptions wisely to support worthy causes in the School as well as student activities and events.




General News

From the Secretary

I hope you are all enjoying the new website. Its success depends wholly upon the content and I should like to remind you to please send in anything, including photographs of anything you may think of interest to our members. If you think someone is not receiving this email that should be then it is probably because they are either not a member or else we do not have their current email

address. If they are not currently a member then please encourage them to join…it’s only £10 annually and tax allowable! If you have updated your email address recently then please let us know. Both membership and contact forms can be found on the website

Gary Mendham

General News

New! Autumn / Winter 2014, Spring 2015 Reunion Reports

We have received reunion reports from The ’66 Soc., The ’69’ers, the 50th reunion of those starting in 1964, the Year of ’74 and the Year of ’89

Click here to read them.