Sinnott Talks

Fr John Sinnott

The Sinnott Talks were founded as the London Sinnott Society by Michael Quinlan, George Bull, Derrick Palengat and John Donovan in 1974, following the Oxford Society founded in the 1950s and intended as an homage to the former College Headmaster Fr John Sinnott.

Talks happen twice a year and are given by Old Wimbledonians with something interesting to say. 

These have included a Cabinet Minister, a Principal Private Secretary, a War correspondent, two writers and three CEOs.

Location has varied from the Jesuit Headquarters at Farm Street to The HQS Wellington and other locations in the city of London.

All Old Wimbledonians are welcome and wives/partners are occasionally invited. There is a Mass, a finger buffet and then the talk. When at the School there is a tour of the premises available.

If you are an Old Wimbledonian and would like to do a Sinnott Talk please contact John Simmonds at

See the full list of Sinnott Talks to date  below: the following have also spoken but dates unknown:

Please email any suggestions for missing details or amendments to the list to 

Next Sinnott Talk: Thursday 19 October 2023

The OWA Chairman Michael-Jon Andrews will be giving a talk entitled Wimbledon College, a legal career and the interesting bits in between.

17:30 Optional Mass in the Chapel.

18.15 Reception and buffet in the refectory.

19.15 Talk in the Hall.

19:45 Questions

20.15 Close

The charge for the buffet and drinks is £10 (no charge to College or Ursuline staff or pupils).  

All Old Wimbledonians  and their paying guests are welcome.

RSVP would be helpful.

24 November 2021

Peter Fudakowski

A Celebration of the Movies

The speaker was Peter Fudakowski the film producer and Oscar winner, who celebrated cinematic films or "the Movies" and his passion for this art form. 

The Speaker

Peter Fudakowski is a London-based film producer, writer and director. 

He entered the College in 1966.

He studied Economics at Magdalene College, Cambridge (where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society in Michaelmas Term 1976).

He graduated with a master's degree and later read for an MBA at the business school INSEAD, France.

In 1979 he joined the First National Bank of Chicago, where he worked in the film financing department. In 1982 Fudakowski left to set up his own production company with his wife, Henrietta Williams, as script editor and head of development. Their company, Premiere Productions Ltd, marked its 20th year in the film business with the production of Tsotsi, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2006.

Following this Fudakowski and Williams developed film projects, including The Secret Sharer and Corams Children. Fudakowski directed Secret Sharer, shot on location in Thailand and China, which was released in the UK in June 2014. 

In November 2014 Fudakowski was awarded the Wings Award by the Polish Film Festival in America.


30 April 2019 

William Rhind

Mahatma Gandhi - his relevance today

John Austin

The Changing Faces of Education as seen through Wimbledon College

11 October 2018 

Shaninga Marasha

BIG KID Foundation - There is something Big behind every Kid

Our speaker in October 2018 was one of our younger members, Shaninga Marasha, who left the College as Head Boy in 2001. He gave an inspirational talk about the BIGKID Foundation which he founded while in the sixth form at the College and of which he is now Chief Executive. 

The Foundation is a charity providing mentoring for young people, many at school and at risk of permanent exclusion.

Shaninga explained that many of the young people the Foundation mentored have no religious background and no role models in their communities, and some are subject to parental pressure to take up careers for which they are neither suited nor interested, and so rebel at school. 

Parents from some immigrant communities discourage ambition because they wish their children to remain at home to speak for and look after them as they themselves have not learned English. 

Young people permanently excluded from school often become involved in violence and criminality, frequently involving drugs, which lead to prison and, for many, death at an early age.

Through mentoring, community engagement and leadership the BIGKID Foundation works in schools and elsewhere to prove there is an alternative to exclusion, providing sports, youth clubs, trips, residential days, leadership skills, challenges and other activities designed to engage young people at risk between their mid-teens and mid-twenties and encourage them to develop their ambition and determination. 

Shaninga outlined the experiences of three young people to illustrate how the Foundation has mentored them.

In conclusion Shaninga emphasised that many young people, especially those in danger of being permanently excluded from school, need someone willing to spend time to help them. 

We all have something to give and, if possible, we should consider whether we could be a mentor for young people.


15 November 2017 

Dennis Hill

Medical Evidence on the Turin Shroud

As a Medical Physicist specialising in medical imaging systems for over 40 years, Dennis covers the studies by Doctors and Scientists aiming to prove the authenticity of the Turin Shroud since 1932. The latest finding was as recent as this year. 

He also makes reference to the relevant accounts and prophecies in scripture.

The Speaker

Dennis has spoken once before to the Sinnott meeting. In 2012 he covered Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and the principles in the production of all images. This time the principles relating to the image on the Shroud are covered.

16 March 2015 

Ken Peacock

Aden — The last war of Empire

Ken opened his talk by explaining that, although the Aden campaign was 50 years ago and there have been more emotive conflicts since, it was the last conflict in the process of Britain's withdrawal from Empire and was a watershed. At the time it caused considerable international controversy. It was a tale of muddle and confusion by government and of grim and unpleasant warfare.

Aden itself, a city, port and peninsula on the south eastern coast of what is now Yemen, was a barren, rocky and forbidding place when Britain purchased it from the ruling Sultan in 1839 as a Dependency of the Government of India. It thrived and in 1937 responsibility passed to the Colonial Office in London as a Crown Colony. After the Second World War considerable investment took place, including a huge oil refinery and a major military base. However little attempt was made to control or develop the barren and inaccessible inland area.

Three factors contributed to the Aden campaign of 1964-67: the threat from Yemen to the north, which had long claimed the area, the rise of Arab nationalism at this time, and Britain's plan to form a Federation from Aden and the two Aden Protectorates in the hinterland, which was to be known as South Arabia and was opposed by virtually everybody. Relations with Yemen deteriorated steadily during 1963 and a nationalist, insurgent organisation was formed there to undermine British authority and to use violence to win the struggle. In December a grenade was thrown at the High Commissioner and some Federal Ministers at the airport and a State of Emergency was declared.

Two military campaigns against the guerrilla tribesmen and insurgents in the mountainous central area of the country, known as Radfan, followed. Many of the tactics employed, like the need to picquet the heights, were little changed from those used in the North West Frontier of India over the previous Century. Soldiers had to work in temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring two gallons of water per man per day. Following these two successful campaigns a series of battalion and company camps were established throughout the Radfan area to maintain control and counter the remaining insurgents. This continued until 1967 when British forces were withdrawn from up-country.

Meanwhile in Aden State, as the Colony was now named, terrorism was growing, the impetus being the British Government's decision to retain the military base but to grant independence to South Arabia by 1968, an open invitation to the nationalists, Yemen and Egypt to force out the British and the Federal government and to seize power. The terrorist methods adopted had been tried and tested in Malaya, Borneo, Cyprus and Kenya, and would be used more recently in Afghanistan. From December 1964 until the British withdrawal in November 1967 incidents occurred almost daily, increasing in intensity each month, a total of over 3,700 incidents resulting in over 2,000 casualties, killed and wounded, amongst the Security Forces, the Europeans and the Local Nationals.

Ken described some of the tactics used to counter an urban terrorist campaign, including the use of patrols, observation posts, road blocks and so on, as well as showing examples of wanted persons booklets, Arabic phrase cards and Rules of Engagement cards. He spoke about the routine of operations over several months, how soldiers relaxed when stood down and about some of his own experiences.

Britain ultimately announced that it would leave Aden in 1967 rather than 1968, though still without an independence settlement to suit everybody. Then the Israelis' crushing defeat of the Egyptians in the Six Day War of June 1967 had a profound emotional impact on Arabs throughout the Middle East, and there was considerable hostility towards Britain who, it was believed, had supported Israel. In Aden on 20 June a series of incidents in which the South Arabian Police mutinied left 22 British soldiers dead and 31 wounded. Crater, the main built-up area, was left in the nationalists' possession and not reoccupied by the Army until a couple of weeks later. In August the nationalists took over power in most of the up-country states while their rulers were at a conference in Geneva, and in Aden the two main terrorist  organisations fought each other in savage civil war to decide who would take over from the British. In November the British finally left, the last Royal Marines being helicoptered from the golf course to Royal Navy ships in the harbour. In the last four years the British Forces had lost 57 killed and 651 wounded.

In 1990 the so-called Peoples' Democratic Republic of Yemen, and Yemen to the north, were united under the name Yemen. Civil war followed and it became the poorest country in the Middle East. It also became the main area of Al-Qaeda activity in the Middle East and, despite eventual United States support, the Western backed government collapsed in early 2015 and the Western countries closed their embassies. In April house-to-house fighting raged in Aden as the rebels closed in on the last troops loyal to the deposed president. At the time of writing chaos continues on the streets once so familiar to the British Army.

16 October 2013

Major Dominic Staveley

The Cavalry Major who helped beat King's 50-0

Life as an Army Officer 

Dominic Staveley won an Army scholarship while at Wimbledon College which meant he could go on to study at Cardiff University and take a gap year in Zimbabwe before he joined the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards in 2003.

Speaking at the autumn meeting of the Sinnott Society in their new venue, Heythrop College, Kensington, part of London University, where former headmaster Fr Michael Holman, is the principal, Dominic gave his audience some insights into Army life,  including being on the front line in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 50-0 defeat of King's

As part of the winning Wimbledon College team which decisively routed a King's College XV 50-0 while at the college, Dominic showed his rugby playing prowess as an open side flanker early on. While at Cardiff University studying Politics he also played rugby professionally and was tempted to take it up full time.

However the lure of the Army won in the end, and he trained as an officer at Sandhurst after his degree Just a year after graduating from Sandhurst he was in Iraq on a 7 month tour of duty 2004-5.

This was followed by being a squadron 2nd in command of 120 men in Afghanistan in 2008. He spoke about the very real dilemmas of having to restrain troops from engaging in combat until all the rules for engagement were met, not an easy task in the heat of battle around Musa Qala, a Taliban hotspot in Helmand province.

Grandfather was a fighter pilot

Dominic was asked if he came from a military family. Although he did have a grandfather who was a fighter pilot in World War II, it was probably the example of his older brother joining the army that had prompted him to successfully apply for an Army scholarship while at the college.

He is now a Major involved with Organisation and Development, planning how the likely military engagements of the future can be successfully handled in the world's hotspots, such as in Africa.

15 March 2011

Jay Tabb

Reading midfielder reveals how he became a professional

The first big football game Jay Tabb (OW 1994-99) remembers was Chelsea v Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup as a five year old - and from that moment on he was hooked.

Speaking to the Sinnott Society at their March 2011 meeting, with plenty of younger attendees from the College and the Ursuline, Jay detailed just how he  became a professional footballer. Progressing from junior league football played around Merton, Jay got spotted as potential talent and joined the youth squad of Crystal Palace while still attending the college.

"I was always given plenty of help and encouragement to make my training sessions with Crystal Palace right after school each night, it involved a lot of travel, and the much appreciated help of my father driving me to the practice  ground. You have to be dedicated to succeed in football.

"At the age of 16 I had to choose whether to stay on at the college or to go to Crystal Palace full time. I eventually, after a lot of heart searching, chose Crystal Palace. So you can imagine my dismay when a year later they told me they didn't think I had what it takes to go further.

"Fortunately, an old coach and mentor of mine, who had moved to Brentford, took me on board there and within a few months I was playing for the first team after what had seemed a very bleak time.

"Since then it's been magical, when my contract was coming to an end at Brentford I got an offer to join Coventry in the Championship league. Then when  that contract was coming to an end, I got the offer of joining my present club Reading.

 "At the moment we are just outside the playoff places in the league, so anything could happen."

 Jay took questions from the floor, he explained that he did a lot of speaking at local schools with Reading and the kids always wanted to know what kind of car he drove.

"What kind of car do you drive?" asked one of the younger members of the Sinnott audience. He would only reveal it was green.

"Didn't it have something to do with a man called Martin?" asked someone in the audience.

The life of a professional footballer these days is not an easy one.