Simon Birks came to Shebbear from Sussex in 1968, well into George Kingsnorth’s headship, and left after the Upper Sixth in 1975.
Read his own profile notes and you get the impression that he achieved little. Not quite the case, M’lord!
There is no mention, for example, of the academic successes– form prizes, the OSA’s Civics prize -and nine O-Levels and three at advanced level.
Nor that he was a Thorne House Prefect, Senior Librarian, Editor of the Shebbearian, as well as being successively, the Secretary of both the Lower and Upper Union of Debating and Dramatic Societies.
He would claim to have had no gift for acting. Yet, a little research, shows that he played a leading role as Sir Oliver Surface in Sheridan’s School for Scandal in 1973.
The reviewer commented that the acting was of a consistently high standard throughout and that Mr Birks gave a “strong” performance.
From Shebbear, Simon went to Trent Polytechnic, gaining a BA in Legal Studies in 1979.
He was called to the Bar in 1981.
“Following the usual Shebbear practice I applied to the very best chambers for pupillage – regardless of the fact that I had never even studied their special area of practice,” he said.”
Twenty-five years on finds him almost at the top of the practitioners’ list at the prestigious Clarendon Chambers in Lincolns Inn, London.
His specialist area covers Real Property and Public Law.
“Occasionally” I will meet another Old Shebbearians as an opponent, judge or a solicitor.”
In 2004, he appeared for the head teacher and governors of a comprehensive school when a 15-year old girl lost a battle in the High Court for the right to wear strict Islamic dress in school.
Simon argued successfully that the girl had not been excluded from school, which multi-cultural and multi-faith, but had simply stayed away. The case was widely reported.
He was persuaded to join the OSA by another Old Shebbearians barrister, now his Honour Judge Michael Carroll.
Subsequently he has been one of the association’s most loyal committee members. He was also a regular visitor to Shebbear for career evenings held in the 1980s and early 1990s.
And lest you think, that his life consists of all work and no play, he is an enthusiastic sailor “Dinghies – usually rather slow ones, always battered – and often someone else’s.
“In more recent years, living in Kent, I have also been introduced to Thames sailing barges and to a friend’s narrow boat.”