Former pupil of Bolton School Sir Ian McKellen returned to the school recently to celebrate his 80th birthday. He left the school as captain in 1958.
He started the day with a lunchtime reunion of former classmates, which saw him address the audience and cut a birthday cake. He performed an abridged version of his show in the Great Hall in front of 600 year 7 to year 10 pupils, former pupils and staff.
He even read a passage from Lord of the Rings, and two boys shared the stage with him to hold Glamdring, Gandalf’s sword.
Headmaster Philip Britton said: “It was wonderful to welcome Sir Ian back to give the boys a performance of some of his 80th birthday show on the Great Hall stage where he had done some of his acting as a boy.
“His obvious sense of fun, his acknowledgement of how teachers had indulged and nurtured his passion for acting, and the sense of gratefulness for opportunity was brilliant to see. It was an amazing experience for the boys at the end of their exam week!
“In the Q&A we learned he was in Blackburn House when at school – who would have thought he would remember after 60 years? – his favourite subject was geography and he wished he had been better at maths and science. And we started a debate on whether Gandalf or Magneto would win a contest!”
McKellen is currently halfway through his national tour, called Ian McKellen on Stage: Tolkien, Shakespeare and You! As a boy growing up in Lancashire, he was always grateful to companies that toured beyond London and Sir Ian has always enjoyed ‘repaying that debt’ by performing in theatres across the country.