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2008 : 30-Year Reunion Review

1978 Leavers’ 30-Year Reunion

It all started on the playing fields of Downside in the autumn of 2006.  I was supporting my son in his first season of representative rugby for Downside, when I spotted a familiar face in the ranks of the opposition’s spectators – none other than that of Charlie Hamshaw-Thomas (B’78).  Weeks later, after some discussion, we agreed to try and organise a 30-Year reunion dinner for those who had been at Worth between 1973 and 1978. I was spurred on by the experience of attending the wonderful Rugby Reunion Dinner that Matthew Wood organised at the Travellers Club that same year, as reported in the 06/07 issue of The Blue Paper.

Charlie had remained in contact with some of our year, for example Murray Shanks and Eammon Shanahan, whilst I had been in touch with Worth Society.  This proved to be an invaluable combination when tracking down some of our old friends and we are indebted to Olivia Henley, Secretary of Worth Society, who was such a great help.

We agreed on a date for the dinner – Thursday 15th May 2008. Telephone calls were made; emails and letters were sent out.  We made contact with around half of our year, as well as a number of the staff who we thought would add some credence to the whole affair.  Sadly, neither Father Stephen nor Father Kevin were able to attend, the latter having an important prior engagement with a golf course! However we were delighted that both Keith Owers and Roger Stokes accepted our invitations to join us for the dinner.

With the help of Murray Shanks we decided to hold the dinner at The Groucho Club in the centre of Soho.  We had over 20 acceptances from our year, many of whom had not set eyes on one another for 30 years!  One by one we gathered, and such comments as the one made by Eammon “This is quite surreal” were commonplace.  Roger Stokes, looking resplendent in his black tie, soon joined us – Charlie had forgotten to inform him that the dress code was casual!  Nevertheless Roger was on wonderful form and had travelled to London all the way from his home in Shropshire.  Our concern was that both Keith and Roger looked exactly the same as when we left them all those years ago.  This was in stark contrast to the rest of us – fat, thin, tall, balding and grey (sorry, distinguished).  We mostly looked our age!  I had arrived armed with a photograph of the new Worth intake taken in September 1973. Much enjoyment was had as we tried to spot and name old friends.  We were somewhat confused at not being able to find one of our team, Hugh Laughton – until he admitted that he had actually failed his Common Entrance Exam and thereby entered Worth the following January for the Easter term!

The evening was an enormous success.  Roger and Keith spoke of their time at the school (both taught there for over 30 years), as eloquently as they did when teaching us in the 1970s.  Wonderful stories were recounted of our experiences during the time since we had departed Worth.  Most arrived that evening with some trepidation as to how it would all turn out, but all agreed we would not wait another 30 years to repeat the exercise.  This will not please one or two of the wives who were somewhat surprised at the state in which their husbands appeared during the early hours of 16th May 2008!  In particular we would like to know if Simon O’Donnell and Errol Flynn have respectively kissed and made up?!

Thank you to all who made the effort to attend.

For those of you contemplating undertaking your own reunion – do persevere – it should prove to be a wonderful and thoroughly memorable event.  Worth Society, as it is now known, was immensely helpful to us, as is the invention of email.

The evening would not have been possible without the efforts of both Charlie and Murray who made it all happen.  Also our grateful thanks go to Keith Owers and Roger Stokes, who were simply fantastic.  Hopefully at our 40-Year Reunion, we will be joined by Father Kevin and Father Stephen!

Mickey Morrissey (R’77)