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2011 : 30-Year Reunion Review

30-Year Reunion for the Class of 1986-91

Having read of the huge success of the 1980 Leavers’ 30-Year Reunion in the last issue of The Blue Paper, we knew that our time had now arrived and the pressure was on!

Step forward John Bennett, former Rutherford boy, who bravely volunteered to host and organise the event – and I offered to assist.  Fortunately for me, and all of us, John is a serial organiser of such events, so we were in very safe hands.

We set the date – Friday 7th October 2011 – and although this was many months away, the task of getting everybody together seemed a rather daunting one.  I think we were, and have continued over the last 30 years to be, a relatively close year group.  Many of us have kept in touch with the friends that we grew up alongside at school and continue to see each other on a regular basis.  That said, there are always pockets of boys who move on and who lose touch with school and friends – and it was in the process of locating these few that we needed to employ our utmost investigative skills in attempting to track them down.

Our aim at the outset was to try and make contact with everyone.  This would have been an impossible task without the internet, Facebook, LinkedIn and various other search engines.  In the end we managed to contact all apart from around five – and all I can say if you happen to be one of those reading this article, we are very sorry that we didn’t get hold of you, but we really did try our utmost!

Inevitably there were a few who were unable to join us – some felt such a gathering just wasn’t for them; others couldn’t make the journey from the other side of the world, or already had family commitments. Others made extreme efforts to ensure that they could ‘share the moment’ and changed already scheduled commitments; while some planned business meetings in the UK to coincide with our event and flew in from far and wide. 

On the night itself, 38 of our year group convened in the Ballroom at The Lansdowne Club and seeing them all and having them there was, indeed, very special.  For many, this was the first reconnection of our year group since we all left Worth back in 1981.

We were joined by some of our favourite Monks, House Masters and teachers so, in total, our gathering comprised 45 – 38 Worthians and Abbott Kevin, Father Stephen, Father Philip, James Cockburn, George Daly, Keith Owers and Roger Stokes.

Drinks were followed by a sit-down 3-course meal accompanied by plenty of the liquid stuff.   Much movement and shuffling took place between courses, as we tried to see and catch up with as many of our old friends as possible and spent much time reminiscing with one another about all the things we did and didn’t do.  

Welcoming our former Monks, Housemasters and teachers as guests was a real bonus – they added so much to the evening.  They had made a great effort to join us and we were thrilled to see them again.  And it always amazes me just how good they all are at recognising each and every one of us – in spite of the passing of time!  

In the process of tracking everyone down, some email responses came back with a sense of concern and caution in varying degrees, one of our favourites being:

“….When I first encountered the idea of this event, I was sceptical.  Do I really need this?  However, the idea has grown on me and what really sealed it was talking to Charlie Hooper who organised the year above us to meet last year. He said that everybody loved it, and it was one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences of his life.  Yes I am nervous.  Yes, there are some people I don’t particularly want to see. Yes. I am worried that I may be judged.  However, it is just one day of my life and the potential benefits of connecting with old friends far outweigh all that other stuff…”

Of course, once we were all assembled on the night, these and similar  thoughts all faded into insignificance and we typically returned to basics – leaving much of our current lives behind us for the evening and taking off from where we had all left.

We received some amusing ‘post-event’ e-mails, one dry-humoured quip concluded:

“It was very different to what I was expecting – no bad thing, to be honest – and I had a very pleasant evening.”

It is only natural to question the merit of such a reunion, but I think that all those that came along felt it was truly worthwhile.  It made me realise how genuinely fortunate we all are to have this common link which was founded at Worth, and just how much we have to be thankful for.  Much has passed over those thirty years, but the close connections were clear for all to see. The friendships that we made during this period of our lives are invaluable, and for those who had been outside the loop for a short while, this event gave us all the opportunity to reconnect. 

It would be good to do it again before another thirty years pass, and that does seem to be a re-occurring theme of all the years that have held similar events. I do hope we manage to do it again sooner.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we even had one gate crasher – and I thought the days of such excitement were long gone!   Much to the delight of all gathered – a tall gentleman, who was one whole year older than us decided to join our gathering.   It just goes to show that even though he had attended his own year group reunion just eleven months before, he evidently felt that the 1981 Leavers’ reunion was just too good a party to miss!

Dominic Strickland (C’81)

 

 “It was a great evening from so many points of view. The venue was very grand and friendly giving us enough space to cope with the numbers and move around as the evening went on.  It was great credit to the organisers for gathering so many from their year – particularly as so many had not seen each other in that time and were thrilled to get together again.

“I was delighted to be asked and was wonderfully looked after throughout the evening – I managed to recognise most, although one or two eluded me for a while. It is always remarkable at these occasions how little people have changed. One gets talking and the years roll away.”

Keith Owers

 

“I have just returned to Shropshire from the Reunion.  It was absolutely great.  A wonderful turn out (David Adeleke even gate crashed from the year above!!).  It was excellently organised – t food was just right….and the drink!  We had two seating plans and I think I managed to speak to nearly all there.  Extremely enjoyable and so good to catch up with a great band of people in a super atmosphere.  My thanks to Dominic and John for all their excellent work.”

Roger Stokes