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Never a dull moment...

Gold Reunion: Classes of 1970-72

On Friday 24 June 2022, we were honoured to welcome back 50 former students and their partners for the Golden Anniversary Lunch, celebrating 50 years since the Classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972 left Reigate Grammar School.

For some, this was their first visit back to school since they left, and it provided a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old classmates and take a trip down memory lane.

After two years of COVID disruption, it was an absolute joy to finally meet in person and we were particularly delighted to have three guests fly in from overseas: Jonanthan Sakula (’70) from Canada, Terry Caloghiris (’71) from Switzerland and Malcolm Butcher (’72) from Australia. The icing on the cake was to have former teachers, Bob Harden (RGS staff 1961-1974) and Allan Sims (RGS staff 1964-2001), who still recognised many of their former charges!

Most of our guests opted to take a tour of the school and set off from reception at 11am with a volunteer guide from our Sixth Form team. While some areas of the school have changed beyond recognition and a few new buildings and facilities have been added, the fabric of the school remains the same (and, as the Headmaster commented, perhaps the smell is the same, too!).

The exams schedule meant guests enjoyed an interlude in the main foyer while the last students finished off in the Old Library (or the gym as it had been in the late 1960s, early 1970s). Tours ended with the Old Library where one guest, Alan Soer (’72), was particularly happy to find the Mitchiner Cup board sporting his name, as well as his Seat of Learning!

Time for lunch
Our party then moved down to the Headmaster’s garden, where talented musicians, Juliet C-W, Omar A and Megan T charmed guests with a mixture of classical music and their take on a few rock pieces. Everyone enjoyed catching up, looking at displays of old photographs, flicking through old copies of The Pilgrim from 1963-1972, and sharing photographs that they had brought with them.

Headmaster, Shaun Fenton, welcomed our guests, provided an overview of recent awards and successes, before delivering the following message, “Undoubtedly Reigate Grammar School is a great school, and offers both in and out of the classroom a first-class education to its students and an invigorating and helpful atmosphere… It has been both a delight and an encouragement to me to discover the strength of the loyalty and sense of comradeship in the school.” Which was actually echoing the words of HM Ballance in the spring 1969 edition of The Pilgrim, a sentiment that still rings true today!

He explained that, as the school approaches its own anniversary in 2025, the ethos of philanthropy, on which the school was founded, is still going strong. He proudly announced that in recent weeks, we have offered a bursary place to a Ukrainian child, with another place hopefully going to an Afghan refugee.

He mentioned the house system, explaining how and why the eight houses became none (it wasn’t deemed trendy in the noughties!), before four, having been reintroduced under his tenure. Indeed, the names of RGS’s current four houses – Bird, Cranston, Hodgson and Williamson – were chosen by students and are personal to the school, being the names of the first four Headmasters. He talked about the number of languages our First Formers learn – from French and Mandarin to Python and HTML (computing languages)!

Mr Fenton wrapped up by announcing that lunch was ready and guests helped themselves to a delicious cold buffet of salmon, chicken, quiche and an array of salads, followed by strawberries and cream. During lunch, everyone embraced the challenge of naming those pictured in a pack of old photographs from their school days. These – alongside copies of The Pilgrim magazine from 1961-1969 and messages from those who were unable to make the date (largely because of COVID and rail strikes) – formed part of a large display, evoking lots of fond memories.

Photo opportunity

With lunch complete, guests made their way to the bottom lawn, where Head of Foundation, Sean Davey, emphasised just how special it was to be able to host the Golden Anniversary Lunch after a challenging couple of years, asking everyone to take a moment to remember those we have lost. He highlighted the role the RGS Foundation plays – both in keeping our Reigatian community connected through events such as this, and by raising money to provide bursary places to students. Indeed, we look forward to sharing more news about the 350th anniversary celebrations and will be contacting everyone in due course about events and initiatives connected to this.

He mentioned the incredible legacy left by former teacher, Robin Bligh (RGS staff 1953-1994), who had gifted his estate to the RGS Foundation, before thanking all those who currently support our work. Associate Director, Jonny Hylton then spoke, explaining that he left the school in 1999 and is proud to have been a student, but is even more proud of the work he does now. Such is his belief in the impact that an RGS education can have on deserving young children, he has pledged a gift to RGS in his Will and is currently the school’s youngest legator.

Finally, Jonny explained that we had Third Form students joining us shortly, who were keen to hear about growing up in Reigate and life at RGS in the 1960s, but, he stated, these are impressionable young thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds, so asked everyone to keep the more colourful stories to themselves!

Guests were then asked to gather together for a group photo (pictured above) as well as separate shots of the three year groups. It was amazing to see all the old school ties, badges and even a very small-looking school cap, donned (or should that be doffed?) by Nick Collyer (’70). All images from the day can be viewed in the Event Gallery.

Living history session

After tea, coffee and cake, our Third Form History students arrived. It turned out that their teacher had set them a challenge to discover the most shocking piece of information! [At the time of writing, we are yet to discover what that turned out to be!] In groups of two and three, students sat with guests, and chatted about how life at RGS in the swinging sixties compared to life at the school now. All parties found this experience absolutely fascinating, with older guests learning as much from the students as the students did from them.

After an action-packed day, 3pm came around quickly and it was time to bid everyone farewell, though guests were encouraged to come back and visit again soon.

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