Old friends reunited in Swaffham

THEY came from around the world and around the corner to meet up with classmates some had not seen for decades.

THEY came from around the world and around the corner to meet up with classmates some had not seen for decades.

As they gathered at Swaffham on Saturday there was non-stop chatter and laughter and a few tears as the class of 1959/60 re-lived the best days of their lives.

For some the emotion got too much and the tears came, while others met their old school chums with the comment: 'You haven't changed a bit!'.

The Swaffham secondary school re-union at Swaffham Conservative Club followed on from last year when a reunion was staged to mark the 50th anniversary for the 1959/50 year.

The event was organised by former pupil Derek Edwards, of Toftwood, near Dereham, who, assisted by others, spent considerable time tracking down ex-pupils, including several from around the world.

They included Raymond Hipkin, who divides his time between South Africa and the UK and Georgina Page, from Sydney in Australia

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Surprisingly, Mr Edwards did not resort to modern on-line search facilities such as Friends ReUnited or Facebook but relied on 'old fashioned sleuthing techniques' and person-to-person contacts involving hundreds of telephone calls and personal visits.

The contacts are to be maintained through a ring of e-mail contacts that have been established and it is hoped that the Swaffham reunion will become an annual fixture in the town's calendar.

Teacher Helen Dye has fond memories of her two years at the school and the 'lovely group of teachers' she worked with. Miss Dye, who taught religious knowledge and who now lives at Sporle, is part of a well-known Swaffham family because her late father, Sydney Dye, served as MP for South West Norfolk.

Ellen Jenness, who taught needlework and then went on to become the deputy head, was at the school for 26 years.

'There was a lovely camaraderie among the staff, nice pupils and co-operative parents,' she said. Now aged 88, Miss Jenness lives at Brisley, near North Elmham.

It was an emotional meeting for former pupils Gloria Chaplin (nee Callaby) and Connie Bailey (nee Johnson) who were best friends at school but who had not seen each other for 51 years.

They talked non-stop and both agreed that they felt as if it was only yesterday and not more than half-a-century since they spoke.

'We were best friends at school and used to socialise together after school but once we started work we lost touch. In those days you didn't have e-mails and mobile phones like there are today.

'We certainly hope to keep in contact now,' said Mrs Chaplin, who lives in Marham.

Mrs Page, who has been in Australia for 36 years, said she got a telephone call out of the blue about the reunion and the day brought back many memories for her. She is staying in the area with members of her family until October.

Mr Edwards said about 66 staff and former pupils attended the event and he was delighted that it was such a success and it was hoped that it would now become an annual event.