EARLY REUNION EVENTS
It is known that, after its foundation in 1910, the Old Boys Association held its first Annual Dinner on Boxing Day 1911. Presumably this was intended to be an annual event thereafter and the evidence is that this was the case. Surprisingly, following the Great War, there seems to have been a lull in the activities of the Old Boys Association which was not revived until 1928, the year in which the Old Girls Association was founded.
Over the years spanning the 1930s to the 1950s, and including the war years, the Old Boys Association, mainly under the secretaryship of science master Mr Frank Miles, held annual dinners attended by 30 – 40 former pupils and members of staff. The Old Girls Association held similar social functions but less details have survived.
Probably the best attended events during this period, in terms of how well they were supported, were the annual sports fixtures involving ‘The School versus The Old Boys / Girls’. Cricket matches were usually the highlight since the Old Boys team often contained members of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club such as Walter Hammond, Charles Barnett and William Mitchison.
The two associations survived World War II but were less active in the 1950s, when the Old Boys and Old Girls organizations were merged, and into 1960s.
THE ‘DEMISE’ & REBIRTH OF THE OLD GRAMMARIANS ASSOCIATION
For reasons which have never been quite clear, after the school closed in 1966, interest in Old Grammarian activities declined. Even the merger of the Old Boys and Old Girls Associations in the late 1950s had done nothing to stem the apparent lack of support and the Association was wound up in 1975.
For some time small groups of Old Grammarians met together informally for lunch, or at each others homes, often on an annual basis. However, it was not until the mid-1980s that nostalgic interest in the old school, by then closed for two decades, resurfaced. This happened in two, almost simultaneous, ways.
In the summer of 1988 Malcolm Whitaker organized a supper at Syde Farm at which over eighty, mainly Old Boys and male members of staff, turned up. Proof, if it was needed, of a growing interest especially amongst retired, and soon to retire, former Old Grammarians. The result was the formation of the 1940s Association which remains extremely active to the present day.
Other events were taking place independently around the same time. The late Rosemary Waring (Cullip), who had been living abroad for some years, returned to the UK in 1983. About 1985 she met up with some old school friends, Brenda Lissimore (Wormald) and Mavis Mills (Stewart). Rosemary suggested that they might have lunch together and that anyone else within their original circle could come along. Expecting about 9 to attend, on the day 24 turned up!
From that lunch grew the idea that a data base should be started with a view to arranging a reunion of their own age group from the classes of 1949-1951. A frantic search began in order to come up with as many names and addresses as possible, for a reunion in 1988. The venue chosen was the Royal Agricultural College, the Grammar School itself having been closed a couple of decades earlier. Applications were slow coming in at first and about 120 were expected to attend. They speeded up however and by the day before had risen to 185! The Reunion was a success and a video was made of the event.
A little while later Rosemary met Pam Webb (Wheeler) who asked how the event had gone. Pam was at the time Treasurer to the Bingham Hall Trust, husband Peter was its chairman; incidentally, they had been joint secretaries to the merged Old Grammarians Associations which had folded in 1975! Rosemary told her the event had been a success and Pam suggested the idea of an even larger event, to be held in the Bingham Hall.
The rest is history. A Reunion Committee was formed with Rosemary as Chairman, Brenda as Treasurer and Mavis as Secretary. Peter and Pam were drafted in as were members of the newly formed 1940s Association. Most of the current committee is made up of the original members and even the most recent members have at least four reunions behind them
That first ‘Reunion of Reunions’, or ‘Grand Reunion’ as it was sometimes termed, was held in October 1993 at the Bingham Hall. Its popularity was evident as over 500 former pupils and their guests turned up to enjoy the event. There was an immediate demand for a repeat performance!
Subsequent reunions were held in 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2006 (the latter marking 40 years since the school closed). These were held over a period of three days. A Friday event was arranged for those who wished to start early, followed by a Saturday morning get-together. The main event, the Grand Reunion, was held on the Saturday evening. Sunday mornings saw a visit to the old school and a Farewell Lunch rounded off the proceedings.
A display of memorabilia at the foot of the stage (2010)
Since Old Grammarians are a ‘finite’ body of men and women the numbers attending were bound to dwindle over the years. In fact, by 2006 the number of OG’s attending had fallen to 300. It was wondered whether further reunions would attract sufficient people to make it worthwhile. Was it perhaps to be the last viable reunion? That question was answered in 2008 when the Reunion Committee was invited to host a reunion as part of the Bingham Hall Centenary celebrations and a two day event was arranged. So 2006 became the last of the three day events and it was decided that any Grand Reunions thereafter be confined to two days. After the 2008 Reunion a further reunion took place in 2010 (the centenary of the Old Boys Association). Yet another reunion was held in 2012 – Olympic Year and Diamond Anniversary of HM The Queen’s Coronation.
So that comprises the history of the Grand Reunions. What does the future hold? Quite frankly, future reunions depend upon people’s interest and support. Importantly, it needs support from the former pupils of Classes 1955-1965. But even a reunion for a mere handful would be better than letting things die prematurely!
The numbers of members attending over the years, (there are also guests of members which swell the numbers but are not included in the figures below), looks like this:
(1993) 450 est 415 328 323 297 209 184 174 140 120 170 100+ (2018)
In 2010 attendances at the reunions comprised 46% from the 1940s classes, 33% from the 1950s and 20% from the 1960s. The number from the 1950s and 1960s has grown slightly in recent years while the percentages from the earlier years has, understandably, fallen.
So the future rests on the shoulders of the ‘younger’ generation. We’d love to see more of you!
The ninth Grand Reunion – a one-day event was held on Saturday 13th September 2014 at Down Ampney Village Hall. It was attended by over 120 Old Grammarians and their guests, including some who had not previously attended a reunion. Pretty good considering how long the school had been closed! Initial reviews indicate that the change of venue and the arrangements, were enjoyed by all.
A tenth reunion took place at The Bingham Hall in September 2016. It commemorated the life of the Grammar School from 1457 to 1966 which ended 50 years ago. As most Old Grammarians know, in July 1966, the Victoria Road school held its final assembly and reopened in the following September as part of the newly formed comprehensive system.
In his address to the final assembly the Chairman of Governors, Mr Ingram, referred to it being ‘Not the end of the book, but the end of a chapter’. In essence 1966 was the end of the Grammar School chapter and the new comprehensive system the beginning of the next.
The Reunion consisted of a ‘Get-Together’ in the Daniel Bingham Suite of the Bingham Hall, on the evening of Saturday 10th September 2016 attended by 170 members and guests, while on Sunday 11th September 2016, there was the traditional morning visit to the old school in Victoria Road followed by lunch, a talk and tea in the Bingham Hall attended by 170 members and guests.
The eleventh Grand Reunion was held on the weekend of Saturday/Sunday 22nd/23rd September 2018 at the Bingham Hall, with a format similar to that of 2016.
IT PROVED A GREAT SUCCESS – OVER A HUNDRED ATTENDED ON BOTH NIGHTS !!!!!!
AT OUR COMMITTEE MEETING ON 17TH NOVEMBER 2019 IT WAS DECIDED THAT THE TWELFTH GRAND REUNION WOULD BE HELD AT THE BINGHAM HALL ON THE WEEKEND 19/20th SEPTEMBER 2020
HOWEVER, DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC RESULTING IN THE CLOSURE OF THE BINGHAM HALL UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE – IT IS WITH REGRET THAT THE REUNION HAD TO BE CANCELLED.
IT HAD BEEN HOPED TO HOLD A REUNION IN 2021 BUT THIS ALSO PROVED IMPOSSIBLE
AS SOON AS THE SITUATION EASES THE COMMITTEE WILL MEET AGAIN AND OUR DECISION WILL BE PUBLISHED HERE. FINGERS CROSSED!