Swaffham Secondary Modern schoolmates gather for ‘Class of 1959’ reunion

Swaffham Class of 1959 school reunion. Picture: Ian Burt Swaffham Class of 1959 school reunion. Picture: Ian Burt

Monday, May 19, 2014
6:30 AM

More than 50 former classmates gathered to share memories about their school days – and catch up with the playground pals they met at Swaffham Secondary Modern half a century ago.

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At the Swaffham school reunion are (from left) Derek Edwards, Gordon Mason and Laurence Wright. Picture: Ian BurtAt the Swaffham school reunion are (from left) Derek Edwards, Gordon Mason and Laurence Wright. Picture: Ian Burt

The Class of ‘59 reunion has become an annual occasion following the success of the initial event in 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of classes 3A/4A and 3B/4B.

After years of research, organiser Derek Edwards, from Toftwood near Dereham, has tracked down 67 of the surviving classmates, with the majority arriving for Saturday’s get-together at Swaffham Conservative Club.

“We’ve had a remarkable turnout overall,” he said. “The extraordinary thing is that all these people could come together after 50 years and then keep coming together year after year with the same enthusiasm.”

The original idea for the reunion came from Laurence Wright, of Southlands in Swaffham, who said: “What was strange was that a lot of them still lived in the area – and when we called them a lot of them sounded exactly the same on the phone.”

Swaffham Class of 1959 school reunion. Class 3A. Picture: Ian BurtSwaffham Class of 1959 school reunion. Class 3A. Picture: Ian Burt

One person who does sound different these days is Georgina Maartensz, who has picked up an antipodean accent in the 40 years she spent living in Australia after leaving school as Georgina Page. Following her wedding in 1964, she moved to Sydney with her late husband, who she met while he was serving at RAF Watton.

She said: “It is fantastic to see so many of these people, especially when you live so far away. I stay in touch with a lot of them. It is quite incredible to see the teachers too. They actually look younger than some of the pupils!”

The guests also included 3A’s form master Gordon Mason, now 84, who said: “I think of all the schools I taught in, these were the hardest working kids I have come across. I didn’t have any troublemakers – I didn’t allow them in my class. But I did have some jokers.

“What these people have done is tremendous, and that is down to the confidence they gained at this school. I don’t claim any responsibility for that – it is what they grew into.”

Swaffham Class of 1959 school reunion. Class 4B. Picture: Ian BurtSwaffham Class of 1959 school reunion. Class 4B. Picture: Ian Burt

Another special guest was Cheryl Hill, the current principal of what is now the Nicholas Hamond Academy.

She said although the former pupils may not recognise some of the new buildings or courses being run there, the “pursuit of excellence”was still the same.

“These people left school in the year after I was born,” she said. “Education has changed so much since then. I just hope that my pupils will leave the school with the same camaraderie, and will join up in 50 years time in the same way. I hope the process of education will have given them the same team feeling and that sense of belonging.”

The youthful faces in two black and white class photographs became the starting point for the research which led to the reunion.

Mr Edwards said 81 former pupils had been identified, of which 67 have been located and 10 had since passed away, leaving four still to find.

Those four are believed to be from RAF families who had since left the area. Seven teachers have also been identified and six have been contacted.

Mr Edwards said: “Our form master Gordon Mason started taking these class photos, which was innovative at the time. It was not just as a record, but as a project – he would send us to the dark room at the back of the science lab to develop and print it.

“So we all printed our own copy of the photograph and, remarkably, we have all kept them.”

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