Last celebration for the old Swanage Grammar School

A final reunion for the old Swanage Grammar School brought together 170 people including former pupils and teachers.

The event, which was held at The Swanage School on Saturday 21st May 2022, will be the last such gathering, so there were tears as well as laughter. The grammar school closed in 1974.

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

The three youngest pupils, from the 1971/72 year group, Wendy Azzaro, Ron Wrixon and Nicky Churchill

“Such joy, laughter and pleasure”

David Slingo, treasurer of the Swanage Grammar School Association, said:

“After having to cancel through Covid our plans for a 2020 reunion, we were not sure what to expect a couple of years later. However, the 2022 reunion far exceeded our expectations with the range of year groups from 1943 to 1972 and the number of former pupils wanting to attend.

“On the day, there was such joy, laughter and pleasure evident on the faces of all those came together, meeting old and making new friends with a single special bond – SGS!  For the organising team it is an incredible memory we can all share and be proud to have created.”

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

Gillian Chapman, standing, and the class of ’52, including one former pupil over from the USA

From near and far

Among those attending were four former teachers: Pat Churchill, Ken Lees, David Hyde and Peter Clarke.

Many of those taking part still live in Dorset but others came from around the UK, and one even came from the USA.

The oldest pupils present were two who started at SGS in 1943 and the youngest were two who started in 1972.

Old grammar school in Swanage

The old grammar school is due to be demolished and replaced by housing

Swanage Grammar School buildings now derelict

Swanage Grammar School in Northbrook Road was opened on 23rd October 1929 by the Earl of Shaftesbury.

It closed in 1974 and the building was then used as an outdoor centre until about 2002. It has since become derelict and is about to be demolished to make way for a housing development.

Well known former pupils at the grammar school include the weather presenter Peter Cockroft and the former Conservative MP David Mellor.

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

Former Latin teacher Pat Churchill (nee Salmon) cuts the commemorative cake made at the Dragon Bakery in Corfe Castle

Shared experiences

The day of the reunion began with a commemoration service, led by Gillian Humphries, giving thanks for all the shared experiences at SGS and remembering those who had died since the previous reunion in 2019.

The school ‘anthem’ Forty Years On was sung with a special verse added of ‘60 years on’ to finish. David Slingo, a former head boy, read the lesson from 1 Corinthians 13 v1-13. The singing was accompanied by Paul Baird and Nick Thorne.

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

David Slingo, treasurer (right), presents a cheque to The Swanage School’s head of drama Harry Peake (left)

Cheque presented to Swanage School

Lunch was provided by Sorrels Catering from Wimborne. A commemoration cake was donated by Joan and Nigel Dragon (both former SGS pupils) of The Dragon Bakery in Corfe Castle. It was cut by Pat Churchill, former teacher of Latin and other subjects at SGS.

A raffle raised more than £700 with all proceeds going to a charity taking supplies to Ukraine.

The SGSA presented a cheque for £1,000 to The Swanage School to enable the development of its library. The cheque was presented to Harry Peake, head of drama, by David Slingo.

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo
Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

Memorabilia and photos from the old school were on display

Roads to be named after former teachers

There was a display of SGS memorabilia including a school blazer, photos of sports days and drama productions, plus the school Honours Board. These will form part of a display at the Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre.

It was reported that Dorset Council, with the support of Swanage Town Council and the developers of the former school site in Northbrook Road, had agreed to name roads after former teaching staff at the grammar school.

Local firm Haysom Purbeck Stone Clean have cleaned and repainted the inscription on the commemorative stone in Days Park. Trevor Haysom was a former SGS pupil.

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

The recently cleaned memorial stone near the site of the old school

“A wonderful occasion”

Those attending were delighted with the opportunity to get together one last time.

Tony Bamber said:

“My thanks to the organisation committee and congratulations for their excellent last reunion. By pure chance I found myself sitting next to someone who used to live in the same road in Bovington and took the same daily road/rail trip to the school – some 60 years ago and this was the first time we had met since – 60 years on!”

Liz Mytton said:

“It was a wonderful occasion – such kindness and affection was a real testament to everyone involved.”

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

Linda Burfitt and Philippa Rayner enjoy a catch-up

“A fabulous finale”

Dorothy Bower said:

“It was a perfect day, and I didn’t really want to come home and leave you all. The organisation was fantastic, and our table full of lovely friends was the icing on the cake.”

Nicky Churchill said:

“What a fabulous finale! Well done to all those involved in organising it. Lovely to see lots of old faces and friends not seen for a few years. Remembering happy times at school and making new memories today.”

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

Table set with the four house colours: Ballard, Durlston, St Aldhelms and Peveril

“Tears in my eyes”

Shelagh Ball said:

“I think we managed to go out with a bit of a bang yesterday at the final Swanage Grammar School reunion. Well there were lots of small pops anyway, from the balloons in our house colours of red, yellow, green and blue for Ballard, Durlston, St Aldhelms and Peveril.

“There are always tears in my eyes during the service and more so this time since we will not all gather like this again. My heart was warmed again though by the sight of so many friends catching up with each other again.

“I laughed at the sight of many studying name badges to make sure that they had the right person since the years have etched a few more lines and changed the shape of faces.”

Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo
Swanage Grammar School reunion
David Slingo

Tables set (top), David Slingo, treasurer, and Bruce Chapman, chairman (below)

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