“IN loyalty and honour to our school all hail! Saxon learning saw thy birth in this shelter’d vale”
Those opening words of its historic School Song set the scene for Saturday, April 22’s fourth and probably final major reunion organised by former pupils from The Class of ‘64 at Crediton’s Queen Elizabeth’s School.
Around 90 former pupils, staff and partners converged on Crediton for this unique gathering, some from as far afield as France and even the United States, and ranging in ages from one Old Kyrtonian who started at QES in 1952 to others who left more than 20 years later. Among those who couldn’t make it but sent messages of support were former Cornish Tory MP Sir Robert Hicks and ex BBC celebrity weatherman Bill Giles OBE… who both attended QE in the 1950s.
Mr Giles sent the following message: “I wish I could have joined you all on Saturday.
“I came to QES in 1951 as a boarder and my recollections are that the school was run as a very strict regime where much of the discipline was carried out by the school prefects. The normal punishment for your crime - and it could be as little as putting your hands in your pockets four times in three weeks - was being whacked with a very large gym shoe... But the education and the dedication of the teachers was second to none.
“Sport ranged from rugby and hockey to cricket and shooting.
“The other sport we enjoyed was nipping over the wall to meet the High School girls but that’s another story. Although it was hard and disciplined I had a brilliant time and it certainly set me up for life, knowing that if things were hard, keep your head down, carry on as usual and they will get better."
The event was dubbed the QE “Platinum Reunion” because all of the organisers, who started in 1964 at what was then Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School for Boys or the Girls’ High School next door are turning 70 this academic year. The two schools merged in 1965 and went comprehensive in the 1970s.
The reunion gave the chance for everyone to look around their old classrooms, chat to former classmates and meet former pupils from different eras, before a ceremonial cake-cutting and speeches from different generations of ex-pupils. The afternoon session ended with a group school photograph.
The oldest former pupils present were Dr Jane Richards who started at Crediton High School in the 1940s and Mr David Gunney who started at what was then Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for Boys in 1952.
They cut the two ceremonial cakes baked for the occasion, one sporting the crest of the old Girls' High School and the other the old QES crest.
Another notable participant was Mr Frank Bristow, former MD of Bristow’s, Crediton confectionery and fudge makers since 1932. The Class of ’64 organised its first mass gathering in 1991, 20 years after leaving QE. Further major reunions were then held in 1996 and 2015. This time, they widened the net to include other QE generations.
One or two of them turned up wearing part of their old school uniform: including Mrs Carol Hughes, widow of the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, who wore her Crediton High School grey and blue blazer! She was one of those speaking briefly during the afternoon.
There was also a very Special School Dinner in the evening for those who wanted to stay on, with an additional Cheese course kindly sponsored by Quicke’s cheeses of Newton St Cyres.
Mary and John Quicke are both QE ex-pupils and attended the reunion. The meal ended with a rousing rendition of the ancient School Song, “Schola Kyrtonensis”.