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Revived Reunions

By Betty Turner (nee Noble)

In November, 1977,1 had a little dinner party for my birthday at The Crest and Gun at Eridge on the Kent and Sussex borders. I lived in Uckfield at the time and chose the venue as it was about equal distance for two friends coming from Maidstone.

One of the guests was a childhood village friend Elizabeth (Eddie) Hardman an Old Girl (1942/9), whose Mother, Dorothy Hardman (nee Hollobon) was a founder pupil at the school in 1913. Eddie arrived with a wrapped birthday present for me. The other guests watched in anticipation as I opened it and were rather dumbfounded when a terracotta pitcher (jug) revealed itself! It really was a unique present - a replica of the jugs on the table in the school dining room, under which we used to hide fat and gristle from Miss Dorothy Peach's eyes. Miss Peach fed us well on the rations throughout the war, but she did rather take the "clear your plate" demands to extremes! Dawn Johnson (nee Standen) 1943/8 shared the joke but we had to explain to the others present! One non-Old Girl asked if we were all so close after all the years, why we never had a school reunion? We explained that sadly Lewes County Grammar School for Girls ceased in 1970 and went Comprehensive becoming part of Priory School. All the records disappeared and funds for school uniforms assistance etc. were swallowed up by East Sussex County Council. The school honours board was banished to under the stage in the new (1957) building.

Everyone agreed it was a shame and suggested I did something about it. Eddie contacted Jean Brook (nee Harris) 1942/8 and suggested that she and I got together and did something positive about a reunion.

It took us nearly a year and from a handful of friends the phoenix rose from the ashes and on the Saturday evening of 2nd September, 1978, seventy people met for dinner at The White Hart in Lewes. In order to get party rates I had to guarantee the hotel seventy people which at that time was a struggle and it wasn't until the night before, I reached my target! It wasn't easy and two people asked on what authority I was acting!!

Miss Joyce Bartlett was our Guest of Honour and a wonderful support throughout. We all assembled in a downstairs room for sherry before going upstairs to dinner. When we were called, Jean said to me "Go on Betty, you take Bart up", I led Bart slowly up the stairs (it wasn't easy for her physically) and I paused and looked back to see a sea of smiling faces below, all happily chattering. I always say it was the proudest moment of my life!

I did two further Reunions in 1983 and 1988 with Marion Russell (nee Bayley) 1943/8 at Southover Grange and the School, but there never was one to match the pride and pleasure of my first at The White Hart! At the 1988 Reunion numbers escalated to over 200, including many younger girls, with different outlooks to us wartime pupils and as Marion and I were in our late fifties, we decided it was time to hand over! We asked for volunteers and three young ladies came forward and handed us their name badges :- Anita Loveday, Janet Pope and Linda Attrell. Marion and I retired gracefully, satisfied that we had lit the torch, that the Three Musketeers would carry on the Reunions safely into the twenty first century!

(Betty was at school 1943 to 1948. She died in December 2007)