Mike Reay (SH 73-80) sent in the following:
As we hit sixteen, the girls arrived. First of all a gym mistress, wearing the very same tennis skirt as the girl on the Athena Poster scratching her right buttock. Then they cancelled our night in the library with imported sixth formers from the all-girls’ school in the nearby parish. They replaced them with an ever increasing number of local girls, who breezed their way into school on a daily basis, wearing short skirts and pretty smiles. But they couldn’t play rugby. (Some of them do now. Ed.) So our lives went on uninterrupted. Our era had some great teachers, who challenged our minds, who pushed us at times to our limits, who got the best out of us. And do you know something, never did I realise this so much as on Saturday August 7th 2010. There were eleven of us. We met in ‘The Living Room’ on Deansgate in Manchester. Our organiser had laid on a champagne reception. Two of our crowd were abstaining from alcohol, but the rest of us were happy to oblige. Most of us had not been in touch for thirty years or, at best, only on a random, ad hoc basis. We looked at each other, and we all looked the same with the mannerisms, the body language, the general demeanour we all remembered. We were all fit, healthy, lively, spirited, happy to be in that one place together for one night. As we moved on to the best Italian restaurant in town, San Carlos, the jaw-slackeners were kicking in. We ate well, we laughed, we talked of the school and how it is now, we talked of the school and how it was then; eleven mature men, with wives or girlfriends and families at home, but here tonight on our own with our memories. St. Bees School did such a good job on us. It showed us the land of opportunity and we had all seized it with both hands. There ought to have been twelve of us there that night. We had one man missing, and he would have enjoyed it so much. An awesome rugby player, he lived life to the full, and had he been with us he would have been the last to leave, instead he was the first. So, on behalf of our party, this little summary of our great reunion dinner is dedicated to John Offord (1962-81).”
“An impromptu reunion dinner was organised recently to bring together the classes of 1980 and 1981. Those who attended were Richard Atkinson, John Boag (organiser), Mark Crosthwaite, Clive Eves, Pete Harper, Torquil Macleod, Ken Rangecroft, Mike Reay, Dougal Reed, Mark Rocca and Jim Strain.
Our era was the one that pre-dated mobile phones, computers, the internet, even the dreaded Facebook. We were predominantly the all male, rugby playing, alpha-male elite! When we started at St. Bees there were no female pupils, nor even teachers, only the dinner ladies and Matron. We started as young upstarts. Eaglesfield House was the spawning ground for the youngsters. We were hatched there, learnt to swim, were released when we could run with the pack. They cut off all our hair so we all looked the same, stuck us in uniforms, introduced us to the tri-weekly system, taught us to respect our elders. But best of all they taught us rugby.
It started in the field across the road from Eaglesfield with a great bulbous-shaped, heavy, leather rugby ball, which hurt your foot when you kicked it. We went there to let off steam; we went there to run as fast as we could in the wind and the rain; we were not bothered by the weather; the colder and wetter the better, the muddier the better. We went from a rabble to a team in no time at all. By the time we were fifteen we were ‘Colts’. Rugby had done its work on us. We were team players. We played hard, we supported each other, backed each other up, kept an eye out for each other. We competed sometimes against each other in inter house matches, but in keeping with the spirit of the game, anything that happened on the pitch was left on the pitch. We were too big to bear grudges, we just got on with life.
At our dinner someone said that maybe we were bullies. I’m not sure. In those days you survived if you had a talent. If you were bright you could talk your way through life at this sometimes hostile institution. If you were good at tri-weeklies you got respect; if you could play an instrument you could win over most people. If you had a sport, whether it was rugby, cricket, athletics, fives, shooting, or even chess you were fine. If anyone was bullied it was not intentional. Maybe there was some over-exuberant mockery, possibly some misdirected criticism. But nothing deliberately sinister. Ours was not the ‘Tom Brown Schooldays’ era. There was no fagging, no cold showers.