OS 1989 Reunion in London

from Derek Fanning

L. to R. –  Joe Lynch, Dave Hargreaves, Andy Buchanan, Rob Donoghue, Dan Leighton, Chisha Folotiya, Shaun Sexton, Jeremy Haworth, Fr Nick King, Redvers Daborn,

Rich Daly, Andre Armstrong, Joe Bruce, Dom Medley, Martin Twist, James Molyneux Carter

On a beautiful Summer’s day I joined 20 old friends from the OS 1989 year for a school 30th anniversary reunion, at the beginning of June, in central London. Our last Reunion was five years ago, at the alma mater in the picturesque environment of the Ribble Valley, and some  of us wanted to hold more regular get-togethers after that but as so often happens the time flew by and before we knew it five years had swooshed past without us reconvening.

Sadly, because we were so disorganised and had left it so late in the day, the weekends were booked out and Stonyhurst couldn’t host us on this occasion, so we wondered where to host the event. Fr Nick King, who had been our Latin teacher thirty years previously, suggested we have a Mass as part of the day in the Jesuit Residence Chapel on Mount Street in London. Then one of our number told me he’s a member of the Frontline Club on Norfolk Place and it’s a good place for drinks, dinner and accommodation; and it was a 20 minute walk from the Jesuit Residence. We decided to go with that.

It was great to see Fr King after three decades and he was in good spirits. He and I sat outside the Jesuit Residence in beautiful weather chatting and reminiscing, waiting for the others to arrive. The mass was at 5.30 and with just a couple of minutes to go no one had shown up yet. I wondered if no one was going to turn up.  At that moment 20 old friends came around the corner. We greeted each other warmly, with hugs and handshakes.

Up the stairs we went, to the third floor, and entered the beautiful Chapel with its impressive interior design and painted ceiling, where Fr Nick said Mass. His words were kind and thoughtful, and he spoke of being grateful, a very important state of mind and an antidote to negativity and resentment. One of the readings was from the Acts of the Apostles and was about the stoning of Stephen, which is such a powerful story because of the saint’s extraordinary attitude of forgiveness. As the Sanhedrin are stoning him to death he prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he falls on his knees and cries out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” This willingness to forgive one’s oppressors, I think, is one of the most powerful things about Christianity, and is inspirational. There are countless examples of this spirit in action. One of the most powerful is the story of Saint Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz. Despite being in a place of such savagery and harshness Saint Maximilian somehow maintained the gentleness of Christ. Prisoners often crawled across the floor at night to be near his bed, to make their confessions and ask for consolation. He pleaded with his fellow prisoners to forgive their persecutors and to overcome evil with good. When he was beaten by the guards, he never cried out. Instead, he prayed for his tormentors. A survivor recalled after the war that Kolbe’s attitude was like “a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp.”

After Mass we walked through the vast Hyde Park which was teeming with people enjoying the sunshine and warmth. We passed Speaker’s Corner where, sadly, no one was engaging in flights of rhetoric, and Tyburn, where thousands of people were executed over the centuries. We arrived at the Frontline Club, many of whose members are journalists. There were photos of famous war journalists on the walls, including Tim Hetherington. Tim had been in our year in school and I studied English and Latin with him. He was killed by shrapnel during the siege of Miserata in Libya in 2011. He directed a fantastic war documentary called Restrepo which is well worth seeking out. We also remembered, with great fondness, two others of our group who have also sadly passed away, Rob Lyon and Mondo Chibesakunda. Mondo was tragically killed in a road accident in Zambia only a year after we left school.

The dinner was excellent in the club and the wine and beer flowed very liberally. One of our waiters was very conscientious and made sure our glasses never ran empty. He sported a Salvador Dalí waxed moustache, which I appreciated. (I love any show of eccentricity as I think it’s an antidote to the extremely powerful urge to conform, fit in and be homogenous. I was able to join him in this spirit of eccentricity because I was wearing an unusual tie called a Merovingian. Created by an Italian tailor, who might have been inspired by the ties in the Matrix, this is a fantastic tie and always gets comments. A number of people told me my tie was back to front. I corrected them and told them it was meant to be like that! I followed this comment up with a brief educational foray through various ways of tying ties!)

The company was delightful. The conversation was animated. There was a strong sense of friendship and warmth. I realised I was getting a bit squiffy and I should deliver my speech and poem and song now before the alcohol had become too potent. I began with a little Latin (following it with English translations):

“Salvete omnes et bonum vesperum vobis. Sicut David cecinit, quam bonum et iucundum, habitare fratres in unum!

Greetings to you all and a good evening to you. As the psalmist puts it, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to be together.

Triginta iam annos fecimus a die qua discessimus ab alma nostra matre, iuventutem reliquimus.

It is now thirty years that we have passed since we left Stonyhurst and abandoned our youth.

Tempus ferax, tempus edax rerum!  Time passes; it has produced its fruits, but also leaves its mark on us.

Ut Horatius noster dicit, “Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, labuntur anni, nec pietas moram rugis et instanti senectae adferet indomitaeque morti” . As the great Horace sings, “Woe, Postumus, Postumus, the years slip by, and all our piety does not stop those wrinkles or our looming old age and untameable death”.

Hoc tamen assevero, “dum spiro spero”; but I am certain of this – “while there’s life there’s hope”.

“Friendship and family can seem like beacons of light in a sometimes harsh and cold world,” I reflected. “This evening we are surrounded by the vastness of London. Vast cities can appear cold and brutal and inhuman. But thankfully we can counteract that with this pleasant occasion and the warmth of our friendship.”

I recited “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which was appropriate because Manley Hopkins taught in Stonyhurst and he was also a curate in the Mount Street church where we celebrated mass earlier in the evening. Hopkins said The Windhover was the best thing he ever wrote. The poem is about the kestrel and its hovering in midair while hunting prey. It’s a metaphor for Christ and divine epiphany (James Joyce liked the idea of moments of epiphany and he frequently included them in his works. In these dramatic moments reality is transfigured by light and feeling). “My heart in hiding,” says Hopkins, “Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”

I sang “The Parting Glass”, which seemed very appropriate. This is a Scottish traditional song and is often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. It was apparently the most popular parting song sung in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne”. “The Parting Glass” features the great line of convenient forgetfulness, “And all I’ve done for want of wit / To memory now I can’t recall.” It speaks of “a fair maid’s rosy cheeks and ruby lips who sorely has my heart beguiled,” and finishes with the lovely line “I’ll gently rise and softly call good night and joy be with you all.”

Following our dinner a couple of us had to unfortunately head homewards but the rest of us looked elsewhere for some more liquid refreshment. We burned some serious shoe leather before we finally found a nice pub, which was loudly playing Les Misérables and the bartender (who had a decent voice) was enthusiastically singing along to the stirring melodies from that fantastic musical. We found the quietest place we could in this establishment and continued with our reminiscences and catching up. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for 30 years so there was a lot of catching up to be done! Our lives had of course taken many different paths. In worldly terms, some of us had been more successful than others (if you are silly enough to measure success in terms of money, property and achievements), but the bottom line was that everyone seemed contented in themselves (which really is the most important thing of all).

The atmosphere was so friendly, the enjoyment of meeting old friends and sharing memories was so great, that we wanted the reunion to go on for many hours more, but eventually, at 3am, the bartender called time and politely pointed us to the street outside. As I stood outside, and everyone had said goodbye and gone their separate ways, I realised that I had no idea where I was! Thankfully I had my smartphone which guided me safely on the long walk home.

Following the reunion we set up a WhatsApp group for our year. This has proved extremely popular and has allowed even more of us to make contact after the hiatus of decades. There is talk about holding a Reunion every year at different locations in Britain and Ireland. Some people are suggesting we meet again this year, during the Cork Jazz Festival in October.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to Beverley and her team in the Stonyhurst Association office. They are always very helpful and they helped us get the word out there about the reunion.

Derek Fanning OS 1989

OS 2008 Reunion

from Tom O’Donnell, OS 2008

On the weekend of the 13/14th October, 57 OS gathered to celebrate ten years since we flew the Stonyhurst nest – a record number of attendees for a ten year reunion!

Following an impromptu evening in the Bayley for some on the Friday evening, the weekend began in earnest with a tour of the college; the highlight being the new refectory and reformation/deformation of New York! Thanks to our own Daniel Layzell’s kind mother Lisa for showing us around!

The weather could have been kinder so despite our best efforts to attend the day’s sporting fixtures we were faced with the prospect of an afternoon in Hurst Green or a soggy afternoon on the sidelines. As it happens Hurst Green emerged as the most popular option providing us with time to reflect of just how badly many had aged and ponder how a handful had somehow managed to find suitable spouse to begin family life! (I am reliably informed the 1st XV ran riot in a stylish win from those who did brave the elements).

After a few swift turnarounds to don our finery we descended on the Top Ref to enjoy a wonderfully prepared meal courtesy of Adam, Michelle and the catering team. Naturally it would be amiss of me not to salute the energy, love and maternal instincts of Michelle, news of whose recent passing was devastating to hear for us all. May she rest in peace.

Coffee and mints polished off, Dave Ridout wasted no time in expertly despatching our rabble from college grounds as we headed north up the avenue to continue he jollity. As many of your own reunions will have concluded, an obligatory taxi ride into Whalley was enjoyed by most to close of a brilliant day!

Returning to the college was a surreal feeling, particularly given we were amongst all of those who we knew and loved so well, in the corridors and amongst the everyday grandeur that we had all been so familiar with.

We were reminded further of the unique qualities of Stonyhurst through the programme for Sunday, celebrating first mass in St Peter’s alongside a relic of the recently canonised Oscar Romero followed by a tour of the college collections and libraries led by our Poetry Playroom Master Stas Callinicos. Never has standing in Strainy’s bar been so educational!

Our thanks to Beverley and Layla for all their support prior to and during the weekend in addition to my fellow OS, many of whom travelled from great distances to be present. I for one am already hugely anticipating congregating once again in a decade or so’s time!

OS 1998 Reunion

from Jack Hardy, OS 98

Suddenly finding a long lost toy you played with as a child, or discovering a letter you were sure you’d thrown away years ago. Those pangs of what once was and is now lost seem to pull us back, achingly, like an umbilical, into the past. These little instances, even when combined over a lifetime, cannot come close to the weight of that moment as you roll down the Avenue toward the looming towers which you once called your home.

Twenty years had passed since completing our A levels. As each had finished their exams at different times, we’d trickled away, one by one, from those front gates, knowing that when we returned years later, someone else would be sleeping in our room, playing on our fields and praying in our Church. Of course, all of these things are on loan, and so one day, present pupils, will also play victim to these sentiments.

This was our twenty year reunion and many of us had come from all over the country to be there. Those who could had met in Clitheroe the night before and sampled the local beer(£11 for 3. I chuckled) into the small hours.

So it was with a delicate stomach of mixed emotions that we were buzzed in through the Glass Doors and assembled in the Pieta to find the Head, John Browne, dutifully waiting next to a pin-board with our year’s photo and a list of our names with our various achievements, some long and illustrious (Martin ‘Head Boy’ Clifford,), some (your humble writer) feeble. With uncanny ease, there were hugs and how are yous all round as we came face to face with our fellow veterans. From seemingly nowhere, Mr Warrilow and Mr Charles, who both seem to have made some Faustian pact which has prevented them from aging, appeared, greeted us kindly, and promptly melted back into the shadows of the school.

A lunch was given in the Bayley Room. Everyone exchanged the obligatory employment, marriage and health status(this happened a lot) and generally caught up. The ease with which this all occurred was astounding.

After a brief pit stop at the Shireburn, we headed back, put on our black-tie get up and raced back to have dinner in the Top Ref. This had never been open to us during our time there as the floor was being re-laid, but it all seems to have been worth it. Champagne was raised and shoulders were clasped.

Our band was small (25), with one old-girl, Mary Maye, returning to represent the small number of females that had attended our year.However, we filled that room. Two boys played the piano beautifully as we ate and, again, that ease of conversation and comradeship never flagged or seemed forced. It was just wonderful to see everyone. A few of us ventured to look around our old haunts and discovered the Rhetoric Common room, which has morphed from the airport lounge of chairs we ‘d had into a very civilised student’s union. The mix of boys and girls has had a tonic-like effect on the whole ambience of the school. Pupils seem so much more at ease now, less guarded and more open.

Our mood effervescent, we searched for a place to continue the festivities, and with The Bayley closed, we found ourselves inside the cosy confines of St Peter’s Catholic Club. Joseph Sharples, who had not long ago reached celebrity status by landing a Navy helicopter in the middle of the Avenue, was surrounded by a throng of attentive(and of legal drinking age) pupils. They were all great fun to talk to, as we tried to refrain from offering sagely words on the do’s and don’ts of uni, gap years and the like. The clinking of glasses continued. For many of us, being older meant that egos had long since been abandoned and we were able to discuss, freely and in depth, our lives, shared memories and aspirations for the future. And everyone listened in the way that only old friends do. Many of us had turned out exactly as expected: a be-tweeded agricultural solicitor, a few high-ranking officers, an ex-police officer, two architects etc.  The mould was broken, however, by Achyut Valluri who has always been a straight A genius and has become, unsurprisingly, an eminent doctor. That night he’d been wearing his silvered hair in a modest man-bun. On returning from the lavatory, he emerged a sartorial tsunami, seemingly bathed in light. His hair, newly liberated from the manacles of its scrunchy, now fell about his shoulders in tumbling locks of molten majesty. A murmur of awe rose softly and then, like a forest fire, spread through the pub in deafening cries of wonderment from O.S. and locals alike. None were spared and none have quite been the same since. Don’t expect the locals to speak of it. It’s still too soon. We got home, bleeding eared, at 5am.

The following morning, punch eyed and shivery, we tumbled into the wall of sound that is the musical mass in St Peter’s and then headed on a brief tour. The galleries we had wandered so very often at weekends(each pupil had their own allotted circuit back in the day) seemed smaller. Doors to classrooms seemed to have been moved some metres from where our memories had aligned them, and our twenty year blueprint was distorted by added fixtures but the spirit of those passages had changed not one bit.

The Library, (the renovation inspired by a 1998 design by one Christopher Daniel, O.S.) was as grand as ever. Like a whisper, our old teacher, Dave Ridout appeared, or rather, was now one of us in the room. No one is sure when this actually happened. He may have been with us the whole time. With zeal, he caught up with everyone and rapidly took down email addresses with much philosophic nodding.

We headed to the Refectory, where the wonderful catering team seemed to be waiting in white, like a time-capsule, with mock eye-rolls performed in unison. Dave Eachus also materialised without ceremony and we had a great chat.

And of course, Michelle Hayhurst. As an old friend, she embraced us all with the biggest hugs imaginable. Of all the greetings and well-wishings over the weekend, hers were the warmest. She reminded us of our old sport of flinging wraps of butter up to the ceiling, where they would stick with a satisfying splat. ‘Were we really that bad?’ we asked. ‘No,’ she said, ‘You were worse!’ In the midst of her recent passing, a post of condolence on her Facebook page declared her the ‘Heart of Hurst Green and Stonyhurst.’ I can think of nothing more fitting.

The Arundel Library, a hidden vault of mysteries and scholarly secrets in our day, is now open, quite rightly, to pupils. I for one, had never seen the rescued eyeball of a Jesuit preserved in a silver circlet. I now have. The old uniform is also on display and the grapevine seems to whisper that it may be re-introduced. Amusing, yes. Amazing, also yes.

Finally, we’d come to the end. We bid each other farewell, still euphoric with the weekend’s drenching of the senses. There is another, informal, reunion hopefully being planned for 5 years’ time. It seems a waste not to make these things a little more frequent. I don’t think many of us have laughed so much in a long time. A huge thank you to the school for putting the whole thing on, particularly to Layla Heaton and John Moriarty for getting us all in gear. Present pupils, take your time when it finally comes to say goodbye. It will make the hello in twenty years all the sweeter.

Jack Hardy, OS 98