The following article appears in the 2017 MCB School Magazine
MCB Class of 1967 Reunion – September 2017
- Michael Clemitson & Barbara Thompson
♫ It was 50 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught his band to play…
Well not exactly, but 50 years ago in 1967, as well as the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, Sandie Shaw won the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘The Prisoner’ with Patrick McGoohan was on TV, Harold Wilson devalued the Pound (“This will not affect the Pound in your pocket…”), - and Foinavon won the Grand National at 100:1. And for many of us, 1967 was the year when we sat our A-levels, and left MCB, for pastures new…..
So how come a reunion ? Both of us had studied German whilst at MCB, and in 1966 along with 4 others from our German class, and some colleagues from other years, we had taken part in an exchange holiday (I mean exchange visit ..) in West Germany, as it was then.
Over the years we’d had a number of reunions with our German counterparts - the most recent being last year, 2016, when we met up in Cambridge for a grand reunion of the 50th anniversary of our foray abroad.
Well you’ve guessed it. This gave us the idea of having a 50th reunion of all of us from our year - who sat their A-levels 50 years ago, or thereabouts.
But how do you trace the members of your class of fifty years ago ? With the assistance of two other classmates, Alwyn Higham and Joan Page, our starting point was the official list of “those who have passed in at least two Subjects at Advanced Level entrants” in our dog-eared copy of the 1967 Prize Day programme. There were 143 names listed, to which we added several other names not captured there, but known to be in our year.
In late 2016 we posted a notice giving details about our proposed Reunion on the MCB website. Despite this being the ‘Age of Social Media’, we had a disappointingly small response from this source, so we concentrated our efforts in trying to make individual contact with our former classmates. Mr Fry’s Big Blue Book1 albeit with details frozen in time at 1984, was a very helpful starting point in identifying married names (where applicable), and whatever other relevant information was available.
Practically all the research was carried out by following up leads, including contacting siblings who had also attended MCB; remembering who was friends with whom; asking who was on whose Christmas card list; who recalled seeing who at some wedding or other in the ‘70s (vital in two cases ..). Two of the most useful sources were the Telephone Directory, and the UK Electoral Roll, to which online access, though sometimes chargeable, is possible.
The MCB Former Pupils Association (MCBFPA) agreed to include a flyer for the reunion with their AGM notification, and University Alumni departments were also contacted. In one case a Marriage Certificate was ordered from the NI General Record Office to establish a married name, and for one possible lead with an unpronounceable Welsh address, the owners of several similar addresses were contacted, until the classmate in question was found !
They were all, of course, totally surprised by the call. Some had maintained contact with friends and classmates from MCB; some obviously hadn't. Many had their own particular recollection to offer. We were able to put some in touch with companions from whom they'd not heard for years.
By the end of January we had reached just over 40 former pupils, clearing the 100 mark by the end of March. One of the things which has been characteristic throughout, with barely few exceptions, is how genuinely pleased everyone has been to be contacted, even if they weren’t able, or didn’t wish, to attend.
Sadly our researches also identified a small number of classmates who had passed away, including some well known names. In addition, there was an equal number of people who would have liked to come, but could not - either due to distance, or other commitments.
So 50 years on, we had a reunion dinner for 50 classmates in Belfast Harlequins (formerly Collegians) club. It was exciting as the guests arrived, and could be identified, thanks to the judicial use of large print name badges. Once you accepted that everyone looked just that little bit older, you realised the people behind the appearance were the same, and conversations resumed where they left off, years before. We toasted absent friends.
Then on the following day we had a grand tour of the College with thanks to Jane Jeanes, the Principal’s Personal Assistant who organised 6 volunteer Prefects to take us round in groups.
It was fascinating to see the many changes which had taken place in the 50 years - the Chapel of Unity, the Biology Labs, the work in progress in McArthur Hall, the Language Labs with its recently inaugurated Robert & Renate Weil room, the Worrall Centre and the magnificent sports hall.
What a lot of walking ! Most of us had forgotten the physical extent of MCB. We finished appropriately with a delicious buffet lunch provided by the College’s in-house caterers in the Heritage Centre.
All too soon, more farewells. We promised to keep in touch and to meet again, and we shall.
Michael Clemitson attended MCB 1960–1967. Married with 2 children, he and his wife Dorothy live in Cardiff, where he worked until 2008 for BT as a Senior Project Manager.
Barbara Thompson, née Houston, attended MCB, including Fullerton House 1957–1967. She worked until 2011 as a healthcare social worker, based originally at the Finaghy Health Centre. She and her husband Kenneth live in Lisnabreeny, and their 2 children attended MCB in the 1980/90s.
1. Paul Fry: The Register of the Pupils of the Methodist College Belfast from 1868 – 1984. Pub. Methodist College Belfast, 1984/85
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