IT’S 50 years since New Zealand emigrants Carol (nee Hanlon and Cecil Murray attended the Class of 1963 at Clounagh Junior High School. But the intervening half-century and 12,000 miles have done nothing to dull their happy memories of the red-brick school at Brownstown Road which is a building block of the Dickson Plan for Education.
For Carol and Cecil, who live in Auckland, North Island (NZ’s biggest city) have been instrumental in helping to organise a golden reunion on Saturday September 7 when Carol and Cecil will make their umpteenth trip back home since the day they emigrated in 1975. “We’re back in Portadown virtually every year these days,” said Carol from their home in Auckland. “We have retained so many friendships over the years, and both our mothers are still alive and well in Portadown.”
Carol and Cecil attended the school from 1963-68, and Cecil was Head Boy in his final year. David Watson was the principal and the staff included notables like John and Deidre Kilner, Norman Dickson and Jim Barriskill.
But their romance didn’t blossom until post schooldays, when Carol worked in Portadown’s telephone exchange and Cecil joined the Inland Revenue. They met up again one Saturday night at a dance in the Tempo Ballroom in Moira, and that led to their wedding at St Columba’s Parish Church just round the corner from Clounagh.
They have a family of three ‘down under’ - Paul, Lisa and Richie, with Richie marrying just a fortnight ago, and Carol’s brother Neville Hanlon and Cecil’s sister Margaret McFarland travelled out from Portadown to be there.
Carol works for a transport firm in New Zealand - “which we loved just as much as we love Portadown” - and Cecil works for an financial investment firm.
“With all the family well up now, Cecil and I can afford to go ‘home’ every year,” said Carol. “And when we met up with our Clounagh friends last year, we came up with the reunion idea, along with friends like Jennifer Hillen, Janice Jameson, Jennifer Houston and Annette Hall. Des Lyttle, who lives in Vancouver and goes back to Portadown as often as we do, is also in on it.”
She added, “We’re really looking forward to the September date, and the arrangements are well under way. We have been in touch with a few teachers and hopefully they will come too. I keep in touch with everyone now through texting, email and Skype, and it’s brilliant.”
The committee wants everyone in that particular year to make an effort to attend, and all details can be found on the website at www.clounaghreunion.co.uk - the venue is Clounagh Orange Hall, and the festivities start at 7.30pm. Anyone who has photos of the school in that era is asked to take them along.