It was, as one former pupil of Portadown College remarked, “like tracking down clients in the TV series Heir Hunters” where long-lost relatives find themselves heirs to the riches of people they haven’t seen for years.
The rich occasion was the reunion of ‘The Class of 1984’ from the College where the committee had managed to contact – through personal initiative and the social media – no fewer than 200 of the era, with a superb 70 gathering for the event on Saturday night at Portadown Rugby Club.
Congratulations were in order for the committee – Alison Symington, Mandy Thompson, Paul Gordon, Sarah-Louise Gilmore, Sharon Robinson and Tracey Liggett.
Alison, now a PE teacher at the College, prepared a special video, incorporating scenes of the current school, spliced in with faces of the 1984 era, including staff like Sammy Jones, Raymond Stewart, Vinny Doyle, W.D. Johnston and Mrs Kerr. The pictures were taken by Rea Finlay and David Jameson.
Harry Armstrong was headmaster, who – along with present incumbent Simon Harper – sent a letter of congratulations to the former pupils.
Paul Gordon gave a short speech of welcome, and showed a presentation of old photos via laptop, 1980s music was played in the background, and there was a also special photo booth for the ‘80s scholars to take special pictures along with their old school friends.
Tracey Liggett’s daughter Kirsty was official photographer for the night, and there was an excellent buffet to keep the ‘old pupils’ well fed.
Paul said: “We were delighted with the response, especially with so many people travelling from distance to be there.”
The most distant response came from China, although Kirsten Leverton (nee Waters) couldn’t make it in person.
Head girl of the era, Kirsten is an engineer for Shell Oil in China, and sent a video message as she stood on the Great Wall, sending good wishes to one and all, and recalling great days at PC.
And messages were also sent from Judith Johnston-McLoughlin (now in Georgia) and Ruth Hanna (Canada), Wendy Morrow and Catherine Vallely, who were unable to make it.
Kirsten’s counterpart, former head boy Brian Fulton, did manage to make it – he works in air traffic control in London and he praised the immaculate organisation of the committee who put eight months’ work into the event.
Brian and fellow past pupil Stephen Lindsay, incidentally, ran the Belfast Marathon on Monday.
The surplus money raised by the reunion produced a substantial charity donation and is going to the Southern Area Hospice, in memory of ‘absent friends’ Jacky Ingram and Myfanwy Jones who succumbed to cancer, and there was a short computer tribute to the two former friends.
The furthest travelled was Donna Hewitt (nee Donnelly), who lives in Australia and was home on a family holiday.
Professors Gillian Wright (Birmingham) and Barry Gibson (Sheffield) travelled across, as did Roger Austin (Edinburgh) and Mark Ewing (Manchester).
And they all left with special key ring mementoes (prepared by Tracey Liggett) with the PC logo and ‘Class of 84’ inscribed on them.
Roger Austin commented: “It was superbly organised – the committee did a tremendous job, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Paul Gordon added: “Kirsten Leverton summed it up when she said that she was astounded how quickly the 30 years had gone, and how much she enjoyed her days at the College.
“There aren’t many events that can boast a greeting from the Great Wall of China.
“A lot of people – especially the committee – put so much work into it, and not forgetting the students who still live in Portadown and their friends, who seemed to know where everyone had moved to.
“I’m delighted we made the effort. It’s a night we’ll never forget. It was a very satisfying occasion.”