Every year without fail, after returning from the May half term break, our school bunting magically appears outside in the quad, draped throughout the apple trees. This signals not only the beginning of the final and often most busy term of the academic year, but they also flag (no pun intended!) that an Old Girls’ reunion is imminent.
This year saw a huge rise in numbers attending our reunion as 100 Old Girls from the classes of 1979, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2005 and 2009 joined us for from as far away as Australia, South Africa, France and Belgium.
Many of the guests joined together in Chapel, a place which Reverend Elizabeth described as being a figurative and literal harbour within the school. A place which, anchors us with one another but also with ourselves. Readings were given by 1979 Nicky Howard and the Headmistress, who chose a reflective passage T.S Eliot’s Little Gidding. Chapel choir were on fine form as ever. One Old Girl noted how on singing the school hymn she ‘was watching the faces of the choristers, particularly during the final, rousing verse. I could see them beaming: warmed by an inner glow, a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves, that's how we felt, and I'm sure it's what they feel too. It was great to feel connected across the years in that way.’
After welcome drinks and the opportunity to reminisce and meet up with friends, Headmistress Mrs Dougall gave updates on developments within the school and alumnae community. She spoke about the similarities and differences between the school they attended then and now. A real sense of how important our alumnae are was felt by everyone as Mrs Dougall outlined the many ways in which Old Girls give back to the school in so many ways and how grateful we are for their continued support.
A delicious buffet lunch was laid on and enjoyed by all with many stories of the school lunches and dining arrangements from yesteryear being shared.
The prefect team led by Head Girl Alice, ended the day with guided tours of the buildings and facilities. The 1979 group imparted many stories of high jinks with the prefects from their time as both boarders and day girls in the 1970s. ‘We were quite a high spirited year group’ said one Old Girl. ‘I think the girls at St Helen’s today are much more sensible than we were!’
Meanwhile the 1999 leavers were determined to find a tree they had left as a gift to the school in their final year. After some head scratching and retracing of steps, they were delighted to find it growing well at the back of the Sixth Form centre along with the original commemorative plaque.
‘The tour guides were fantastic and very understanding of our meanderings off-route on the tour. It was quite extraordinary how powerful being physically back in a space leads to recollections flooding back. Having your contemporaries with you leads to even more! ‘– 1989 leaver
We concluded the day with group photos and of course lots of laughter. We look forward to welcoming many more of our Old Girls back to next year’s SHSK Society Garden Party.