Magic memories of Chantry school

PUBLISHED: 02:24 24 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:43 03 March 2010

THE HAND of God by Diego Maradona, Margaret Thatcher in power as Britain's premier, and Ipswich Town were preparing themselves for life in the old Division Two.

THE HAND of God by Diego Maradona, Margaret Thatcher in power as Britain's premier, and Ipswich Town were preparing themselves for life in the old Division Two.

All these happened in the summer of 1986 – at a time when around 200 fresh-faced 16-year-olds were gearing themselves up for life in the big wide world after leaving Chantry High School.

On Saturday, nearly all of them met up again at the Paul's Sports Social Club on Stone Lodge Lane, Ipswich.

Many had stayed in contact since leaving school 15 years ago, with some even finding themselves working together, while others took time to recognise what were once familiar faces.

The reunion saw hits from the 1980's such as Wham's 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and the Human League's 'Don't You Want Me'.

But the dance floor was mainly filled with pupils reminiscing about the fun times they had at Chantry, as well as the teachers they liked and loathed, and the relationships that had petered out after they left.

Photos featuring the former pupils adorned the walls, with many also bringing photographs they had kept for 15 years in a bid to re-trace the memories.

Many took time to look for pictures of themselves with their friends – and the memories came flooding back.

Three lads that spent a lot of time together at the school, and have remained firm friends ever since, are brothers Darren and Gary Long and Steven Thorrington.

"We were good lads really," said elder brother Darren, 32. "We did get up to a few things but nothing very harmful. But of course Gary and myself always see each other and we have stayed in contact with Steven.

"I think most people who went to the school in our year have stayed in Ipswich and I am very impressed with the amount of people that are here."

Steven said: "I think my main memory was a school trip to France that we had one year. It was quite a laugh on the way there and we had a good time. But on the way we back the sea was really rough. I have never seen so many people be ill all at once. It was quite funny. But our year was brilliant, really good fun."

Darren added: "We found out about it weeks ago. There are people that have stayed in touch and so I guess word-of-mouth spread the news quickly. But it's good to see everyone together again."

Three girls who have stayed good friends since leaving took time to wind up the boys and renew acquaintance.

Sharon Cory, now 31, said: "Gary was my first boyfriend and he was lovely. I can't even remember why we split up.

"But the girls stayed in contact and we go out all the time, we even went out together last week. But I haven't seen so many people for such a long time, it's like stepping back in time."

Her friends Lisa Alexander and Teresa Worobec were also there.

Lisa said: "I guess it must be difficult to stay in contact for such a long time but we were quite a close year group and most of the former pupils still live in Ipswich, like myself. That makes it easier."

Maria Hare had not seen her two best friends, Marie Lay and Maria Purnell, since she left the school.

She said: "We all played guitar together and had similar names and I think that is how we came to know each other and stayed friends.

"I think our names became confusing for both pupils and teachers alike, but we just thought it was funny.

"I can't believe that I haven't seen them for so long, but I can honestly say they haven't changed a bit and recognised them both straight away. I think I have changed though, I used to be the quiet one but not any more."

Marie said: "We all used to do ballet as well and we used to try and practice the splits. We even did it in the back of the maths lesson, it was really funny. We used to always do things like that. But I always used to copy the others, it was never my fault."

The head girl in the year that also saw a teacher strike and riotous school discos was Jayne Studd, nee Westley.

Jayne, together with Tracy Horlock, nee Farthing, helped to put the event together.

She said: "I kept waiting and waiting for a reunion but in the end I thought that it was never going to happen. I suppose there was a bit of curiosity to find out what everyone had got up to after they left the school.

"When 15 years was up I made up my mind that I was going to do something. I am really pleased with the turnout. I would think that around 200 people were in our year and I reckon that around 150 have turned up.

"There are people here that I have not seen since the day I left and it is like stepping back in time. Most people are instantly recognisable.

Jayne and Tracy were unable to get any records of former pupils from the school, so they set about advertising the reunion wherever they could.

"We went to a website that helps you trace former friends and then we went to all the local radio stations. We also advertised the reunion in the Evening Star," said Jayne.

"But I think the biggest factor is word-of-mouth. Once one person hears about it then they tell their friends and so on and so on.

"I'm sure once the drinks start flowing then all the old stories will come out," she added. "We did have a lot of fun together and I am sure people have had lots to talk about."

All the profits from the event are set to go to a cancer charity.

n Friends from all over the world are able to meet and set up reunions through the Evening Star's Finding Friends website, which can be found at

n Let us know about your school reunion and become part of the Old School Tie brigade.

Either telephone the Star newsdesk team on 01473 282257 or send details by e-mail to:

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