It was not your normal reunion when only your graduating year get together to reminisce about the good old days. GTC reunions are different. College closed its doors for the last time at the end of 1975 and the mould for an excellent teacher training was broken. Now when there is a reunion ‘old girls’ from all generations gather in Grahamstown and regardless of age there is an instant bond among us. What was it about college that makes us special – was it because we all stayed in res and the spirit of it, is steeped in us all? Was it the ethos of Mother Cecile that regardless of religion, culture or creed we all subconsciously took on board? Whatever, we all seem to have come away with that motto – Unto One of the Least – indelibly stamped on our hearts because as I listened to the chatter about life’s experiences over the years – it was obvious that GTC girls had idealism, work ethic and care for their fellow man.
It was a great weekend! I flew from Cape Town to P.E. with three other old girls and none of us had been at college at the same time! We hired a car and drove to Grahamstown and en route the familiar landmarks filled us with nostalgia.
There were between 50 and 60 of us and most of us stayed in Canterbury House, which is still being used as a Rhodes Residence. It was like stepping back into the past when we were assigned our rooms and then scrambled to swap to be near friends. Little had changed – the rooms were sparsely furnished with hard, single beds, desk and cupboard. I was a Lincoln girl so Cantab seemed quite luxurious after the tiny cubicle I remember! But what fun to be in a familiar res. We all fell right back into 18-year-old behavior, staying up late into the night, catching up on each other’s news and getting very little sleep! Our breakfasts were served in the Memorial Hall – another step back in time but wow – very different this time! Each morning we had an amazing array of continental breakfast delicacies to choose from – croissants, muffins, toast, rolls, cold meats, cheeses, preserves, fruit, juice and tea and coffee. College was never like that!
We were delighted to see that Rhodes is trying hard to maintain St Peter’s campus and to keep the memory of our old traditions alive and nothing has been spoilt.
On Saturday morning we had a busy programme and after photographs at 10 we went to Cory Library where we perused old photo albums and went on another nostalgic trip as we viewed old memorabilia of college. We then practiced the Te Deum with Philip Burnet in preparation for the founder’s day service the following day. Lunch was to our own account and some had a picnic on the lawns, visited Bots or went to a restaurant in town. Heather, Margy, Edna and I opted for the latter and enjoyed a lovely meal at The Mad Hatter in High Street. After a quick drive round Grahamstown to visit old haunts we returned for a slide show presented by Fleur Way Jones the niece of an old girl and a talk by one of the last remaining sisters with a connection to college, 94 year old Sister Dorienne. She was fantastic and reminded us of the history of the community, St Peter’s school, the Good Shepherd school and college – all brought about by the amazing good work of Sister Cecile.
I did not attend the tea with the sisters afterwards as my back was playing up and needed a rest, but heard from the others that it was most enjoyable.
The Dinner at Kingsbury’s Old Boys’ club, Wyveren was a grand affair. We all attended dressed in our finery. How impressive were the table settings with serviettes bearing the GTC badge and the menu a sketch of the chapel. Lovely mementos take away with us.
On Sunday, we woke to a chilly and wet day! But our spirits were not dampened and after another delicious breakfast the sun came out and we all went off to chapel. What a beautiful service and how we sang out those two college hymns and nobody could fault our ancient voices rendering the stirring Te Deum – Thank you Philip Burnett for your patience with us.
Fiona Timm nee Pressley, 1972 to 1974, one of the youngest “old girls” lit a taper and handed it to her mother, Marjorie Pressley nee Dent, 1944 to 1947, one of the older “old girls” to light the candle, which was on a candle stick made from the wood of one of college’s Jacaranda trees that had to be cut down.
Unfortunately, Heather, Edna, Margy and I could not stay for the final tea as we had to rush off to catch our flights. We hugged our old friends goodbye and sped off to return to our present day ages with fabulous memories of a wonderful reunion that will buoy us up until the next one in five years time!