It was fingers crossed, worried frowns and all that for more than a year ahead of The Day.
When it arrived, Saturday July 15, 2006 – the official Garden Party to celebrate 300 years of Palmer’s – it became The Great Day.
All those crossed fingers and worried frowns were eased away as nearly 500 former pupils signed the Arrivals Book and with partners, guests and friends gathered inside and outside Palmer’s College in a truly historic coming together, that number was doubled on the day.
Yes, the event was blessed – by a day of warm, nay hot sunshine. One worry over. By so many old friends arriving from as early as 10.00am and staying on long after the girl’s school bell rang Time at 4.00pm. Second worry over. A success.
Party was the appropriate word. For a party it was in every sense, from a superb hog roast, to grand tours of the College and grounds led by chairman Sheila Jones and vice-chairman Frank Smith, to rooms full of photographic memorabilia, to cool drinks and cakes in the college canteen – and even to the odd slumber on a college bench or in the shade of the giant marquee.
There was gossip galore of old school days and catching up on current lives and movements. Faces you could not put name to until someone said: “Hi, I remember you. My name is……………..1948- 55.”
There was the reunions of same year pupils – many of them coming from the States and other places abroad. One girl’s year managed 14 from the mid-50’s and duly held their own party in a classroom at the back of beyond with cameras going at full speed and endless bottles of wine, and there were cricket and football matches remembered, house captains recalled and masters and teachers brought to mind in glowing terms or with still an awe of respect, even fear.
To see three former boys PE masters including the two I remember best, Tony “Tuff” Hendry and Roy Howitt talking over old times in a corridor had the likes of me scurrying for the nearest wall-bars before the dreaded words: “Bond, you are not fit” were bellowed at me sixty years on. Roy, now living in Coggeshall, even brought his scrapbook along to show me my football reports from the Essex and Thurrock Gazette (where I was first employed after leaving Palmers) when he was playing for Grays Athletic and Aveley and stressed how kind I was to him. Wrong Roy – you were just a very good player.
The community supported the event in style. Thurrock Tennis Club – most of them Old Palmerians – staged a tournament and one former pupil, John Davies even flew from Switzerland to join them, Thurrock Hockey Club also gave their services free with four hours of non-stop exhibitions and matches and the Oglethorpe Players, an amateur drama group based in North Ockendon decided the weather was too warm for performances in the lecture theatre and gave their one-act politically-correct skit on the hour, every hour outside the main entrance. Again, no charge to the association. We thank them all.
The day moved on to an equally memorable evening when more than 250 attended an Evening Buffet at the Oddfellows Hall where the feasting highlight was a chocolate fountain – blow the diet!
Towards the end of the evening, everyone received a glass of bubbly and a slice of cake, decorated with the Palmer’s crest, made by OPA member Marion Adcock. Well done, Marion!
Chairman Sheila Jones thanked all concerned for making it such a great day and glasses were raised to the one person who made it all possible, the one person we all have to thank for our prestigious education and the one person without whom none of the day’s celebrations could have taken place – William Palmer.
The links below will take you to a selection of photos of the day: