October is traditionally one of the biggest months for reunions in the Tamworth calendar but next weekend's get together for former Tamworth High students from the classes of 1971 to 1976 is something extra special.
The reunion cohort of students from that era could see more than 100 from the estimated 380 teenagers who were in those classes that went to THS over that time.
It is only the second official reunion the group has staged - the first one was 20 years ago – but organisers are hoping the 40th reunion will bring back more than just great memories.
They’re hoping to re-ignite friendships that have now spanned another generation – and one where plenty might be older and wiser, but also where many are now grandparents with adult children who now have their own youngster and even more who are learning all about retirement too in some cases.
The group has been working to track down students and their search has taken them across the world in some cases although they’re also keen to contact many local ex-students they haven’t managed to find yet.
The reunion starts from Friday, October 7, with drinks and they’ll go back into the classroom on Saturday, October 8, with a walkaround during the day and a dinner in the school auditorium. The weekend will wind up with a Sunday breakfast.
The Class of 71/76 is aimed at bringing back any ex students who attended over that term in the days when it was the biggest public school in town – and the oldest co-ed institution which began life in 1919.
Oxley High came into being in 1968 and it wasn’t until 1976 that Peel High was founded.
Farrer, the all-boys school, was also in existence then and a traditional school rival when it came to sport and curricular activities.
Reunion committee spokeswoman Jenny Shanahan (nee Jones) says the get together has been a work in progress for months with a committee which has included Richard Frazer, Cheryl Carey (McClelland), Joanne Russell (Kelly), Nerida Boyd (Nevell), Leigh Swain (Marshall), and Duncan Butler.
The reunion classes were also a watershed student generation too.
“We started high school as First Form in 1971 and we finished as Year 12 in 1976 and we were the first year with the change of name,” Mrs Shanahan said.
“As well as jumping from Fifth Form to Year 12, we were also the first year to do “units” of study instead of the previous First Level, Second Level and Third Level studies. We did 12 units of subjects each worth 50 marks, of which your best 10 units counted for your HSC mark. This pre dated the TER’s or Tertiary Entrance Score and the ATARS.”
For many long time Tamworth residents too, those days were some of the most high profile glory days for the school and students.
The First Thirteen – the elite top rugby league side – were strong and had plenty of huge statewide school games victories under their watch. In 1975, the THS boys won the University Shield again – and media and press clippings from the day report that that win that year gave THS the prestigious honour of being the record holder for the number of shields.
While the reunion will bring together old classmates and many who haven’t seen each other for years, it will also reunite some old school rock stars of a different genre.
Over that time so long ago, a group of musically-minded students formed the school’s own rock band. They called themselves FIG, and they’ve reformed for a once-off, mini-concert gig at the dinner.
Fig is made up of lead guitarist Lawrie Minson, vocalist Geoff Butler, rhythm guitarist Peter Forrest, drummer Warren Gordon, keyboard player Guy Dutton and bass guitarist ring-in, Richard Frazer. Richard steps into the void left by Archie Law, who was a original, but sadly is no longer with them.
The blokes played school dances and family parties back then and some of those old chestnut hits from the glorious 70s will get an airing again.
“Archie, or Arthur, was a year above all the other guys in our year,” Mrs Shanahan said.
“He was a driving force behind the band figuratively, and literally, because he was the only one with a drivers licence!! Archie is held in very high regard by all the band members.”
While all of the returning ex-students have some outstanding personal and professional stories and references behind them, there’s a few others too who have gone to the top of the class for the reunion event.
One is Vicki McCully, who used to be Keys, and the daughter of the long serving Tamworth town clerk Malcolm Keys, who is flying back from Hong Kong to catch up. Another old-girl is returning Thursday from the Sunshine Coast and back out on Saturday to attend a family wedding in Brisbane.
Lawrie Minson, a Golden Guitar winner and Tamworth country music favourite has a gig in Alice Springs a day or so before but it’s not stopping him coming home to make the grade.
Warren Rodwell, who was kidnapped by terrorists in the Philippines and held hostage for some 472 days in 2011 and has since written a book about the terrifying ordeal, is also attending.
Among other high profile reunionists are former Walcha mayor Janelle Archdale (nee Russell) and former North Sydney first grade footy player and THS University Shield hero Aub Le Brocq – along with a fair few other handy old players from that era.
But the organisers are still hoping to round up even more.
“We’ve been ringing friends and parents of old students and we created a Facebook page too but we know there are still missing students in Tamworth we haven’t reached – and a lot of others who aren’t on social media,” Mrs Shanahan said.
Anyone interested or with information about other ex-students can contact the organisers via the Facebook page, THS Reunion: First Form 1971 Sixth Form 1976, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Duncan Butler on 0490 244 150.