It was a fairly emotional return to Northern Ireland for me recently – my longest stay in my home country in over 11 years which is crazy to think about it. I had lined up some really cool stuff to do when I was back, and after touring the north coast, (including Portbraddon) watching Northern Ireland beat the Faroe Islands and staying in the swanky Europa Hotel, I was back in my hometown of Bangor for a Primary School 30 year reunion! Yes – 30 years. We began our Primary School life in 1984.
First up, at 3.10 pm that day we had a full tour of Kilmaine Primary School, as it is now – the new modern Kilmaine unlike the one we went to from 1984 – 1991.
It was my P7 teacher Mr. Billy Rea who conducted the tour and I also met Miss Lowry (my P4 teacher). My P1 classmate Coleen Matovu (nee Morrison) and I had got in touch on Facebook to organise the reunion. We contacted as many as we could from this photo:
I’d added a few of my school friends on Facebook and was absolutely delighted to see Sarah Bell (nee Quinn) in school again. Due to work commitments, babies, families and not living in Northern Ireland anymore, it was obvious and a little sad that there was no way we could get all 28 pupils in the same room again. It’s just not possible. We did try to contact them all and in the end were in touch with about 11-12 of the class, 6 of which were guaranteed to turn up on the night, with double figures being what I had (optimistically) hoped for. So it was just Sarah and I in the afternoon, but we were to meet for dinner in Donegan’s Bar in Bangor at 6pm.
I was actually being the tourist in my hometown that day by staying in the Windsor Inn/Royal Hotel and after checking in, I headed into Donegans to be the first one there for 5.55pm. Mark McCullough and Coleen Matovu were next, followed by Sarah Bell, Graham Irwin and Peter McIvor. Peter McIvor was always “Magoo” to me. It was rare to call him by his real name. There were 6 of us there and that was to be our group. 6/28 is over 20% a turnout, some 30 years on. Not too bad really!
Notable absentee mentions go to:
– Philip Billsborough (his brother got in touch on the day but he couldn’t make it in the end)
– Leanne Fulton (nee Burns) – she was ill that week and pulled out at late notice
– Ryan Somerville (his wife was expecting a child that week)
– Paul McCoubrey (I was in touch with Paul, but alas he couldn’t make it)
– Aaron Thompson (something came up at late notice)
– Alison Finlay (nee Henderson) (was preparing for holiday)
If you know the whereabouts of the others, do get in touch (jonny (at) dontstopliving.net).
I ordered a pint of Guinness, was joined by Magoo on the black stuff and the girls drank wine. Graham and Mark were driving though. Conversation flowed immediately and the range of topics and chat was endless. So much so that when asked were we ready to order food, we had to say no the first few times we were asked, caught up in a 30 year long conversation I guess.
If you weren’t there you don’t get the full gossip, and this is no paparazzi travel blog, but a few of the questions and topics we spoke of were:
– Where is Craig Lemon?
– Who remember British Bulldog being banned?
– Who was meant to look after Mark Lemon one day yet he left the school?
And there was the moment where Coleen and I held up the class photo and we all tried to work out where everyone was and what they were doing now. As I glanced round the table, one thing was for sure – 5 out of 6 were married and I was the odd one out. 3 had children. But all of us seemed happy with the way our respective lives had panned out.
Not that it’s completely relevant, as sentiment and nostalgia over-ruled but I order the cheesey garlic bread as a starter and a main of roast beef, sweet potatoes and yorkshire pudding, with chips on the side. The cost was £10 (starter and main) and the portion too substantial for an everyday backpacker like myself. Good food though, and here are the mandatory food photos for you.
So the food was good and the chat was amazing. I had also asked everyone to bring a random item that reminded everyone of the 80s and our time at Kilmaine. Magoo was already wearing his.
Back in the 80s, WWF (not the World Wildlife Fund) was all the rage. Magoo wore an Ultimate Warrior t-shirt and told stories of wrestling moves in the Kilmaine playground. Coleen reminisced about the crisps and snacks we used to eat. Space Raiders and Meanies – you could buy them on your breaks from the P7 teachers for like 5p or 10p. Pickled Onion flavour.
I brought a load of 80s memorabilia that I found in my parents house. A Margaret Thatcher wig. Sweatbands from Holland (a school trip in 1991). Northern Ireland WOrld Cup programmes from 1982 and 1986 – the glory days. A Dire Straits CD. A cherry coke tin (which in the end didn’t have an 80s ring pull). I also wore a grey shirt on the day and my Kilmaine tie (yellow and black stripes). My first Northern Ireland shirt. My first Glentoran scarf. A copy of the Wheel – the School Magazine. Some Batman stickers. An actual match programme from 1984 when we started school, which featured Northern Irish superstar George Best and my team AFC Bournemouth.
Again the chat just flowed and flowed and it was all over in a flash. Some ordered desserts, I was full from the main but ordered another Guinness. Soon though, the entire reunion was over and 30 years worth of memories had been condensed into 3 and a half hours or so. Sarah Bell left and I did ponder on if it will be another 30 years before I see her again.
And then there were four. So it wasn’t quite over. It was left with Mark, Graham, Magoo and myself. This was the weird thing. The four of us had been the best mates in that P1 class – we went to each others birthdays etc. I have less commitments than the other 3 lads but I asked if they fancied a drink in Jenny Watts (Bangor’s Oldest Pub incidentally – fitting on the night of a 30 year reunion!) and they all said yes.
So we popped next door to Jenny Watts, which is also Bangor’s Oldest Pub apparently. Again more lads chat another drink and the condensing of not just the Kilmaine years, but our Bangor Grammar years too. It was just incredible to be sat there with Mark, Magoo and Graham, some 30 years on since we all sat at the same table at Kilmaine Primary School. I’m really scared that it was 30 years, but it was. Great times lads and so inspiring to see you all again and catch up.
I don’t want to wait another 30 years until the 60 Reunion. Hopefully I’ll see you all around. Thanks to everyone for coming to the 30 Year Reunion of Miss Preston’s P1 Class and here is a full list again of the class. If anyone is reading and wants to get in touch please do, a bigger turnout would be nice next time round.
BACK ROW – Craig Lemon, Ryan Somerville, Aaron Thompson, Coleen Matovu (Morrison), Sarah Bell (Quinn), Alison Henderson, Judith Boyd (Dunn), Gillian Mitchell, Paul McCoubrey, Gareth Edwards, Miss Preston, Jonathan Emerson.
MIDDLE ROW – Jenny Maybin, Leeann, Patricia McMullan, Claire Campbell, Leann Edwards, Claire McCarthy, Leann Fulton (Burns), James Boyd.
FRONT ROW – Ricky Keag, Graham Bowler, Mark McCullough, Peter Kennedy, Philip Billsborough, Graham Irwin, Peter “Magoo” McIvor, Jonny Blair, Jordan Galloway.
* known Maiden names in brackets (please get in touch if there are any discrepancies – jonny (at) dontstopliving.net)
Here is a video from the reunion: