Day out to Clifton College, Bristol, my first time back there for 45 years or so.
Day out to Clifton College, Bristol, my first time back there for 45 years or so: this was my first ever Old Cliftonians Reunion.
The location and architecture is as beautiful as ever, the school facilities modernised and greatly expanded in scope since the 1970s. The statue of Haig still surveys The Close playing field but I don’t remember hearing the chapel clock bell strike the hours.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear again the four manual Harrison & Harrison organ in the chapel, now enlarged with a 32-foot Double Ophicleide stop of bass notes. Full organ makes a pretty good volume, far more than I remembered. The Father Willis organ in Big School has been retired.
The Cliftonian Society had arranged a good lunch with wine, followed by tours; about 120 OCs attended. I’ve never been to one of these reunions before and nor have any of the school friends with whom I am still in touch so it was a discovery day as well as indulging in nostalgia. Impossible to recognise faces after so long and there were only a very few people whose names I recognised on the list; on the other hand I met some interesting new people.
I was persuaded to do a few dozen reps with dumbbells in support of a fund-raising challenge. I’m happy to say my efforts prompted financial contributions from other OCs as well as helping 1400 kilos towards the target total of kilos lifted (100 reps of 7kg each dumbbell). Peer pressure always was a feature of schoolboy life at Clifton and those OCs present today haven’t lost the knack. I’m not the only one still fit and active, the table I shared included a senior triathlete training for the 2019 Ironman in Hawaii.
Good to hear during the tour of the Science School that chemistry textbooks that were being written by a Chemistry teacher of my time, Mr G.P. Rendle, are still in use although the science labs and science teaching rooms have been totally modernised.
The impression I came away with was that Clifton College these days still aims to deliver a liberal and wide-ranging schooling with a focus on academic success but it seems a much kinder and more inclusive place than in our time, where several of us (including several present yesterday) found our strength in cross-country running and athletics specifically to get away from rugger or rowing and rowdyism.
There were semi-formal group photos made and I tried to prank myself in double... it was breathing the air of the place that made me do it.
Maybe there two sorts of school-leavers, those who go back and those who don’t. So interesting to spend time with the other sort to myself.
Walking back down to Bristol Temple Meads railway station helped me put the day in context. So many of us benefited from the academic opportunities and the work ethic on offer at Clifton College in the seventies but our personalities only developed after we left the school.
And yes, we did sing a couple of verses of the School Song, its words as anachronistic as ever, but that’s the culture of the school we left behind.
It’s good to see the School we knew,
The land of youth and dream,
To greet again the rule we knew
Before we took the stream:
Though long we've missed the sight of her,
Our hearts may not forget;
We've lost the old delight of her,
We keep her honour yet.
We'll honour yet the School we knew,
The best School of all:
We'll honour yet the rule we knew,
Till the last bell call.
For, working days or holidays,
And glad or melancholy days,
They were great days and jolly days
At the best School of all.
Henry Newbolt (1862 – 1938)