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Former pupils met each other for first time in decades in Cheltenham

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: August 22, 2011

  • so many memories: Kay Merritt, Jane Davis, Hilary Innes and Mary Limbrick and, below, photographs of former pupils and staff

  • exciting: Clare Williams twin sister Sally Pearson were known as the Cotton twins at school

  • together again: Sarah Chalk and Pauline Synnott

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THIRTY five years may have passed since they last met but school friends Sarah Chalk and Pauline Synnott recognised each other instantly.

Their reunion was one of many at a major gathering of former pupils of Oriel School, which closed in 1972.

Excited chatter filled what is now Ellenborough Park Hotel as dozens of women clapped eyes on their childhood best friends for the first time in nearly four decades.

Mrs Synnott, 55, had travelled to the event on Saturday from Norfolk and was delighted to be reunited with her former dormitory mate, from Hampshire.

The now mum-of-three and grandmother-of-four said: "I last saw her at her wedding in 1976. We recognised each other straight away. I had curly hair like this at school. It's amazing to see each other again – it's Sarah through and through. We were best friends."

Mrs Chalk, who went to Oriel School from 1968 to 1972, brought her yellow gym slip signed by fellow classmates when they left. Among the scribbles was a good luck message from Pauline.

The mum-of-two, said: "It's very exciting. Even though we hadn't seen each other for such a long time we started chatting like we used to.

"I recognised a few people straight away. It's bringing back some memories. The outside looks quite similar but the inside is completely different."

Sixty three ex-pupils made it to the reunion, which involved lunch in the former dining hall. Two women came from Canada and one from America.

The event was organised by Clare Williams, 55, who now lives in Hay-on-Wye and Lynn Burrough, 53, who travelled from Canada. There were 23 county people there. Some were even able to get back into the old school uniforms.

The gathering at the Southam hotel was arranged through social media sites Facebook and Friends Reunited.

Ms Burrough, who is a deputy head teacher, said: "I moved to Canada in 1976 when my parents emigrated.

"The reunion has all been done through social media.

"It's amazing that it has actually happened. We haven't seen each other for 39 years."

Clare Williams, 55, was at the event with her identical twin sister Sally Pearson.

Mrs Williams, a photographer, remembers her time at the girls' boarding and day school well. She said: "I was very naughty. I was a boarder. I used to drink, smoke and have midnight feasts.

"We were very lucky to go to school here. It was a lovely building but it was a bit colder then."

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