St James' Primary School Muswellbrook students from 'Class of 1959' celebrate 60-year reunion

THE good times came flowing back at the weekend when students from the "Class of 1959" at St James' Primary School met again in Muswellbrook.

The occasion marked 60 years since the pupils finished their primary education at the old school located in Sowerby Street, next to the church.

Sadly, nothing remains of the old buildings these days as they were all demolished quite recently.

Undeterred, the past students took advantage of the generous offer from the "new facility" to meet there and enjoy afternoon tea and a terrific period of reminiscing.

"It is somewhat unusual to have a reunion from primary school days but this group has certainly embraced the opportunity to come together and rekindle their school day friendships," Peter Pilgrim said.

"From a class of 54 students in 1959, 27 made the effort to attend and enjoy the weekend - and there were 15 partners who joined in as well.

"You may think we exaggerated the numbers of 54 in the class, however we have counted 50 students in the class photo and at least four known absentees [from the photo] on that day."

The teacher at the time was from the Sisters of Mercy, Sr Elizabeth Cahill (aka Sr Edmund).

Not only did she have responsibility of such a large class of graduating students, but she also carried the responsibility of being the school principal.

"We now see this as an amazing task, certainly not something that would occur today," Mr Pilgrim said.

In addition to the informal gathering at the new school on Saturday, everyone gathered for dinner at the Remington Motor Inn to continue the camaraderie.

Most of the group met again on Sunday morning to celebrate Mass together, to remember and pray for the 12 classmates who have since passed away.

Afterwards, morning coffee and lunch was the order of the day before everyone said "farewell".

Some relics from 1959 were on display including an old school desk and an authentic cane retrieved from the ceiling of the classroom during repairs many years ago due to white ant damage.

Further information and school history had been provided by Margaret Dolahenty and Muswellbrook Historical Society.

"This reunion turned out to be an extraordinary event in so many ways and we are most grateful to quite a few people who made it possible," Mr Pilgrim said.

"The organising team consisted of Edi Sarti and Bruce Foley who both spent countless hours looking for people and making untold phone calls.

"The executive staff at St James' were extremely helpful in making their facilities available to us and the deputy principal's mother provided the most delightful array of cooking for our afternoon tea.

"Our gratitude to Narelle Jansen.

"Special thanks to Parish Priest Father Anthony for his support during the planning and publicising our reunion through the parish newsletter and including us in the parish liturgy.

"Of course, the exercise would not have worked at all except for the way the ex-students responded to the invitation to come.

"I believe to have half your class turn out for a reunion some 60 years later is an amazing result and a tribute to the friendships we built during our school days at St James' Primary School Muswellbrook during the 50s.

"Past students travelled quite long distances to attend.

"There were people from Rockhampton, Brisbane, Armidale, Canberra and Sydney as well as many from within our own diocese.

"During dinner the ex-pupils and their partners contributed a substantial amount of cash so that we can purchase a gift for the present school as a reminder of our time spent in primary school.

"Fittingly, the same group gathered for their first reunion at the old school back in 1998 with great results.

"I do feel however that there was much more enthusiasm this time, and I think everyone appreciated the occasion much more.

"I can't recall how many attended in 1998 but we were graced that time to have our teacher Sr Elizabeth Cahill join our celebration.

"Well done Class of '59.

"With the grace of god, let us meet again."