Portsmouth High School reunion brings together classes from 1959 to 2009

TEENAGE memories came flooding back for dozens of women as their old school swung open its doors for an inter-generational reunion.

Saturday, 14th September 2019, 9:19 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th September 2019, 8:45 pm
Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse     (140919-22)
Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-22)

Former Portsmouth High School pupils, who left between 1959 and 2009, were given a tour of the Southsea site on Saturday, before bosses cooked a slap-up lunch so they could tuck in and make up for lost time.

Two members of the all-girls school’s 1959 cohort were present – with a call even sent out for pupils from 1949 – but the lack of familiar faces did not phase Valerie Looney and Margaret Weaver, who are both 78.

Valerie, whose surname was formerly Covington, went on to study economics and sociology in Hull before a long spell teaching at Portsmouth Polytechnic. She later earned a masters degree and a PhD.

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Former maths teacher Jenny Price, left, and headgirl in 1959, Margaret Weaver. Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-20)

On how her old school has changed, she said: ‘The options in art and music are really good now, which were a bit restrained when we were here.

‘We didn’t have so many opportunities and it’s when you hear they have a climbing wall and things like that when you notice the difference.’

Margaret, born Loosemore, was the school’s first pupil to go on to London School of Economics, where she studied sociology, before going to the Institute of Medical Social Workers at the age of 21.

‘There’s more technology in here now, much more space and, for the girls, much more freedom,’ she said.

Sharron Barnes, left, and Sue Signora. Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-16)

‘Reunions like this are very healthy to remind you where you’ve come from and since we left in 1959, goodness me, life has changed. Society as a whole is no longer the same.’

After chatting and flicking through pictures in the main hall, alumnae gathered outside for a group photo, where the class of 1969 was among the most represented.

Elizabeth Purnell, formerly Heath, went on to teach secondary school maths in Plymouth and has helped maintain a bond between her classmates since leaving 50 years ago, with a host of previous reunions.

‘It’s very interesting to come and visit the building because a great deal has changed in 50 years,’ she said.

From left, Sarah Burrell, Emma Phillimore and Katie Wood, all from the class of 1999. Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-14)

‘I’m closer to the people I see now than I was when I was at school, so we’ve renewed friendships and we know about each other’s families and lives.’

Chloe St Pierre, formerly Trett, of the class of 1969, now runs teepee-themed children’s sleepovers and hailed the school as ‘fantastic’ as she was invited back.

‘I’ve lived abroad for 15 years, others have gone to London, but the core friendship group from this school has always stayed the same and we've all come back to Portsmouth,' she said.

Andrea Kneen, left, and Vivien Waters. Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-19)
Natalie Penny, centre. Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-21)
Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-13)
Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-18)
Alumnae reunion, Portsmouth High School, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (140919-17)