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News > OP updates > Sixty-Plus Years of Friendship

Sixty-Plus Years of Friendship

OP Martin Pickford explains the unbreakable bond of friendships made at PGS
27 Oct 2021
Written by Millie Ansell
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One morning in September 1960, approximately ninety boys, all aged eight, were standing in the hall of the Lower School, dressed in their brand-new Lower School grey uniforms, nervously waiting to be assigned to one of three first year forms. Little would they know that sixty years later, seven of them, plus five others who would join the school three years later, would still be great friends and speaking directly to each other for a couple of hours each fortnight. 

They would certainly not have understood that they would be doing so on something called a personal computer that would allow all of them to speak to each other as well as seeing everybody at the same time, or that the machine was using something called an “app” which would had the name “Zoom”. They would be spread all over the world by 2020 but even those still in Portsmouth could no longer meet because a plague had spread throughout the world. Everybody had to stay apart in something called a “socially distanced lockdown bubble” which was a very confusing concept which very few of them would understand despite extensive research.   

PGS was very different from these days in 1960.  Firstly it was only for boys between eight and eighteen. Most of the teachers had been soldiers during the Second World War and were still instilled with the military discipline that they needed in battle. As a result corporal punishment was a not uncommon occurrence. Just about every activity was compulsory and being good at sport was absolutely necessary if you wanted to be noticed by teachers. Even that only meant cricket and rugby in those days as other sports weren’t really encouraged. Boxing and cross-country running were the only other compulsory sports but there were hockey, tennis swimming and athletics teams for boys in the upper school who didn’t like the seasonal team sports.  

While individual experiences of PGS differed, we all agree that we left PGS with enough self-confidence and knowledge to move to the next stages of life.  

Apart from the fact that three of us ended up in the same student house at the University of Bristol for a couple of years we all went our different ways for the next thirty years, building careers and families. One or two of us might meet up occasionally, but our contact was pretty non-existent during those three decades.  

That all changed around the time of the millennium for three reasons. Firstly most of us by this time had personal computers with Google search and Email. Secondly we all turned fifty which is when most people start to think about their mortality and legacy. And lastly due to the first social media site called Friends Reunited. The first four of us got together because of our mutual obsession with Football. Three of us were Pompey season ticket holders and the fourth was unfortunately a Southampton fan because his daughter was married to one of their players who had played for England a few times.  

Our first meeting was lunch before a Pompey game at the A Bar in Old Portsmouth, and the number of people increased as the years went by. We even invited Michael Keall, our Headmaster in the last year of Lower School, to one of our lunches and he came all the way from Cambridge despite being well over eighty. He amazed us by remembering every one of our names without prompting. He kept in touch and was our unofficial President until he passed away in 2019.  

We also lost one of our members, Pete Chandler who was tragically killed in a house fire a few years ago. Pete still wore a ponytail, drove an Aston Martin, and supplemented his income substantially by playing online poker. We all still smile whenever his name is mentioned.  We gained a few more members when we went to a reunion for 65 to 70 leavers. Finally, three of us joined the OP Club committee and each of us has been its President. 

Early in 2020 Tony Morris suggested the idea of a regular Zoom meeting. We all jumped at the chance, partly because of Covid and partly because two of us now live in France, one in Malaysia and another was considering moving to Spain.  These regular Zoom meetings are great and we all really enjoy them, mainly because we are all the same age and have many shared memories and values. Also we tend to share similar tastes in the arts especially in sixties/seventies music. There is always Covid to discuss (Malaysia is way ahead of anywhere else on preventative measures by the way) and lastly all of us has reached the age where bits are starting to fall off so like all older people we spend a bit of time talking about our various ailments. 

Lastly if anybody else who was in the upper fifths in 1968 and would like to join us in our fortnightly meetings, you would be very welcome. Please email me on pickfordmartin@gmail.com or contact us through the Development Office. We hope to keep the virtual meetings going for as long as there are enough of us left to do it or until Pompey win the European Champions League, whichever happens first.  

Your oldest friends are some of your best.  When we all met up for the first time after decades apart it only took about ten minutes before we were all back in UVB in 1968 and really felt sixteen again. It has continued that way ever since. We can really recommend it.  

If you would like to read more, please see the personal profiles here: 60 Years of Friendship - Personal Profiles

Thank you to Martin Pickford for writing this article.

 

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