It was decided for this rather special occasion that we should return to London where we all first met back in 1961. It therefore fell to me (Reg Balmer) as the 'City Boy' to arrange the event. We managed to attract a creditable attendance of 42 including wives and partners. We might have had quite a few more if not for a number of withdrawals due last minute commitments and health issues.
In a departure from the usual format where the dinner has been held at the hotel, the Premier Inn, County Hall was chosen for its location close to the anticipated main events and other attractions on the South Bank as well as competetive pricing compared with other central London hotels. Isobel & Ian McLeod had also highly recommended the breakfast offering!
Alan Carter's report on the Camden visit on Friday afternoon.
Royal College Street is wider than in our time due to redevelopment of the area. The College is as I had remembered from the outside but much different inside. Just inside we are greeted with the impressive portrait of Sir Frederick Hobday. I have recently read his book “Fifty Years a Veterinary Surgeon” and it gives an interesting account of the building of the College and also his work during service in WW1.
The main hall has been converted into a posh lecture room. I wonder where they do exams or put on plays, remembering our effort at doing “Under Milk Wood” directed by Stephen Sparrow. The library seems to have been downgraded. Perhaps they don’t use books! The labs seem to have been enlarged by knocking down walls.
The open quadrangle to the right of what was the hall is now enclosed and made into the Lightwell Cafe. Glad to see that Foxhunter is still in the anatomy room. The dissecting room was very interesting and didn’t reek with formalin. A tour of the Beaumont Hospital brought back memories of Knight, Frost and Croft. I never found out whether Chick’s stuff was still on the top floor. A lot of the Campus is NO ENTRY and I suppose this is where there is a continuation of Prof. Bell’s research.
Ah well happy memories.
The original plan was to meet for drinks outside on the Festival Hall Terrace in lovely warm September evening sunshine. Unfortunalely after a blisteringly hot week we were unlucky and were greeted with a rather unseasonal cold snap but at least it didn't rain! However undeterred we gathered round the inside bar for a few convivial drinks and to reacquaint ourselves with colleagues some of whom we may not have seen for many years.
Unfortunately Gordon and Nichola Totterdell had a nightmare 5 hour train journey but made it by the skin of their teeth in time to join us for dinner.
Later we headed to the Canteen restaurant and spent a very pleasant evening reminiscing over an excellent dinner. After dinner some headed out to explore the pleasures of the South Bank while others headed back for a good nights sleep after a long day.
After the renowned Premier Inn breakfast, we gathered to take the coach out to Hawkshead. Heading out West on the A40 I noticed Mike and Sandy Roper looking a little concerned as the driver seemed to be taking a somewhat unusual route. He did seem a little confused and eventually I sat down beside him and gave some directions which happily got us there exactly on time at 11:30.
On arrival we were welcomed by Vicki Laing and Mark Collins who had so competently organised our visit.
We took our seats for a very interesting and well presented introductory talk by Professor David Church who put the present day's ethos and position of the RVC into such clear perspective. As Peter Howard commented, it is pleasing to think that our old college is at the fore front of world veterinary education and good to hear of the more varied and interesting opportunities afforded to today’s students.
A most excellent and tasty lunch was provided followed by tours of the Campus. We were shown the present day state of the art facilities in the Equine Unit and Professor Dan Brockman showed us round the impressive Queen Mother Hospital for Animals where world-class specialists treat over 7,000 animals each year, leading the way in clinical practice and are at the cutting-edge of veterinary medicine.
Leaving at 3:00 pm we had an uneventful journey back to the South Bank for a short rest and to ready ourselves for the evening's entertainment.
We assembled at 6:00 pm ready to board the MV Westminster for a private cruise down to Tower Bridge and back. The river boats leave exactly on time and as the departure time of 6:15 pm grew closer we were aware that some guests were still not on board. With literally one minute to spare Prof Peter Bedford who had travelled in from out of town arrived with Jerry and Jill Kew and we set off. It was quite chilly but most of us braved the cold up on deck whilst others preferred the warmer inside deck. We saw the sights of the City of London and had a humourous commentary from a crew member. The only real downside was that they hadn't provided a bar tender for the trip, much to the disgust of John Butt as you might imagine!
After a short walk along the Victoria Embankment we arrived at RS Hispaniola for dinner. Prosecco was served in the bar and shortly everyone was deep in conversation and thoroughly warmed up after the cruise.
Rather belatedly we recognised that Richard Bradley had not made it to the cruise and for a worried moment I wondered if we might have even left him stranded at Hawkshead but fortunately to my relief he arrived in time for the dinner!
We enjoyed a 3 course dinner with coffee served at our tables on the main deck in a very pleasant ambiance. It was generally agreed that the menu of smoked salmon rosettes with asparagus tips and lime dressing to start, followed by rack of lamb with dauphinoise potato, spinach and baby vegetables with redcurrant jus, followed by vanilla crème brulee to finish was excellently prepared and appreciated by all.
After the meal we were treated to a 'surprise' musical feast by the fabulous Ruby Dolls who gave their cabaret style personalised rendition of some well know numbers. I had primed them with a few 'nick names' to add a little interest and of course David Shingleton was mentioned as one of our country's leading experts on chicken management!
Stuart Lake stood and offered me some kind words of thanks in appreciation of my organisational skills. I was able thank him and take the opportunity to read out 'Greetings from the Antipodes', some amusing recollections of our college days by Doug Death.
We finished up around midnight and meandered back to the hotel where the 'hard core' settled in the bar for a few last drinks until closing time.
It had been suggested at some point that this was to be the 'swansong' reunion but it seems likely that the 'hard core' may surprise us with more to come. So watch this space! We will sadly miss some like Peter and Jan Kieran who may well have made their last visit to the UK from Australia. On the other hand Doug Death may yet surprise us with a visit to these shores again at some point.
Click to see Doug's amusing recollections from our college days: Greetings from the Antipodes