Up to seventy years since they had left Portsmouth High School, ladies from the Classes of 1947, 1977, 1987 and 1997 returned for lunch and tours of the Senior and Junior schools last weekend.
The day was hosted by Headmistress, Mrs Jane Prescott, with tours led by the current Head Girl and Senior Prefect teams. The ladies rekindled old friendships and reminisced about the times they had spent at school.
‘The whole day has made me smile,’ said Emily Chalmers from the Class of 1987. ‘It is like coming back and revisiting family.’
The oldest alumna to visit the school was Mrs Frances Sallis, 88, née Carter, who left the school in 1947. Mrs Sallis was evacuated during the war to a house in East Hampshire called Hinton Ampner. Mr Dutton, the owner of the house, had to hand it over for wartime ‘service’ in September 1939. It then became a boarding school for the younger girls of Portsmouth High School evacuated from their homes in Portsmouth.
‘Your Sixth Form girls who sat at lunch with us were delightful and a credit to Portsmouth High School,’ she said. ‘We loved being at our beloved old school which looked so pristine.’
One group of ladies from 1987 had left notes under the floor of the former Sixth Form centre. It has since been changed into the main library and carpeted. The girls think their messages are buried underneath.
‘I remember turning all the lights off in the sports hall,’ said Teresa Cole, née Prendergast, from the Class of 1997. ‘The problem was that they took at least half an hour to come back on again. We were all kept in the hall waiting for someone to own up, but nobody ever did.
‘We also had an egg and flour fight in the playground and were made to hoover up the flour from the netball courts,’ she said.
‘Please apologise to our teachers and thank them for being so patient,’ said Charlotte Martyn, née Ford, from the Class of 1997. ‘We were known as the ‘Naughty Nineties’ but are truly sorry for the angst we must have put them through. It has been a brilliant, hilarious and surprisingly emotional day. I hadn’t seen two of my closest PHS friends for twenty years – it’s silly how we let people slip away, so I must try not to leave it another twenty years.
‘It’s brought lots of us out of the woodwork via Facebook and has put people back in touch, but there’s nothing quite like seeing people face to face, and sharing stories in person.’
Isobel Elder, née Trist, from the Class of 1987, is the great, great, great, great niece of Thomas Ellis Owen who designed and built the Portsmouth High School Junior School building, Dovercourt, and lived there from 1849. Isobel attended the reunion and said:
‘I came to Dovercourt aged 9. The day has been full of nostalgia, especially remembering playing in parts of the Junior School grounds that is still called ‘The Dell’. It has been lovely to come back.’
Sixth Former, Brittany Tidey, said: ‘It just makes me so excited for the day that we return for a reunion. The ladies have been so enthusiastic about coming back. They all say that although the buildings have been modernised and updated the feel and ethos of the school is still exactly the same.’
Mrs Jane Prescott, Headmistress of Portsmouth High School, said:
‘It was wonderful to have this group of alumnae back in school. They bring with them a host of memories and stories and have rekindled friendships. As they said, the ethos of the school remains the same today; to educate and inform but have lots of fun on that journey too.’