The Great Trek - the Class of 1958 Reunion
Keith Hayes (OV1958) has recollected a recent gathering of the Class of 1958 in London.
Panting hard as they exited the wooden gate on the boundary of Sutton Park, a group of schoolboys summoned up the last bit of energy in their flagging bodies and dashed towards the finish line of the afternoon’s cross-country run.
Hopefully, Rex Wallbank, Ron Homer or Norman Jackson would think that such zest had been present throughout the entire four miles of the course’s weaving paths and thorny undergrowth.
Five of those runners at Bishop Vesey’s had been school pals from first form in 1951, joined a year later by Richard Trelfa, transferred from another school. The name Trelfa was rapidly translated into Nelson, which of course much to his mother’s chagrin became Nellie. And so it is to this day, 65 years on.
Three others had nicknames, Nigel ‘Bud’ Young, Robert ‘Mac’ MacDonald and Hamish ‘Tish’ Simpson. Colin Campbell and I never suffered the indignity!
Graduating to Old Veseyan status, we went our different ways and different vocations. Mine was to Canada and a career in broadcast journalism, followed by a stint in Northern Ireland with BBC.
Social media brought me back into contact again with these old school chums and plans were laid for a reunion. The spirit of BVGS ran through our veins, however and we were all still, in our 70s, heavily involved in work related activities. Arranging a simple lunch turned into a logistical nightmare.
After two years of futile and frustrated planning, it looked as if the reunion would never take place.
Recalling those frost reddened faces, numbed fingers and aching limbs of the cross-country games afternoons, I challenged my pals to take part in The Great Trek. The course would start at the Travellers Club on Pall Mall with brandy and coffee at 9am, move to the Reform Club next door, walk to the Savile near Bond Street for a mid-morning stiffener and end up with a taxi ride for cocktails at the East India Club on St James’s Square. It was only a short hop back to Travellers for a champagne lunch.
Colin couldn’t make it, sadly Bud caught a cold on the morning of the Trek but in time honoured British tradition, the remaining four straggled in from various parts of the country.
But it was 11.00 before we were all gripping a cognac and the original course needed revision.
Negotiations were carried out with the Athenaeum Club for coffee and ‘refreshments’ and the jolly band raced the 50 yards to Wellington Place for elevensies, surrounded by one of the finest collections of academic books in the world. A race back to the Travellers cocktail bar and a fascinating hour with diplomats, lawyers and Fleet Street ‘hacks’ all of whom were intrigued with the Old Veseyans and many a tall tale was shared. Champagne, Claret and Macon with a meal to complement them was followed by a stroll into the garden, owned by the Queen but generously lent for the afternoon for our soirée. Naturally a gin and tonic or two, more schoolboy stories and then a reluctant departure to railway stations and the Great Trek of July 2019 was over. Strange. We weren’t nearly as tired as after those cross country runs in Sutton Park. Must have something to do with the drink.
THE OV Author
Keith Hayes 1951–58. Broadcaster, writer and luncher. A widower, lives in Lewes, East Sussex where he writes for local magazine Town and County, and runs Miradortelevision.com (also on Roku). A lifetime in journalism he has been to 60 countries, worked in 40, sometimes long stints, in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, Romania and begs forgiveness for setting up Russia Today (RT) Television. A proud OV.