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Medical Graduates of 1969

1969 – 40 Year Reunion


Not having met together since the Sir Arthur Thompson 30th Reunion there was quiet anxiety around the world as to whether there would be another one.


We were after all a pretty sociable lot. Finally the collective nerve of a self selected committee broke and we started on a road of discovery. Every meeting was held over a fine and convivial meal, which added much to the joy but kept progress down to a manageable rate. Many such meetings were needed. The Medical School Archives were a great starting point but hours on the Internet were taken up tracking down lost sheep, American email addresses proving the most elusive. Mike Jones (Western Australia) collected CVs from all over and printed them up as a Reunion keepsake.


The venue was relatively easy to select as we all had fond memories of earlier reunions at The Botanical Gardens to their credit we never had any cause to regret that choice. We centred ourselves on the Marriott Hotel (equally creditable) the day before and the party really began then.


The Medical School kindly laid on a presentation by Dr Paul Reinarz in the Lecture Theatre, a tour round the now only partly recognisable building and a “goody bag”. Such memories! The only difficulty was persuading anyone to move on, there was always someone else that you hadn’t seen for years (and were quietly relieved to have recognised).


Similarly, that evening, the organisers were getting anxious as the room wasn’t filling up on time, the reason being that the constant chatter had caused a log jam in the entrance and some stern “whipping-in” was required.


To an audience of 71 69ers plus their partners, Mos Gold made the only speech of the evening, especially thanking Paul and Suzy Gillett who were our prime movers, reading out the list of those who had sadly died and asking the Reverend Dr Margaret Farr (née Rose) to say Grace. Peter Reder presented a glorious poem. There was little need for any further entertainment or background music as the hum of conversation was all the music required. Mostly we just took up where we had left off before. An extraordinarily successful evening that had dragged people, gladly, from all over the world. The committee has been so touched by the huge number of thank-yous and even now has started enjoying meetings about the 45th!


The Class of ’69 poem


“If you can recall those years,” they say “you were not there at all, no way.”

But etched on my mind is that sixties morn when our journey together was born.

Most fresh from school with just enough ‘A’s, some older and wiser with a more worldly gaze.

Excited and daunted in equal measure, awaiting the start of our long endeavour.

Sir Francis Knowles offered a few words of prudence, too gentle a start for one eager student

For out from the midst of the throng came a voice: “Excuse me, sir, that molecule on the board is wrong!”

What would the years bring? What lay in store from that first day we met in 1964?

We arrived here in Brum with so much to learn – like: why socks matter; which curries burn;

‘welsh rabbits’ come from Cheddar; the weight of Zuckerman’s tome; and the stink of formalin follows you home;

Oh, that first term. Spent with a torrent of data flooding our brains, studying later and later.

Mnemonics were helpful; rote learning would do. But where’s the Stellate Ganglion? I still haven’t a clue.

The Anatomy course seemed to pass in a flash, with vivas to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Though we didn’t know it then, there’s a jinx: most who re-sit the test will end up as shrinks.

But I get ahead of my reflections in time. There’s more years to go ’till 1969.

We stayed up for rag day and all had a ball, except poor old Dave Edge, who fell off a wall.

Some ‘sat-in’ the Uni., ignored UDI, drove to Greece for the summer, drank The Sportsman’s bar dry.

Big Tel was in the scrum (if he could borrow the kit and was off fags for the day, being once again skint.)

Then a card school was formed with Kang as the boss, his memory for spent tricks leaving all at a loss.

We bought clapped-out motors with the last of our cash, (though a convertible Morgan cut much more of a dash)

But to park at the Med. School could never be done, it was more heinous than driving a bus home for fun.

So with Pre-clinicals over it was onto the wards. Ah, that’s what we’re here for. 1969’s the reward.

Of the years that followed I’ve just one regret – Julie Walters was a nurse here and I don’t think that we met.

Of course, students and nurses had certain rites to fulfill – though I’ll spare you the details. Some are here, together still.

We teamed up in flats and invaded the gentry, who wondered what hit them and how we’d gained entry.

“Oh God, what a nuisance, their 21st parties go on all night and shake downstairs rafters.

With comings and goings, passionate embraces and endless parade of different faces!”

Well, we’re sorry for disturbing the peace that they sought on the Mary Vale Road or at Elmwood Court,

Until a silence descended in your place and mine. Finals was looming. It was 1969.

The marathon over, but no one dared chuckle awaiting results from Mr A.L. Buckle.

It was pinned to the board, “Am I there?”, “Am I cursed?”, Some hadn’t turned up ’cause they’d feared the worst.

“Do not worry, you’ve made it, you’re a doctor at last.” We sighed with relief, our hearts beating fast.

A euphoric feeling we’ll never forget. The struggle was worth it, there’ll be no regret.

Telephone home, find a party, the rest is a blur then the tricky bit starts, get a job, don’t know where.

But one last convention before our farewell: a reception at The Chadwick Manor Hotel

Where a banquet was held and the menu’s top line proudly read ‘Final Year Dinner: 1964 to 1969.’

We’ve had another life since there we dined. What path did you tread? Has time been kind?

Did your homeland beckon; perhaps you stayed here in Blighty; headed West or Down Under where the sun shines more brightly?

Did you keep to the bedside or seek academe? Climb ivory towers? Do all that you dreamed?

Did you churn out more papers despite methods unsteady? (It’s said: ‘Publish everything, the literature’s been ruined already!’)

What crossroads were faced? Did your work bring you pleasure? Were there days to forget, but many more to treasure?

Have your children now grown up, making fewer demands? Are some even doctors, the torch passed to their hands?

We have different stories but a theme that survives is our training allowed us to touch many lives.

It’s a privilege shared even forty years after those first bonds of friendship made amidst laughter.

And so when the call came to gather once more where it all started, when still young, slim (!) and poor,

The decision was easy, we’ll meet up in Brum to drink to fond memories and the journey we’ve come

Since a far-off day when we felt in our prime having earned the right to be called: “Class of ’69”


Peter Reder

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