Montfort and SHY Schools Global Reunion
For ex Students 55 years and over
A Summary of GR2010
Plans for a Global Reunion (GR2010) began in 2007 when at the Australian get-together in Melbourne a suggestion was put forward that the next Australian meet be held in Yercaud.
As Perth was earmarked for the next Australian meet, the “Yercaud” suggestion was subsequently considered by the Perth Committee. Following some meetings and discussions amongst ex-students from Montfort and SHY resident in Perth, the decision to have “Yercaud” as the next venue was unanimous and the wheels for GR2010 were put into motion. Advice and reunion ideas were sought and obtained from those in the know, especially from our colleagues in Cochin, Chennai, Salem and in Yercaud. It was eventually decided to gather together in Yercaud, our buddies (55 years and over) up to batch 1972 from around the world. A Google Group website was set up for the two schools and the promotion and advertising began in earnest. In order to prepare the way, members of the Perth Reunion Committee visited Yercaud on a number of occasions and met with the two School Principals to advise them of their intentions and to seek their advice. A date for the event and a working plan was then prepared. Sub Committees were formed around the globe and a programme for GR2010 was eventually in place.
The SHY girls from Canada with Jennifer Khan at the helm were the first off the ranks to come forward and register their interest to attend the inaugural global event in Yercaud. Groups of ex students organised meetings in Canada and the UK to discuss the event and plan their holiday trips to India to coincide with the reunion.
Over the following months, the momentum towards the Global Reunion was maintained and continued by various individuals through emails that brought back memories of our school days. Thanks go to Dr Asokan, Sajan Pulimood, P Elango and others who tracked down and targeted their batch mates to register for the reunion. The wheels were now spinning along as many of our boys and girls of yesteryear came on board and contact details and school photos were exchanged from around the globe. The build up continued, but much drama was to unfold. One of our committee members, Christopher Gomes, while on his way to the 2009 Cochin meet on a fact finding mission, was rushed to the nearest medical centre in Mumbai where he had to undergo an emergency triple bypass operation. In true Montfort style one of his colleagues, Bruce James, stepped forward and gave all the assistance needed for Chris and his family in Mumbai. Chris eventually recovered some months later and returned to Perth where he and Gordon embarked on promoting the Reunion on Utube with a moving song.
As the date of the Reunion drew close, there was much excitement amongst those overseas arrivals who were packing their bags and tending to last minute ticketing and visa applications. The organising Committees had attended to all Hotel bookings in Chennai and Yercaud and the purchase of all train tickets in advance. An advance party had gone on ahead to Yercaud to check on preparations. The rest was now up to each one to either board their overseas plane for Madras (Chennai) or head towards Salem. Groups met in Goa, Mangalore & Chennai to travel together to Yercaud.
The Madras batch gathered at the KINGS Hotel in Egmore and on the 20thJanuary 2010 at a Karaoke/Dinner organised by Ravi Menon and his family, past students and teachers met each other, some after nearly 45 years. Bro Patrick, a Montfort staff member in the 1960’s, was delighted to meet past students, many of whom had accompanied him on various Scouts Hikes and school tours around South India. The evening was filled with fun and laughter.
NOSTALGIC TRAIN JOUNEY
As part of the planning process and to re-live the nostalgic train journeys of the various school batches to Salem, it was decided to promote and encourage our colleagues to commence their travel to Yercaud on one of the batch trains from Mangalore, Bangalore or Chennai (Madras). The train journey to Salem on the West Coast Express the next morning, was a lively one, with impromptu singing and guitar playing by Ron Berchy and Bruce James accompanied by a chorus of singers. Each station between Chennai and Salem was greeted with shouts of delight by expatriates as they stretched their legs on the platform recollecting stories from the past. Lunch time on the West Coast Express was a hive of activity as food and drinks were passed around and the aroma of chicken biriyani and other Indian food delicacies filled the air. Other passengers on the train got caught up with the joyful atmosphere and wished us good luck.
WELCOME & REGISTRATION
Arrangements were made for 7 coaches at Salem Junction to meet the various train batches from Mangalore, Bangalore and Chennai. Attendees boarded the coaches and travelled up the ghats to their respective hotels in Yercaud. The huge welcome sign that greeted us on the entrance to the ghats was met with shouts of delight. It was a prelude to the exciting days ahead.
The next day, 21st Jan, more reunion attendees began arriving early morning in Yercaud. Each received an ID, reunion programme and a souvenir bag upon registration. They were then greeted with a garland and a refreshing drink on entering Grand Palace Hotel. The Hotel was a hub of excitement as members of the “Senior Brigade”, past students of Montfort & SHY and their family greeted each other amidst shouts of joy and recognition after many years. The party had begun and carried on late into the night with more impromptu singing and guitar playing. The following day, Friday 22nd January, saw more arrivals and car loads register at Grand Palace and the numbers swelled to over 350. They came from all over India, Singapore, Malaysia, Great Britain, South Africa, Dubai, the United States, Canada and Australia. It was indeed a Global meeting of the Senior Brigade (55 years and over) of ex students of Montfort and SHY, and there was no stopping their enthusiasm as they re-lived their school days. The Perth Committee formally “Welcomed” the attendees at the Grand Palace Hotel function room and the reunion programme for the next 4 days was explained to the excited gathering. A mini tiffin lunch was served and the reunion programme began in earnest with coaches transporting guests to SHY.
Mother Bernard and the staff welcomed the guests at SHY and recounted their days at school. It was a touching moment as many had travelled from afar especially for the occasion of Mother Bernard’s 90th birthday.
The SHY programme included afternoon refreshments provided by the school, group photos, a tour of the school, a concert by the current batch of students and a nostalgic film slide show in the school hall. It was well attended.
The programme for the 22nd ended at Grand Palace with a sumptuous buffet dinner and the showing of the Montfort school nostalgic film prepared by Gordon Fonceca. The gathering, now tuned to perfection, appropriately greeted recorded messages from past students and teachers who were unable to attend the reunion. Footage of staff of our school era, including Mr & Mrs Macedo and Brother Basilio brought back some fond memories. A recorded greeting from Mr & Mrs Duncan Pears from the UK was provided by Vernon Galiffe and enjoyed by all. The highlight of the evening was seeing a Perth recording of “Sir Nat Terry” giving an impromptu display of his foot tap dancing skills. His “Thank You” speech was emotional and touched the hearts of all those who were fortunate enough in their school days to have known him and his dear wife Berryl. The party once again continued into the late hours with joyous singing of songs from yester year.
The programme for Saturday 23rd January 2010, began early in the morning as guests at Grand Palace were awakened with the sound of clapping and bell ringing for an early breakfast accompanied with recorded music from the 60’s. The coaches then began a shuttle service between various hotels in yercaud and Montfort school as ex students began assembling together in front of the school chapel. It was a splendid sight to see the “Seniors” in school uniform. The atmosphere was filled with excitement as many had stepped foot in Montfort for the first time after 40 years or more. The school band in their smart uniform escorted the “Senior Brigade” towards the school assembly. The 3 school flags for each of the school houses, Montfort, Patrick & Gabriel were unfurled by Russel Fonceca, Vernon Galiffe and Aubrey Millett respectively.
Bro George welcomed the gathering of past students and the families and paid tribute to the organising committee for the time and preparation that had been carried out so that the “Link” between the past and the present was maintained. A symbolic gesture of appreciation was made with a presentation of a bouquet of flowers to a “senior” representative from each of the two groups of past students from Montfort (Russel) and SHY (Jennifer Rawlins).
The current batch of students entertained the gathering with a display of some classical dancing and a concert.
Three members of the “Senior Brigade”, Ron Timmins, Hugh Marley & Grenville Satur, each spoke to the gathering and recollected their years in Montfort.
A session of group photos was followed by morning tea provided by the school in the refectory. Groups were then taken around on a tour of the school which now boasts many new buildings and infrastructure.
The picnic lunch on the school lawn behind “Charmaytes” was something special and Bro George once again gave us a glimpse of his organising skills.
Some of the past students later on that afternoon met with the year 12 students in the school library for a Question & Answer session, to provide an opportunity for students seeking some guidance and direction in life after Montfort.
Preparations for the evening’s “United Ball” were underway with decorations and the arrival of the band “SHYAM” who began setting up their equipment and tuning their instruments. Some of the “Seniors” spent the afternoon relaxing at the Health Club or visited Ladies seat and other local attractions, while others caught up on some shut eye or a well earned rest.
We were delighted to have as our guests some staff of our school era. They included Mother Bernard and the staff of SHY, Brother Wilfred, Brother Anslem, Brother Patrick and Mr Lukose (Bro Grignon) of Montfort. We were also very privileged to have with us ex teachers Mrs Eileen Bosen, Coral
D’Mello and Jenny Escrader. Coral D’Mello started at SHY in 1938 and Terence D’Mello started at Montfort in 1935. Also amongst us were three ex students of both Montfort and SHY whose parents taught us in the 1960’s. With their presence we had that further link to our school years. They included:
Merryl Bhimwal, daughter of Mr & Mrs Macedo,
Christopher MacKenzie, son of John & Gwen MacKenzie, and
Catherine Smith, daughter of George and Philo Mackenzie.
The united schools function began with the arrival of our special guests and a welcome by our MC, Francis Bamford from Melbourne. A spectacular pyrotechnic fireworks display was organised outside the Grand Palace Hotel followed by a sumptuous buffet Dinner. Throughout the evening 5 cash prizes (Rs 2500 each) and various donated prizes were awarded to lucky ticket holders. The band “SHYAM” accompanied by guitarists Chris Gomes and Louie Saldanha kept us entertained throughout the evening with numbers from the 1960’s.
The evening drew to a close with the singing of the school songs and the “Farewell Song”. Our senior spokesmen, Thomas Abraham, gave the “Thank You” speech explaining that the reunion and the build up to it had rejuvenated him and brought together many who had lost touch or not seen each other for nearly 45 years.
The reunion included some drama close to midnight after the Ball. A coach filled with guests to be transferred to the Shevaroys Hotel began rolling (without the driver in it) down the steep driveway towards cars and a sheer drop at the bottom. With immediate presence of mind and agility, Les (Chuksu) Fonceca ran alongside the rolling bus dived in and managed to steer the coach away from parked cars and the oncoming drop. His presence of mind avoided what would have been a tragic night, as he guided the coach into a side wall where it stopped on the edge. His feat has since earned him the title of "Hero of the Reunion".
The next morning, saw many weary heads slowly emerge and head to their respective schools in Montfort and in SHY for a “Thank You” service. The Montfort school choir sang at the special mass organised by Bro George and the school chaplain. It was a time to reflect on our lives and appreciate the opportunities given to us, and above all to quietly give thanks.
The 55year and over Senior Brigade fielded a cricket team that was managed by Henri (Longfellow) Jason from the UK and ably captained by Derek D’Cruz from Perth. The cheering squad equipped with balloons and streamers shouted and clapped at every run scored and kept the fielders on their toes. It was a very close contest against the current batch of students who were unfortunate to prevent the winning runs from being hit in the last few balls of the game by the visitors. A complete set of cricket gear from Australia (complete with hats) was donated by the members of the Senior Brigade to the school.
CAMP FIRE & SING ALONG
Sunday evening came alive with a camp fire and sing along on the grounds of Grand Palace Hotel. S.P. Selvaraj ensured that no one forgot the songs we were taught at school by “Pop Jacques”, by donating 300 printed “Montfort Songsters” for the occasion. The evening, filled with music and games, slowly came to a close and brought to a fitting end 4 days that brought much Joy and Happiness to all those who attended.
Over the period of the reunion, groups gathered to relive and share stories of their school days; as they did, they remembered those who had left us, our colleagues and indeed so many of our past teachers and religious staff members. They remembered too those who were not able to be with us in Yercaud for whatever reason.
THANKS & APPRECIATION
Much work and effort had been put into this meet by everyone involved. Special thanks and appreciation goes out to the Perth working Committee members, the present administration of the two schools, the senior members of our era, Thomas Abraham, Purushotham, Dr Asokan and others like Ravi Menon, P Elango, Jennifer Khan, Kailash & Rekha Advani and many others who came forward to help in various ways to gather together this family. The contribution by all those involved and all those who attended, went a long way to the success of the reunion.
Long live Montfort and SHY, past and present, and to the bonds of affection that link us all together.
click on image to enlarge view of Montfort School taken from Bears Hill in 2008 by Patrick Randolph Russell
Thanks to these photographers for sharing their photos with us
Links to Photos
K T R NAMBIAR
K GEORGE THOMAS
FRANCIS E NATHAN