Class Notes

A golden reunion in the Cotswolds

Dr Huon Gray CBE and Dr Julia Neild (both St Thomas’, MBBS, 1977)

The St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School graduating class of 1977 hold reunions every five years, but this year’s gathering was special, given that it marks 50 years since the cohort began their studies. Dr Huon Gray CBE and Dr Julia Neild share the details of last year’s reunion in the Cotswolds.

‘Fifty years ago (1972) a black and white photo recorded 62 young adults, with somewhat dubious tastes in hairstyles, starting their pre-clinical career at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, at that time simply part of the University of London. In 1974 our intake was increased by the addition of 48 from Oxbridge, and it was this cohort of 110 who started clinical training and qualified in 1977. Since, we have held reunions every five years, with only a couple being missed, and these are usually well attended. With this being such a milestone year, extra effort was made to contact as many as possible and in the end only 15 proved uncontactable.

‘Thus, on 29 November 2022, 52 alumni with 20 of their partners met for a reunion dinner at The Bear of Rodborough Hotel in the Cotswolds, where we had held two previous gatherings. Such was the importance attached to renewing contact that one of our contemporaries claimed the ‘furthest travelled’ award, having made the trip from Indiana, USA – his first return to the UK since starting practice there in 1983.

‘80 of the year (73 per cent) submitted an entry to a yearbook that was distributed before the reunion, giving brief descriptions of lives spent since qualifying. Alumni were also asked to provide a recent photo which helped link the memories of our old selves with the reality of our changed appearances due to anno domini. For those able to attend the dinner, the photos and name badges minimised embarrassing failures of recognition. Careers have varied considerably and demonstrate the number of paths through life which can be pursued with a medical degree. Most are now retired and, rather reassuringly, all recorded their happiness at having spent a working life in medicine, albeit enthusiasm for the NHS being more mixed.

‘Almost all who attended the dinner stayed overnight, allowing plenty of time to catch up, and many stayed the next day, enjoying local walks and the joys of country hostelries. Those unable to attend, and the nine we knew to be no longer with us, were fondly remembered and toasted. As is so often the case with experiences that have been shared in one’s youth, the camaraderie was immediate and heartfelt. Photographs of events during that era were enjoyed, a suggested soundtrack revealed musical tastes which have been largely unchanged, and a quiz merely showed that those with the highest IQ in youth remained on the same centile in advancing age.

‘Such was the obvious success of the occasion that support for a further reunion was overwhelming. Given the sad but obvious likelihood of gradual attrition, we intend meeting again in a couple of years. One benefit of such reunions is putting people back in touch with one another and potentially offering more mutual support to those experiencing life’s setbacks. Intentions to be in contact more often are certainly strong and, with communication never having been easier, hopefully these good intentions will be realised between now and our next formal gathering in 2025.’