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News > Events > Time Down Under

Time Down Under

1 Mar 2024
Written by Kim Richardson

It had been a while since David Winn and David Stewart had made their forays down under on behalf of Old Eastbournians, but thanks to the rather conveniently timed wedding of my goddaughter, I was Sydney-bound and so very soon plans took shape to reconnect with some of our antipodean friends during my visit.

While a drinks reception and dinner are the 'official' events of this trip, there has also been a lot of reconnecting with those unable to join us for these occasions which has been wonderful.

On Sunday night Mary Butler (Nugent 1984-86), Jamie Nicholson (Blackwater 1981-86), Jonathan Winchester (Craig 1980-85) and I met at Manly Pavilion which was a very special reconnection of old friends after many years.

On Tuesday, a group of 30 Eastbournian Society members with an age range between 18 and 80 gathered in the magnificent Cranbrook School overlooking Sydney on a balmy summer evening.

The assembled gathering included a variety of Eastbournian Society members: parents of former pupils, prospective parents, daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, aunts and uncles, siblings, former and current members of staff, children of former members of staff, spouses, widows and widowers, and daughters and sons-in-law of OEs and OAs. There was very definitely some sort of magic in the air.


As you can imagine, the sound of chatter and laughter could be heard echoing across the stunning oval as memories were shared and stories were told, harking back to the 1950s and stretching right up to the present day. Of course, the common themes were the teachers who taught us, inspirational and otherwise, the games we used to play, and the mischief we used to get away with, or not.

Michael Brown, head of classics 1977-84, was present, pictured above left with Blane Coulcher (Blackwater 1977-81), as was Matt Banes another former teacher at Eastbourne (2006-15) who is now head of boarding at Cranbrook here in Sydney. In my short talk, I paid tribute to longstanding Sydney OE rep Sam Miller (School House 1960-65) and to Mary Butler (Nugent 1984-86) who have been instrumental in pulling the group back together after a slight Covid-induced hiatus. Cranbrook School laid on a fantastic spread, and the refreshments were much enjoyed by all. Business cards were handed over, old friendships rekindled and new ones initiated.

L-R Richard Clark, Sally Clark (née Edwards) (Nugent 1974-76), Sam Miller, Philip Spanton (School House 1972-77), Cath Bairamian.

I seized the opportunity to speak about our Blue Sky Bursaries Appeal and our ambitious plans to raise money to enable children to benefit from our sensational schools whatever their financial circumstances might be. 

We are hopeful that we can set up a bursary supported by our Australasian community harnessing the collective power of our friends down under. I talked about the transformational effect a bursary can have on a young person's life, and how much joy following them on their journey gives the donors.   

In the current financial and political climate, and with very few options locally for those wanting to study A-levels in Eastbourne, fundraising for bursaries is essential in order to ensure the successful future of our schools. The added value, talent and diversity that our bursary pupils bring  to the school is undeniable, and we are determined to double the number of places we  offer in the coming years.

It was widely agreed that our Australian cohort will now build on the success of the evening and stay connected in order to grow the community and garner its support. Ultimately, I am very keen to return, and I am hopeful that the energy and goodwill I felt on Tuesday will grow into some significant financial support for the Blue Sky Bursaries Appeal. As I caught the ferry across Sydney Harbour yesterday morning, I couldn't help thinking how appropriate the name of the appeal is.

I was on my way to  meet up with Kim Deshayes who was development director at the College between 2004 and 2008, and his wife Alison (née Townley) (Nugent 1970-72) in the botanical gardens.

I'm looking forward to further discussion with many of those who came on Tuesday at our dinner next Friday evening In Sydney (places still available here). It is going to be very, very hard to come home.

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