The celebrations began in the school where they studied together all those years ago and where they received a warm welcome back by the acting principal Mrs J O’Neill.
Tea and coffee was hosted by The Friends of St Louis and the school’s senior music students’ string quartet and a pianist delighted the reunion group with their exquisite playing before the group was guided around the school by current senior prefects.
The highlight of the tour for many was revisiting the famous ‘blue seat’ outside the principal’s office and many stories were told about the exploits of classmates who found themselves poised uncomfortably there many years ago.
The reunion group then went to the Leighinmor Hotel for a drinks reception followed by a four course meal and a presentation delivered by Class of ‘71 member John O’Kane who delighted the group with many memorable and hilarious stories of their years in St Louis.
Although St Louis had admitted seven boys for the first time in 1970 it was the following year that the school had two out of three classes co-ed.
The principal at the time was Sister Sheila and there was a staff of 23. Over the next two years, the class of ‘71 numbers increased to 95 of which 37 were boys, firmly establishing the school as co-educational.
The journey for the 50th reunion started with a celebratory lunch in Ballymena by two lifelong friends of the class of 71 - Jo-Ann O’ Neill (nee O’Hagan) and Mary Merron (nee Smith). Although living in different counties - Down and Tyrone - they made a point of meeting up at least once a year since their schooldays and, despite the pandemic and both now retired, there was a determined effort by them to try and connect with former classmates.
A small group was formed back in April 2021 and over the last few months classmates were tracked and plans made. Classmates travelled from England and Scotland, but those in Australia were disappointed due to restrictions not being able to combine a visit home with the reunion.
The class of ‘71 have excelled in their chosen careers many rising to the top in their field.
*See this week’s Ballymena Times for more photographs of the Reunion