THE school bell at Howell’s School was rung for the final time as about 700 ex-pupils gathered to say goodbye.
The shock closure of the 150-year-old Denbigh private girls’ school spurred former pupils to stage a massive get-together - for most, probably a last glimpse of the place where they spent their formative years.
Former girls young and old travelled from all over the world to attend the school for a final time in an event that will live long in the memories of old Howellians everywhere.
Shocked and saddened by the closure of the school during the summer holidays, 25-year-old Jocelyn Gleave, who left the school in 2006, was inspired to mastermind the final reunion.
With the permission of the trustees Robbie and Nicola Locke, the event drew twice the number of old Howellians expected.
Linda Wilkinson, at the school from 1956 to 1962, said: “The atmosphere was electric and totally fascinating.
“Meeting and greeting the girls you had grown up with in this very special place was just absolutely fabulous.
“Access to school on this occasion was through head's front door and into head's hall, to some of us, a forbidden treat.”
Tea and cakes were served in the dining hall with an “ever increasing buzz of conversation”, she said.
“During this time, we were formally addressed and welcomed by Mrs Wendy Grey-Lloyd, former head of speech and drama and Mrs Locke was introduced and presented with a bouquet in thanks for granting permission for this reunion to go ahead.
“As the afternoon passed, girls were able to stroll around the grounds of the school, picnic on the head's lawn or on the games fields, and some access was gained to parts of the school itself.
“Whatever any of them did, they were happy to be about the school and recalling old haunts.”
At 4.30pm the school bell rang for one last time and a final amphitheatre service was led by Catherine Matineau, former pupil and school chaplain, with the school’s traditional speech day hymn, psalm and prayer.
An ‘in memoriam’ choir, put together specially for the day by former choirmaster Peter Downey, then sang hymns before the a chorus of Auld Lang Syne and speeches by former prime wardens Amy-Jane Bramhall and Anna Harrison.
Then followed presentations to Jocelyn Gleave, Miss Martineau and Mrs Grey-Lloyd.
Linda said: “I, as a former Howellian, would like to thank everyone for the their hand work in organising this final reunion, to say our own special farewell to the school which was an integral part of all our lives.
“The closure of the school has left a hole in the hearts of all Howellians, and indeed, in the heart of Denbigh,” she added.