Alumni Services

Memory Lane Birthday Celebrations

You may have spotted the Memory Lane feature in the last edition of Edit, about five University friends who in 1957 held a joint 21st birthday party. Here, we tell you a little more about what has become a regular celebration.

Norma Chalmers, Scott Carswell, David Reid and Tony Wren met in 1954, when they matriculated at the University of Edinburgh to study Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. While the last three lived at home in Edinburgh, Norma had a room in Playfair Hall on East Suffolk Road, where she met Alison Lawson.

Looking back over fifty five years, details of the evening are hard to recall, but Alison and I certainly embarrassed ourselves by winning the elimination dance at our own party!

Tony Wren

A shared celebration

The five’s friendship grew throughout their student years, and in 1957 they decided to celebrate their 21st birthdays with a joint party. The common room of the Playfair Hall was booked for one hundred guests. David’s sister Jean catered for the evening, while Norma’s brother Bill played the piano - alumni from the early 1950s may remember Bill Chalmers as the student band leader.

21st Birthday Celebration 1957

A chance encounter

Over the years after graduation Scott and Tony saw each other often and attended each other’s weddings - Tony to Felicity in 1964 and Scott to Joyce in 1968. Norma and David had married in 1963. At this point they had completely lost touch with Alison and had no idea where she was living. In the summer of 1968, on a research trip to North America, Tony had made plans to visit Scott and Joyce, now living in Montreal, and David and Norma, now living in Boulder, Colorado. But before visiting the others, Tony encountered Alison, completely by chance, one evening on a sidewalk in Washington DC. Alison was with George Birrell, a Scot whom she subsequently married, and the three had dinner together the following day.

An anniversary tradition

There is never a shortage of conversation topics, and often 1957 doesn’t seem so far away!

Tony Wren
75th Birthday Celebration

It was Tony's chance encounter with the others that resulted in their frequent birthday reunions. By 1976, all were based back in the UK, apart from Alison and her husband George, and so they held a 40th birthday reunion in Liverpool with their children. A 50th celebration followed in Fife, and in 1996 with Alison and George having returned to the UK, the complete group gathered for a weekend in Beamish, County Durham to celebrate their 60th birthdays. In 2001, everyone gathered again in Shropshire for a 65th. A 70th celebration took place in Sussex attended by all, although Alison and George had retired to North Carolina by this time. And it was in North Carolina, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, that they celebrated their 73rd birthdays all together.

Last year, the full group celebrated their 75th birthdays in Dorset (pictured below) and their 77th is already booked for next year in Northumberland.

When the friends dare to look ahead to an 80th birthday reunion, Edinburgh is often mentioned as the possible venue…


We can help organise your reunion

Are you considering organising a reunion? Would you like to get back in touch with old classmates? Alumni Engagement can help - just contact us for more information.

Contact Alumni Engagement