Chester 1994


It had been five years since the last reunion of the Singapore Dawn Watchers' Society so preparations had been being made for several months to make sure that everything was in order for this one.  Phone lines around the country had been glowing red hot, tracking down 'les disparus' chasing up returns, making hotel reservations – BT reported a blip in profits. 'Broggers' even wanted the Malaysian High Commission contacted to check if anyone qualified for their new Confrontation medal!

So, it was with some trepidation that I knocked off work early on Friday 11th February to make sure that, as one of the organisers and only living 15 miles from the venue in Chester, I was there first to check final details with the hotel staff. I checked into reception shortly before 1800 hours to be greeted by the sounds of merriment from the bar.  ‘Not already!’ I thought, and approached the bar gingerly.  ‘Yes already!’ Mick French, Dick Hughes, Jim Rousell, Nigel Foster and ladies, and ‘Noddy’ Jones had taken up residence and had started the tills ringing.  Well, couldn’t be a party pooper could I?  Before I’d finished my first pint we were joined by Mick Ogglesby and Mick Conway and their wives, then Geoff Wightman arrived, closely followed by Pete Pugh with his wife.

Then it was time to make the first major decision of the weekend – are we eating in the hotel or going for a curry?  No contest!  Where’s the nearest Indian restaurant, Dave?  Fortunately the nearest one is only five minutes walk from the Queen Hotel, and after verifying its quality with a barman of doubtful gender, off we went.  I suppose the manager was a trifle surprised to provide a table for 18 before the pubs had shut and was even more surprised at the number of poppadums and pints his geriatric guests consumed.   Suitably replete we made our way back to the hotel to find the bar now bursting at the seams with Dawn Watchers and their wives.  

The usual pleasantries were exchanged………It must have been 1965!......Of course, I had a lot more hair then!......You’ve put on a lot of weight old chap!.......No dear, everybody else went to Bugis Street, not me!  Brian Ashcroft, Ali Barber, Tony Barnes, Tony Greenfield, Joe Forbes, Eric Hollis, Geoff Jubb, Dave Peaks, Steve Whitney; where were they all coming from?  The bar staff were in a state of shock:  the lights were swinging, the pile of sandbags was growing by the minute, but by 0130 hours the miles of driving to arrive early told on these elderly veterans, the bar shut and everybody retired to bed.  As the noise subsided and people stumbled up the stairs, the night porter was convinced he heard the ghostly quack of a duck from the first floor.

Next morning at breakfast, some diners were also convinced they had heard a duck in the dining room.  A very pleasant day was spent in Chester, sightseeing, shopping, or enjoying a pub lunch in one of Chester’s many quaint city centre pubs.  One of the main attractions of Dawn Watcher reunions is that they are always held in a place which wives and girlfriends can enjoy as well, so if you are an absent member worried about domestic upheaval, you can bring her with you!

And so to Saturday evening, and the main function of the weekend, (is that a duck loose in the hotel?)  The bar in the function room opened prompt at 1900 hours and in no time at all started to fill up.  The roll of honour grew by the minute – Jamie Babington-Smith (on the road to recovery), Paul Devoti, Stu Dicker, Ken Downey, Phil Chew, Robin Eccles, Eric Fitzsimons, ‘Fess’ Fozard, Bill Guest, Dougie Langham (who had been in the bar most of the afternoon), Willie Lawson, Trev Luttrell, Tony McClenaghan, Ronnie Cole-Macintosh, Mike Pilkington, Mick Roberts, Al Stenner (still keeping a low profile).  This venerable host sat down to a Chinese banquet and eagerly awaited the outcome of the draw.  Nobody was really bothered about winning bottles of booze, everybody wanted to know who would win the duck.  Trev Luttrell had the winning ticket and became the proud owner of a duck-shaped toilet brush holder.

There followed a disco at which ‘I’m too sexy’ Mick French and ‘I’m a model’ Dave Peaks distinguished themselves, and then back to the residents bar at 0100 hours.  The festivities continued with such highlights as Mike Pilkington turning into rubber at 0300 hours and the bar staff finally grinding to a halt at 0430 hours.  And so to bed, unless of course, your wife has locked the key in the room and the night porter is nowhere to be found.  Fortunately, a Dawn Watcher masquerading as a member of the Northumbria Police was at hand, and everything was sorted out.  The night porter heard the duck again!

Hangovers were in evidence at breakfast and eventually the merry makers dispersed back whence they came.  Just to  reassure you chaps, the hotel were delighted with the way in which we conducted ourselves, the staff extend their thanks for making their weekend an enjoyable one, and the management were even more delighted with the bar takings (decorum prevents me from disclosing them here).  Mick Conway has already had an approach from their Eastbourne hotel to host Dawn Watchers ’96.

In conclusion, Mick and I would like to thank everyone for making it such a success and hope those of you who couldn’t make it this time will make it to Eastbourne when the highlights may well be a ‘Memory Lane’ trip to Maresfield and lunch at the Chequers, or a duty free ‘Chunnel Run’.  We would also hope that ‘Span’ and Bob McCrindle get well enough to make the trip after their illnesses, and that anybody who is still missing comes out of the ulu.  See you in Eastbourne!

[Dave Wakelam]