Bombay Friends & Memories

The Class of ’67

In July 1965 John and I were married, in the tiny church in the little village of Ringmore, S. Devon. It was all very charming, very English.

Two weeks later, we set sail for India, where John had been offered his first teaching job as a recently qualified teacher, at the Cathedral and John Connon School in the centre of Bombay/Mumbai.

We arrived to find Bombay very hot, crowded, colourful, noisy and bewildering. We were met off the boat by someone from the Bombay Gymkhana to ask John to play cricket, and rugby for Bombay. Teaching at that stage seemed to come further down the agenda.

Our flat wasn’t ready for us, so we spent the first few weeks staying with the headmaster, George Ridding and his wife Elsie. As well as the rugby, John immediately got swept into the busy life of The Cathedral and John Connon School – a large very academic school, widely respected as the best in Bombay.

Founded in 1860 by the Anglo-Scottish Education Society the school is still is situated right in the centre of Bombay. Fortunately for us all teaching was in English and in those days pupils still took the Cambridge Overseas School and Higher School Certificates. Pupils came from all races and religions, sects and castes, all united by their parents’ desire for them to receive the best education possible.

So as well as the rugby John rapidly became quite immersed in the life of the school, getting to grips with the teaching, getting to know the children, absorbing the ethos of the school.

I have few memories of those first few very bewildering days other than trying to wash John’s once ‘white’ rugby kit in the shower and failing miserably. It had immediately been dyed a permanent rusty red by the monsoon mud most the matches seemed to be played upon. For some reason all the other players seemed to turn up in sparkling white outfits…

It was all part of my trying, it seemed with equal lack of success, to master becoming a grownup wife, in a new country with new customs, new food, bought in unknown metric quantities, cooked on a two ring portable gas stove… (Any baking was done in a Dutch oven, a tin box which one placed over one of the gas rings.)

Meanwhile, back at the school, Mr Ridding was very generous in encouraging John to broaden the children’s interests and activities, in a school where traditionally note-taking and learning by rote had been the order of the day. John was able to organise a lot of extra-curricular activities, field trips and famine relief work, and we frequently invited pupils up to our flat for tea. We learnt that all this was much appreciated by the children and their parents.

Fast forward 60 years…

Fifteen of John’s former pupils organised a reunion in London last week. What a warm, happy occasion, beautifully organised, in a Parsi Indian restaurant near Tower Bridge, called Cafe Spice Namaste We were so very happy to see everyone, and indeed were treated as honoured guests. Several of John’s ex-pupils, many now retired, told how much they had appreciated him. One of them actually told me, “He was the first person who taught me to think.”

What a lovely way to set a seal on his long teaching career.

And a big thank you to all our Cathedral School friends for what they in turn did for us.

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Marion Fuller-Sessions

Retired and downsized, and sadly now widowed, but keeping in touch with family and friends and friends far and wide via my blog

4 thoughts on “Bombay Friends & Memories”

  1. What a splendid re-union, John and Marion! How thoughtful of John’s erstwhile students to arrange it. Not sure that “Fast forward 60 years…” is correct, that would make it 2029!
    This year it is 60 years since I matriculated to go up to Clare in 1959 and a 60th re-union to which we have both been invited has been organized in September when we will be in Greece. Fortunately we have kept up with close friends made all those years ago on a regular basis. We will not be attending on this occasion.
    I have traveled to Bombay and other Indian cities over the years on business and I have many happy memories of those times. We were astonished to find by accident on YouTube that a close friend we got to know in Pittsburgh in 1967, returned to his homeland, rising to become Dean of the Indian Institute of Management, being awarded a top award by another close friend who became chairman of the Indian electrical engineering company of which I was a director!
    Cheers to you both; I will stop by for a coffee after swimming sooner than later, Mike

    1. Thank you Mike. The time does rush by, but it is good to have friends from all the various stages and places one has lived through. we have been away so I hope you haven’t called in after swimming and missed us? Don’t call in tomorrow, Monday 13th as we are out all morning.

      1. Marian
        Im writing this on behalf of my partner Andrew Weir who went to Bramcote.We were just talking about his school days and about you.He has great memories of baking swiss rolls at your house,and being in johns 1stVX rugby squad, and barber music.Andrew also has fond memories of you both and believes you as a couple contributed to enhancing his experience of being away from home at such a young age as his parents lived in Nigeria.
        He thanks you for being such a kind caring couple.
        We are living in North Wales
        Andrew joined the army and was commissioned to 1 para .
        His Mother still lives in Lastingham North Yorkshire.
        It would be lovely to hear from you at
        Kind Regards

        1. How really lovely to hear from you, Andrew! We both remember you well and with great affection and John reminds me about your impressively brave but forbidden dive off the high board at the open air swimming pool in Scarborough!
          Funnily enough, we are just off to Wales for a family get-together, but south Wales unfortunately. We are staying in a holiday cottage in Kilgetty, quite near Tenby. We will certainly be in touch, but maybe after we have got ourselves safely installed down there. Very best wishes to you and your partner, and thank you so much for getting in touch.

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