Cambridge & Oxford Eastbourne Grammarian's Society


Introducing COEGS

COEGS was founded in October 1961 when all 9 Eastbourne Old Grammarians then studying at Cambridge University met up and, anticipating growing numbers, decided that a dinner at College would be a good way of enabling past, present and future alumni at Cambridge or Oxford to meet up. Eventually 108 such alumni of Eastbourne Grammar School (EGS, 1928-1977) and its predecessor Eastbourne Boys Municipal Secondary School (EBMSS, 1899-1928) were identified. Re-organisation of schools in 1977, forming Eastbourne Grammar & High School (EG&HS, 1977-1979) and Eastbourne Sixth Form College (ESFC, 1979-1993), led to 46 more alumni being identified later, see below. Staff of these schools who had graduated at Oxford or Cambridge were also identified (44 in all) and included in the COEGS roll. Oxford and Cambridge alumnae of Eastbourne High School (1928-1977) are now being sought.

COEGS is an informal organisation run by a small committee of volunteers whose main purpose is arranging Annual Dinners at a Cambridge or Oxford College: ‘black tie’ events, to which members, their spouses/partners or other guests are invited. Members receive a full list of those on the COEGS Roll, and occasional news items. Permissions are needed if contact details for a member are sought by another member. There is no subscription. The 50th Anniversary Dinner was held, like the first, at Pembroke College Cambridge, with the Master as Guest of Honour.

Stops and starts along the way

The surge in those going from EGS to Cambridge or Oxford in the early 1960s owed much to the encouragement of the Headmaster, Mr R.W. Shaw, the Society’s President from 1962 until his retirement in 1973. Mr John Morris, his successor as Head and subsequently Principal of ESFC, also took over as COEGS President.

Sadly, the EGS closure had unintended consequences: the Eastbourne Old Grammarians’ Association (EOGA) became moribund soon after 1977, as did COEGS. However, moves to revive both organisations gathered momentum in 1992 and COEGS dinners resumed in 1993; the first COEGS dinner to be held in Oxford occurred in 1999.

The society’s original name (‘Cambridge Old Eastbourne Grammarians’ Society’) had become anomalous and, following a consultation in 2007, the membership decided to change it to ‘Cambridge & Oxford Eastbourne Grammarians’ Society’, so retaining ‘COEGS’ as the short form.

The gap from 1977 – 1993 was not only between dinners but also in knowledge about many of those who, starting at EG&HS or ESFC, went on to Oxford or Cambridge. Fortunately, Mr Morris, after retirement, had started recording a personal account of the development of school & college over his 20 years as Head, and by 2010 had provided information about those EG&HS and ESFC alumni (and staff) who studied at either University.

Other things you may like to know!

Our dinners. The usual pattern now is to hold these ‘black tie’ events for 2 years in Cambridge, then for 1 year in Oxford.

Our guests. The tradition has been that once invited by a member to one dinner, they become guest-members, invited to others thereafter.

Our host. Offers to liaise with a prospective College host for an Annual Dinner are most welcome.

Our two Heads. To mark the roles of Mr Shaw and Mr Morris in the COEGS story, photographs of each are usually displayed in otherwise empty chairs at the Dinners.

Our two Masters. Amongst the attainments of alumni in COEGS, it is appropriate to mention that one became Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge and another became Warden of All Souls, Oxford.

For information about COEGS please contact Howard R Kirby (Hon Sec): phone 01383 624779; email: howard.kirby.1961@pem.cam.ac.uk