Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Down All the Days - People

Down All the Days - People By Henry Marriott

My earliest memory of St Georges staff was, as already recorded, Sister Spenser, Miss Richards and Miss Dover. Miss Richards could also have been my first teacher, there was a Miss or Mrs Clay who taught KGII, there is an image of a Ma Clay among those saved in the photo albums, but staring at it for a lengthy period elicited no spark of recognition. The classroom was at the south end of Hesketh House, which subsequently became the School Office.

The Principal at this stage was Mr M.A Wynter-Blyth a bustling sort of person, whose one abiding passion was Cricket and even on school days if the weather was fine he’d declare a Cricket day. He coached the First XI and would chastise any one guilty of bad fielding or for a wrong choice of stroke with a stump on the backside. Once some boy had bitten me very severely just above the knee, drawing blood, he wouldn’t let go so I punched him on the side of the head which resulted in a KO, This caused much consternation and later in the day I was summoned to the Principal’s office, which had been KGII, I approached with trepidation expecting a thrashing. But he asked me to explain myself, I gave a true account of the incident and he said I’d done well, but warned me against any repetition. He may even have said “Well done”. I understand he was subsequently engaged by an Indian Prince to tutor his sons in Cricket .

However, my next teacher Mrs S. Sassoon of whom I have a clear memory, “I don’t know why she swallowed a fly”, she really did, there was a lot of coughing and spluttering but to no avail it had been ingested. She was a stout lady given to wearing all her jewellery, every day, I understand she was Jewish and had fled persecution from either Austria or Germany. She seemed to have instructed us in all subjects except drawing which Mr Robinson taught. Mrs Sassoon believed in a power nap in the first period after lunch, she would ask us to rest our heads on our hands crossed on the desk and have a 15 minute siesta. Mrs Sassoon taught us in most subject in Standards II and III. In Standard III Mr Vasudevan was the class teacher but he didn’t take us for anything, he was teaching Maths in the more senior classes. I know he left the school but I see he returned as the Maths teacher after I left. He lived in a house which was on the way to the Methodist Church which we used to attend for evensong one Sunday each month. He always wore his academic gown over a white drill suit and walked with tremendous speed, and on windy days did give the appearance of a large magpie, A gap in my fading memory cannot recall the Standard IV teacher, somebody called Narayanan could be of either sex .

Thr Standard V teacher was the versatile Mr. S.V.S Paul he taught Tamil and English, he used to take us for P.T and in the absence of Mr Dique coached in Boxing, He was more a theorist at that sport rather than a participant. He was the Lewis House Master replacing Mr Robinson, and inherited me as his house boy, my main duty was to bring him two cans of hot water from the bath house each morning. One of the boys in the junior dormitory suffered from epilepsy fits and his bed was between that of Eustace Dillon’s and mine. He used to have fits quite frequently at night and it was my duty to put on the light and summon Mr Paul from his slumber, while Eustace shoved a spoon sideways in his mouth to prevent his tongue being swallowed or bitten. We were also required to control him as best we could from thrashing about too much. These fits were progressively lasting longer and longer, Mr Paul’s contribution was as a spectator to our activities. The epileptic’s name was Boardman and he was sent off to an asylum where he died shortly after. Around about this time Mr Paul married and brought his beautiful wife Janaki to Lewis House. She didn’t teach at the time but she played haunting Hawaiian tunes on her guitar.

At this time Mr Lavocah joined the school teaching Maths subjects, he later became Lewis House Master, following a Mr Elwin, I know the latters name but cannot remember anything else about him, except that he was wraith like.. Mr Paul moved into the old bakery which had been converted into a reasonable cottage, this allowed him to start his apiary, and indulge in other horticultural activities. Mrs Bryant also started about now teaching History. I remember on one occasion she went down with an attack of flu. But she nevertheless took her class with her students arrayed around her bed as she taught us about Hannurapi. Mr Aaron also featured about now teaching Natural Science and Mr Dique teaching Art and taking us for PT and coaching the Boxing team ,also Mr Rosario (?) teaching Carpentry. My piano lessons started about now but unfortunately the names of my first two piano teachers escape me, only that they were festooned in beads and colourful scarves, and left part of their breakfasts for me to consume at break time. Mr Tharu also featured here teaching Geography and Indian History. Mr and Mrs Tharu were I believe the first occupants of the staff house beyond Oakshott,

In 1947 I was in Standard VI, the Class teacher was Mr Tharu, but he only taught History , Mr Dique took us for Geometry, Mr Paul guided us in Tamil, Rev Ash took us for Arithmetic and Algebra, Mr Aaron taught us Science, while for the first time we had Mr Hammick taking us for English. (Dictation, Grammar, Composition and Literature) and also Geography, Mr Hammick was a versatile teacher and a blessing for any school he was a keen participant in sport and was especially skilled in Hockey. He was the sports master and the annual sports day was arranged and conducted by him, besides coaching in Hockey and Cricket. He was a patient teacher, he had the knack of flicking pieces of chalk at your head to gain your focus when your mind wandered onto other things. He once in celebration of my birthday gave me a tin of Huntley & Palmers Marie biscuits which I ate surreptitiously ! I was not a good athlete and for Cricket, Hockey and Football I was probably the last team member selected. He normally umpired or refereed at our inter school games and every time I made some glaring goof he would say nothing but glare at me pityingly. He occupied the staff house above Lewis, he was at that time the Headmaster and looked after the schools text book and stationery requirements. He would sometimes take lonely walks, at a measured pace, one hand in a trouser pocket and the other holding a cigarette in a very casual manner. I think we tried hard to do well in the subjects he taught, so as not to disappoint him, He was always dressed very correctly and obviously careful to be colour co-ordinated. He was in fact very neat in all he did. He was unfailingly courteous, even to students, he was really a tremendously worthy gentleman , and a shining example for his students to emulate. I really admired him.

Well upwards and onwards, in Standard VII there was some sort of external examination Mr Hammick was the class teacher. Mr Lavocah succeeded him as House Master. The teachers were Mr Hammick for Literature Arithmetic and Algebra, Mr Tharu taught Geography, (but failed to grasp our attention), Mr Paul still tried to get us to love Tamil, I still remember the story Yarnikum Paanikum Surri, ( which gives my Spell Check conniptions). Mr Aaron still taught General Science, and Mr Rosario, Carpentry, at which I was very disappointing, and of course Mr Dique taught Drawing where I produced slovenly work, I’m very sorry, but I’m no artist or for that matter a fitter and joiner, I wish I was.

In 1949 I was in Standard VIII, and things were getting serious, Rev Ash took English, and Miss Bye, a member of a Protestant order of nuns, took us in the Maths subjects ,she always dressed in a grey dress, sometimes of silk, but always the same pattern, with white collar and trimmings. She wore a cross proudly denoting her religious affiliation, She lived in Fernhill with her sister, close to the Palace, now hotel, I once took tea with her in her neat home. She always attended Chapel on Sundays, she was a lovely person , very quiet and a very competent teacher. She somehow got the best out of us, I suppose we didn’t want to disappoint her, it would have been rude, perhaps. I was still bad at Tamil.

So we come to Standard IX. The same teachers as in the previous year faced us. I was still bad at Tamil. We had a selection test prior to taking our High School certificate, which was the next time we would be examined. I did badly apparently in Tamil, as did many others in that and other subjects. Rev Ash decreed that we should all be given six of the best, the executioner was Mr Dique and the witness, who looked miserable was Mr Hammick. I don’t think that this was thought through well enough. How can you improve the students knowledge of any subject by beating him on the backside. Should not the teacher, as in Palins and Jones’ “Tomkinson’s Schooldays” also be punished. Who gains anything by this chastisement? Hopefully not the teacher, that would smack of sexual deviance. This is supposed to make the student try harder, or will it cause his disenchantment with the subject? I know some of you will say that you had been thrashed and now see how well you’ve done despite the ill treatment, good for you, but we are not Everyman like yourself.

At this time a Miss Grey had been appointed as the Music teacher and the House Mistress of Oldham, and in order to help her with the little ruffians, I was appointed as a sort of Assistant Master . She got herself a cute little Alsatian Puppy. AAAAh, some of you might say, but it got ill and Miss Grey thought she should administer some Dr Martin’s Conditioning Powder, she mixed it with milk but the animal wouldn’t have any of it, so she called for my assistance, I forced opened its mouth and poured some of the powder down its throat. It promptly bit me , drawing blood and leaving a little scar. Next day it died, and the Pasteur Institute reported that it had Rabies. The puppy had been touched and fondled by the majority of the school. Besides myself Joanne Dillon had been bitten and we were admitted to the hospital for a course of Rabies injections Each injection was of 5cc and were given subcutaneously on either side of the navel, alternately. They dissipated slowly in fact after 14 days I looked like I was wearing a waistcoat. To this day I still have a large bump on my abdomen but this is caused by ingestion rather than injection!

Now when I was in hospital Rev Ash visited and in politely getting out of bed to greet him I tripped over the bed sheet and fell flat on my face, he interpreted this as weakness and he invited me to stay in his house and be looked after by Shadrach (his butler). I enjoyed his hospitality for about six weeks. Joanne only got eggflips each day which she was not very fond of. Rev Ash was a lonely man, he had no friends and the only company he had were visits from Miss Jones (the schools Head Matron) she was a short person who stuck out prodigiously fore and aft, actually I took the place of a pet dog. As a teacher he was very competent, he read stories well. I remember he read Hugh Loftings “Dr. Dolittle” to us, now of course very un PC, because of the descriptions of African persons. He was a great admirer of Shakespeare and one year staged Richard II, at which I was a very creditable Nottingham. He also staged “Jan of Windmill Land” where I played the definitive lead role!

He was a good choir master and developed a very good choir, the Ellery brothers starred in this role as did the girls singing descant. The services were conducted with the appropriate rituals, including bells and smells, I officiated as the thurifer at one time and his senior altar server. He had a beautiful collection of ecclesiastic vestments which added to the dignity of the services, which were a production in themselves. The most embarrassing of these rituals was the blessing of the fields on Rogation Sunday, when the choir in full voice paraded through the fields with Rev Ash, scattering Holy Water. This drew a small crowd of spectators and the small boys used to follow with wonderment. Following the progress Mr Bojangah Rajalu Naidu (spelling) who owned most of the land around the school used to make a generous donation. He supported any ceremony which resulted in increasing harvests.

Rev Ash I believe subsequently became the Dean of St Marks Cathedral in Bangalore and encouraged Reggie Wynne to join the Clergy, while I moved to MCC.

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