Alfred Hoyle (SH 42-47) has sent some reminiscences
of the school sixty years ago:
“I was interested to read Peter Chambers’
(SH 44-48) notes on the school. I have kept in touch with Peter over
a number of years and cannot help but notice the calming down in his
recent memories to those of five years ago when he was scathing about
all things about the place. As we get older, age has a calming effect
and I guess Peter is experiencing this metamorphosis.
One correspondent mentioned Dr Leroid in glowing terms. I found the
man a complete bully to an eleven year old student new to the school
and I vented my wrath by throwing a piece of coal through his bedroom
window! This coal came from the railway track and was thrown in the
early hours of the morning as I was leaving the station for the last
time. I was due to catch a train to London to board the SS Rangitata
on my way to New Zealand!
On a more pleasant note, we used to climb St Bees Head during the
nesting season when the gulls laid their eggs in small crevices in
the cliff. The grass used to give some grip when the smallest and
lightest bloke, usually me, was lowered over. Once in the crevice
one could crawl along putting the very large eggs into a double shirt.
Getting up again was a problem as the fellow up top could not see
you and had to dangle the rope or braces over the cliff edge. For
one precarious second as you were pulled up close to the grass, you
were reliant on that support or good balance. There was a 100 ft drop
below! The main problem was not to break the eggs. They were big and
delicious with large red yokes and with toast on a Sunday night in
the boiler room made a meal fit for a king. I recall that we only
ever took two eggs from each nest, leaving nature to hatch the remainder
for our attention next year.
Down the valley, below what used to be the sanatorium, was a deep
pool with a small island in the middle. Swans used to nest there and
one year we thought that swans’ eggs might be easier to get
than seagulls’ eggs. What a performance that was. When we were
half way across the pond, mother swan decided that was far enough.
She came in swinging and my friend suffered a broken wrist. We retreated
and decided to raid the hen house of the local farmer. It was safer.
Matron questioned the broken wrist, but we decided that a poor hit
in the squash courts was the perfect answer!
Despite the war and the hardships of the times, despite the rigid
discipline and the completely unfair right of the prefects to cane,
I emerged intact and still believe that St Bees taught students to
survive, even those whose ability was more focused on the rugby ground
than the classroom.”