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Reminiscences, Anecdotes & Observations of a Scotch Boarder


10 September 2019

Reminiscences, Anecdotes & Observations of a Scotch Boarder

Reminiscences, Anecdotes & Observations of a Scotch Boarder

Gordon Paul was a boarder at Scotch College from 1943 - 1953. As a part of the 100 Stories for 100 Years Centenary project, Gordon was kind enough to produce the following reminiscences, anecdotes and observations, both collegiate and personal, from his time at Scotch.


1. Belair 1943: Aspiring higher

BELAIR 1943. I, a Victorian, came to Scotch as a boarder in 1943, now over three quarters of a century ago after my father was headhunted by BHAS and we removed to Port Pirie. My mother deemed my father’s old school Geelong College too far for an 8 year old to travel. Wartime had forced Scotch’s relocation to Belair and in February my father handed me over to Matron at the front door of Birralee. My prized ball, a comfort present was lost when I threw it to my new friend O’Halloran and it disappeared down the steep embankment never to be seen again.

Young Prep school boarders resided in small dorms in the secondary house Brierley Lodge. A large brass gong summoned boarders to assemble and walk to Birralee for meals. Once, when returning from the short walk, we all noticed two marsupials electrocuted on the overhead wires. They had disappeared when we returned for the evening meal which was an unusual stew and we decided that “possum “was not to our taste. On another occasion, after a long wait outside the dining room we started to chant ‘’we want breakfast“ until Jenny, the Cook , appeared on the balcony and called “and I want the milk“. Delivery must have been delayed that day.

Roll call known as muster was held outside the back entrance to Brierley Lodge where a nostalgic visit in 2003 with Peter Trumble (a prefect in my early days) revealed a swimming pool on our muster spot. I can still remember off by heart the boarders’ roll call e.g.  Paul, Player, Read, Richardson etc., and ending Uren, Vigar, Vigar. Even 8 yr.-olds like me were known simply by our surnames until we acquired nicknames amongst ourselves. O’Halloran and I, untidy little tykes as Peter Trumble years later remembered us, and were known as the two grubs. O’Halloran left well before me but the nickname stuck and was apt. In Germany, a country where order is an obsession, years later friends gave me an inscribed wooden plaque which I translate as: “only the narrow minded (small-minded / mean-spirited) need order. A genius controls the chaos. ”I’ve used this ever since to justify my innate untidiness. I’ve kept it above my desk as a caveat lest I lapse into intellectual timidity or at least desk chaos. I can still remember “Killer‘’ Stephenson calling the muster roll. He was a fine young Geography teacher and housemaster and could wield the cane with vigour hence the acronym. We never resented to my knowledge fair corporal punishment which was swift and then forgotten. Perhaps it was part of the ethos of muscular Christianity. Whispers abounded that Mrs Stephenson had had a baby and Seniors chatted to “Killer’’ about his good fortune. We 8 year olds threw in our ha’pennies worth of tykeish congrats although in our age of innocence we had no idea what all the ribbing and fuss was about. Mr Stephenson took it all in great good humour.

My classroom was at the back of Brierley Lodge and my Form Teacher was the lovely Olwen (Ollie) Kerr who was later at Torrens Park our Cub Scout leader. She encouraged us to gain skills badges and I achieved an armful including cooking, knitting and sewing, something friends and family might find astounding. Although I can still sew on a loose button, darn a sock, boil an egg and cook damper! She read us Mowgli stories and in class history stories and I can remember sitting on the staircase reading about longbows and crossbows in the Hundred  Years’ War from my new textbook and history has been an absorbing passion ever since. I still have classroom drawings of aerial dogfights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts - then only 3 yrs. after the Battle of Britain. Although my class was only about 7 in number I managed to win the 1st Form prize on Speech Day and received a beautifully bound book in blue embossed with the School badge. At weekends we two grubs explored the hills and National Park including old mines.

We had a makeshift tuckshop which in wartime only seemed to serve pickled onions and condensed milk. To reach it we took a shortcut through a pine grove from Brierley Lodge. Belair had a more bracing climate in winter than Torrens Park, being higher in the Mount Lofty Ranges. One August, after heavy hailstones we discovered a thick mud area to one side of Brierley Lodge and clamped mud balls from it, onto metre-long switches. We then hurled the projectile into the distance like a fisherman casting his rod. These conditions never reoccurred. Lunchtime recess in inclement weather was sometimes filled by community singing in a prefab hall conducted by Mr Baxendale. It was wartime and some of the songs such as “Keep the home fires burning“ came from WW1 but even more emanated from the Boer War era including “Goodbye Dolly Grey“. At Torrens Park I remember an honours board in the theatre with the names of those from Kyre who served or fell in the Boer War 1899 – 1901.

It was announced after one evening meal, that as a special treat, we were to be shown a colour film from India of a fight between a mongoose and a cobra in the Science area. It was very vivid and dramatic. The mongoose won.

One Sunday I noticed some teachers playing some sort of game with racquet and balls at Birralee. I watched trying to ascertain why they hit some balls and let others go. I had never seen tennis played but I worked it out. It must have stimulated an engrossing love of tennis (or any ball game). Nine yrs. later, I became Tennis Captain and School Tennis Champion and indeed with David Bower won the South Australian Lawn Tennis Association’s Under 18 Doubles Championship. One of the staff playing that day, Mr Keon–Cohen tall and erudite encouraged us at table to hold intellectual discussions. It started my love of argument and eventually debating. He would sometimes consult a small tome he carried about, referencing some recondite point. His wife was petite with striking green eyes.

Headmaster Norman Gratton took the Prep boarders to the rowing Head of the River on the Torrens. He was overjoyed that Scotch won or at least dead heated with Saints. (Or was that 1944?). His joy was somewhat dampened by my spilling the ice-cream he had bought me in celebration on his elegant suit. December was always sport-packed and climactic at Scotch and 1943 was no different. Before Speech Day, under a marquee which, I seem to remember, was assembled on the aforementioned tennis court, Mr Price our Gym teacher and an ex- professional boxer himself refereed and judged divisional bouts held in the exact area in front of Birralee where the school photographs had been taken in winter. I fought my friend O’Halloran and was lucky enough to win the Bantam Weight title.

I seemed to take to communal life and my recollections are mostly positive. I had what was then considered a minor accident on the parallel bars which were left in the muster area for us to use .I threw myself back vigorously and hit the back of my head against a metal stanchion. Matron looked after me but evidently it had triggered something which 4 or 5 yrs. later manifested itself as headaches and back pain when even my classroom concentration started to waver. My mother took me to Mr Nunn an osteopath in Adelaide who demonstrated that when my pelvis was level there was a 2 inch difference in my leg length. He explained that the blow had affected the alignment of my spine with neurological consequences. I took a few months off school and under his care the fault was corrected and the symptoms disappeared .My concentration and joie de vivre gradually returned.

In retrospect Scotch is to be congratulated on the wonderfully stoical way it adapted to and organised the enforced relocation of 1942 – 43. Improvisation, cheerfulness and something we may call the Scotch spirit coped with the removal. We did not have at Belair the magnificent Torrens Park facilities but it seems just about everything else.


2. Return to Torrens Park 1944

In February 1944 Scotch returned late to its Torrens Park site due to the unholy mess left by its Australian and United States Forces requisitioning which needed a long clean-up.

Having translated a book on Architecture from German and sat at the feet of the great Nikolaus Pevsner (the Prof was his personal friend) I venture to style the impressive and unique edifices of the Barr-Smith Estate Quadratic Scottish Baronial.  We enjoyed two Ovals, an outdoor swimming pool, a small agricultural farm and spacious grounds (about 40 acres) with prefab – type classrooms going up as needed. To Prep boarders like me the main building seemed enormous with long , high – ceilinged Victorian corridors, several spacious dorms, masters’ studies, sickbay and a large well – lit dining room taking about ten long tables, in my opinion only bettered anywhere by my father’s old school Geelong College’s wooden – panelled dining hall. Masters sat at the head of each table. On one occasion when the tomato sauce jug was passed around and reached an upcountry boy who had just arrived, he licked the dripping spout after use. We all froze in horror and the master explained the boy’s faux  pas. He took it well. 

Throughout the next ten years I slept in various dorms both upstairs and downstairs culminating in the sleep out as a Senior. I can still visualise Gus de Robin sweeping through the largest dorm mumbling “all awake, all up, time to get up now!“ When older I spent many hours in a leather armchair late at night sometimes in our comfortable library. Down a narrow staircase there was a spacious cellar where the laundry was done by women speaking Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian and German – refugees from the war.

The inner quadrangle had a wooden multiple water fountain and a boot locker room where we stored our shoes which we had to keep polished. On one side of the quadrangle were the domestic staff quarters, on the other, up some external wooden stairs, was a large bathroom and in both summer and winter boarders had to take a cold shower every morning. The definition of shower was elastic and could be a 3 second in-and-out splash leaving wet hair as evidence of compliance. We all learnt quickly the difference between home and communal life. We had competitions to see who would be last out of bed, quickest through the shower, dressed and still into breakfast on time. I sometimes won.

Leading from the quadrangle was the area of the Senior Common Room where, in winter, we often had a large wood fire and a wireless (radio) in one corner and individual steel lockers. Boarders did prep (homework) at the long tables from about 7 till 9 pm supervised by that evening’s duty master. Morning Boarders’ roll-call (our muster) especially in inclement weather, was held in the Senior Common Room where the “Advertiser“ was laid out daily to keep us informed of national and world events. Through the Junior Common Room nearby was a short cut to the spacious, glass-roofed, stepped conservatory which served as an antechamber to the imposing and unforgettable Barr- Smith theatre, where the full school morning muster was held. It was built, we understood, for the Victorian owner’s daughters, having its two high family boxes at one end and the raised stage at the other with its curtain, wings, stage trap-door and make-up rooms backstage. It’s easy to imagine the interval of a late 19thcentury evening theatre performance in the gas-lit, aspidistra-decorated conservatory. No doubt the elegant guests chatted about news from ”home“,  or of General Gordon in the Sudan, or more locally for those of a literary bent, the poems of his one-time London military classmate and friend Adam Lindsay Gordon who had become an SA poet. Significantly, they might well have been chatting about rumours from Melbourne of an impetus towards Federation all the while being served wine produced by Silesian Germans in a valley called Barossa. Later the theatre doubled as a hospital ward for our wounded troops repatriated from Gallipoli or the Western Front. The saying that Australia exports its wool and soldiers and keeps its wine and poets at home was certainly then true although clearly no longer entirely so. Morning muster with Boarders and day-boys assembled together took the form of a Bible reading, a hymn accompanied by one or two string players and pianist, any notices, sports results, or Headmaster’s announcements. Socials, including the Blue and Gold School Ball, intercollegiate debates, theatrical performances and occasional film screenings were also held there. It was the functional fulcrum of the school. Adjacent to Headmaster Norman Gratton’s garden (his hobbies were gardening and photography) were the hard tennis courts onto which I rushed at every perceived opportunity. Alongside the swimming pool behind the theatre were two beautiful lawn tennis courts of which I retain an enduring fond memory as I seem to have spent half my school life on them including even rolling them regularly at lunchtimes. Every time I returned to Adelaide and visited Scotch I was intrigued by its development and still marvel at its grounds and buildings both nostalgically and objectively. Studying and teaching overseas for nearly 60 years gives me a long perspective and has allowed me to compare the fabric of Scotch, its generous grounds and elevated site, with other institutions including schools and colleges around the world and I may be understandably biased but I believe, all in all, it takes some beating. Let’s never take it for granted!


3. Last Removers and night manoeuvres

In 1944 a large tree with an umbrella-like canopy stood between the Main and Second’s oval.

A game was invented called “Monkey up“ where a stick was placed in a circle under the tree. Someone was designated “he” and had to tag the rest of us as we scrambled in the branches with any one of us trying to jump down and hurl the stick far away and then scramble back up out of reach of “ he” again .To reach our tree we were frequently dive-bombed by magpies while crossing the Second’s oval. During 1944-5 my mate O’Halloran and I used to go down to Brownhill Creek at Lower Mitcham at weekends and noticed soldiers in uniform with girlfriends “snogging“ on the grass under the trees. We were curious but yabbying was much more absorbing for us. I started my marbles career at which I was quite good by flicking my tor from the edge of a circle about a yard in diameter traced on the ground with a stick at any of the target marbles grouped in the centre to which all players had donated. The object of the game was to project a marble out of the circle when you could claim it as yours while leaving your tor amongst the remaining object marbles thus enabling you to clear out and claim the rest being now at the centre of the action. If, however , you failed to shoot a marble out of the ring but left your tor in it, this now became a target for your opponents who could win and claim all the loot by donging your tor out of the circle. Another game needed a straight line in the ground with marbles placed along it, the object being to dislodge a marble from the line without leaving your tor anywhere on it. Tor on the line meant “out “. We indulged in another sporty pastime which was nonetheless a form of hand-eye coordination and certainly needed quick reflexes. In turn, we prised open the trap-door of a funnelweb spider and shoved a soursob down. Our game of “chicken” could have been lethal for the test was not to let go of the soursob until the venomous arachnid, furious at the invasion of its lair, was almost up to the fingers. The last to let go winner was either the bravest or the stupidest – or perhaps both! Tiddlywinks was tame after that. I record all these games of the time in hand-eye coordination for posterity lest they die out unremembered. Ah, “lest”. In the opinion of two comparative philologists which Ann and I really are, it is the neatest, succinctest and most beautiful word in the English language. A monosyllabic word unreplicated in any other language that we know of, at least European ones.

The small sickbay was in Matron’s quarters. Matron, short and elderly and wearing her nursing uniform, was a dear soul. She had a large pink scar like a birthmark on her face and it was rumoured that she had served in the Great War of 1914-18 or even the Boer War 1899-1901. In the cruel ways of schoolboys she was nicknamed Yummie but I remember her as kind and caring. She would read us Kipling stories etc before tucking us in for the night. Coincidentally, had I followed my father as intended to Geelong College at that time, my matron there would have been my own aunt (Flora Holmes).

Our 3 Prep school classrooms were where the chapel now stands. Three ladies, all great teachers, Misses Kerr, Bridgland and Lefevre (possibly Lefievre) were my sole teachers in those war and immediate post-war years. Classes were called forms and the transition form between Prep and Senior school had been occasionally referred to as Remove, up till about that time. We had 3 terms a year with approximately 3 week holidays in May and September, a long Christmas summer holiday of about 2 months and Easter was extended from 4 to 6 days to allow travel time for boarders. Sometimes, as I once did at Easter, we invited a good friend to come home with us, in my case my tennis partner to play in our local tennis tournament. We won the Junior Doubles .Teaching started after morning muster where we were frequently piped in by a student in kilt and kit who had learnt to play the bagpipes .It ended at about 3:30 for clubs and sports practice. There were no lessons on Saturday as is common in many independent / public schools especially abroad. We enjoyed British history in some detail, some Australian history, Maths, a little elementary Science, Botany, Scripture stories from the Old Testament which Miss Bridgland made dramatic and who also stimulated a life-long love of History, and, what I have always been so grateful for, sound, traditional English grammar in the form of word parsing and sentence analysis. Miss Lefevre taught me about phrases and prepositions, main, coordinate, subordinate and relative clauses, adjectives, adverbs and so forth. It later helped me teach myself German a highly inflected language. Under her, we practised transcription in which we had to trace over each word of a prewritten sentence or two without lifting our pens except between words to develop an attractive, legible and stylish cursive handwriting including a slight slope. This has served me well all my life and has been commented on sometimes with a mixture of curiosity and admiration. She made me ink monitor to keep the inkwells full long before fountain and ballpoint pens were common. Miss Lefevre had dark eyes, black hair and strong features and her name has long intrigued me. Much later in life I found out that in addition to my Devonian, Bristolian and Scottish ancestry, I am a quarter descended from Huguenots ( French Protestants ) who originated in Bergerac S.W. France, escaped persecution by settling in Bedfordshire U.K. in the early 1700s. Their family name was Lefevre. Was it possible that Miss Lefevre and I were distant relatives? The “Remove” year was our farewell to Prep school. I “loved“ my three Prep ladies and no one could shake me in that affection. In this indeed, I would not “bend with the remover to remove” (Sonnet 116) although myself Removing! 

Among our last Prep activities was a treasure hunt in the form of a paperchase on which clues were written by the setter, often enigmatic ones pointing to the next clue and so on till after about six a winner would reach and claim the hidden treasure. I still just about remember one clue I set when my turn came which was something close to the following. It fooled most but a couple solved it. “Look beneath a stellar State under Imperial blue“. Interested readers will be already working it out. Imperial or Empire State was the highest building in the world and the highest building at Scotch was the school tower with flagpole atop from which occasionally the Australian flag was flown displaying the Union flag with its Empire connotations and our flag with its stellar Southern Cross in a blue sky , hence Imperial blue. I planted my next clue underneath a mat at the school entrance which was directly below the tower where some bemused school secretaries saw me and I had to tell them the purpose of my activity and ask them to keep mum which they kindly did. I later reused the flag with a clue about “night stars in daytime“. The loot if found was the likes of an old tennis ball or someone’s third-best penknife (highly treasured! ).To solve many clues, we needed  deduction and lateral thinking or, better still, sometimes a knowledge of whoever had set the clues. We were only about twelve and the fun was in participation and competition.

In June 1944 we were summoned to a special assembly in the theatre at which the Head announced the D-Day Normandy Invasion. Similarly in 1945 he told us of the Victory in Europe (VE Day) and later in August the end of the war in the Pacific. We were given a day’s holiday on these occasions or, in the case of the Landings probably a half-day. On the occasion of a school visit by a prominent guest such as an academic or the State Governor we likewise were usually granted a half-day holiday. 

Transition to the Senior school was seamless and now all my teachers were men. A few were elderly and quite a few were Melbournians. Bells announced change of lesson and muster or mealtimes for boarders. The morning break was called recess, usually long enough for a quick kick of the footie or even an improvised game of soccer with a tennis ball using coats and ties to mark the net. The gym doubled up as our Form room which was in the old Barr-Smith stables as more classrooms were required for an expanding school. My Form Master and English teacher was Flexmore Hudson a minor Australian poet. One morning before he arrived one wag amongst us nicked into the Form room and shinned up the wooden climbing pole at the far end of the gym – no mean feat since he lodged right under the rafters - and clung on there. When the class roll was called and it came to his name he answered “Sir “from the top of the pole. Our Form Master looked up amused and asked “Am I to mark you present or above and beyond attendance?” The lad slid down and replied “no, I’m here Sir as you can see“. It was a hilarious start to the day.

Another Boarding master was Ray Stanley. He stood out in my opinion for his enthusiasm, even dynamism, youthful informality and approachability. Later I heard some beautiful music emanating from his study bedroom.  When I enquired, he said it was Brahms and would I like to come and hear Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto. When he played it on his gramophone I was transported then shocked since I had not realised that a concerto, unlike a sonata, included an orchestra. The work was a revelation and is still a favourite and this kind invitation started a life-long love of classical music to the point where I now believe that Beethoven’s Last String Quartets and Piano Sonatas and Wagner’s Parzifal are amongst the greatest creations of human genius. I have never forgotten that my love of Wagner was aroused when I heard the overture to Lohengrin on the wireless in the Common Room having first enjoyed an episode of the anarchic Goon Show. I thank Scotch for these early opportunities. Hi-fi, stereo and TV were still only on the horizon of course. Although I did buy for £1 which my father sent me, a crystal set from a schoolmate and tuned in to whatever I could find under the bedclothes.

Ray Stanley was a table tennis enthusiast and later when I became School Champion he challenged me to matches on a table set up in the conservatory .I don’t think he ever quite managed to beat me but came close. I can still hear his voice asking “Fancy a rematch after breakfast, Paul?” Well after my time Ray taught at St. Peter’s College at a time when my nephew David was Head Prefect and my Uni/ ATC friend Tony Shinkfield was Headmaster. Both spoke highly of Ray’s dedicated and infectious enthusiasm. Once, coming back with a couple of masters in a parent’s car from a Uni function, one of us asked Mr. Stanley, who enjoyed making the odd pun, to see what he could do with an advert for Dunlop Tyres which we were passing . Without a moment’s hesitation he said “Easy. Just lop off the end and it’s done!” Time can play tricks with memory but I do believe it was he.

After lights out at about 10pm we sometimes had a stug – read it backwards - in the dorm. A stug was a midnight feast nearer to a snack perhaps where we contributed from the food parcels our parents had sent us, being as quiet as we could.

After lights out at about 10pm we sometimes had a stug – read it backwards - in the dorm. A stug was a midnight feast nearer to a snack perhaps where we contributed from the food parcels our parents had sent us, being as quiet as we could. We took it in turns to keep “nit“ at the door and at the cry of “nit, nit Norm!“ for instance (watch out the Head’s coming!) our repast was thrown under the bedclothes and we feigned sleep. When danger passed we continued. In retrospect our youthful energy spanned almost 24 hrs, the day being filled with study, games practice, play, prep and sometimes even nocturnal extramural activities like the following. One warm evening probably in the late 1940s, I and 3 mates decided to take a Moses which, as may be guessed, was a skinny dip in the swimming pool although it had no bulrushes. We crept out of the dorm and through a ground floor window in our dressing gowns with towels round our necks for later use.  We had our dip in the pool which was then open to the sky but someone dobbed us in to Matron who summoned Hedley Dodd the ubiquitous Housemaster. We were frogmarched to his study and each given six of the best on our still wet bare backsides. We could hardly sit down for a couple of days but we were hailed as heroes and bared our pink welts for inspection like war wounds of honour.  We never resented Doddy for it but equally never discovered who denounced us.

Scotch had a disciplinary system in the Senior school whereby under-performing or usually badly-behaved pupils in any given week could be handed a white card by any teacher. The card was taken to every lesson and was initialled at its end by the subject teacher in the appropriate timetable slot unless crossed there for bad behaviour or performance. Those with white cards lined up every Monday after lunch outside the Deputy Head’s Maths classroom where Norman Gratton would scrutinise the cards and if you had any crosses asked for the reason. If he was not satisfied with your explanation he invited you to bend over and gave you one whack for every cross more or less. This time of course, boys were fully dressed during this swift punishment and most preferred it to lingering detentions. I had a couple of cards over the years one for forgetting a class detention, preferring a cricket practice and on one occasion I got a deserved whack.

Every Saturday morning after breakfast, Norman Gratton would dole out sixpence pocket money to each boarder. Sixpence bought a lot but, being sport-mad; I thought food and girls were a waste of good ball-chasing time. The tuckshop was down in the Science block and post war was now well -stocked. Time perhaps for a cameo on the tuckshop, and I must declare an interest here in anything to do with grub. The tuckshop was housed in a confined space or small room in the Science block, and there was space outside for hungry lads to queue to be served when necessary .Boarders mealtimes were fixed and no snacks were offered between meals so the tuckshop was the only salvation .The pocket money was parsimoniously dispensed and indeed, money at that time might need some explanation for younger Scotchies .The pound (£1) affectionately known as a quid consisted of 240 pence subdivided as follows. 12 pence made 1 shilling and 20 shillings equalled £1. The penny was subdivided further into a farthing (¼) and a ha’penny (½). Two pence called tuppence and three pennies thruppence or more commonly a tréand sixpence was known as a zac. That was half a shilling, but a shilling was called a bob and two shillings was a florin after bankers of 14thcentury Florence. A half-crown was 2/6d (2 shillings and sixpence). Five shillings or a quarter of a pound was called five bob and rarely a crown. Ten shillings had various nicknames, one being a tenner or tanner, possibly because of its reddish colour. Another was ten bob. The pound sign , as today in Britain, was a cursive capital letter “ L” crossed by two bars, derived from the Latin “libri”, and the pence sign was a small case “d” from the Latin “denarii” hence £ s d = pounds, shillings and pence. To top it all was the guinea £1 + 1 shilling or 21 shillings. Prestigious firms and businesses invoiced in guineas as a mark or guarantee of quality. In Vienna once, I tried to explain £ s d to Austrian friends as their currency was also the Schilling but its preposterous illogicality blew their minds. However, the tuckshop spenders of my time could handle this cumbrous system, which we actually loved, with aplomb and well enough not to be short-changed. Scotch must have had a joint enterprise with the long serving tuckshop proprietress who, at Belair, had run a mobile stall for us in those days of war-time rationing. Her name was Miss Gamble. We never knew her first name and she did not have, to the best of my knowledge, a nickname like many of the other Scotch employees or Staff, which she deserves as nicknames are mostly affectionate. Out of nostalgic fondness for her and her colourful stock of confectionery I suggest, though some 70 years too late, a forename and nickname, or as we might have said back then a Christian name and “Old Nick” name for Miss Gamble, attributed as appropriate and with affection. So, Miss Gamble aka Violet Crumble. She might have laughed or at least smiled and certainly surcharged us by a zac for our impudence. Most of us left the dining table as soon as we could for more fulfilling activities. Grace by a prefect preceded meals and I and a couple of others, occasionally showed off by saying it in Latin and even by one swot in Greek. Table manners were regarded as important and holding one’s knife like a pen, for instance, was corrected. Boarders were expected to write a weekly letter home usually at the weekend. I was a reluctant and even ungrateful correspondent and usually complied more readily when requesting my father for money, new cricket boots or a snack of raisins and nuts. He sometimes upbraided me for spelling mistakes or infrequent letters. It seems I could never spell the word “parcel“ he noticed, perhaps because of my overuse of it. I remember we had several boarders from overseas including China, probably Hong Kong or Singapore before its fall and Andre Samarcq from New Caledonia and a native French speaker was a good friend. I borrowed football boots from Kaye who came from Kenya and obviously forgot to return them. After leaving Scotch I received a letter from his mother via home requesting their return which I affected at some cost. Most Sunday’s boarders walked to Hawthorne Presbyterian Church (about 3 or 4 miles) with the chance to buy a tomato sandwich on the return. My father, being a son of the Manse, wanted me to be confirmed and I acceded to his request along with a few others when I was 14. In tune with Scotch’s light touch religion was never pushed to my knowledge except possibly in the new Prep school Gratton House under Mr. Gilchrist. My father never discussed Christianity with me and I believe that he and our school padre Mr. Giles, both from Victoria, saw eye to eye with this relaxed, non-proselytising attitude to faith. My mother, however, herself the daughter of missionaries on Thursday Island, wanted me to be ordained into the Church and cited the family axiom that we were either teachers or preachers. I, at least, fulfilled half of that adage but not her preferred half. It may be observed that we used such terms as “muster “, “padre“ and ”Church Parade” reflecting the two World Wars. I enjoyed timetabled Scripture lessons under Padre Giles who, in 1952, set the Leaving Class an essay to compare and contrast the relative contributions to civilisation of Christianity and Ancient Greece. I presented both cases as I saw it and in my peroration concluded that Ancient Greece’s legacy left the greater influence. Mr. Giles himself a Classicist must have privately concurred for he awarded me the Scripture Prize that year. Scripture lessons became a fascinating examination of Classical and Biblical history which has sustained my interest ever since. He was urbanity personified and had prepared us for confirmation with humour and a cup of tea. He once took a whole class of us to the Jewish Synagogue where his friend the Rabbi showed us the Torah and explained much that we did not know. There was a civilised, ecumenical spirit in Adelaide.

There is one personal moment which I would like to record as it happened under the aura and auspices of Scotch. One sunny morning walking to church I was ambling towards the rear musing on life in general when I suddenly underwent my own Damascene revelation but, unlike my namesake’s, in reverse. Like a bolt from the blue it suddenly struck me that all religions, denominations and cults were man-made in an attempt to explain existence and all claimed to have the true revelation. However, since it might be so that one of them had the absolute truth, it was equally possible that none had it, including my own Presbyterianism whose core doctrine is predestination. My interest in Darwinian evolution and the ramifications of its randomness stems from this instant. However, natural selection is the opposite of randomness and there in lay my quandary, and thereby hangs a tail, or, since it hangs on evolution, it’s a tale of a tail, or, in this case, in our evolutionary development, the absence of one.  Or shall we say it all just did depend?! This moment of sad disillusion rather than filling me with despair led in fact to a form of intellectual liberation. I tried henceforth in arguments at universities, colleges, parties and pubs to be neutral, keep an open mind, avoid absolutism and be convinced by an argument if its logic and exposition seemed irrefutable. Advances in Science, especially Physics and Cosmology have provided many with food for thought, in recent years. I think I was about 16 at the time and Scotch provided a fertile seedbed for free enquiry. I’m sure many others at school had a similar experience.


4. Holiday Travel

For boarders travel to and from school and home could be emotional times.

My experience was probably typical and untypical. My mother owned a German musical carriage clock, whose simple, wistfully haunting tune – perhaps a German Volkslied – played a part in my Scotch years. The connection may seem tenuous but to me nostalgically real. But first some background on my own travel experiences.

My home town, the industrial city of Port Pirie, was the second city or the largest town in SA, and grew from a fishing village when ore, mined at Broken Hill in NSW needed to be transported for smelting and export to a suitable deep water port. Sydney and Melbourne were rejected and the closest deep harbour (perhaps a long inlet really) was found at Port Pirie in SA. A narrow NSW gauged rail line was built probably in the late 19thcentury due west to Pirie which was situated towards the northern tip of Spencer Gulf. The town grew up along both sides of this rail track with Broken Hill Associated Smelters (BHAS), reputed to be the largest lead and zinc smelter in the Southern Hemisphere as its terminus. It was not only the raison d’etre of the town but its main employer and greatest benefactor. Uniquely and quixotically in my time the long curving and very wide main street had civic buildings like Town Hall and library and also hotels and movie theatre on the eastern side a mere stone’s throw from international merchant ships at their wharves with the mysterious purple Flinders Ranges as a shimmering backdrop, and busy shops and businesses on the western side. Goods waggons delivering ore as well as smart passenger trains pulled by steam engines at least still in the 1940s, on different gauges but side by side, ran down the main street. The main station stood two thirds of the way along this bizarre feature of the town right next to the central post office. There was, of course, no platform there, unlike probably every other Australian station. Revisiting my home town on a trip in 2003 we discovered that this fine station building was now an incongruous adjunct to its neighbour the post office, which says something about the fate of trains.

At the end of holidays on the day for returning to school boarders from many Adelaide church or independent schools, both boys and girls, would catch the train from this station in Ellen Street. Some, including my Scotch friend Ken Stirling (of whom more later) who lived well north near Quorn I seem to remember, had come a long way from cattle stations and similar properties up north or from even as far as Eyre Peninsula and it probably took them two days to reach Adelaide. One or two had even been flown in light aircraft into Pirie Airport. We all seemed to travel First Class and the daily passenger train would depart slowly around 9 am along the main street with the conductor ringing a loud hand bell to warn traffic and pedestrians that the train was approaching while shopkeepers and customers often stood outside their shops waving us on our way. It proceeded not far from the John Pirie High School where I later taught, behind the beach, through some outer suburbs and marshalling yards and into the second station Solomon Town Junction which had two impressive platforms and where the NSW and SA rail gauges met a third gauge whose Federal passenger trains were provisioned at and departed from this junction before setting out for Alice Springs and westward across the Nullarbor to Kalgoorlie and thence by local train to Perth. On holidays I would often cycle over these three gauges (3ft6,  4ft8and a half, 5ft3) lying side by side at this important multiple rail junction from which I once took a well-paid school holiday job making tea and beds etc. on the Ghan to Alice Springs and back. Near Pirie on the Alice run we passed Port Germain which had an enormously long jetty where the 19thcentury sailing clippers moored to load grain from this rich wheat area and taken together with the incoming mined minerals and industrial smelting encapsulated Australia’s young, diversifying and burgeoning economy. Once, when the train was halted between stations by a long technical delay we jumped down from our comfortable compartments which had carpet-covered foot warmers in winter, kicked a footie around and on another similar occasion a couple of us even went mushrooming.

My mother always played the aforementioned clock’s unforgettable tune on the mornings whenever I left home for school. I believe she hoped I’d associate it with her and home since she saw me so seldom but, in fact, it always reminded me sentimentally and lastingly of Scotch. I usually looked forward to going back to school and to this day if I want to summon up an atmosphere of my old school I play the tune as I am doing at this very moment of writing.

Leaving on its way south for a journey of about 150 miles, our train passed near Crystal Brook which had no water and through Snowtown which never saw snow, but which now, evidently, boasts proximity to the largest windfarm in the State, continued between extensive golden wheat fields until it reached Bowmans a special station near the head of St. Vincent Gulf. It was distinctive because the train waited there about 20 minutes so that passengers could buy pies, pasties, sandwiches and tea at a very long platform counter served by cheerful female railway employees. There was never a dining-car attached to the train even for First Class. Our train eventually approached Adelaide and, passing the old city jail, ran into one of several long platforms. We had arrived. In my time, the majestic Adelaide station with its information boards. wide concourse with shops, ticket office and left luggage depot was still in use. Along with the nearby blue marble Parliament House, it was a source of special pride to South Australians but I have heard that much of it was later converted into a casino. Perhaps the pie floaters are still available outside at least. Ah, Adelaide – the destination of all our travels. The beautiful, civilised-sized capital of the only Australian state which did not take convicts but was founded and developed by free settlers under the Wakefield Plan which enticed entrepreneurs, even speculators to settle with a personal interest in its progress. It was made more attractive still through being laid out on a plain between mountains and sea by Col. Light who surrounded the central square mile with deep parklands and suburbs beyond in all directions. Matthew Flinders navigated and charted its coast, then circumnavigated the continent / island and even named the new country Australia (Terra Australis) and, as I write, his grave has just been unearthed during rail excavations near Euston Station in London. It had long been unknown as was Matthew himself by most in Britain. Adelaide also deserves a lighter-hearted consideration .During the 1830s King William IV no doubt exhorted by his German Queen Adelaide, in whose honour our city was named, unprecedently dismissed his Prime Minister Lord Melbourne - the only known occasion in  human conflict when Adelaide sacked Melbourne! The sonorous name “Adelaide“ can be broken down into its German constituent syllabi. ”Adel” is noble or nobility. ”Aid” is another spelling of ‘’Eid” (same pronunciation) meaning oath or pledge and the final - e is feminine, therefore the original German provenance of this virtuous name  indicates, from medieval times an aristocratic woman taking an oath which could then only have meant the vow of chastity when assuming  religious orders in a convent. Rather than the numerous churches, the German Protestant refugees or the British non-conforming Methodists who early settled our capital, is the Queen’s name for the city the real reason why it has been called the city of churches? I tease, but not exclusively so. Scotchies walked from the station up to King William St. to catch the Unley tram to school. With one or two enduring exceptions like the Overland to Melbourne and the Glenelg tram from Victoria Square, trains and trams seem to have disappeared as remembered features of Adelaide.

In addition to the longer scheduled holidays boarders could apply for occasional exeats. My Classicist wife reminds me that “exeat” is the Latin subjunctive and means “let him/her go out“. It was a weekend pass for a boarder with a relative, for instance. Conversely, for bad behaviour, we could be gated – a word which we now often find replaced by the Americanism “grounded“- which of course means “forbidden to fly“ whereas “gated“ is self-explanatory and by far the more accurate and appropriate word. Boarding school experience in America is rarer after all.


5. “Two things stand like stone.”

Like any community, we witnessed tragedy and sad occasions as well as triumph.

In 1951 Rodney Macpherson a fellow boarder drowned in Brownhill Creek. His father donated a new building for technical subjects to be his memorial. We held a special service in his memory. One day, coming back from the city centre a group of us were walking from Mitcham towards Torrens Park station having decided to return via the main entrance rather than our normal route up the bank and across the Seconds oval, when we saw a group of people standing around the depression or “cow pit“ next to a railway crossing. Curiosity revealed a man in the pit with at least one leg severed below the knee being attended by a doctor. He had been waiting at the junction on his cycle when his foot gave way and the bike ran down under the train. Bystanders told us to go on as the ambulance was coming and they would look after him as best they could. Years later,  we heard that one of the Vigar brothers – the elder I believe – was killed on the family property by a crop dusting plane flying too low.  How did the school cope with these sadnesses? I continue the chapter heading above with two famous concluding lines from the tragic South Australian poet of Dingley Dell, Adam Lindsay Gordon.

“Kindness in another’s trouble. Courage in your own.” This was quoted by the Queen in her 1992 “annus horribilis“ Christmas broadcast. We tried to heed those brave and consoling words amidst our desolation.

Like every school, independent, boarding or otherwise, we had incidences of bullying even occasionally extending to cruelty. When younger I and others were held to the fire in the Common Room. What was important was how you bore it. There was always a remedy to bullying which was to confront the bully. This resulted sometimes in bare-knuckle fights. I myself took part in a couple of these and it usually had a cathartic effect on both parties and resolved the matter. Sometimes the opponents became firm friends as happened after one of my bouts. It was not unknown for a dispute between two lads to be settled more formally by fisticuffs with gloves on under the watchful eye of Mr Price. There were a couple of instances in my time where, on each occasion, a culprit was caught in serious, unethical and antisocial behaviour, now mercifully long-since forgotten. Norman Gratton the Head dealt with these sensitively and humanely but robustly. The perpetrator exposed was summoned to address the school from the stage at the end of morning muster and expressed remorse at acting against the ethos of the school and promised to abide by it in future. He was allowed to stay at Scotch rather than suffer expulsion which could have deeply scarred his life thereafter. Later, a friend was caught at an assignation with a young female domestic in residence near Muggs Hill or the old Belair Road or thereabouts at night. They were denounced, we believe , by another jealous waitress. He told us that the Head had severely admonished him in private and warned him of the dangers and possible consequences. The incident was not noised abroad. Pupils were frequently reprimanded and a good thesaurus will unveil the richness of English synonyms for to “tell off“ such as my favourite to “upbraid“ from Old Norse.

Boys had no sex education at all that I knew of. What little we knew was through rumour , anecdote,  elder brothers etc and ultimately imagination. Occasional vocational guidance on the other hand was offered. The Royal Australian Navy was recruiting for officer candidates during my Intermediate year and since I loved the sea I was tempted. Another interview recommended that I should become a barrister. Perhaps my reputation for being argumentative or my perceived adversarial propensities acquired through debating or just innate, encouraged this recommendation, but ultimately idealism won out and I decided on teaching. I have never regretted it.

We were encouraged to join the Scotch Cadet Corps. It didn’t have ball games in it so I wasn’t too keen and found my way into Intelligence at our HQ hut from where I was able to plot mischief in exercises. I wore the Diggers’ slouch hat with pride and once spent part of my valuable May holiday at army cadet camp higher up in the hills. We froze and had to clean our greasy plates under a cold water tap without soap. We learnt how to erect tents and I enjoyed camping but the drill was mindless but necessary I concede. Australia still had selective conscription for the Korean War and the later Malaysian conflict which I avoided because I was going to University and Teachers’ College and in any case did not have 20/20 vision as cadet trips to the rifle range at Keswick Barracks confirmed since I was not a good shot. Cadets marched in full uniform with rifles shouldered on Anzac Day to the War Memorial in Lower Mitcham for the dawn commemoration. That was very worthwhile and reminded us how threatened our country had been only a few years earlier. In the early 50s Captain Pickford a Yorkshireman commanded the cadets. I remember he had an elegant wife and an attractive daughter of about our age. There were however more immediate and local invasion threats. Some staff veterans kept, or had access to, a 303 rifle and when there was an infestation of pigeons on the roof one master came outside after an outdoor muster and shot quite a few of them with his 303 rifle.

One year our brother school Scotch Melbourne sent its 1stXV111 football team to play St. Peter’s College. Day boys billeted many of the Victorians and practically the whole school turned up at the Adelaide Oval as it then was to see a memorable match in which Fong, a Chinese winger, was outstanding for the Melbourne Scotchies. We barracked raucously for the Maroon Blue and Golds with our own war cry which, I was recently informed, is still in use at boys’ football matches at least, but I will list it here for the record lest it one day be forgotten or superseded. Perhaps Scotch girls now have their own subtler rallying call. ”Wuzza wuzza wuzza wuzza wuzza wuzza woo Blue and Gold Blue and Gold ever Gold and Blue. Scotia Scotia Scotch Scotch Scotch, Scotch we are Scotch we are watch watch watch. SCOTCH Scotch. ”Saints ultimately narrowly won. An exciting match but we needed some consolation like a high tea afterwards! Incidentally, is Australia the only country where you can barrack FOR something? Everywhere else I know uses barracking to mean rubbishing or deriding not encouraging. Alex Price and Hedley Dodd had been seriously ill for some time. They were two granite figures in my memory and their departure in my last year was a sadness for many of us.


6. Norm, language and its daughter debating

Norman Gratton, Headmaster since foundation, retired amid celebrations at the end of 1951. He had been my Headmaster for the first 9 years of my 11 years at Scotch. My memories of him are still vivid and mostly affectionate with one exception which either traumatised me or taught me an important lesson depending on interpretation of the following.

tennis-float.jpgI was selected for the A tennis team at the young age of 14. One Saturday evening just after the Head announced that projectionists had arrived to treat boarders to a colour film of our recent Davis Cup successes – the likes of Sedgman and McGregor – and that we should now walk not run around to the theatre for the showing. We defiantly ran to get the best seats and to this day I can still hear Gratton’s stentorian voice calling “Paul! Come back here!” He had singled out just me deliberately and then sent me up to my dorm to stand by my bed. He said he would send for me before the film started but never did. I was bitterly disappointed and for the only time in my school life I can remember I cried. The rest returned about 2 hours later for lights out and Norm never mentioned it again. Did he simply forget me or was he trying to teach me a lesson and if so, it has reinforced my father’s saying that life is not always fair and the younger one learns that the better? Why did he single me out above everyone else who ran? He knew of my passion for tennis and my pride in my recent success. Was it a touch of sadism, anti-hubris medicine or pedagogical wisdom? I’ll never know but from that moment on, I’ve taken such warnings to heart and realised that excitement can be turned to frustration in the blink of an eye.

All boarders will remember Norm’s supper talks – supper being a cup of hot Ovaltine or cocoa and a biscuit or similar before bedtime. The Head would saunter into the dining room and give us a little 5-minute homily on various aspects of life and language in his commitment to making us gentlemen. He was shortish, bespectacled and dapper in his “Savile Row“ suits, like an Edwardian gentleman which he was really. He kept a white handkerchief up his left sleeve. He was determined to ensure that we used language lucidly and accurately and did not slip too easily into lazy mispronunciation or grammatical incoherence. He wanted us, for instance, to distinguish clearly in pronunciation between “gulf” and “golf” and on another evening I remember, between “bowl” and “doll”. These Scotch supper talks first sparked in me a linguistic curiosity and awareness, love of English and later other languages. Norm combined punctiliousness, with an appreciation of both the pitfalls and the rich possibilities of our language. I think he wanted to remind us of how careful we must be, but also how grateful we should be that we spoke as natives of the acknowledged World Language – a legacy of Empire. He convinced me and, I’m sure, others. I can’t help wondering what he would have made of the recent ubiquitous use of the undiscriminating, bland, verbose, lazy and virtually meaningless phrase “in terms of“ in place of our succinct, rich and flexible prepositions such as in / with / on or even as to / about and numerous others for choice, let alone the beautiful Anglo-Saxon suffix – wise,  up to the point where someone might well start saying mindlessly “he has fallen in terms of love in terms of her“ (in/with). Incidentally, are such colourful Aussie words , common enough in my time, such as “schickered” (drunk),”bludger“ (sciver), “dill” and “galah” (idiot ), “dag” (a character or bloke), “skite” (to boast), still known to present-day Scotchies even if no longer used?  I place these here on record as instances of ever- changing language, in the hope that their memory might at least be retained. Scotchies of around my generation will doubtless have many more similar.

On a visit to Scotch, probably in the late 70s or 80s, after having had a nice chat with the then Head, he detailed a lad to show me around new buildings and other additions. While so doing I noticed a small group of girls in uniform in the distance and asked if they were part of a girls’ school arriving for a debate later, something that happened regularly in my day. He looked quizzically at me and asked why I assumed that and when I pointed at the group he informed me that they were Scotch girls. Thus I learnt for the first time that my single-sex college was now co-ed. In mitigation I had been away from Adelaide for a long time but, though a bit bemused, I afterwards welcomed this integration.

Saturday night inter-collegiate debates between us and girls’ or boys’ colleges were quite frequent during the winter months. Our Debating Society was essentially run by the boys with a watching brief held by a master such as Mr. Muecke one of our English teachers who was an astute enthusiast.  If it was agreed to be a prepared debate, our side whether pro or con of the subject was announced with the proposal about a week in advance, allowing for both teams to research and prepare, but if it was to be a semi-impromptu debate, the proposal remained unknown until just before, and sometimes we offered the ladies a choice of pro or con or we tossed for it. For debates two tables were set up – not on the raised stage but between it and the first row of the audience which meant bringing the debate to eye-level and closer. There was no hiding! Teams prepaired in separate rooms such as the library and were allowed about 30 minutes to confer and organise and the captain that evening, which I sometimes was, would decide tactics, approach and would allocate aspects of our argument amongst our team of three. These extempore debates were more memorable. We all had to think on our feet to advance our contention or rebut a surprise attack. All was adjudicated by either, an academic from Adelaide University, or a neutral teacher. Sometimes we went to an away school and sometimes held debates at Scotch always in the theatre with blazing wood fires warming us from the Victorian fireplaces. The audience was mostly the boarding houses but day boys also came. The Junior Debate was of the same format and always preceded the Senior. Post debates brought refreshments, chatting with the opposition and on one occasion at least a social afterwards at PGC (Seymour) following our loss to them, which was some compensation. Such debates smoothed the way for future boy/girl contact especially for boarders whose social opportunities were limited. In one debate against Wilderness my opponent was an attractive blonde whom I later took to the Blue and Gold Ball to the wry stupefaction of Mr. and Mrs. Disney who must have thought that all boarders were monks. (That would have made a good topic for a debate!)  In 1951 I was pleased to win the Junior debating prize which was a Scotch – bound copy of “My love must wait“ a novel about the life of Matthew Flinders the South Australian explorer and navigator by Ernestine Hill. This beautiful book is, among the most prized mementos of my schooldays. In gratitude to the environment which fostered my life-long love of debating and literature, I am planning, along with two encased leather-bound volumes of the life and a facsimile of the handwritten diary of Matthew Flinders, (which I found in a bookshop in Oxford and although expensive, I could not resist buying), to bequeath to the Archive Office at Scotch where they really belong. In late 1960s at a weekend reunion of Adelaide University alumni held at an Oxford University College I met a lady from Adelaide’s Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) whom I had debated against as a teenager .We spent most of dinner in Hall recalling those nostalgic times. Extempore debating helped us learn to think on our feet and try and use wit, humour or gravitas for effect. Of the occasional inter-house debates one is still remembered and brings a smile. I led my house in proposing that Father Christmas slept with his beard over the sheet rather than under it and for such a facetious and merrily preposterous subject one had to invent imaginatively and waffle away in  our rather vacuous argument. The more hilarious the better and I spoke at some length on the bird-nesting possibilities of Santa’s beard only available if it was outside the sheets. Nevertheless we won. Our 1951 Junior team was very successful and we even beat Saints at Saints maintaining that “the art of oratory is not declining”. We had the temerity to even present ourselves as proof that it wasn’t. The adjudicator concurred. Saints had their own dedicated debating rostrum I remember.

The wittiest of our Senior debaters was Casley -Smith with a laidback, urbanely dry delivery. In the 90s a group of his contemporary Old Scholars asked Athol Tiver my A tennis partner and friend to ring me in London to announce that the Rhodes Scholar and eminent scientist that John Casley-Smith had become, had died in Paris and would I go to his funeral to represent Scotch. It would have been a privilege to do so but unfortunately I was inextricably committed in London on the day of his funeral. It has been one of the regrets of my life that I couldn’t attend. Athol Tiver told me during our conversation when I asked him what he was doing now, that he was managing what had been his father’s remote and extensive property and that several siblings were dependent on him. He was confined thereby to the family property in the far NE of the State. He had been bright and academic at school and really wanted to be among the urban intelligentsia in Adelaide, but found consolation writing poetry like an outback Adam Lindsay Gordon perhaps. I wonder if any of his poems have survived?


7. Sport

Saturdays meant sport to many of us. I was in tennis teams from an early age and we visited our opponents or their tennis teams came to us at various Junior age levels. These Juniors matches were on hard courts. All tennis matches consisted of teams of four playing 2 doubles and 4 singles after which we recorded the result to be announced at Monday’s muster.

We once found ourselves lost way down near Port Adelaide one Saturday morning looking for our opponents’ school. At the Juniors levels these were often State schools and in retrospect an encouraging example of integration. We eventually arrived, played and won. In later years Scotch Senior A, B and even C teams played our tennis at the Memorial Drive’s beautiful lawn courts next to the Adelaide Oval against the other mostly independent schools. The team would catch the tram from Mitcham northward along Unley Road through the city to N. Adelaide, or day boys playing might arrive independently. School caps including the white, blue and gold braided Prefects ‘cap had to be worn in public, or sometimes in summer were replaced by straw boaters. Saints’ top player in my last two years when I was captain was Bowman, a left-hander with the first double-handed backhand I had ever seen. He and I had some great singles duels and once one of our matches was watched by the Memorial Drive Committee members. He usually managed to beat me but not always. In 1952 David Bower and I were Scotch’s premier doubles partnership and were very successful throughout the season culminating in us winning the South Australian Lawn Tennis Association’s Under 18 State Doubles Championship at Memorial Drive which ate into our Christmas holiday admittedly but was worth it. After matches some of us would catch a tram up to Hindley Street, get a bite to eat or even risk a milkshake in a popular “notorious” Italian milk bar, in Rundle Street which  we were discouraged from visiting because, God forbid, many Independent schoolgirls congregated there, no doubt they were also warned off - independent girls indeed! Andere Zeiten andere Sitten, (Another age another attitude.)  Some schoolboys thought that taking caps off made them less recognisable there.

My Saturdays were very busy as I was a member of the 1stX1 cricket team whose matches were played on Saturday afternoons. From Rundle Street’s Beehive Corner or thereabouts (it wasn’t pedestrianised then) I would catch a different tram to another school if it was an away fixture (matches were over two Saturdays – one to bat and the next to field depending on toss), or back to school in time to change into pads and gloves etc but we had no helmets in our day to face our opponents’ fast bowlers as one of Scotch’s opening batsmen for the 1stX1. I once made a good score and later that week when leading my House got out first ball, caught in slip. Not the best example to the House. I can add a brief anecdote here which reflects well on Scotch and will not be known to anyone I’m sure. After leaving school I went out to open the batting for Adelaide Teachers’ College 1stX1 wearing my much-prized Scotch cricket cap whose design of alternating blue and gold segments embellished a baggy green- style design. ATC at that time had no cricket headgear and our captain Ian McGill, a life-long friend, called a meeting of the team and asked that we order caps in our own colours but in the Scotch College style as worn by Gordon. All agreed and we got them. In earlier years the single boarding House was called Campbell – Cameron but later was split and mine became Campbell. For some of us Saturdays were not over with morning tennis and afternoon cricket .There was the occasional social, inter-collegiate debate or even a private party to which many Walford Housers seemed to be invited since they were our nearest all-girls school. I found two attractive “girlfriend’s“ amongst them and in the 1990s through Bronte, my good friend Ken Stirling’s widow, met them again. They were both grandmothers but it was a lovely reunion. Reunions, especially unexpected ones, are one of the compensations for Senior Citizens. Ken and I had cooperated in winning an essay competition which I believe was the one for the Lothian Club Medal verifiable by my finely embossed medal prize dated 1950 from the Adelaide branch of the Scottish Lothian Club. The essay was always on a famous Scot in our case John Buchan author of “The 39 Steps“. After Scotch Ken read Economics at Adelaide University and turned this knowledge and expertise in the country’s mining and minerals scene to success on the Stock Exchange and made a fortune. He built Bronte a remarkable wooden roundhouse as their home. He was a discreet, indeed anonymous, benefactor to many deserving people and institutions in the State which was only revealed when he died suddenly, I believe, near or while crossing the University footbridge across the Torrens, possibly out training since he had been a fine Scotch athlete .Such philanthropy was typical of Ken Stirling’s humanity and modesty, both qualities fostered by Scotch then as now I’m sure. There was a long obituary in “The Advertiser“, which contemporaries sent me a copy of.

I relished Tuesday and Thursday tennis practices after school. Members of the tennis teams helped maintain the grass courts by rolling them after the groundsman’s cutting during some lunchtimes. Mr Dow, in charge of tennis, did not himself play during  practice but coached us from the side lines directing us to keep our rallies in the “tramlines“ of the doubles court for accuracy and length. He encouraged us whether for singles or doubles to play the serve volley game meaning constant net attack which was then the successful Australian way. How lucky we were to have our lawn courts for practice prior to Saturday’s matches on grass at Memorial Drive. As a coda it’s fun to remember that Mr Dow once chatted to us after practice about the imminent referendum called by PM Bob Menzies which sought to ban communism throughout the country. Our coach was a passionate “no” advocate and got his wish – a victory for free speech. He posed as Coach, usually with the Head, for all our formal combined A B and even C tennis team photographs, always taken in August.

I frequently had to juggle tennis and cricket practice when they clashed. The !st X1’s specialist coach was one of the famous 1920s/30s “spin twins” Grimmet and O’Reilly. Clarrie Grimmet, I believe, had been recommended to Scotch by Sir Donald Bradman, an Adelaide resident, since they played together in Tests. I watched Clarrie bowl his slow, high-looping leg breaks to other batsmen at the nets and strode confidently to the crease when my turn came thinking “I can smash him back over the fence“. The arrogance of youth! Or, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I charged down the pitch to his first leggie to whack it away only to be deceived by his wrong’un and flight and the wiles acquired by a long Test career. I would have been easily stumped had this been a match .At the time Mr Grimmet would have been close to 60 years old. He told the team anecdotes about Bodyline, Bradman and possibly even Hugh Trumble who is connected to Scotch through his grandson Peter. All the long practices which I nevertheless enjoyed, and encouraged as we were by our coach, paid dividends, our results improved and I even managed to reach the highest batting aggregate in one of my last years . 

I was fortunate enough to win our school tennis championship then called the Laught Cup after its donor, an eminent SA judge, on three occasions, the last two when I was tennis captain. At one of these finals I played against my good friend and doubles partner Athol Tiver in a close match where I was the lucky beneficiary of a crucial line call after which I went on to win. My friend probably deserved the match but we never disputed line calls or the umpire’s decision even though the linesmen in this case were fellow pupils – something ingrained in us at Scotch. How sporting attitudes have changed world-wide. It was also expected of us that we were “modest” in relating our achievements, not “humble” as is inappropriately used frequently nowadays in its place.

Although the only “ball“ in boxing was the round punch bag, I was encouraged by Mr Alex Price to take it up again later and compete at Lightweight Division of the school boxing championships. Perhaps he had retained memories of 1943 matches. I can’t remember whom I fought but I was given the verdict. This, sadly, became the last boxing tournament at Scotch which Mr Price both refereed and judged. He later fell ill that year and died the following March, a much-loved and deeply respected P.E. master. He embodied manliness and encouraged it in us.

Rowing is a sport that Scotch in my time, did well at, winning the Head of the River Eights on the Torrens and even dead-heating once with Saints in 1944, I seem to remember. I was no rower (again, no ball to play with) but have always taken an interest. Freddie Gale managed the early years with success and in about 1948 English teacher Flexmore Hudson took over. He had researched and introduced a new rowing method whereby the crew lay right back on their stroke to an almost supine position before recovering. I believe it brought initial successes. Last year in the UK at the Henley International Regatta on the River Thames an Eight from our brother school Scotch Melbourne easily won the Schools’ Challenge defeating Eton and, in the Final, Radley by some distance to much acclaim as a “splendid crew“.  One commentator on TV, explaining the name Scotch, said that it was an Australian Public School (meaning actually a private or Church school) founded on Presbyterian principles. All Scotchies from all States should bask in this reflected glory on water. We must stick together. Another water sport, although again admittedly without a ball, was swimming in which I did participate. We held Inter-House swimming and diving competitions where I swam for my House and was lucky enough to win the diving competition from the low-level springboard over our outdoor pool.

The annual cross-country race was run partially outside the grounds and through environs like Lower Mitcham and back in a double loop. I competed although I was not a runner, at least not a long distance one and usually struggled in towards the back of the pack. A couple of enterprising runners once hid in some bushes on the first time round the course and re-joined the largest group the second time round. One way of getting through it, I suppose, but a bit naughty since your position in the race carried corresponding House points. My friend Ken Stirling won on at least one occasion but I could never keep up with him. The Inter- Collegiate Athletics competition was held at Adelaide Oval where Scotch supporters grouped together in a grandstand whooped out the war cry in unison (well, sometimes in unison) after our successes.

Unfortunately, Scotch did not offer prizes for marbles which were a private arrangement yet quite competitive. Speaking of which, I should have mentioned for fear of being corrected by other schoolboy scruffs like me in short pants, when remembering this enjoyable pastime, that if the shooter failed to say “slubber die double “ (no, I don’t either but just for the record) while aiming, his shot was called invalid. Perhaps this ritualistic rigmarole ruled it out of adoption as a formal school competitive sport.

I played at Centre and briefly as Full Forward in the 1stXVIII football team until injury and its repercussions led to my early retirement from Aussie Rules. I loved footie but I think I’d just taken on too much sport. However, I do remember a goal I scored from the acute angle of forward pocket using a screw punt with “banana twist”. I also took a few good marks but none which could compare with a screamer taken by Bob Cottle, a couple of years ahead of me, either in a match, practice or even during a kick-about. Science teacher Mr Rodger was our 1stXV111 football coach. He was a bit overweight but clearly had been a talented footballer. Contemporaries will remember his nickname, others will need to consult or use their imagination. As an epilogue to my football memories I’d like to record that in October 2006 I took my rugby-loving wife to London’s famous cricket venue The Oval to watch two AFL teams, Geelong and Port Adelaide, play a demonstration match. The large crowd was substantially London Aussies but included inquisitive English people who became admiring enthusiasts by the end. We all loved it and Ann, being a Leo and feline-lover, became an instant “Cats” fan (Geelong). As a little aside on cats, we ourselves have two. One, a ginger and white, is named after his butterscotch colouring “Scotchie” which means that there are two Scotchies in this household and a female fan. Although we haven’t consulted his ginger brother Micky - Ginger Mick – (see C.J. Dennis ”A Sentimental Bloke”) as to his support, but he would be outvoted anyway at any meeting of our “push of puddas” (gang of felines – 1920s gangland slang, courtesy C.J.Dennis again). I supported the Adelaide Power – grounds for a potential domestic!  I noted with some regret, since my playing days, the demise of the dropkick and especially the daisy-cutter drop pass and perhaps fewer successful high-soaring marks, although frequent handball, speed and player versatility more than compensated and made the same Aussie Rules very exciting. New white lines on the Oval such as a sizeable square round the centre circle and crescent-like curved markings beyond the goal squares puzzled me. Although I approved of two central umpires. After the match my wife bought me a TV subscription to AFL matches which we can now watch .

Sport is a seminal part of the Scotch experience, and it certainly was for me. Dare I suggest the essence of  Scotch philosophy is “mens sana in corpore sano”. What better one could there be? 


8. Patrick Disney and Education

Other activities I was involved in included acting in two plays written, produced and directed by Edgar de Robin (I think he was a dramatist manqué).

The first of these was his dramatisation of a scene from Dickens “Pickwick Papers” called the trial of Mr Pickwick (for breach of promise I seem to remember). He cast me in a minor role as the brat. Inspired casting! The second was called “Vendetta“  in which I played the role of a Corsican bandit over a couple of evenings in the theatre for pupils, parents and friends. My brother Corsican, Richard Llewelyn was a better actor than I and in any case I preferred to draft my own scripts in debates and the like. Tragically, after leaving Scotch, Richard contracted polio in that pre- Salk vaccine era, when the iron lung was the only help available. Gus unfailingly spent part of his long summer holiday, as the school was then closed down,  at a boarding house which we’d better call a guest house as he might have wanted a rest from any mention of boarders, in Robe on the S. coast where he wrote his plays and sketches. Robin in Robe sounds about right.

In my final year I was invited to join the Spectator Club named after the 18thcentury London magazine which still exists. This was resurrected and run by my Latin and Economics master Freddie Gale (also on retirement the school bursar) who once, after I’d turned in a sloppy and hurried Latin homework exercise, announced to our class when returning our marked exercise books: “ Paul, your Latin submission is absolutely appa – a – alling!” He was right but now that I was older and had won the English prize at Leaving, he invited me to join this small select group who met a few times a year on a Friday or Saturday evening in the homes of dayboy members to read papers we had written on our chosen subjects. Each paper was read to the group by its author, then discussed by Mr. Gale and the other members and the writer questioned further. I wrote one, I remember, on the life and works of Oscar Wilde, having just read a biography in the library and being enchanted by his wit and moved by his tragedy. The evening concluded with refreshments prepared by the host’s mother. The experience proved a good preparation for later university tutorials and especially seminars where our essays were dissected, often quite ruthlessly, for language and contents, by the professor and fellow students.

In March 1953, while in a tram along King William Street, I read in the paper of the death of two prominent Russians, actually on the very same day, the composer Prokofiev and Stalin deaths. How different were their contributions to humanity! I little realised then that I would one day visit Prokofiev’s grave and Stalin’s Kremlin in Moscow, also on the one day. Later in June a few prefects, including myself, listened on our wireless in the Prefects’ study late at night to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in Westminster Abbey in London. Little did we know then that her reign would become the longest in British history. Nor could we know that by a fortunate coincidence, Charles, the son of Dr. Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury who crowned the Queen, was to become the next Headmaster of Scotch.

Prefects’ duties in my time included reading a short passage chosen by the duty prefect that day at morning muster . One of my readings was on the death of Socrates and afterwards Mr. Disney,now in his second year  as Head of Scotch, complimented me on this choice, said he had enjoyed it and suggested that I and a couple of other school prefects in residence and including house prefects if available, might like to join him in his study occasionally after supper for a chat. He was a Cambridge Classicist and told the few of us, maximum 3 on each occasion and not always the same individuals who could fit comfortably into his small study, much about Greek and Roman history, customs and even language. This was his field and it was almost as if he was missing teaching. We asked him once, since he had taught at a Public ( Independent ) School in London called Merchant Taylors, what differences he had noted between English and Australian pupils. He said that in general, English boys of a corresponding age were perhaps more scholastically mature but that Aussies were more physically advanced especially in a sporting context. He nevertheless praised us on our enquiring minds, perception, good humour and willingness to engage in intellectual challenges. We wondered if the different national climates played a significant role in driving our Northern fellow students towards the library, whereas we were drawn outdoors by our climate, space and facilities to the sports grounds and tennis courts. One of us, I vaguely remember, cheekily asked something along the lines of whether the refuge of a pub in bad weather, for instance, provided a more intellectually stimulating atmosphere than the beach or a pool in the sun. I don’t remember his reply to this but when agreeing, he usually did so with the curt and admittedly rather neat “quite” which sounded to our young Aussie ears terse and aristocratic compared with his other alternative “indeed“ which is still widely current.

One evening I found myself alone in his study and told him during our chat that I was hoping to become a teacher myself possibly of Modern Languages including English and that History was also a major interest. He mentioned some advantages of being in Europe for language study and practice and this sparked an ambition to combine travel with study which I later fulfilled. In retrospect I heeded much of his advice. He followed this by asking me what I thought of the style of teaching at Scotch in general. I replied that I had no other experience of teachers and teaching outside Scotch, other than my formative kindergarten years of which I could remember almost nothing, but that I had ”loved” my Prep school lady teachers, and admired and was impressed by, many of the younger and perhaps more dynamic Senior School masters, and I had a genuine affection for and gratitude towards my older, longer established masters. No names or subjects were ever mentioned by either of us. I read in a school magazine a year or two after leaving, the Head’s annual Speech Day report which mentioned disappointment with recent exam results at Intermediate and Leaving levels, and he especially highlighted failures in passing English as a particular concern at Scotch and elsewhere. Even Leaving Honours was touched upon. I have occasionally wondered if our chat in his study that evening reflected a nascent concern which he then already had.

I had been pleased with my Leaving Certificate results. However, I have never quite understood what the purpose of Leaving Honours – a concept which may appear strange to modern Scotchies – really was. It was often tailored to a student’s needs and requests since he had already taken the crucial Leaving. I myself had an individual and perhaps self-indulgent interpretation of its rationale which was not especially formally academic but more a polishing or top-up year. I know others used the year in a more structured way, but I, with a touch of the maverick, concentrated better perhaps when I had the freedom to study subjects of my own choice which included in-depth reading of history, literature and teaching myself German in the library or prefects’ study often late at night. And sport for me was all-pervasive .I never saw Mr. Disney again after leaving school but my subsequent teaching career, much of it actually in his own city where I ran one of the first school language laboratories and wrote a report on changes in Modern Language teaching for a London borough, would, I hope, not have disappointed him, and at the very least the fortuity might have amused him.

If I may here digress momentarily, I’d like to pay tribute to the splendid and rare SA binary education innovation whereby, once your Leaving credentials were accepted, you became a teacher from day one and could study at Teachers’ College and University on the same campus. We were paid as teachers straightaway (on the very lowest rung admittedly) while studying quite possibly for the excellent multi-subject General Degree whose versatility was so attractive to many prospective teachers, and studying simultaneously for our Teaching Certificate. Our days were certainly full and we had to fit in teaching practice, sport and other activities but we were young and fit and we managed it. It meant the one funding the other, that is, the State paid for college and degree. Because of proximity students could move quickly and easily from college lecture room to university lecture theatre conveniently passing through the cloisters with refreshments always available. I fear this wonderful system which served me and other Scotchies similarly inclined may no longer be available as, a few years ago, on a visit to my old campus, I found the Teachers’ College buildings in Kintore Avenue still extant, with the College motto yet visible above the entrance, but apparently abandoned. I’ve never met this system anywhere else outside Australia. The only condition attached to prospective teachers, and a very reasonable one, was that they agreed to serve anywhere in the State for a mandatory period.

In my senior years at Scotch exams at Intermediate and Leaving level were all public and taken in Centennial Hall near the south parklands. All examinees massed in school uniform, state and independents alike and it always seemed from an annual picture in The Advertiser that girls predominated. Perhaps they were more photogenic! All candidates were called into the Hall to our numbered desks and eventually told by the “bulldogs” to turn our papers over, that we had 3 hours and to start writing. While about to start one of my Leaving papers I looked up to see Mr. Gratton , recently retired , coming down the aisle towards me as an invigilator. He smiled slightly and nodded in recognition. With scrupulous objectivity he did not even whisper “Good Luck’’. Years later when involved in setting, invigilating and marking examination papers  (including German and French orals), I remembered this moment when the Head during my most formative years became in an instant my examination invigilator away from school. Exams were often taken in very hot conditions in late November and we were allowed bottles of cool drinks with straws on our desks .I once remember while writing in full flow that the paper stuck to my hand while lifting my pen. There were no fans or air-conditioning then but the bulldogs mercifully left the doors wide open. In temps approaching 100 degrees F I dissected a Keats poem about autumn mists and cool anemones which I had never experienced or ever seen .Perhaps the image of these helped keep me more comfortable. Our exams then contained no coursework element or school or teacher appraisal section nor familiar classrooms and surroundings in which to sit the papers .It was fair, impartial, ruthless and perhaps a bit brutal if you weren’t trained to it, which thanks to Scotch , we were.

In my last 2 years Mrs. Disney also a Cambridge graduate I believe, took on some responsibilities such as the Cubs and particularly management of the kitchens and hence the boarders’ diet. In previous years it was widely believed that active boys needed substantial amounts of fats and sugars for energy provided by meals of deep-fried “fritz” (salami-like German sausage) white bread,  treacle tart, roly-poly pudding and custard even in summer. I never remember a salad or fruit on the table although there must have been some. The Head’s wife gradually but determinedly overhauled and improved our meals and allowed boarding prefects to raid the large kitchen fridges discreetly and only after supper if we were still up. We often had pleasant and friendly chats with her. There is a touching epilogue to my association with the Disneys. I visited Scotch in August 1963 during a trip back to Adelaide when Mrs. Disney got in touch telling me that Patrick had told her that “young Paul” might like to inherit his Classics library one day since teaching languages was his career intention .Perhaps I had once admired it during those chats in his study. Patrick had died a couple of years earlier and I would have loved to have accepted his offer but their weight and number precluded me from taking them back to Europe where I was already studying.

Music in my time at Scotch was not a timetabled subject whereas it was where I taught in Germany for instance. Mr. Jacobs gave private piano tuition and my father paid for me to have a few lessons with him. I never performed although the interest aroused persuaded me to tinker with the clarinet years later. A fellow pupil and friend John Stevenson was a talented organist and I once went with him to Unley Town Hall to hear him practise Bach on the organ there. He had an audience of one but an appreciative one. The music I first heard at Scotch on the gramophone or wireless was most influential in arousing my lifelong devotion to Classical music. It was in fact, the crucible for my enthusiasm. Other music we heard regularly was from our mini- orchestra – 2 or 3 strings and piano – for instance, with the talented and wristy violinist Nott prominent, which accompanied the morning hymn for the assembled school. To this day I still remember that number 535 in our Presy hymn book was “Onward Christian Soldiers“. And finally, I cannot neglect to mention the music of the bagpipes. In the days before the school had a full pipe band we witnessed our lone piper often on special occasions such as Speech Day or VIP visits, to remind us all, of the school’s Scottish heritage.

Midway through my Leaving year, if memory serves, we were informed that our English master Mr. Muecke was indisposed or on sabbatical and that we would have a replacement teacher from outside Scotch for a term or so .Our astonishment could not be imagined when a beautiful young woman, possibly a post-graduate student at the university, strode into the library where Leaving English was taught. She took us through Milton’s Paradise Lost giving us all the classical and biblical references. We were mesmerised. We all became absorbed in the great work with its mellifluous grandeur. She was a lovely image to outshine Milton’s devil himself. What a way to get our attention and she was only about 5 years older than we were! My being comfortable playing devil’s advocate stems undoubtedly from this revelatory experience. She made the Devil a personable and even attractive presence. She showed us that sonnets with a sad theme such as Milton’s ”On his Blindness” could yet be both lyrical and consoling. And yes, I wonder how long it will be before that poem is renamed – Milton, ”In terms of his Blindness”.

A contemporary, Peter Doer, came back to Australia when his parents split up after the end of WW2 and on her return to SA his Australian mother sent him to Scotch. To keep up his German he took weekly private lessons with Mr. Robin. Years later someone put us in contact and I phoned him in Germany where he had long been a doctor inviting him to a reunion of Old Scholars held in London by the then Principal Tim Oughton and his wife Heather to be followed by the Scotch pipers and dancers performing next day in Hyde Park - much admired. Regrettably, his wife was ill and he could not make it. We could have reminisced in English or German and I had looked forward to seeing him again after more than 50 years.


9. Routine, occasions and occasionals

The first of these was a one-off occasional.

One day when I was about 16, a friend and I wandered into Lower Mitcham Police Station where a kindly policeman greeted us with: “Ah, two Scotch boys! You’ll be wanting your driver’s licences then!” In that more innocent age with the vestige of a pioneering spirit still faintly evident here and there , and Australia being such a young country – indeed it’s sobering to think that when I was born South Australia and even my birth state of Victoria were both only about 98 years old – obtaining your driver’s licence then consisted of the following. Answering a couple of questions such as, “How do you indicate turning right?” To which the answer was : “Extend your arm out the window if you have no indicator”, and: “Who has right of way at a junction?” where the answer was, ”Give way to the man on the right “ which had long ago been adopted from the French “priorite a droite”, except that, paradoxically, the French drive on the right and this rule of the road may have suited them but hardly us. There was also no practical driving test as it was assumed that you wanted a licence because you were ready to drive taught by your father or elder brother and in any case traffic then was much lighter. We both got our licences on the spot. I read somewhere that in many respects Australians are more like the French than the English. May I suggest examples such as that both are inhabitants of large countries and have warmer climates, their cuisine, hedonism, individualism, anti-authoritarianism (Eureka Stockade), driving habits and even a similar centralised State education system. In this case not so much “autres pays autres moeurs” which contention might make the subject for another interesting Inter-House debate.

If I can still remember, the school day, excepting the weekends, was divided into pre-lunch lessons of about 40 minutes with recess after two and perhaps one fewer period after lunch. The bell master was “Killer” Stephenson and I wonder if, since becoming co-ed Scotch has now a belle mistress. On the other hand, I imagine there might well have been a few “male hearties” pre co-ed who would have preferred une belle maÎtresse – each. From  his Geography classroom which was outside the main edifice,  he would call to a pupil near the door :” Time for a tinkle, I think !” and the boy would go to the nearby school bell which needed to be outside and fairly central as it had to be heard over 40 acres or so and even outside the school grounds and 400 metres up the Old Belair Road where a private weekend shop was open to boarders as our tuckshop was then closed, Mrs Gamble being unavailable to serve us, and give the bell rope half-a-dozen tugs or so. Some boys in those days did not wear wrist-watches .The Boarding House duty master for that day would take over bell-ringing responsibilities after lessons. At 5 o’clock First Bell would indicate that sports practices and the like should wind up and boys change. Long before there was a grand-or even petitstand at the Main Oval, changing rooms were located at one end of the quad with showers, lavatories, benches and lockers all there. Sometimes, after changing, we only just made it to muster roll-call .When running late there would, now and then be some banter with the school caretaker Murray. (I hope I’ve correctly remembered his name after all these years.) In calmer times he would prop himself on his broom in the quad and regale the lads with stories, I think, from WW1 in which he had served. The quadrangle was like the inner bailey of a medieval castle and there were stone steps going up on one side to the domestic quarters where the caretaker had a room. Although the steps were a short cut to our outdoor swimming pool, they were, for obvious reasons, out of bounds to us. About half-an-hour after First, Second Bell summoned boarders to evening muster roll-call in the Senior Common Room. Following evening meal, prep started at 7 and we did our homework along both sides of the long tables in the Senior Common Room, sometimes with a comforting log fire blazing away in winter. Central heating was unknown to us, perhaps part of a toughening process or because our winters were relatively mild although we were higher and cooler in the lower Adelaide hills. Half-an-hour was apportioned each evening for four homework subjects and when we finished early we could read whatever we liked. We had homework diaries which were signed each week by the Form master and countersigned with his stamp signature throughout most of my boarding life by Mr. Gratton as Head thus keeping track of our progress. The duty master for that evening sat on a high chair with a desk top like a lectern the better to oversee us. Like a library silence prevailed .He was not always a residential master and in compensation enjoyed a roast dinner with all the trimmings in the small alcove between the Dining Room and the Library. The same meal that Mr. and Mrs. Gratton had delivered to their private quarters on a trolley. We got no help with our prep. from the duty master although he was in loco parentis, unlike luckier day boys at home. I remember once at 9pm asking Hedley Dodd, the Senior House Master, what he had been reading throughout his supervision. He showed me a book by the Australian war correspondent Chester Willmot called “The Struggle for Europe”. Years later I took that as a recommendation and read it myself. It is now regarded as a war classic. Most of us got the odd detention for various misdemeanours to be done at the end of the school day. It frequently took the form of 100 or 200 lines of such universal truths as “Procrastination is the thief of time’’, which actually helped me in later life probably because I wrote it so often. There were times when we cheated a bit by taping 3 pencils together and getting 3 lines for the effort of one.

In our individual boot locker in the dedicated boot room we kept footwear like sandshoes (tennis shoes) sprigged football and cricket boots so as not to clutter the dorms or damage the varnished wooden floors. Between the Senior and Junior Common Rooms was the sport’s locker from which cricketers like myself, drew out new but recently oiled bats and walked about the grounds with the bat handle tucked under one arm while bashing the blade with a baton to break it in – something unnecessary these days. Mention of the Junior Common Room reminds me of a farcical and puerile competition once held there when a boarder succeeded in beating his own record for the number of times he could “break wind“, to use a euphemistic term, at one sitting or, more accurately, at one lying, since he was on a table in a supine position. We never asked him what his dietary preparations had been. A bit basic were some of our earthy, country sons of the soil but always reliable in a crisis. We had to devise our own entertainments after all. Perhaps thereafter the JCR should have been renamed the Juvenile Common behaviour Room.

Adjacent to the Senior Common Room was the Staffroom where a master would answer the door, usually impatiently, and deal with your enquiry or report but never invite a lad in.  Incidentally, the word “report” has fascinated me since I first heard it in 1943 at Belair. Presumably it sounded sophisticated to my young ears. A large snooker table stood in the centre of the room which was dotted with comfortable armchairs, tea-making facilities and sometimes a fire in the grate. It was the masters’ inner sanctum. Prefects were sometimes invited in as their role was a link between the lads and the masters. Prefects who were boarders were allowed much unsupervised freedom with no set bedtimes or similar restrictions as long as they carried out their various duties of leadership, supervision and example. As I found out, being a prefect was a half-way house between me the “poacher” of earlier days becoming the “gamekeeper” later as a teacher myself. It proved a good experience for handling that transition. As a natural non-conformist and instinctive dissident I had not actually wanted to become even a Boarding House Prefect but my father convinced me that the responsibility would mature me and yet again he proved to be right.

My lifelong immersion in education allows me I hope, to consider how different the staff structure at Scotch was from the ones I met later in life. There was, as far as one could tell, no subject departments. Science may have been an exception remembering that eminent scientists Trumble and Casley-Smith had passed through its labs. There was therefore no departmental accountability nor Head or Deputy visits to classrooms and no school inspections as was customary in the State sector at least. Staff must have been appointed to teach within an academic range such as Humanities or Science but would not always be solely teaching their own University disciplines. All were expected to contribute in coaching or supervising sports, clubs or societies. I cite Freddie Gale as an early successful rowing coach, Latin, Economics and Economic History teacher who resurrected and presided over the Spectator Club and on retirement became a school bursar where perhaps his economic expertise would have been beneficial to the school finances.  His typical versatility certainly was to the school as a whole. Mr. Gale had a lasting effect on me of which he would never have been aware namely with an axiom from Economics lessons where he taught that “bad money always drives out good” and he did not just mean coinage but culture, language and even mores where a mediocre majority submerges a minority of excellence. This view has become a guiding light for me. Similar views were confirmed in 1963, when on a visit to the school, I met Charles Fisher and we talked about maintaining standards for which the price we both agreed would be eternal vigilance. I met his son Geoffrey Fisher briefly but in the same Head’s study exactly 40 years later in 2003. Shall we say two Fisher Kings indeed? I have previously noted Mr. Disney’s concern from 1953 to 1955 with some exam results like English but it is only fair to record parents’ expectations that Scotch should provide much more than an academic perspective alone and that character-building, sporting prowess or at least participation, communal spirit and  social graces were as fundamental and some would say more so. Sons of pastoralists, for instance, would have found Agricultural Science useful but friendships and the “Scotch experience“, probably more so.

Such thoughts ineluctably bring me to a consideration of the wider purposes of education both then and now. I ask indulgence to enquire not only what education in my time was but what its objective is nowadays and what it might become. Was it too generous and even profligate to taper a liberal education to individual self-fulfilment - a system of which I and my contemporaries at Scotch were beneficiaries - or should it be replaced by a more Hegelian regime where the education of the individual is subservient to the needs of the State and especially its economy? An age-old question exemplified by Athens’ and Sparta’s opposing views of the rationale for the state. Into this consideration should also be taken of the role of the Church. In our case as I understand now, the Uniting Church, in these modern times with the world-wide decline, at least in the “Western” world, of Christian observation, attendance and influence. Might Church schools become secular academies while retaining, in the case of our College, for instance, our unique Scottish cultural and secular legacy which is a rich and vibrant aspect of the school ‘s history but in an Australian ambit? Is a shift already taking place and if so I apologise because I have not been around to notice procedural and policy changes due to living abroad for nigh on 60 years? And while on education may I finally interject with something dear to my heart? I wonder if Scotch nowadays has provision for the identification and nurturing of talented scholars who are exceptional in one area only such as Maths / Physics or poetry / language and would not normally be accepted at university (or similar Tertiary) in their specialisation were they to be impeded by not reaching the required level in other matriculation prerequisites? In other words, how do we prevent such talents from being wasted in our present day system? In light of all the above, is our school motto “Scientia – humanitas – religio“ still valid and fitting? “Scientia” is clearly “knowledge” and indisputable for an academic institution, but “humanitas” besides its obvious “humanity” sense also means, according to Cicero, a refined and liberal education. ”Religio” clearly “religion” also implies from the Latin “religare to bind” which would still be appropriate for Scotch as it is a united community even if Uniting influence declines. Thus, with the pursuit of knowledge, the ideal of a liberal education and togetherness, in spite of whatever changes might occur in the future, I think we can all agree that our venerable motto will remain apposite.

That leaves the Scottish legacy as a national and secular strand in the title of the school and its crest and ethos. We have Scottish neighbours and close friends who show interest in my old school and enjoy the Scotch Reports I show them, admiring the facilities and pictures of healthy and active pupils. However, they half-affectionately, half-dismissively refer to us and our likes from Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand as colonial Scots which, of course, we probably are and certainly were. They explain that we ignore some realities of modern Scotland with its decline in industries like ship-building on the Clyde, union and industrial intransigence, drug proliferation and acknowledged health problems etc., in favour of a selective, historic and romantic view such as the Highlands and Islands, glens, heathery moors, lochs, pipes and tartans – many actually Victorian inventions, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott (about whom I wrote a long essay at school), the unforgettable poems of Rabbie Burns and Burns Nights with haggis and Drambuie, Edinburgh which became the Athens of the North and nurtured great philosophers, academics, doctors and engineers starting in the 18thcentury, and I assume, old Collegians and friends prefer this latter view selective or not, as do I. In my day we marched down the parapet steps, through the conservatory and into the theatre for morning muster to the rousing sound of a single schoolboy piper in kilt and sporran standing upon or beside the parapet. It stirred our blood as it was meant to. I trust that with today’s superb Scotch pipe bands something like it still continues. Our piper echoed the solitary piper concluding the famous, international Edinburgh Tattoo on the battlements of the castle, or  more personally, at the dying of my century just after midnight on the 31stDecember 1999 when the Hogmanay piper from the same ramparts piped “Auld Lang Syne’’ just before the fireworks ushering in the new millennium.

We really should try to anticipate what the possible effect would be of the withdrawal of Scotland from the UK where the Scotland of the nationalistic secessionists has been “nursing her wrath to keep it warm“, and the ultimate inevitability of Australia one day becoming a republic will have on the school’s European connection. After all, when I left Australia for study and career opportunities, we were Australian citizens and British subjects as our passports stated.

The last week or so before breaking up for the long Christmas summer holiday was almost a festive occasion full of activities such as sporting ones – Staff v boys’ matches. Junior and Senior tennis championships on the grass courts with our fellows ranged along the grassy bank between court and pool, excused all lessons to watch and swimming competitions. There were last chances among the Senior boarders for extra-mural social activities. Doug Wiles, a tennis player himself, who had left the year before, invited two of us one Sunday afternoon to play some social tennis on his father’s court with 3 or 4 tennis-playing Walford girls. A decade earlier, probably in 1944, the Prep school had been taken by our lady teachers to visit a war-time fruit and vegetable cannery factory owned by Doug’s father. It was a very interesting and patriotic experience to see an example of Australia’s war effort. Doug and I remained tennis team members and casual friends. Incidentally, after leaving school, Doug had bravely rescued people from a burning building, possibly one of his father’s factories, and the Advertiser commended him for his selfless physical courage. Some light-hearted and flirtatious tennis was followed by a small evening party with refreshments and dancing to low lights and music while Mrs. Wiles kept a discreet, occasional weather eye on us from her kitchen. I still remember walking back to school at about 2am under a full moon which cast a glow of silver luminosity over everything. It was indeed a “braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht”- an appropriate phrase for Scotch. In retrospect my moonlit experience may have been enhanced by a fluttering of first love. I eventually hauled myself over the weatherboard palisade which had long enclosed the veranda, to form the Seniors sleep out and flopped into bed only to jump up bright and breezy a few short hours later for end-of-year events in activities week. The energy of youth! The following Saturday when Jonesie and I played our last Memorial Drive tennis match together, we were surprised and delighted to notice our two “partners” of the previous Sunday’s party, looking attractive in summer dresses sitting at the corner of a spectators’ stand watching our doubles match. They inspired us to high performance (showing off really) and we took them up to Rundle Street afterwards for a milkshake. We were invited back to Jones’ “partner’s” house for a celebratory evening meal and more partying. Although our paths diverged, I kept in touch with my “girlfriend” and met her again years later as I have elsewhere recounted. Towards the end of the year, the Blue and Gold Ball for Seniors was held in the theatre. In 1949 I had won the Junior tennis championship and the very same evening I remember peering through one of the oval theatre windows from an upstairs wing, to be dazzled by the dancing pairs and above all girls in their radiant ballroom finery. I thought it a bit effete and degenerate and not for sports addicts like me.  At that young age I would not have surrendered my hard-won trophy even for an invitation to the ball, colourful and spectacular though it was. In subsequent years a few of us took Saturday morning dancing lessons at an academy I think, in Grenfell Street, where we were taught the quickstep, foxtrot and waltz- my favourite- by middle-aged ladies, but although ballroom dancing had a “ball” in it, It really wasn’t my thing, although I learnt enough to get round the floor and that’s about it. Such a “skill” certainly did not prove an asset at parties in the 1960s “swinging London” where the Twist and an “anything goes” shuffle proved more useful. I only attended one Blue and Gold and that in my last year, and it was certainly a vivid and memorable occasion.

The end of the school year culminated in Speech Day. The Deputy Head, Mr. Willsmore always took charge of Prize-Giving, inscribing winners’ names in book prizes and labelling cups, medals, spoons and other trophies for accurate presentation. Those due to receive an award were informed in advance and sometimes advised to look the guest speaker in the eye during presentation, shake hands firmly and accept the prize in the left hand even with a sort of simulated reluctance. Hurtle’s glory was that, when young, he was reputed to have smashed a cricket ball out of the Adelaide Oval into the Torrens. Would Torrens Lark to Torrens Park be too outrageous a comment?

Speech Day was quite an occasion. An enormous white marquee was erected between the then Prep school and the periphery drive from the main gate. I can still remember the light of the warm December sun penetrating the marquee as I walked down the central aisle flanked by parents, friends and the school to mount the dais and accept my tennis championship cups and other prizes.

Speech Day was quite an occasion. An enormous white marquee was erected between the then Prep school and the periphery drive from the main gate. I can still remember the light of the warm December sun penetrating the marquee as I walked down the central aisle flanked by parents, friends and the school to mount the dais and accept my tennis championship cups and other prizes. The guest speaker was always an eminent academic, scientist or even the State Governor on one occasion. During his address, one such presenter intrigued us by claiming that hard work and application could actually increase intelligence. He also gave us the best definition of intellect that I’ve ever heard, namely, that it is intelligence enhanced by knowledge. After the formality of Speech Day there was always an opportunity for our parents to have a chat with members of Staff, Headmaster and others, where I suspect, some of them heard certain home truths, although it was a relaxed and happy occasion. The school report was still to come with the Head’s and masters’ comments on your year’s performance. We never had, in my time, parents’ evenings which in any case would have been difficult for remote boarders’ families. Eventually, after refreshments, we left and I remember after one such Speech Day walking with my parents to get the tram from Lower Mitcham to Adelaide railway station or the Grosvenor Hotel where we often overnighted, and thence home for the long Christmas holiday, when my father noticed a small snake on the road crossing our path and spontaneously tried to stamp on it. It ran up his trouser leg to our merriment until he somehow shook it down, out and off. Thus, in 1953 after Speech Day, my schooldays ended with my mother carrying my last trophy away while I, perhaps, surveyed my 11 year Scotch experience. They had been generally happy years and certainly fulfilling ones socially, academically and sportingly. I might have imagined asking Patrick Disney: ”I haven’t done too badly, Sir, have I?” and him replying in his magisterial way: ”Quite, Paul!“ which would have been a more refreshing and encouraging response than what I had heard frequently in my earlier Scotch years from one master or another as a noisy, disputatious little tyke: “Quiet, Paul!“

As I left school forever I was, no doubt, anticipating my future, whereas now I am looking back on my past. Time changes the perspectives of all of us. Might this truism have made a good new 100 line detention?


10. Epilogue loitering, exit swift

In this my coda and afterthought, I’d like to go back to the beginning following a debating maxim: “Take care of the beginning and the end, and the middle will take care of itself.”

When asked for my contribution to this laudable centenary compilation, my aim was to inform, record anecdotally and comprehensively, and where possible, to entertain. Of necessity my contributions are personal (as indeed are all others), probably idiosyncratic and certainly wide-ranging, but always on “matters touching Scotch“. It is a snapshot of a special place throughout a long, transitional time seen through a boarder’s eyes and assurance was given to me that the bad and the sad were as valid as the bright and the right. I will have undoubtedly made the odd mistake such as conflating events which were actually separate and the reverse. As a disclaimer I have relied on memory as the primary and sole source and only referred to documents or magazines to confirm a spelling or initial and the like. I stand by the corpus for veracity.

I have trawled the deep recesses of my schoolday’s memory going back 75 years for possible omissions and have come up with two which might be of interest. The first is also a tribute to a man I both admired and liked, admired for his relaxed erudition and liked for his gregarious personality. The second might be seen as inconsequential and peripheral – literally since it took place outside the school grounds.

One morning there was an article in The Advertiser laid out on a Common Room table about poverty and efforts being made world-wide to abolish it. We had later been discussing this with the Chaplain and afterwards I happened to be walking downstairs with Padre Giles when I had a rather mischievous thought which I suspected might put him in a bit of an intellectual quandary. I asked: “Sir, if we eradicate all poverty would that not make a liar of Christ who said that the poor are always with us?” He stopped in his tracks, paused and answered with one word: “Interesting.” I smiled and started to move off when he called back: “You know, those translators of the Septuagint and the Vulgate were not always faithful with the old texts?“ What a response I have thought about his answer since. He had avoided the obvious phrase “inaccurate in translation’’ in favour of “not faithful” with its added implication of religious doubt. With one word he had overcome the dilemma with wit and erudition. It is worth remembering that the Dead Sea scrolls had just been discovered which opened wider debate about the early Church and we had discussed these in Scripture periods. He encouraged us to think boldly even ruthlessly. He was an early role model for me.

Walking back to school on my own one day, I peeped over the fence of a house not too far from the school main entrance and noticed a young lady of about my age sitting in the garden. She spotted my Scotch cap, came over to the fence and we chatted for a minute or two. To this day I do not remember a word of our conversation but before I moved on we exchanged names. She will have long forgotten mine but for some curious reason I have always remembered hers. It was Alison Grant. I never saw her again and I don’t know where her life’s path took her. Years later I was studying or teaching H.G. Wells’ novel “The History of Mr. Polly’. The eponymous hero, a draper’s assistant, one Sunday rode his bicycle out into the 1890s English countryside and parked it against a high wall while resting. He looked up to see a young lady sitting atop it. She was sitting on the wall of her ladies’ seminary, an exclusive boarding school rather like Scotch. They also chatted briefly and for a moment Polly’s aspirations and ambitions soared well beyond the social and class realities of his time. Where perched, she was, of course, both physically and socially well above him. He moved on but their worlds would never integrate in those times. There are no class implications in my similar, fleeting encounter but Polly’s experience raises the question of privilege and exclusivity which I believe modern Scotch is addressing through philanthropic outreach. To the best of my knowledge my school in my time did not mix readily and easily with the world just beyond its gates. We, as students, did not always realise it but we were living in a favoured and exclusive environment, although in later years realisation did come and day boys did indeed mingle more with the outside world. Were boarders in consequence blinkered by cloistered seclusion? I suggest not. This is my chance to defend my own decade. We had no TV, iPhone, mobiles or computers. However, my generation had excellent radio broadcasting in good English, we read widely, and were encouraged not to seek consensus necessarily, but to develop critical thinking by Mr.Keon -Cohen at Belair, Ray Stanley through culture and humour, Flexmore Hudson with critical analysis, scientist Mr. Dow on politics, Freddie Gale’s Spectator discussions, Mr. Muecke’s tips for debating rebuttal, the Rev. Giles concerning profounder matters and my two Headmasters on language and life. Timorous political correctness (really social intimidation) was unknown to us. It would have been howled, out of court or at least hurled out of the forecourt of the theatre where its presence would have been judged inimical to fearless open debating and the Zeitgeist. Australians were grateful for the bounty we had inherited and equally grateful for what we had avoided.  A Lucky Country indeed and thought- provokingly, how remarkable that a small, cool, old country in the  Northern Hemisphere off the NW coast of the European continent in the Atlantic Ocean left such an abiding imprint on a large, warm, lately settled land in the Southern Hemisphere lapped by the S. Pacific Ocean and all under a canopy of Britishness .

The Australian speech of my schooldays did not have the rising intonation often heard today at the end of sentences, clauses and even phrases especially among sports reporting and in the pop scene etc. where a statement or an opinion can sound like a quasi - question seemingly thereby beseeching approval and acceptance lest it offend. Our Weltanschauung did not prompt us to apologise unnecessarily for a frank or provocative opinion, perhaps emboldened by the confidence gained through conversation, speaking publicly and debating. Was our era lucky since newer is not always better? Might a Scotch College postgraduate investigate this linguistic phenomenon especially its profusion, prominence and provenance today as a monograph or even a PhD thesis?

In recalling my era and putting it in a time context I started at Scotch in a crucial turning point in WW2 and left it the year of the conquest of Everest and the identification of DNA. Here I’d like to add an observation that from Head to Matron; the staff were really in loco parentis sharing identical views on discipline, self-reliance, initiative and up-bringing. It was an easy and natural congruity or even a happy symbiosis – a biological term of which Matron and Mr. Dow might have approved. Much of the above might well be challenged by friends of Scotch and even contemporaries of mine but I would say with Martin Luther, and this is in character, ”Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders“. I’m sticking unless evidence and persuasion can convince me otherwise. I really would enjoy any subsequent and consequential argument. Or, dare I suggest, a correspondence debate?

I seem to have encountered Scotch Headmasters in pairs – two during my own schooldays whom I’ve already remembered, two whom I visited as an Old Scholar on trips home and the two most recent Principals whom I actually met away from Scotch in London. Tim Oughton hosted a reunion for Scotchies and friends of Scotch in the upstairs functions room of a pub. It was a pleasant, convivial evening and we heard of recent developments at the college about which we otherwise might not have known. 3 years later in June 2011 it was repeated this time in a Mayfair club and when it finished Tim and Heather led a few of us to a pub in Soho of all places to prolong the conviviality. Ann and I found ourselves sitting on either side of Heather. She told us much about the school’s more recent philanthropic endeavours among indigenous Australians and success in bringing some to the school for education and indeed the whole Scotch experience. What an ironic contrast with the experience of my mother, daughter of Queensland missionaries who, when sent to St. Andrew’s Girls’ boarding school in Melbourne, adopted a private language with her sister using Arunta, an Aboriginal dialect they had picked up on the mission. That was the only contact in the cities with indigenous people then. Links were also established with schools in places like Indonesia and China, culminating in a twinning with Robert Gordon School in the Scottish Highlands and the proposed exchange of Principals for a term which indeed happened. Scotch had expanded and was expanding far beyond the smaller single-sex Adelaide boarding and day school of my epoch. Although New Zealanders, the Oughtons were good diplomats and advocates abroad for our Australian school. At one stage, quite late in the evening, and we were after all, in a pub, Ann was telling Heather that I had macular degeneration (in seeking a cause for AMD doctors asked me if I had ever been outside in hot sun for long periods without dark glasseswhen young? Really!) To help my failing eyesight I had been recommended to eat at least two kiwis (fruit) a day for their lutein content. I noticed a horrified look on Heather’s face and intervened with a quip to reassure her and Tim that they need not worry as I’d already eaten my mandatory two kiwis for that day and that they were therefore safe. We all dissolved in mirth when Heather retorted: “My only worry was that you both hadn’t realised the laxative properties of multiple kiwis.”

Our second encounter was in 2014 with John Newton as the in-coming Principal. We had heard on the grapevine that the new Principal to follow Tim Oughton was Headmaster of a Somerset college, Taunton School and , since Ann is a Somerset girl and I a Scotch Old Scholar, we contacted Taunton and asked his secretary that if John found himself in or near London and had an hour to spare, we’d love to meet him, answer his questions and help in any way we could. He replied swiftly giving us a date of November 3 2014 and we arranged to meet at a pub (the usual villainous venue for these occasions) near Paddington railway station. We found him pleasant, relaxed and open-mindedly enthusiastic. Of course, my memories of Scotch were of the distant past but I had taken with me two Scotch photos from 1953 of the A and B tennis teams and school prefects by way of credentials and an aide-memoire. John perceptively noticed that I was wearing a white, sleeveless pullover in the Prefects’ photo and I had to explain that the formal photos taken in front of the school in winter followed one after the other and presumably I had left it on after the tennis snap where it was appropriate but remembered to take it off before the cricket photo and certainly before the Cadet photo in full Army uniform. Unlike other schools of the time, and I’m sure present-day Scotch, where school blazer is standard and everyday city wear. Scotch’s uniform was a grey suit (with school tie, cap and pocket monogram as identifiers) even at Prep school where we wore grey shorts. I wonder even now why we were then sartorially different.

Leaving the house I had also randomly grabbed one of my Scotch Speech Day book prizes to show John the beautiful binding and badge which the school produced in my era. By chance it turned out to be a prize for Junior Debating from an earlier year and John immediately expressed enthusiasm and told us that debating was an interest of his. All of us had been Modern Language teachers which provided an easy bond, and although we did not discuss education or teaching methods, we did chat about French, German, English and Russian literature. We would love to have attended his talk on Russian literature and at its conclusion it would have been “hands up“ to ask questions or, in my case, probably to challenge something with a mini- debate were it held in the theatre where I did my debating. On Russian literature John would have won that “hands down“, especially were Ann to be made adjudicator. “Hands up, hands down!” sounds a bit like a training exercise for the footie team or a new dance for the Blue and Gold Ball.

Incidentally, in the early 70s, while visiting our brother school Knox Grammar in Sydney, with relatives, I was offered an attractive language teaching post by the Head Dr. Mackenzie. Although tempted, I already ran my own department at a fine school and had to decline. Knox, however, has not become co-ed, perhaps understandably so when we consider John Knox’s insufferable diatribe against ’’the monstrous regiment of women’’. Scotch, on the other hand, might like to consider debating his description as a sustainable proposition and it could be made livelier if our undoubtedly eloquent girls were asked to defend his tirade whereas the boys’ team was asked to condemn it. Surely, the lasting benefit of debating is that one learns to argue for the unpalatable as an intellectual exercise as barristers do regularly. After a happy hour (in a pub, yes, but not that kind of happy hour!) and convinced that Scotch and John would be mutually beneficial, we left but before accompanying him to his departure station, while trying to explain the mysteries of Aussie Rules, which proved unnecessary since he was already knowledgeable and enthusiastic, I took a final photo of John and Ann. It was outside with an historic London blue plaque on the wall of St. Mary’s Hospital across the road in the background. This plaque was just below the window of the room where, in 1928, so the story goes, some beer hops blew across the street from the very pub we had just left  and in through the partially open window. When Alexander Fleming returned to his lab at the end of his summer holiday, he noticed that some spores had grown on an uncovered Petri dish and the resultant culture, when developed, became known as penicillin and its discoverer’s co-developer and colleague was an Adelaide doctor Howard Florey. Here in this instant was an old Scholar, his wife, a Somerset girl, who had visited and admired Scotch, alongside a Somerset Headmaster who was now Principal Elect of the Old Scholar’s old school, in front of a backdrop with Adelaide connections.

This little scene could encapsulate my school for me but I’ve chosen an icon from my era to do that retrospectively and germanely. But before doing so, I’d like to give a final eulogy to Scotch. There have been at least four times in my life when I have been under threat or in a crisis which could have had serious consequences but which were resolved thanks to skills and confidence which I first gained at Scotch. I relate these four incidents, admittedly with some licence and levity, but they were nevertheless very real. About the time when the Berlin Wall was being erected to form E. and W. Germany, I was arrested by the Stasi but eventually managed to extricate myself using the German I’d first taught myself in the college library made possible by Miss Lefevre’s rigorous grammar foundation. Being Australian and not a suspect Englishman also helped. In the mid-60s I was shot at from the hills surrounding the Khyber Pass by Pashtan snipers and, as opening batsman avoiding Adelaide High School’s fast bowlers’ bumpers, this made me adept at ducking and weaving, and Cadet training did not go amiss. In the early 90s, in New Zealand, my hire car nearly went over a steep cliff into a river while I was taking a photo having thoughtlessly left the handbrake off, but I reacted instantly as it rolled towards the cliff-edge and dived in throwing my left hand on the footbrake just in time. I ’m sure net drills and reaction training under Mr. Dow at tennis practice sharpened my reflexes and saved the day or at least, my car and luggage. Lastly, in London I was threatened with a fatwa by an angry group caused by a misunderstanding (it’s a long, fascinating story but not for these pages) and managed to talk myself out of it and get the fatwa lifted due gratefully to my early debating experience. So, thank you Scotch.

Finally, my chosen image to represent as much of my Scotch College schooldays as can be encapsulated. I would like to have included one with the extensive grounds, some dormitories, the stylish theatre with its conservatory forecourt, the common rooms, the tower, the quad and the main Oval, the swimming pool and even my beloved monkey-up tree, but nevertheless with panoramic sweep and some imagination I’ve managed to encompass much in one photograph. I have selected the 1953 formal photograph of the A and B tennis teams as my symbol of Scotch. This is above all a team photograph. In August every year professional photographers came up to take the sports teams, prefects’, cadets’, Junior and Senior boarders’ and other black and white photographs. The A and B tennis teams reveal friendships and perhaps I can sneak debating into the scene as we “debated” with the senior photographer as to where we would position ourselves for the shot, but he directed the A team to sit with me as Captain and my mate and Vice- Captain Jones, centrally with Mr. Dow our coach between us representing staff. Incidentally, Jones once “skited” that he could drop-kick a footie 75 yards. So a few of us eventually challenged him to prove it. He drop- kicked 3 times from the goal square on the main Oval with a slightly following wind and unremarkably, although his kicks were long he did not get close to 75 yards. Thus, we have a winter sport included and I’ve even sneaked in a mention of the main Oval. Those who had been awarded them are proudly wearing their cream Colours blazers braided in blue and gold. On the large breast pocket of mine, as typical, was embroidered crossed tennis racquets above 1949 – 1953 in gold and top right XI denoting the 1st XI cricket team and below the central Scotch badge was the scrolled school motto designating Prefect. In passing, my Colours blazer almost fits grandson Louis Minford who is a successful international gymnast at under-14 level in France, and who has just been promoted to their elite squad targeting the 2024 Olympics. He will inherit it one day, so a bit of Scotch might be strutted at gymnastic competitions around an arena or its environs. At the very least it would be an object of curiosity and one which Louis will have to explain.

During the photograph we could see beyond the camera my 3 Prep school classrooms of happy memory, part of the Seconds Oval and the ground where the Speech Day marquee was erected representing Prize – giving and holidays. Beyond in the distance were parts of beautifully laid-out Adelaide which was always in the eye-line of Scotch pupils because of our superb site on the lower slopes of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Behind the tennis team posing in full kit with racquets ,can be seen the school’s main entrance area, the Head’s study whose occupants had had such an influence on all of us, the dining room and just off-photo the library which here can stand for academia. My final reason for choosing a photograph with all the associations I can muster (I managed to get that word in too, if a bit tenuously!) is that it appeared in the 1953 magazine and thence through the Archive Office was chosen for inclusion in the stupendous “Ninety Years at Torrens Park” ( p 79 ) as a representation of my time. And fittingly, may I add that our top tennis teams were very successful in Inter-collegiate competition at Memorial Drive that year.

Before departing, some tributes are overdue. From the crucible of my youth to its “care club’’ of the aged, the Old Scholars Association, the Archive and the Development Offices through their staff and administrators, have been wonderful and generous of spirit and time. To this tripartite group may I be allowed to borrow my own triple from the school motto to summarise an extended adage applicable to this octogenarian Scotchie. The spirit is willing (humanitas) but the flesh is weak (religio) yet the brain is working (scientia). Scotch has taken care of the beginning and the end and I in a fortunate and fulfilling life, have taken care of the middle myself. I trust it’s not too nostalgic but I feel at last that I’m coming home, only vicariously of course, but home in spirit nevertheless through these memoirs.

Having lingered and loitered long enough, I take my leave, however reluctantly, paraphrasing Shakespeare’s uproarious stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” (The Winter’s Tale - Act 3, Scene 3) with my own exit backstage preceded by a lion – a red lion, - a red, refulgent lion rampant against the backdrop of the Scottish Saltire as exemplified in our school badge, or equally pertinently today, a golden lioness – a glorious, golden lioness rampant, as found inside the covers of “Ninety Years at Torrens Park”, against the deep blue of an Adelaide summer sky.

“Blue and gold, blue and gold, ever gold and blue“ and should our hallowed school motto ever be stolen, abandoned, forbidden, pawned or lost, or even if I forget to give it back after borrowing, may we suggest “Semper caerulea aureaque“.

Yes, blue and gold forever – the royal blue of Scotland and the gold of Australia – a colourful coalescence, historic and enduring. Vale alma mater.

Floreas in aeternum!


Gordon Paul ('54)