[From The Barrovian #138]


Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit.

The fact that I had promised Canon Owen to contribute to the College Magazine a paper on some of my reminiscences of K.W.C. was recalled to my memory by the receipt of the October number of the Barrovran. But Canon Wilson's exceedingly interesting-though, I am afraid I must say, not altogether pleasant-account of the College in his day makes me doubt whether my article will be worth the trouble of setting it up in type. Certainly after Canon Wilson's experiences mine are but moonshine unto sunlight, and as water unto wine. But perhaps I may be justified by the consideration that my, experiences range over a period which began eleven years after Canon Wilson left College, and carry me on for another eight years. The change in the morale and principles of the boys, taken as a whole, no less than in their sense of duty and honour, seems to have covered as much ground during the short period of eleven years between 1853 and 1864 as similar changes in the public opinion, so far as the aspect in which the community regarded habits of grossness, during the period between the death of George IVth and the end of the Victorian epoch. Canon Wilson's statement that "Eric " gives "a true impress ionist picture" of the school in his early days comes to me with a shock, but I wish to make it clear that this was not so when I arrived at the College. I do not believe that anyone who knew the School at that time would have thought of identifying it as the scene of action of that most unhealthy and detestable of school books.

Well it is time to "cut the cackle and come to the osses" and this brings me to the Liverpool landing stage on some date during the first week of :August, 1864. when I embarked for Douglas on the " Douglas," then the newest, largest and fastest of the fleet of the I.o.M. Steam Packet Co. It may interest some of my readers to know how she compared in tonnage and dimensions with the " Fenena," the only one of the existing fleet with which she is at all comparable. Premising that the "Douglas" was a: paddle boat while the "Feneila" is a twin screw, the figures are Length D.. 227 ft. ; F. 200 ft. ; Gross tonnage, D. 709 ; F. 518 ; Nominal H.P., D. 250 F. 154.

On my first trip across we had a fast passage for that date about five hours. Since the war the Company has taken to buying or chartering boats instead of build´ng them and con sequerntiy the continually increasing rate of speed as each new boat came along has not been kept up.As far as my observation goes-and I lived for a month at the Fort Anne hotel duringo last summer-the L.M. & S. Ra´lway Co's steamer "Minevia " is the fastest boat now running (in summer only') into Douglas. In my day, right to the end of my time, the summer holidays began about June 20th, and lasted until about the end of the first week in August; the Christmas holidays were from about December 20th till about January 25th. Boys who did not live on the Island went home only twice a year, but we had a week at Easter and three or four days at Michaelmas. It must be remembered that communication with the mainland was by no means as easy or comfortable as it is now. Except 1by occasional boats from Liverpool or Whitehaven to Ramsey, and later on by means of the Silloth boat, all traffic was from Liverpool to Douglas only. and even in summer the service was restricted to three times a week each way. The boat left Liverpool at 1 p.m., and the mails were taken on to Castletown by mail cart from the Post Office at Douglas, which was then in Athol Street. The driver was accoutred as his prototype was in " Dick Turpin's Ride to York," and carried a post horn and, I believe, a gun. If so it did not prevent his being murdered one night, but I do not remember the circumstances of the case. As a rule we used to hear his horn about nine o'clock. and the letters were delivered soon after from Kinvig's shop in Arbory Street.

I had been shipped from Liverpool in good order and condition but had not experienced a very happy time on the crossing. I was very glad to hear the Fort Anne gun and to get to land on the Red Pier at Douglas. I was met by Mr. Davidson, in whose house on the Green I was to spend the next eight years (during term time), and quickly recovered my normal condition as the result of an excellent tea at the old Royal Hotel. I ought to explain that I had arrived two days before the rest of the returning boys as my mother wished Mr. Davidson to be specially interested in me. and I believe had given him all sorts of special instructoins as to my health, which I am thankful to say has always been of the best, a fact which I have always thought to be due, in some measure at least, to Manx air. Certainly to this day I feel fitter when in the Island than anywhere else except possibly the Highlands of Scotland.

There were fifteen of us at Davidson's. I was the youngest though not, I think. the smallest boy. The school hours were as in Canon Wilson's day : 9 to 12 and 2 to 5, with half holidays on Wednesday and Saturday; and so they remained all the time I was at the College. The food we got was plain but good and ample. There was certainly nothing to complain of in this respect, gauged by the standard of public schools in 1864, and, mirabile dictu, I never did hear a boy complain of it For breakfast at 8 o'clock we had unlimited bread and butter and either a rasher of bacon or a herring. I think the latter on occasions only ran to half a herring for the small boys, and in winter it was of course salt, and very salt at that. Dinner was at 1-15 p.m. and we always had hot meat of some sort. Tea (bread and butter only) was at 6 p.m. and then came prep. at 7. Prayers were read by Mr. David son at 7-45 a.m. and 9 p. m. and after the latter there was milk and a limited amount of bread andbutter. There were two rooms used as studies for the four boys highest in the school, and here by special parental request my state of health was found to be such as to require half a bottle of Guinness for supper. At least one other boy was found to be in the same parlous condition and to require similar treatment.

Dr. Dixon was Principal during the first year and a half of my school life, but as I was living out of College and never got near the second class (the lowest which came before him, I never had anything to do with him personally). The general arrangement of the class rooms was much the same as described by Canon Wilson, but I don't remember whether their number was eight or nine. The sixth, seventh and eighth were taught in what was then called the lower schoolroom, contiguous to the Principal's House, from which, however, there was no direct access, except through the Upper schoolroom underneath.

The Rev. Gilmour Harvey (afterwards Vicar of Santon) was head of the Lower School and himself taught the seventh and eighth classes. He was a kind-hearted, jovial man, quite admirable with the small boys, and a great favourite with all of us. He was the Master of the School House and consequently had charge of the domestic morals and manners of the majority of the boys. The Principal had a few in-boarders, less than ten, I think, and the out-boarders consisted of Davidson's and Pleignier's houses, the former on the front Green, the latter on the back Green. I began in the sixth class, the master of which-whatever his accomplishments may have been-was hopelessly incapable of conveying them to anyone. He was an amiable gentleman but not one of the people who count in this world whether for good or for evil. He was however most unwillingly the hero of an incident which is perhaps worth recording as though he cannot be said to have "left a name at which the world grew pale " he certainly helped " to point a moral and adorn a tale." In these almost pre-historic days there was only one pier at Douglas where steamers could land the old Red Pier. As this pier dries (except for the river water) soon after half tide it was of course necessary to suit the sailings of the boats accordingly. The boat from Liverpool always left at the same time, and we took our chance of having to land in small boats. When we were going home for the Christmas holidays in December, 1864 (I think) the boat was timed to start at 1 a.m. It happened to be extremely foggy when we got to Douglas and great care had to be exercised in going aboard. This was successfully accomplished by all the boys and by all the masters except the master of the sixth class. He always wore a pair of glasses of unusual size, and with their help he managed to discern a railing leading to the boat. Carrying a bag in one hand he no doubt reflected that one railing was as much as he could make use of for the moment and apparently thought that it was of no consequence whether he approached it from the outer or the inner side. At all events he descended into space, plunging bag and all into the cold invisible water. None of the boys ever saw him again ! This doesn't mean that he was drowned, for he was harpooned by a sailor who was standing by handy, and rescued in a condition which must have been a sight for gods and men. But we had all gone below before the occurrence, and he never returned to the College. The question as to whether a new pier should be built to accommodate traffic at all times of the tide had been under discussion and the partial drowning of a K.W.C. master was made full use of by some of the Manx papers which had been urging the Harbour Board to carry out the work. From the time of its accomplishment, coupled with the building of the Loch, and other promenades, may be dated the transform ation of Douglas from a primitive, but picturesque village with a few interesting buildings and unrivalled natural beauty into a watering place reminiscent of characteristics attributed to Ceylon by Bishop Heber.

The Head of the School at this time was Thomas Wortley Drury, son of the Rev. W. Drury, Vicar of Braddan, and himself in after life Bishop successively to Sodor and Man, and of Ripon, and now Master of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge. He is without doubt one of the most eminent of the Old Boys of my day. The Barrovian of October last contains the obituary notice of Brigadier-General H. A. Abbott, whom I well remember as a fine specimen of what a schoolboy of fifteen or sixteen should be both from the physical and the ethical point of view. He was one of our best footballers. Compared with the School sports of to-day our efforts were primitive, but ,we played theta with energy and great enjoyment. Probably we enjoyed them all the more because they were not compulsory. The out day boys (i.e. those living at their homes in the neigh bourhood of the College) took little part in them, but amongst the rest of the School there was an esprit de corps which left little room for shirkers. We had no Games Master, no cricket pro. and till near the end of my time no attempt at a pavilion of any sort. In the latter respect we never had anything better than the shed which still stands on the upper part of the field. The first eleven cricket pitches were occasionally repaired to some extent by Cottier, Dr. Dixon's out-door servant, but it will readily be understood that we never played on anything approaching a first class pitch, and that our scores were always small. I do not remember a century being made at any time during my stay, at College, nor do I remember ever missing a match in which I was entitled to play. It was of course very difficult for us to ;et a match, but we occasionally got a visit from second-rate Liverpool suburban teams whom we played with very even results. And the Rev. Edward Ferrier then Chaplain of St. Mary's, sometimes got up a Castletown team made up of then who, like himself, had been good cricketers in their day ; and others who were unselfish enough to help to make up the side without any obvious probability of spending the day otherwise than as pursuers of the ball or spectators on the bank. But the best matches I ever played in at College were against a team mostly composed of Cambridge cricketers (I don't mean Blues) under the captaincy of Mr. (now Canon) I. M. Wilson. Mr. Wilson was a medium paced bowler of no small renown-he was a bit too good for most of us. These matches were, I think, in my last year, I was near the top of the eleven and it was always my duty to so in first. I remember on one occasion I had a most uncomfortable time of it having to play Mr. Wilson on a wicket that seemed to me and my colleagues worse than usual. Shooters were frequent on the college ground in those days, and Mr. Wilson was scientifically mixing them up with bumpers and breakers. I managed to hold out longer than most of the side, and before the inevitable end came I had made something over twenty runs, and I felt uncommonly proud of myself under the conditions. The score sheet showed an almost unbroken line of " b. Wilson."

Our Football was somewhat eccentric. I do not think the Rugby Union existed in those days, if it did its fame had not reached the College. The game we played I am sure we had not heard with our ears, but probably our fathers had told us. Carrying the ball was not allowed (and yet we thought we were playing Rugby!) it had to be bounced on the ground as you ran along. The inevitable consequence of course was that when you had to get past an adversary and he was too big or heavy to be charged down you did carry the ball, and so disputes perpetually arose as ruight naturally be expected. The end of it was tftat in my second or third year we forgot what our fathers had told us and permitted carrying. The Rugby Union was, I think, founded about this time, and probably we adopted their rules.

The great match of the year was called " Manx and Irish," i.e. the boys of these nations against tae " English and Scotch." In my early years the proportion of Irish, and I think also of Manx, boys was much larger than in later days, and the Manx and Irish had none the worse of the game, especially as their ranks included some of the biggest boys in the school. These particular games were always played by the whole school, not by picked sides, these latter games were fifteen. a side. There was also the annual " Manx and Irish" cricket match. These national games whether at cricket or football always gave rise to very keen games with a sometimes undue amount of esprit de corps. Hand fives was played sometimes but I didn't care much about it and generally found something better to do.

The sports were, of course, a great event in which I competed annually for all sorts of prizes which I had no earthly chance of winning. I did, however, sometimes win a prize, and I remember carrying one off by a most delightful fluke. The hurdles were supposed to lie between two boys who were about level on form and each of them distinctly better than myself. When we tool: the last hurdle I must have been three feet behind, but in the run in the others cannoned rather violently with the result that each took a bad toss, and I walked in ! 1iv way of interesting Mr. Colbourne I should like him to know that I once won the High jump at College, but having since seen him win the same, event for Cambridge in the Varsity sports at Lillie Bridge, I don't propose to go into further particulars. One of the incidents connected with the Sports was the visit of the Athletic Committee to Douglas by way of purchasing the prizes. The sum of money raked in by the Committee was at our disposal and the list of prizes to be awarded was also before us, so all we had to do was to charter an outside car and drive off to Douglas for the day, returning with our spoil. I always hoped that other members of the Committee knew more of the value and purchase price of opera glasses, butter dishes, sailors' knives, tie pins, fishing rods ethoc genres orane than I did myself, for except where cricket apparatus was concerned I must have been a particularly useless special commissioner.

Bathing was not, as I think it ought to have been, compulsory, except of course for reasons of health. As our only authorised bath was the adjacent portion of Castletown Bar I dare say my opinion on this point is quite wrong, but having myself on at least two occasions owed my life to the fact that I was a tolerably good swimmer, entirely due to my never having lost an oupwinnity of bathing when at College, I wish that all other boys had had the same opportunity, as I had myself. No one taught us to swim, but I do not think any of us who wanted to teach our selves had any difficulty in doing so. Apart from very exceptional cases instruction by ., professional or by a first class amateur cricketer is necessary to produce another first class cricketer, but this is not the case with swimming, other than trick performances. Some of the more enthusiastic of us used occasionally to treat ourselves to unrecognised swims at Fort Island or Scarlett. We never had rowing of any sort at College, but at one time one of the junior masters who had come straight from Oxford where he had helped his College boat to go head of the river, being full of enthusiasm actually induced three other masters to join him in navigating a light four on the uncertain waters of the neighbouring seas. This was really a remarkable feat, and shows what can be done by energy and enthusiasm, for I do not think that three out of the four ever got any real pleasure out of this not very safe performance. As probably this was a unique event I think the names of the argonauts deserve to be recorded in print. They were:--Edwards (Jesus, Ox.) Bow; Metcalfe (Christs, Cam.); Garside ; Stoker (Pembroke, Ox.) Stroke. Stoker was a first rate oar, and the fact that none of the others ever fell out of the boat did great credit to his coaching, on which he spared no pains or energy, nor, so said rumour, language adequate to the occasion. The boat was never seen again after the end of the half. What really happened to it I cannot say, but there were dark rumours of its having been scuttled by three of the crew while Stroke was umpiring in a football match.

During the Easter holidays Mr. Davidson used to take his own boarders a couple of picnics to different places of interest in the Island such as Glen Maye and Glen Helen, then called by its Manx name Rhenass. These picnics were much enjoyed and showed one that there were things worth seeing in the Island not limited to the parish of Malew.

I remember the Duke of Edinburgh paying a visit to the Island on one occasion. Why lie came, whence he arrived, and whither he was going have quite faded from my memory, if indeed I ever knew, but I well remember his landing at Port Erin from one of the smaller ships of the Royal Navy in which he held a commission at the time. The Duke did not come to the College, but a select contingent of boys of various ages went to greet him on his arrival. and I remember we came back very proud of the fact that the Duke had shaken hands with every one of us.

There was one master at the College in my day, who I daresay was known to some of the boys even of the present day, for he only died about three years ago, and had settled in Castletown after he had retired from teaching many generations of boys, elementary, or if they were capable of absorbing it, advanced French. Now the attitude of my mind towards Mr. Pleignier was very different in later years from what it had been at the College. He was a very able man and like some other able men I have known he most emphatically did not suffer fools gladly. To the small boy who knew little French and who had omitted to master the little he was supposed to know, he was indeed a holy terror. A curious form of illness, unknown I believe outside the College and its precincts, attacked the lower School, different classes being liable to it on different days of the week, my class, I remember, being afflicted by the malady on Tuesdays and Fridays. At last some House Master, reputed to have spent sleepless nights over the problem, discovered that this mysterious disease only attacked boys who had to face the French Master on that particular day. The nuisance to the House Master of having three or four boys in bed with nothing to do but to get into mischief may easily be imagined, and stern measures had to be adopted to cope with it. I believe a day's diet of arrowroot et preterea nihil proved efficacious. Personally I was on excellent terms with Mr. Pleignier as I had had the great advantage of six months at a preparatory school in Switzerland before going to College. In after life I learned to appreciate Mr. Pleignier at his proper value. He was not only a very able man, as I have said, but was also cultivated and -widely read, and a most interesting companion.

At Christmas 1865, when I had been eighteen months at the College, Dr. Dixon retired to take the vicarge of St. Matthew's, Rugby. He was succeeded as Principal by Dr. Joshua Jones (better known to later generations as Hughes-Games). Dr. Jones was a D.C.L. of Oxford, and an eminent mathematical scholar, having taken both the senior and junior Mathematical Scholarship (University not College Scholarships) while at Oxford. Dr. Jones's installation as Principal brought great changes with it. The School emerged from the interesting but archaic days when those of us who were beginning to learn Greek had to learn it from a Latin text book compiled, I remember, by Dr. Christopher Wordsworth. then Bishop of Lincoln. As far as I could judge Dr. Wordsworth had not endeavoured to lighten the task of a boy of ten called upon to employ Latin of which he knew little, as a medium of trans lating Greek, of which he knew nothing. My Greek didn't flourish much but as all my other class mates were in the same position and the master who taught us didn't seem to mind I am driven to the conclusion that the master (whose name I can't remember) was probably in much the same difficulty himself. Dr. Jones changed all this. and we, or some of us, got on with our Greek. Gas was introduced in place of the candles which, with sporadic oil lamps, formed our only means of illumination.

Instead of classes running upwards from nine to one we had forms running upwards from one to six, adapting our habits to those of other public schools. PrŠpositors were instituted, and as might be expected had to run the gauntlet of a good deal of friendly chaff from their contemporaries on making their first appearance in all the stately panoply of an Oxford Commoner's gown. But the chaff soon wore off, the institution caught hold, and the praepositor soon proved himself to be an invaluable liaison officer between masters and boys. No doubt he is so still, but perhaps the value of the institution is less apparent at the - present time than it was when Dr. Jones founded it nearly sixty years ago.

Of the vast number of improvements which have been made at the College during the last fifty years none so impress an old boy of my standing or thereabouts as the beautiful little chapel. When I went to the College the existing chapel was a lofty and (so far as the interior was concerned) barn-like structure occupying the whole of the north wing of the College. The building contained no chancel, no choir, no transept, nor was there any organ, the beauty of holiness was conspicuously absent. Such a building was incapable of improvement from the aesthetic point of view except at a cost which would have far exceeded its value when completed. But from the utilitarian point of view something might be done with it and Dr. Jones did it. He wanted some new class rooms and a few studies and he got them by raising the chapel floor half the height of its walls or thereabouts. This was ingenious and effective, for the chapel though much less lofty, provided the same accom odation as before, and room was found for the new class rooms beneath. And so the chapel remained after my time. One improvement was however made in my day. The old pitch-pipe with which Drury, choirmaster as well as Head of the School, used to indicate the key of the hymn about to be sung, was not an instrument primarily designed to inculcate religious feelings in the juvenile breast, and it sometimes required all the paulo post futurum influence of two Bishops and the Master of a Cambridge College, in addition to the presence of the Head of the School and the Choirmaster, to insure that the hymn should proceed in decency and order. So the pitch-pipe was condemned, and a small organ of sorts (my ignorance of the history and tastes of St. Cecilia prevents my giving it its proper name) was substituted. While on the subject of the chapel I should like to ask who is responsible for the outrage involved in placing the present chapel in its existing position ? I don't think it necessary to say what I think about it as I feel sure everyone else agrees with me and shares my shudders. Excluding the two cathedrals on Peel Island, and giving due credit to Peel Church and St. Ninian's, Douglas, there is, in my opinion, only one church on the Island, Braddan Church, which can be placed on the same level of beauty and interest as the College Chapel.

Dr. Jones had come from being Head Master of the Liverpool Institute, and his advent brought with it a considerable number of Liverpool, and presently of Manchester boys. The number of Irish boys, and the proportion of Manx boys to the total, diminished as the actual total of the school increased. When I went to K.W.C. the total number of boys was barely one hundred, when I left it was over two hundred and twenty-the largest number up to date. The new buildings were few, the only considerable one I can remember being the gymnasium. During the whole time I was at the College I cannot remember learning anything but Latin, Greek and Mathematics, with a little French in my early days. No doubt I must have learnt some English History and Geography when I was a small boy, but I am sure I never learnt any English grammar and was never called upon to parse an English sentence. Probably I couldn't do so now, but I am not aware that this neglect of my early education has ever led to disastrous results. My theory is that if a boy, learns (I don't mean goes through the form of learning) Latin grammar he must willy nilly learn English grammar at the same time, and if he can write Latin prose decently he will also be able to write English prose well. There were no facilities for learning any branch of science, except in its most rudimentary stages, but this was no loss to me, being then and since entirely devoted to classics.

During the whole of my, life at K.W.C., the Governor of the Island, and Chairman of the College Trustees. was Sir Henry Brougham Loch, K.C.B., a man of commanding personality and marked capacity, for the government of his fellow men. At that time certain of the higher insular courts were held at Castle Rushen, and on one occasion I found my way into Court while a murder trial was in progress before the Governor and Deemsters. I was greatly struck by the Governor's personal appearance and demeanour, and the ability he showed, though not a trained lawyer, in trying the case. It might have been thought that the First Deemster, Sir William Drinkwater, or the Attorney General, Sir James Gell, who was prosecutor, both of them men of great capacity and influence might in some degree have overshadowed a lay Governor, but it was obvious to everyone in Court, including the prisoner, who was the master of the situation. The Governor missed no points, either for or against the prisoner, in an equitable summing up, and the jury acquitted the prisoner. Sir Henry Loch, though not, I think, of more than average height, had a massive frame, a full beard and " an eye like Mars to threaten and command." He after wards found a post more suited to his capacity as Governor of the Cape.

There were no senior wranglers or senior classics or boys of the like appalling ability during my time, but I left College with a large stock of warm friends of the right sort, who like myself owed a large debt to K.W.C. for the training they had received, and the influences they had imbibed at their old School.

Among the old boys who on more than one occasion came from Oxford to examine the upper forms was the Rev. Thomas Fowler, of Lincoln College, afterwards President of Corpus. He was many years older than myself and indeed belongs more to my Oxford than to my school days. But the fact that he had examined me at K.W.C. and that I came from his old school, gave him a special interest in me when I went up to Christ Church, and I owe much to his kindness of heart and friendly advice and sympathy. He was the most genial and good natured of men, and was known to all Oxford as "Tommy Fowler." I wish the College would send up a few more like him to Oxford, but I am sorry to notice that nearly all K.W.C. boys now seem to prefer Cambridge, In my day the numbers were about equal, I think, with perhaps a slight majority at Oxford.

More than half of the fifty-two years which have elapsed since I have left the School have seen me pay brief visits to the Island. but between 1872 and 1924 I had never been able to get to a Prize Day. These functions used to be held in the big schoolroom, and I must confess that sitting in that familiar atmosphere with my fellows inspired me with a warmth of feelings which I found it difficult to recall when present as an Old Boy in the cooler atmosphere of the Gymnasium. This may have been due to the weather, which was atrocious, though very familiar, but I think it was the absence of the genius loci. All the Trustees were of course new to me, but I recognised in the First Deemster a contemporary of mine at school, and, as I remember, an excellent mathematician. The Trustees by the way seem to be much more open-handed, or perhaps more opulent than they were in my day. At all events I think the greatest credit is due to them for the very great improvement they have made in the buildings and equipment of the old College.

The Old Boys' Dinner was a most delightful experience and I should like to thank Canon Owen and those who helped him for the great pleasure which their thoughtful arrangements gave to the large company, and not least to the oldest boy present.



Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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