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Long Live Patina! By Peter Stringer

From: STRINGER
Subject: 1943-47

An experience every youth entering a boarding institution carries for life. My entrance to Bishop Cotton Preparatory School, Chota Simla (1943) was alone and with tear filled trepidation. I had never slept in a warm flannel night suit in all of my 10 years. Spellbound and lonely I stood like a statute on the edge of the sports playground gazing with moistened eyes as some bigger boys kicking a football around the goal mouth against the stone wall on the opposite side. It was cold and turning to dusk and, must have been after the awful supper. Hunger soon got me used to the grub another new expression I learnt!!
The passage of time does erode many hapless memories but the outstanding contrast of ones very own investiture as a border is so shocking that it presents remarkable guts; an abiding staunch character for such a school boy. Masters and teachers suddenly and effectively take on a new roll, one of strict parent, or dominating relative or understanding loving guardian. We soon learnt discipline, schooled in manners and rules of the establishment. A remarkable, observation was the few Indian borders of varying beliefs quite readily, without objection, accepted Christian doctrine and the European way of life. Leaving me with an inspiring lesson to coexist from which I have benefited throughout my life. (Having visited the school on some occasions in recent years I have thankfully acknowledged many old tradition still exist; perhaps to a lesser degree, to the school’s credible distinction in modern India.)
Often at evening time, at the very edge of the playing field facing the South Western horizon I would stand with thoughts of home. Sunsets brought on melancholy as I watched some of the most spectacular changes of sky and cloud formation and coloured hues that artists would find divine and difficult to re-produce. Adding to the beautiful panorama the four seasons gave more distinct appeal and richness. Now much later in life each time I have returned to our Dear Patina, I begin to realize how extremely fortunate we pupils were to be given an education in such enchanting surroundings.
My memory has not failed to list all this and starting in Form Lower II, Mr. Fred Brown was class master. We respectfully obeyed and feared him then but I began to love and admire the dear man in later years, finally meeting him in London many, many years later. Sadly now he has joined his Maker. Our House Mistress was Miss Cunningham: over 60 years on and I am still reminded of her sensual good looks and charm.
From the Main School, Headmaster Cannon Sinker’s wife, a very artistic, gentle mild and polite mannered lady would walk up hill to take classes of Scripture and Art. I excelled in both and was among her favourite pupils.
Mrs. Sinker RA. took keen interest in artistic talent and always encouraged me to use mine fully
1945 After the defeat of Germany and ending the war in Europe, I was pleasantly surprised. Now in the main School, sitting in class at my school desk in Form III B, I watched a smartly dressed man in soldier’s uniform march across the First (playground) towards the Administrative Offices. A dark beret covered his head as his shiny boots crunched the gravel, all eyes near the large bay windows turned left to peak. Shortly after the school period bell rang for the morning first break. Before I could leave the classroom I was summoned to the Headmaster’s Lodge. Puzzled as to why? I made my way with mixed alarm, still unaware as to what awaited me. How very strange to meet my brother John, as well stood outside the Headmaster’s study door. Gosh! This must be serious, could we both be in trouble was my initial thought. My mind raced on random in thought as we murmured to each other when suddenly we were ushered in. Helpless with relief, shocked with delight – It was brother Wilfred the smart REME corporal, head beret off sitting in a chair chatting to ‘Bogla’, Mr. Sinker’s nick name. Yes we had won the war and my Big Brother had fought in it and he was safely back, and I was damned proud! We showed him to our dormitories and around the school and introduced him to our chums.
Changes, changes as school life prepared us for what the future would bring. Or as scouts we were taught, “Be prepared, be prepared – Shout, shout Third class, Second class First Class Scout!” “Dib! Dib!” And stories we were told sitting round campfires at Consul Rock above campus among the pines and other boys spending camp life at Taradavi, on the opposite lower mountain range facing the School. Taradavi was a hillside station on the railway line up from the plains. Kalka was the railhead junction where the broad-line rail terminated at the foothills. The winding narrow gauge, steam train then pulled us up to Simla, (the summer capital of the British seat of Indian Government prior to partition).
Archbishop of India, Burma and Ceylon – George Edward Lynch Cotton was the Founder of Bishop Cotton School, Simla East – we were told in 1859. He had served as the promising young master under Doctor Thomas Arnold at Rugby School, (as legend has written in Tom Brown’s Schooldays); later transferred to Marlborough College (Wiltshire). As College Head with distinction he redeemed the neglected near bankrupt Institution. This led to a royal command – Queen Victoria despatched him to India after the Mutiny on a mission of thanksgiving. With money collected from a ceremonial church service in St Pauls Cathedral Calcutta he explored the Simla hills. Aided with a grant from government initially premises were founded on a lower mountain range at Jatogh – 28th July 1859.

We are told as this development gained good recognition the location became inadequate and was moved to its present site at Knollswood hilly spur near the tiny village of Patina, below Simla and Chota-Simla. In keeping with the royal consent, to my knowledge, the Viceroys were automatically patrons of my dear Alma Mater. I witnessed our Speech Days celebrations Chief Guests like Lord Wavell and Louis Mountbattern of Burma as he signed in my autograph book in green ink, and some thief robbed from me.

The full School year lasted nine months, as did other boarding schools scattered along the foothills across the mighty Himalayas from Murree (now Pakistan) in the west to Darjeeling in the east. Our School stands to the south and east of Simla located 31*6’ N latitude and 77*13’ E longitude approximately 7000 feet above sea level and 60 miles by road from Kalka.
The nine months – middle March to middle December was divided into three terms. Opening with the hockey season, followed by cricket and ending with boxing, football and the final year-ending examinations. More meaningful to us younger hungry souls was the December House– treats or as we called them ‘JHUG-DAY CHEWS’ held in our dormitories. Catered and brought in from Simla delicious Indian curries, rices, chapatis and fare. Finally next night senior boys would stage their own productions, in the Irwin Hall. Poetry, songs, plays and short sketches, sometimes ridiculous observations of School life and masters’ eccentric behaviour to a riotous audience. Three more sporting events, due to a shorter duration I cannot remember when they exactly fitted in, were the marathon during the monsoons and the swimming finals as well. I think the athletic Sports Day was held just after the monsoons finished. The Indian Monsoon blown in from the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean usually reached after the middle of June, sometimes late, but never earlier. It started with thunder and flashing lightening of every description drenching the hilly pine-forest ranges till late September and early October.
I also recall our Founder’s Speech Day and Prize Giving fell on the Saturday nearest the 28th July. This was usually well attended by parents and visitors. The chief guest was the incumbent Viceroy or Governor General in this case Mountbatten (1947). After the dignitaries arrived to a formal welcome by the Headmaster, Teaching staff and us boys, they were seated and we were stood in rows placed in front of the main building for the annual School photograph. These heads of government official residence was Viceregal Lodge, Summer Hill across the valley to the west of Simla. Then followed a high tea before we were all ushered into the Irwin Hall. I was also a Treble (terrible) and later an Alto in the School Choir. I missed being with my brother John in the Special Messiah Choir that recorded for All India Radio singing specially Handle’s Alleluia Chorus at Christmas time. Bishop Cotton School was often referred to as Eton of the East, many attributes written in Indian National and International newspapers and magazines.
We have a very proud and unique heritage and have celebrated the 150th Founder’s Year in 2009.
Among the students past were many young princes from the small Indian Principalities, sons of Indian chiefdoms and dignitaries and boys whose fathers served in the armed forces and all other walks of life. We had boys from China, Tibet, Bhutan, Assam and Burma and the Far East and East African Territories and from the British Isles. We had one or two American boys and from France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. From this august centre came forth some very renowned persona scattered even now all over the globe. Many in the roll of honour gave the ultimate sacrifice in both World Wars.
I was a very average pupil, only remembering a combination of statistics. I failed my Junior Cambridge certificate (’47). Played in the Colts Cricket Team, taking five wickets against Sanawar (’46). DLT! Mr. Thompson was my Housemaster (Lefroy), Coach in cricket and taught us Art and Geography in which I excelled with his encouragement. DLT himself was an Old Cottonian and was Captain of School in 1937. 1947 I had been moved up from Lefroy House B dormitory to A. AC Chopra was my classmate and best friend and he really taught me to play Ping-Pong (table tennis). Practice under his tutorship I competed and was closely defeated against my House Captain Fred Plunkett in house tournament.
ACC’s father was a doctor in Calcutta. Sadly we never got to meet after leaving school. He joined the Indian Navy and became a ship’s Captain and I had heard he met an untimely death on a street in Bombay.
The School followed the same English tradition and about the same period, dividing the pupils into four schoolhouses – RIVAZ (Cambridge blue), Ibbetson (Oxford blue): these two were our School Colours – Lefroy (Leaf green- my house) and Curzon (red). During my years in Main School we had roughly a total of 260 to 280 borders with about 8 to 10 day scholars.
The classes ran from Form lllA&B, 1V Form, Remove, Shell (Junior Cambridge), V Form, V1 Form (Senior Cambridge) Upper V1 (Preparation for college). The school was run by 11 School Prefects (one as School Captain) and helped by senior House Prefects. This was a good sound regime overseer smoothly by the four House Masters and Senior Master and then finally the Headmaster.
Discipline was keenly followed and any misbehaviour was swiftly dealt with in order of seriousness. Minor cases were monitored at house prefect level – punished with writing lines, detention or menial jobs. Fetching balls from the khudside hit or kicked over, cleaning or scrubbing staircases or polishing. Serious cases dealt by School prefect or School Captain, caning on the backside – three, four or six cuts, and oh boy did it hurt! Very serious – House or Senior Master and maybe referred onto the Headmaster, and then you were for the ‘high jumps’.
School Captains were very reasonable fellows. They played a great part in the school function, connecting boys with masters and teachers. During the torrential monsoon rains the weather would sometimes be truly dreadful. We would not see the sun for weeks. Suddenly after a heavy rainstorm the skies would clear and the clouds, white and thick, would fall into the surrounding valleys and we would be treated to a miracle fantasy like sitting on top of the world – cloud nine! This was when a good School Captain exercised good relations and influence with the Headmaster to grant us a sunshine holiday. Gosh a loud cheer of desperate relief would echo round the school and at once energies went into like a domestic overdrive. We would air our bedding and clothes and shoes, cleaning off the mildew and tiding up. Massage our aching leg mussels from practising the marathon or catching up on lost time in class. The evening would soon come and we would be back to normal with Prep after supper and then bed and lights-out at 9pm.
Rouser next morning was at 6:30 herald from the bell-shed; the Guntee-wallah (bell ringer and timekeeper) tapping the thick brass disc about 20” diameter, first rapid and gently slowly increasing the striking louder for a whole near minute with the final few stokes ‘dong-dong! Out of bed and on with the gym kit; a splash of water to wake you up and down for a slice of buttered bread and mug of sweet tea in the dining hall. Run down onto the main Second Flat playing field, sunshine or rain, in line with your housemates.
‘Dunda’ Hawkes our PT Instructor – ex-Sargent-major and over 60years old was a true veteran if ever there was one. Built solid and square and muscles the envy of all us young aspiring hopefuls. He was tough with a heart of gold and a rasping loud voice that took us through our morning exercises. Even on cold winter mornings he would appear, smiling in a singlet-vest and long cream-flannels, with his cane under his left arm and sometimes with his brown terrier dog Sally

Saturdays and Sundays we had no PT. I do recall Saturday morning dormitory inspection. Our beds neat covered with a red blanket and well tucked in. A clean towel stretched covered over the foot end with our toiletries on open display. The bed’s bottom sheet, pillowcase, dirty towel and soil underwear, cotton shirt and short-pants bundled ready for the dhobi (laundry collected from the boxroom) downstairs. The whole School attended daily morning Chapel Service after breakfast was a must. Matins Communion for senior boys, only, on Sunday mornings but Sunday Evening Song was for everyone.
Yes! As the midnight hour approached that fateful August day of the year 1947 when the Imperial Raj was split asunder and the formation of INDIA and PAKISTAN as two independent nations were formed. This indubitably signalled the demise of rule and an end of colonial empire, on which the sun never set, as history had taught us, was now destined to abdicate from all responsible authority.
The School’s thriving great history was dealt a mortal blow. Within a few weeks Boys, Staff and Servants whose family and connection were affiliated to the new found country across the border in the Punjab were separated and sent home- to Pakistan. Each one of us remaining underwent much sadness, for some the grief was greater, to know we were parted from our dearest chums forever. In boyish wonder, question why – completely unaware of the political forces at work, undermining the integral Indian peninsular. Even though now many of us are scattered across the globe today those cherished school days still evoke warmth and friendship, having formed School Association chapters in many countries. How truly amazing through this fraternity I have met six old boys from Pakistan who were removed from BCS, and to this day remain in contact.

Still recalling that favourite prayer as it would begin –
When the shadows lengthen and evening comes, the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life over and our work done

In the late evening of my own life these memories are cherished and are mindful as if of yesterday.
BLESS DEAR PATINA

Peter Stringer

Spotlight story : Humayun Khan [Rivaz 1941-1947]

imageHumayun Khan was born in 1932 to a Pashto-Hindko speaking family in Abbottabad, Hazara Division in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). His father was a District and Sessions Judge at the judicial commissioner’s court in NWFP, which is now known as the Peshawar High Court, and his mother was a homemaker. Mr. Khan’s paternal family is from the Yousafzai Clan, hailing from the village of Amazogray in Mardan. They were landlords with ownership of over two hundred acres of lands in the village that depended on wells and rainwater irrigation systems for harvesting wheat. Mr. Khan’s maternal ancestors hail from Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. They were traders engaged in businesses with merchants from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Mr. Khan spent his early years of upbringing in Peshawar with two elder brothers and two younger sisters, and at age seven, he was sent to boarding school at Murree where he studied for two years. In 1941, he was enrolled at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla where he studied until Partition. Recalling life at the boarding school, Mr. Khan says that there were about two hundred boys from all faiths and backgrounds. “It was considered one of the best public schools. There was a great emphasis on teachings of morals and ethics like fair-play, being truthful, and self-sufficiency. I was always a good student and used to be first in the class,” recounts Mr. Khan. He was also an avid cricket player and competed on the school’s team. “We’d study in school for nine months out of the year and then be with our families. There was no such thing as discrimination in our school. We were never looked upon each other as anything but fellow classmates,” Mr. Khan recalls.

Speaking of his experiences at home during the holidays, Mr. Khan mentions that he enjoyed the traditional Peshawari way of life, including the food bazaars and the hujra (courtyard). “It used to be a romantic life. We would dine at my grandmother’s house, where she used to have these stoves on the ground. She would sit on a low stool all day and cook for the entire family. We never used knives or forks on the table,” he says. Mr. Khan spoke Pashto and Hindko at home.

At the time of Partition, Mr. Khan was at school in Shimla. “On June 3, 1947, all the senior boys were invited to the house of the senior master to listen to the broadcast on the radio, where Jinnah, Nehru and Baldev Singh spoke. We were so out of touch with reality there — we really didn’t take much interest in it. When the trouble started we remained unaware of it. We heard about riots in Shimla and Punjab but our political knowledge was heavily limited inside the school,” Mr. Khan remembers.

In early October of 1947, Mountbatten visited Shimla and spent one day at the Bishop Cotton School, as Mr. Khan remembers. “At lunch, the headmaster told him that he had 40 ‘odd’ boys who ought to be in Pakistan. Mountbatten advised to let those boys stay until they complete their studies. However, our parents in Pakistan were extremely worried. Some of them, including mine, were in powerful positions. They approached the then-acting governor of NWFP and urged them to get their children back from Shimla,” Mr. Khan says. In late October, the governor arranged a special convoy comprising of trucks under the supervision of Gurkhas to pick up the boys from Shimla. “We were loaded onto the trucks and taken to the Ambala Cantonment where we spent the night in barracks. The next day, a Dakota airplane was arranged by the governor to pick us from Ambala from where we flew to Lahore, and then Karachi. Some of the boys had families in Lahore and they were reunited with them. Some of them were flown to Karachi. There were seven of us from Peshawar, and we were dropped off at the Lahore airport and picked up by Mr. Leghari, the Commissioner for Refugees.”

Mr. Khan and the other boys stayed at the commissioner’s home for two days and slowly started to understand what was happening. “We didn’t initially realize the danger we faced because everything had always gone so smoothly for us, in our state of isolation. Two of Mr. Leghari’s sisters, who were students at the Auckland Girls High School in Shimla, had also travelled to Lahore, but by car. They had told him in our presence what they had seen on the road — the refugees and the violence. That was my very first impression of what was going on outside the walls of our school,” Mr. Khan recalls.

From Lahore, Mr. Khan and the other boys boarded on a train procured by the commissioner for refugees, and Mr. Khan was eventually reunited with his family at the Peshawar railway station.
“The clashes in Peshawar had died down by the time we arrived. My mother had very close relations with Hindu families. We used to virtually live at each other’s houses. My mother’s best friend was a Hindu lady. When I returned to Peshawar, I found out that they were all gone but had left their valuables — cars, furniture and carpets — with us,” Mr Khan recalls. “Some of the families managed to send representatives to Peshawar from India after Partition, so we were able to give them the belongings. Unfortunately, we’d later heard that these folks were looted at the border,” he says.

Sharing his observations on post-Partition life in Peshawar, Mr. Khan says that behavior patterns of the middle class remained very “English” for several years after their departure. “Even though there were very few Englishman left, the clubs and the cinemas kept going for several years after Partition and so did the civil structures — only now they were managed by Pakistani posts. We didn’t really find much of a difference in life. The roads and neighborhoods were safe. As boys, we used to go to the cinemas on bicycles at night. We did not live in any fear of being harmed,” Mr. Khan says.

Mr. Khan continued studying for his bachelor’s degree at Lawrence College, and then at the Edwardes College in Peshawar for one year. In 1950, Mr. Khan went on to study economics and law in the Trinity College in Cambridge, graduating with honors in 1953. His degree was later converted into a master’s degree, and in 1954, Mr. Khan joined the Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister of law. “I had dreams of being a successful lawyer but my complete lack of knowledge of reading legal documents in Urdu held me back,” he says. “At the Bishop Cotton School, we were only taught lower Urdu [basic alphabets and conversational phrases].”

In 1955, Mr. Khan became an officer with the Central Superior Services of Pakistan for the Frontier Cadre and offered his services for seventeen years in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [Waziristan and Malakand]. After 1971, Mr. Khan, secretary for the North West Frontier Provinces government at the time, was transferred to the foreign services office where he served for another eighteen years, beginning from his posting in Soviet Russia. In 1984, Mr. Khan was sent to India as the Pakistani High Commissioner. “Apart from Shimla, I’d never known India. This was my first chance to discover the country,” he says. He recounts his tenure in India to be the most difficult in the midst of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the resulting violence.

In 1961, Mr. Khan married Munawar Humayun Khan. (Read her story here: http://on.fb.me/21p1DGn They have three daughters. Sharing his thoughts, Mr. Khan offers, “We should…focus on the politics of reconciliation, instead of confrontation.”

This interview was conducted by Story Scholar Fakhra Hassan. The summary above provides a brief glimpse into the full interview. The complete video interview is expected to be public in 2017. Browse more stories on the STORY MAP: http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/browse

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Appropriate written permission has been obtained from 1947partitionarchive.org to reproduce this article and photograph which are Copyright © of 1947 Partition Archive.

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Hamayun Khan was at BCS Simla from 1941 to 1947 in Rivaz House.

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School stories of the 1940s era

School stories  of the 1940 era, by: Peter Maidment. Rivaz 89 years  /  Jim Lee. Curzon 90 years / Dick D’Abreu. Curzon 88 years.

Peter Maidment:-

I have some very precious memories of my years at BCS Simla between 1941 and 1943. I was in Rivaz House when Peter Rollo was House Captain. We became very good friends, so much so that I was relocated to a bed adjoining the Captains cubicle in our dormitory overlooking the tennis courts. Our mutual friends Andy, Ken and Jim would often meet in  the dormitory. Andy and Ken are now deceased, but Jim and I still correspond and talk with Dick D’Abreu (a later mutual friend) on Skype. Jim, Dick and I recently resolved that we had some good cause to be included in the Old Cottonian news that is still forwarded to members past and present, hence this account.

One of the regular incidents that occurred in those halcyon days was the surreptitious and sneaky nocturnal visits to the Pictures after lights out. The four good friends would get dressed up in Indian garb and walk all the way to the City to see the chosen film. On one occasion we were half way to our destination, when coming towards us were two House Masters who somehow recognised we were not the locals. To forestall this surprise discovery I involuntarily spoke a few garbled Hindustani words to make us seem authentic. It so happened that my House Master was one of the staff who recognised me and reprimanded me for setting a bad example as the then House Captain. I was given a firm lecture the next day and promised I would not commit the act again.

Jim Lee:-

As a child being lead along the beach on the back of a pony was the only time I had ever been in a saddle. Pete, Ken and Andy desperately wanted to go horseback riding and persuaded me to join them one weekend. From a stable in Simla we rented the horses, and my request was for a small gentle horse because of my lack of experience. When the groom and his assistant brought the four horses into the courtyard, all saddled up, he walked over to me with an animal that must have been well over 16 hands. It was huge compared to the other three horses. He overcame my protests by telling me, that despite its size, the horse that he had picked for me was an old animal, very gentle, well trained and not a fast runner. My buddies assured me they would walk their horses alongside me to make sure I was alright, which they did until we got to a straight stretch of road known as “Ladies Mile.”It was the only area where a rider could gallop his mount. As we approached Ladies Mile  my friends suggested that I let my hoprse graze on the shoulder of the road while they went around the corner and galloped to the end and back. That was fine with me because I was certainly not comfortable or confident to gallop on ‘the giant’I was astride. Away they went assuring that I would be ok until they returned. Well, it did not quite work out that way. When my horse heard the thunder of galloping hooves it raised its head, put its ears forward, and turned the corner in hot pursuit of the others. I was not prepared for the sudden burst of speed, and tried to stay in the saddle as best I could, pulling down on the reins and calling for help. I didn’t make it. I seemed to slide forward in the saddle and rolled to the ground off the horses neck. The horse stopped and just stood over me. The three ahead heard my desperate cries and turned to help. It was an embarrassing long walk back to school after returning the horses. I was shaken and bruised, but what hurt the most was my pride.

It was 36 years before I mounted another horse, my daughter Jennifer’s horse Quinn, and wouldn’t you know, I was bucked off even before Quinn took a step. After this second indignity I resolved I would confine my horsey activities to feeding the horse and cleaning the barn!.

Dick D’Abreu:-

As Peter in Sydney Australia, Jim in Langley Canada and I in Perth Western Australia chat for an hour once a week on Skype, we thought it would be nice to write a few lines on our interesting and happy days at Bishop Cotton School Simla in the 1940ies era.

From an early age of five years old my parents gave me a horse to ride of which I was able to manage very well. I used to ride the horse to my kindergarten classes on week days before I was sent to BCS as a boarder in 1936 in class Lower 1. My father worked on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway as a senior Interlocking Engineer while we lived in Jhansi. My parents would drum into my sister Grace and myself that they were making big sacrifices to send me to BCS and my sister to Auckland House so as to have the best of education. I took a while to adjust to boarding school in those early days as I could hardly dress myself, or tie up my shoelaces. A very kind servant that cleaned our shoes every morning saw my plight and used to assist me in getting dressed for class every day. Many a time I would cry on his shoulder. It never took me long to make friends, as our PT instructor Baby Hawkes taught me the finer points of boxing. At four stone in weight I was one of the flee weights.

In my latter years in school while in the senior classes I became good friends with Derek Blewett  who also loved horse riding . Together we would go down to the stables at the Lower Bazaar on a Sunday to hire horses which we rode out to Auckland house to visit our sisters.  My pocket money was a generous Rs 3.00  a week, the cost of hiring the horse was 8 Annas for two hours. The rest of the pocket money would be spent on Kurram’s tuck shop to buy peg tops and paper kites. We also used to spend it at Kurram’s sons place adjacent to tuck shop eating samousas and cups of tea. Freddy Brown who was a Cottonian in my early days at school returned after he left school as my Curzon House Master. He was a great person.

One Sunday on our visit to Auckland House on the horses, my horse that was tied up to the bench overlooking the girls playground came loose. It ran on to the playground, despite the girls and teachers chasing it the horse eluded capture. It was over an hour after which I took out some of my gelabbies to eat, (Indian sweets) which I had bought wrapped in brown paper, when to our surprise the horse came trotting up to see what I had. I was able to ride it back to the Lower Bazaar and promise to pay the syce the extra 4 Annas the following  week.

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Editor: Here are some earlier stories by this trio

A Very Old Story

Dear All

My name is D(Dick). F.Q. Bas Backer.

After some searching,I found this website and decided I would send you my story.
I am now 76 years old.

On the 29th of December 1945, together with my parents and my sister, I arrived in Shimla. My father had been appointed to the Netherlands consulate general in Shimla.
In March 1946 I became a pupil at the prep school. The headmaster was Mr. Bruce.
In 1947  I moved to the main school. Rivaz was my house and the dormitory was in the headmaster’s house. During my stay in School I spent a great deal of the time in hospital due to several bouts of dysentery. This was mainly due to the fact that, via London , we came straight from occupied Holland. Because of the change of environment, climate and of course the food  I soon became ill and that often interrupted my stay at school. Nevertheless Shimla has had an enduring influence on the rest of my life.  I remember the early morning when the moslem students were transported to Pakistan. On the first of December my sister and I travelled by train via Kalka to Delhi to join our parents. My father was now secretary at the Netherlands Embassy in Delhi and on the 14th of April 1948 my sister and I returned to the Netherlands.

Ten years ago I returned to BCS. I was shown around by the geography teacher and introduced to the headmaster. Saw my classroom, the dining hall and the chapel (where I was christened).

I have included a rather vague photograph  of Rivaz house in 1948. The housemaster was Mr. Papworth. I expect that most of the persons on the photograph are no more, but there might just be one who can recognise himself. You will find me on the top row, fifth from the left.

[CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE A LARGER VIEW]

Best regards,
D.F.Q. Bas Backer.
Emerson/Rivaz 1946/47

School History and some memories….

Dear Old Cottonians
Recently we sent around an email with a link to the downloadable file “History of Bishop Cotton School, Shimla” – Researched by Colonel (Retd) R. Dewan, Written by Raaja Bhasin with an Introduction by Ruskin Bond. We do hope many of you enjoyed reading it. Old Cottonian Richard [Dick] D’Abreu from Australia wrote back in reply and also sent in a few pictures, appended below.

It was good to read the History of BCS, written up in so much detail. I was able to recall the part written up from 1936 to 1946, the accuracy of which was so precise. In 1937 Allan Fennell was the School Captain. To me at aged 9, I would mistake him for one of the staff, I was in awe of all the school prefects. Fred Brown was a senior student in my time. He was an excellent hockey player and an all round cricketer, and although I was a few years years his junior, I came to know him quite well. He left school in 1939, with his fellow hockey friend Malcolm Petters. Fred then returned as a member of the school staff while I was in Fifth Form. He was first a master at the Prep school for a while, but then, Cannon Sinker transferred him to the senior school. He became my House Master of Curzon when I was a House Prefect. In his single days he became engaged to our Bursa’s daughter Pat Murphy. His living quarters was one end of the Curzon C dormitory. One of his duties was to have the House boys over to his quarters on a Saturday evening. He would often trust me the key to his quarters on Saturday so as I could lock up after the boys left at 9.00pm, while he was out taking his fiancee Pat to the pictures in town. I left school before he married. For a few years while I was in the RAAF in Australia I kept contact with him, but regrettably lost touch when I was with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. Many years later while retired in Perth Western Australia, I met up with Malcolm Petters. He used to ring up his old friend Freddy Brown quite often. I used to go over to Malcolm’s home and chat with Fred also for a while. It was sad when Alzheimer’s got the better of Fred and he could not remember me.

I also recall all the school operas that we sang in under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Priestley …In the opera Trial by Jury, as mentioned in the BCS History the boys took the part of girls in the opera. I was pleased I sang as a Tenor so did not qualify to be a girl. The singing of Handel’s Messiah in Simla in 1943 was a highlight. The photo of the choir is included.

Old man Karam had the tuck shop on the first playing field. His son we called Silly Billy ran the tea shop next door. Rs 2.00 was the maximum pocket money we were allowed each week, in those days it would buy quite a few things. At the end of each term we would have 10 days holiday, for this my parents would allow me Rs 50.00. We would think we were rich.

Mr. Fisher was a senior master that taught us Physics. I think he was also a House Master. When we used to quite often play up in his lab, he would call us out by name and say “Take your books and leave the class..you are only wasting your parents money…all you people realize is the stick… ” He was also in charge of the little photo lab and darkroom where we could go and do our own developing and printing of films. I had a Box Brownie camera of which I took the photo of Simla in 1937.

I would like to also make mention of the end of year House Chews each House would indulge in. Our parents would contribute to a fund which would go towards buying tasty curries and Indian sweets for everyone to enjoy. This feast would take place in the main dormitories of each House. Sometimes I wish I could wind back the clock 70 odd years to those memorable school days.

My best wishes…Dick D’Abreu.