College (1941-1942)

March, ’41 had none of the heaviness of heart that accompanied the preceding nine years, for this time I was going to Chelmsford Training College to prepare for a teaching career. My mother and I visited Rev. Cotton, Principal of the Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, who was spending the winter vacation in Lahore. I found him a pleasant person as he welcomed me in advance to the college which would be my home for the usual nine-months’ spell. I had been granted a government stipend of Rs 50 a month, but as it was not enough for my expenses my mother sent me a monthly allowance of Rs 25. We were treated as adults and enjoyed a status just below that of the teachers, many of whom frequented the Staff Club of which we were guest members. They treated us with a courtesy I’d not expected, addressing us first as ‘Mister’ and then later by our first names. The Club’s facilities had areas for cards, billiards, and tennis. We juniors were also students at the Inter College, so we found ourselves hobnobbing at the club with some of our own lecturers. I don’t recall feeling awkward about this, thanks to the friendliness and good manners of those men and their wives. In time, we were to hear whispered innuendoes concerning some of the men, which whether true or not, gave us enough to elaborate mischievously on what little we heard.

We nine juniors had a cubicle each to ourselves, Vic Walters, the Deputy Senior Commoner, occupying one of them as the senior-in-charge. He was about thirty, short, dark-skinned, and slightly built. A former hockey star, with a gift of the gab, and a chain smoker, he punctuated his reminiscences with periodic drags on his cigarette. I liked his company, and spent many hours listening to him. He would confide to me his crush on a rather large, fair and pleasant looking teacher in the girls’ school who was a former Oak Grove girl, numbered among the prize winners, and whom I was aware of at school although she was four years my senior. She was as big and ingenuous as Vic was small and worldly. His weakness for big women probably had a Freudian explanation, but for me the incongruity was interesting enough. He was a good student and an accomplished debater, and must have been regarded highly enough to have been chosen as Deputy Senior Commoner.

Our Senior Commoner was a forty-year-old man, Fred Webster, who had been teaching for many years before deciding to take his teacher training. He was well liked for his blend of maturity and good humour. He was nicknamed ‘Skull’ by his colleagues, who were insensitive enough to draw attention to his bony face and cavernous looks. We juniors, most of whom were young enough to have had him for a father, enjoyed an excellent rapport with Fred who wore his mantle of leadership with a naturalness we liked. He too had a crush on a young teacher in the girls’ school, a sweet-looking blonde about whom he would openly dramatise his fantasies, having her respond with suitable modesty to his suggestive advances: “O, Freddie, please do-o-o-n’t, Freddie. O-o-o-o!” We youngsters enjoyed the vicarious satisfaction of being in Fred’s shoes during these imagined interludes.

In our first week in the C.T.C the seniors put us Juniors through an initiation ceremony of good-natured hazing. Cloaked in bed sheets, late at night, and carrying lit candles, we did the rounds of the college under the direction of a senior who, chanting a mock-liturgy, part pagan part nonsense, subjected us to some minor embarrassments along the way. The proceedings ended with our stepping blind-folded into a tub of ice-cold water. This was followed by our having to give impromptu speeches on risqué topics drawn from a hat. During this we’d be interrupted throughout our embarrassed delivery with fatuous questioning by the seniors. The ordeal over, we were congratulated warmly and officially welcomed into the Chelmsford Training College.

Juniors had twin courses undertaken concurrently:

  1. First-year university courses in the Science or Arts faculty from the University of the Punjab at Lahore. (I took English, mathematics, geography, and Urdu, with physics as a supplementary, in the Arts faculty), and
  2. Courses on teaching, none of which had much academic content.

The university courses, on the other hand, were at a much higher level than were those at school, and it was hard keeping up with the maths course especially, despite my exposure to some of it in my additional maths at O.G. The lecturer, Mr Edwards, (‘Tosh’) moved with relentless speed over new ground, and I believe my classmates Weskin, Hopkins-Husson, and the rest, not having done additional maths before, were more lost than I was.

The English course, mainly literature, under Mr Thurley, B.A. London, was more inspiring than informative. Thurley was a poseur with a fine speaking voice and a penchant for sensual poetry. He seemed to get great pleasure from quoting stuff of a suggestive nature, such as Keats’s, ‘pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breasts, to feel its rise and fall for ever…’ or revelling in the lurid aspects of writers like Oscar Wilde, and D.H Lawrence. Habitually in fawn corduroys, he looked the typical English aesthete. But he was a likeable fellow, and in my superficial view at the time seemed the quintessential Oxford don, lacking only the scholarship of such men.

My Urdu classes under Mr Abdul Hamid gave me my first taste of Urdu poetry. I was captivated by the sound of those Persian cadences read with such skill and evident relish by Hamid. Their meaning, however, was something I had to work on by myself to prepare for exams. I had heard about his indignation at being taken for a munshi. He was supposed to have said, ‘I am not a munshi. I am a lecturer!’ He was a vain man, whose walk was a swagger. While reading he would pace back and forth delivering those enchanting lines, supremely conscious of his fine performance. Although his spoken English was inevitably that of an Indian, he carried himself with such confidence and bonhomie that his English colleagues at the college came to accept him as their social equal to the extent, that is, that such equality was possible in those days of British India.

Mr H.R Smith (‘Snodger’), a brother of ‘Cam’ Smith at Oak Grove, took us in geography and later psychology when I was a senior. He was not much of a lecturer and seemed content to dictate notes every day. He had a B.A in geography from a local university, but none of us would have guessed it from the way he taught his classes. He avoided in-class discussion, preferring instead to dictate notes, thereby driving us to the conclusion that anyone could have done his job without in the least being an expert.

Passing exams became solely a matter of regurgitating his notes, most of which, inevitably, we consigned to oblivion. Practice of Teaching was more stressful than difficult in that it meant preparation and delivery of lessons to classes from the boys’ school. We called them ‘crit’ lessons because our colleagues and the lecturer, Mr Collier (‘Pip’), critically evaluated us. The criteria, derived from Herbart (1776-1841) were, presumably, adapted by Collier himself who saw to it that they be regarded as pedagogical imperatives, even though contemporary educators — B.F.Skinner and John Dewey in the U.S had long since replaced Herbart. Our lesson plans were rigidly structured on Herbartian principles: Aim, Previous knowledge, Presentation, and Application, and we stuck to these because Collier was not given to having his dictates questioned. Worse still, we used these antiquated ideas to bludgeon one another in ‘crit’ lessons at the least sign they were being transgressed. Collier, of course, supported such criticisms, adding his own measure of searing invective.

My ‘crit’ lesson was a disaster, despite the punishing hours of preparation I’d put into it. Nothing in my past had prepared me for the ordeal that was now at hand. It was a history lesson, my worst subject at school, so much of it requiring narration, a skill I did not possess. A maths lesson would have suited me much better, requiring as it does explanation rather than exposition. Why Collier assigned me a history lesson I’ll never know. He knew that maths was my chosen speciality.

When at last the day arrived, I was a nervous wreck. A class of twenty boys marched into the room, stood quietly at their desks awaiting my call to be seated. My ‘crit’ lesson had begun. It was on Rufus the Red (William II of England). Meanwhile, at the back of the room my colleagues were ranged, ready to make the opening thrusts of their criticism, Collier similarly at the ready.

I remember nothing of the lesson I gave. I had worked loose a button off my blazer and became aware of it in my hand. Later the blackboard and easel collapsed to the floor scattering coloured chalk dust and staining my hands, face, and clothes. Somehow, the thirty minutes had gone by. I dismissed the class and took my place among my colleagues, Collier presiding. My lesson was lambasted by everyone. At seventeen I was receiving my baptism of fire and for days after I reeled from its trauma, wondering what on earth I had got myself into and what I should do next.

As it turned out, I not only survived but began finding my feet, thanks largely to the heart-warming experience of college life which in the following months helped build my self-confidence. At the end of the first year we spent a week in the boys’ school, taking over from the masters, while they busied themselves marking final exam papers. But I never again gave a history lesson.

As juniors we were expected to participate in a number of cultural activities: the church choir, a choral group conducted by Mrs Cotton (the Principal’s wife), debates, the performing arts, and be at evening lectures by the college staff on their specialities. We were required also to be scoutmasters in the boys’ school, and join the A.F.I (Auxiliary Forces, India) under the command of Capt. Eric Munrowd, headmaster of the boys’ school. I took part enthusiastically in these activities, and was one of the pirates in The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Mrs Cotton, which we staged in a Murree theatre for a week. This was a new experience for me, and even though mine was a small part, I memorised the tunes and lyrics for nearly every part in the show. Basil Haye, an O.G contemporary of mine, who finished up at Sherwood College, took the lead role of Frederick opposite Ruth, played by Mrs Cotton. This undoubtedly helped Basil’s becoming Senior Commoner the following year.

After the genial Fred Webster, Basil appeared much less suited to his senior position among us, and went about his responsibilities as Senior Commoner with a seriousness and pomposity that didn’t go down well with us. The Deputy Senior Commoner, Phillip Banham, on the other hand, in his mid-twenties, seemed a more mature fellow, socially and intellectually. He had a naturalness about him that would have got him the position Basil had, were it not for the latter’s timely success with the Cottons for his lead role in the The Pirates.

Phillip had a cubicle in the juniors’ section, where he spent his evenings smoking his pipe and studying philosophy on his own. He was passionate about poetry and he read a great deal of what seemed serious literature, both English and French. He had a style of speaking that appealed to me, and I found myself fashioning my speech after his, whether it was reciting poetry or, during my senior year, reading the scripture lesson in chapel. I enjoyed the freedom and privileges of my first year in the C.T.C. A few of the seniors, Max McAuliffe, Fred Hardaker (‘Puss’), and some women staff members (including the school nurse Clare), would go up to Murree for dances that I enjoyed as much for the dancing as for the adult company in which I found myself included.

I remember my first shandy at Lintots in Murree after a game of hockey — a far cry from my school days, barely three months earlier, when the mere thought of having a beer would have assured me I was going to the dogs. It was ‘Puss’ Hardaker, a fine all-round sportsman with good looks and personality to match, who arranged these outings through his association with Clare with whom he boasted he had gone some distance. A philanderer, Puss was expelled from College for having put a girl in the family way in Rawalpindi. He was commissioned soon after in the army, and returned for a day to College in the uniform of a 2nd lieutenant, looking even more attractive and virile than ever. It occurred to me then how much an officer’s uniform dramatically enhanced one’s appeal, especially for women caught up, as nearly all of us were by the excitements of war. It certainly made us civilians look and feel rather drab by comparison.

Small as the C.T.C was, about 20 of us, we held our own athletic competitions. I entered in many of the events: sprints, middle-distances, and the so-called ‘marathon’, about 5 miles, mostly downhill from St Denny’s to the girls’ school. I won places in these as well as in the hurdles and high jump, and was awarded certificates instead of medals because of the austerity measures during the war, then well into its third year.

We managed our own messing arrangements under the secretaryship of a senior appointed at the same time as were the Senior Commoner and the Deputy Senior Commoner. Three red-bearded Muslim bearers served in the dining room where we sat four to a table and enjoyed well-prepared meals paid for — Rs 23 a month — out of our stipends. We wore mess dress on a few special evenings, and that meant the additional expense of a white monkey jacket, bow tie and black dress trousers. A special meal was laid on, the expenses of which came out of our pockets. The evening ended with a concert put on by us juniors for staff members and their wives, the program consisting of recitations, songs, and a short and woefully under-rehearsed sketch or two of a humorous kind. (Mrs Cotton it was believed used these occasions to sniff out talent for her extra-curricular groups).

A. S Collier, B.A London, wasn’t academically all that well qualified; one of the Seniors when I was a Junior had the same degree. But Collier seemed well suited for the two hats he wore, one being vice principal of the College under the Rev. W.H Cotton, M.A (Oxon.), the other being principal of the C.T.C, where he had a small office, and took us in practice of teaching, general methods of teaching, and special methods of teaching arithmetic and history. He was a lean and authoritative looking man with heavy glasses that gave him a forbidding look. An Englishman and an autocrat, he was regarded in awe by us, and nobody dared cross him. I don’t know what’s meant by having a ‘fear of God’, never having had a religious upbringing, but I knew only too well what it meant to have a fear of Collier. We behaved sycophantically towards him to be on his good side. When he condescended to join us at badminton of an evening, we were careful not to do anything that might offend him. When a shuttlecock fell to the ground we would pick it up and hand it to him.

In Chapel, Collier played the organ and was an accomplished performer of preludes and recessionals, including such favourites of mine as Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory. I was in the choir stall next to him as he accompanied the hymns on the pipe organ. There was something so impressive and elevating about those evensongs in Chapel. The staff wore academic dress, so I had my first eyeful of hoods being worn by Oxford, Cambridge, and other university graduates. The first scripture lesson was read by a staff member and the second by a senior from the C.T.C. Those days were good for me, my previous life lacking the opportunities for social growth. With Phillip Banham as a model, I found great satisfaction in reading, during my second year, the scripture lesson before some 400 pupils of the Lawrence College. In the congregation were Una and Bas Mott, and eleven of my cousins: Maureen Brayley (15), Pat McGrath (18), my McIntyre cousins Aileen (18), Phyllis (17), Joyce (15), Jim (14), Peter (12), and Don (10), and my Blagden cousins Ginger (13), Shelagh (11), and Lorena (9). An eager imitator, I became pretty good at reading after the style of Banham. Because of him, changes occurred also in my thinking, and it was about this time that I formed a lifelong aversion to political conservatism and began my espousal of socialism because of what I saw was its intrinsic fairness.

C.T.C holidays coincided with the Lawrence College’s, my first year ending a week before the Japanese struck Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941. With the war so far away, nothing mattered as much to me as my teacher training. The three months’ holiday ahead needed to be spent preparing for my Intermediate exams in mid-February, 1942. But I was looking forward also to other and sweeter things during those holidays, so my studies would need to make room for them as well.

Christmas that year in Lahore seethed with excitement and expectation. I had just turned eighteen and never having been out with a girl, I looked forward to the experience. I was attracted to a few girls at the dances held two nights a week at the railway institute known as the Burt. A police band of native musicians under the direction of their English inspector, Mr Chapman, played dance pieces that sounded marvellous. The previous year I had learnt to dance foxtrots and waltzes and some novel routines such as The Lambeth Walk, Hands, Knees, and Boomps-a- Daisy! and The Conga. The air was filled with a wistfulness in the wartime songs of Vera Lynn: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Lily Marlene, and the heart-wrenching We’ll Meet Again, and When the Lights Come on Again, to mention only a few of the songs that I still link with dances at the Burt and those lovely girls, Mary and Tiny Critchell, Deborah and Dawn Taylor, ‘Bobby’ Callaghan, and my favourite at the time, June Taylor. I had known these girls from the previous winter and enjoyed their company, particularly at the Burt.

At the New Year’s Ball that year I met Una Mott, who lived across the road from the Burt, and had only recently come to Lahore when her father, a station master had been transferred from Amritsar. I danced most of the night with Una. Her fresh and pink complexion, her cheery disposition and comfortable feel as we danced made my pulse race, and I was in love for the first time in my young life. I walked her home that night, gave her my first-ever kisses, and wandered home on a cloud. We became sweethearts that winter, she fifteen and I eighteen.

We rode our bikes together around the town, danced almost exclusively with each other at the Burt, and spent long hours together at her home.At the end of ’42 I sat for the Diploma Exams in English (including a phonetics test, and a recitation of poetry), Mathematics (arithmetic only), psychology, general methods of teaching, special methods of teaching, practise of teaching, and school management and hygiene. None of these courses in my senior year was at all challenging, nor could they have claimed to be a valid preparation for teaching. Phonetic script, taught by Mr Thurley, I found most useful, and I cottoned onto it in no time. With it I find to this day I can follow easily the pronunciation of words in the Oxford English Dictionary and Jones’s English Pronouncing Dictionary.

The psychology we did, quite apart from the dull way it was presented, was a waste of time. We learnt a psychology that stemmed from the works of Nunn and others whose names don’t rate a mention in the literature today. Yet our course was contemporaneous with valuable work being done in the U.S by B.F Skinner, a pioneer in the field of learning, the very crux of our concern as teachers. Our course made no mention of any of the behaviourists whose contribution to psychology centred on learning. I couldn’t get interested in the course, consisting as it did of taking down notes dictated by ‘Snodger’ Smith. I’ll always remember his asking the interesting question at the start of the course, ‘What is psychology?’ Without waiting for us to discuss the question, he said, ‘Take this down’, and from that moment on to the end he dictated from his notes.

I was bored beyond endurance, and for diversion took to scribbling down my notes in phonetic script. Snodger probably sensed my boredom, and one day took me by surprise by warning me that I would fail the course if I didn’t show some interest in it. As it happened, I passed in psychology but cannot with any honesty claim to have learnt anything of worth from the course. Teaching practice was the only course of real value. This is not to deny the incalculable value of my having been at the C.T.C for those two years, considering all the extra-curricular benefits I derived.

Towards the end of my senior year there was a school dance, but I had to be careful about my attentions towards Una. I longed for our holidays to begin so that we could be together without hindrance.

As things turned out, however, while January of that year had seen the birth of our romance and the following months its flowering, the end of the year was to see its sudden demise.

But I had a teaching job lined up at Allen Memorial School, Mussoorie, and was looking forward to my life as a schoolmaster. The pay was only Rs145/month, but with it went full board and lodging.

– M.E.B. 


This content has been reproduced from a blog posted by Maurice Brayley on November 27, 2006. The link to the original post has been removed in accordance with his family’s wishes.

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