Hazy Days and Stink Bombs (1957)
Scottish Dances, stink bombs and raft making. Rozanne Barton (nee Lower, Old Fish, 1954 - 57) reflects on her time at the School.
As I was 13 on arrival at New Hall for the summer term of 1954 it might have been difficult not to feel an outsider with everyone having formed their friendships, but of course the New Hall spirit prevailed and I quickly felt not at all lonely. There were only 99 Fishes then, although my School number was 106. I discovered the yummy crusty bread with butter and jam. I couldn’t have enough of it, and went from a skinny girl from Kenya to eleven stone in too short a time, thus acquiring the name Hippo!
The 1955 summer half-term I stayed at New Hall, which was such enormous fun as we were allowed unlimited freedom. A crowd of us, including Bunting (Zelie Morris), Tessa Crimmin, Peela (Angela Peel), Willy Earle, Ponty (Virginia Pontifex), Arna (Anna Plowden), Win (Cardis), Sheila (Dalgliesh), Tink Jowett, Helly Petre and Lice Trappes-Lomax, all went down to the farm on a perfect summer’s day with Pluto (the School dog). I spied the pond, some drums and some bits of wood and rope. We all went to work and ended up with what we thought was a fine craft. I climbed aboard – some bright spark (I think it was Bunting) insisted on attaching a life line – and I launched off into the deep amid cheers. Short-lived triumph ended in disaster – it was not as stable as I had planned (I later married a naval architect to prevent a repetition). The drums filled, the raft sank and I climbed out in a very wet and muddy Art Room smock. Pluto enjoyed the scene, rushing around the bushes barking with delight. On slinking back through the West Wing door, I encountered S.M. Dismas who gave me one of her raised-eyebrow smiles and asked if I realised that the pond was the School sewer. Was it, I now wonder?!
I climbed the water-tower with Trisha Crispin one night, and we flash-photographed each other smoking to prove it, but the most interesting night was when we went through the Art Room hatch into the roof and ventured right along to the ‘other side’, where we found some trunks stored. We opened one, shone a torch – and I found an album with a photo of my mother captioned ‘Cow Campbell (because of her big brown eyes and long eyelashes) and Betty Cantopher’. We also ran around the roof after climbing out of the Cockloft skylight to enjoy the view from the parapets.
We swatted for our GCEs in the Cockloft. For about ten days before our exams we could all choose where to go and revise, and Lizzie Marriner and I reckoned we chose the best possible place. We really did swot hard, testing each other periodically – with the 1812 Overture as stimulating background music (the Piano Room was beneath us), and I seem to remember it paid off!
The excitement of doing the Duke of Perth, and all the other Scottish dances, culminated in the thrilling evening when a boys’ school dance team was invited.
I dream of those wonderful hazy, lazy days of summer when the sun always shone, and we played tennis on the Cedar Plot amid the smell of newly mown grass.
Lacrosse we played on Six Acres – and I remember the day we played a boys’ school: they led at half-time because they tucked their lax sticks under their arms and were difficult to tackle, while we played like the young ladies we were supposed to be. After a half-time discussion we played dirty too – and tripped them up with our sticks! I can still remember the looks of horror on the faces of the nuns watching on the sidelines, but St Trinian’s New Hall won!
We’d ride the New Hall Dragon – well, just sat on him – and gaze at the beauty of the Tudor building and the cedar trees.
Dear Miss Boyle, who taught us Latin (my favourite subject), would call out, ‘Now who is that looking out of the window?’ She would ask a question, look around the room, point at someone on her left but look at someone on her right, and say: ‘Yes, you dear,’ to get two of us answering, which really creased me up.
I played the part of Bolingbroke in our Sixth Form production of Richard II, with Ann Feighan as Richard – still my favourite Shakespeare play with all the best speeches which I have learnt off by heart.
I remember making stink bombs with S.M. Martha in the Science Lab and having interesting and hilarious exchanges with S.M. Magdalene and others in the Linen Room, putting the world to rights.
Any books brought into the School were checked and censored: I remember taking one entitled Boldness Be My Friend (a war story) to my Housemistress who threw it across the room exclaiming, ‘And that is absolute filth. Have you read the bit about the coal mines yet?’ No, I assured her. Years later, while cleaning the Head’s study, I found the book (with my name in it) in her glass-fronted corner bookcase and retrieved it.
I was thrilled to be asked by Penny Gilbey to be her sponsor at her Confirmation. How I yearned to be ‘made’ in the Sodality! Everyone, but everyone, had medals or Asp ribbons except me (I wonder why?!). I longed to have the weekday medal on a cord that I could flick between my fingers like all the other Fishes. The week before I left, I became a Child of Mary, and I suspect S.M. Dismas, who was sympathetic, was probably instrumental. What a joy! And I have said the prayer that came on the prayer card with the picture of Our Lady of New Hall ever since. It was right psychology and I left intending to be a better person, effectively banning latent rebelliousness without curbing my restless energy.