Trusty Servant May 2019 No.127 - Page 17

No.127 The Trusty Servant Vox Senum College Tutorship Michael Bell (Coll, 55-60): John Gunner (TS 125) attributes to Roger Montgomery as College Tutor the inspiration of injecting greater realism into the annual College fire practice by deploying a smoke bomb. This is not quite correct. I am in a position to confirm Roger Montgomery’s innocence and name the guilty man, the Second Master, Tom Howarth, no less. As Schol Prae, responsible for organising the fire practice, I was summoned by Tom Howarth earlier in the half to be told that he felt that the event was, as he put it, in his customary nasal tones, ‘insufficiently verisimilitudinous’, a shortcoming he proposed to correct by directing me to obtain, from the CCF stores via the College Tutor (his only role in the affair), a couple of smoke canisters which would be ignited to kick the exercise off. My main challenge was to achieve an element of surprise, difficult because the practice took place in Short Half, and invariably on a Saturday. I decided to schedule it on the Saturday of my return from doing a scholarship exam in Oxford, in the hope that people would not realise I was back. I ignited the canisters, with the results John graphically describes. One thing he got absolutely right. Inhaling several lungs-full of sulphurous smoke at point-blank range caused me severe breathing difficulties, and, having gasped my way through the ensuing namers, I staggered off to Sick House where I spent the following week slowly recovering from a form of pneumonia. This at least protected me from the justifiable fury of my fellow Collegemen, lovingly described by my visitors. Postscript: the following week, my mother received a letter from the Second Master, telling her that I had been injured in an unfortunate incident and was being treated in College Sick House. She was just contemplating this missive, and wondering what it was not telling her, when the phone rang. It was Tom himself. My mother naturally assumed that I was dead; luckily, he was merely ringing to pass on the good news that the I had been successful in the scholarship exam which preceded this episode. So I was spared to spend a career in the Ministry of Defence and the defence industry, where, you may be sure, I made it a rule to steer well clear of chemical devices. Monumentum Aere Perennius Adam Barker-Mill (H, 54-59) points out that Sir Richard Mille (TS 126) is his ancestor and that the restoration of the monument at Nursling Church has been carried out with support from the Barker-Mill Foundation. Harry Altham Sally Brodhurst writes: My brother, Robin, and I were delighted to read Harry Bates’s (TS126) article about our grandfather, Harry Altham. It came across so warmly; it really seemed to us to pick up his enthusiastic approach to learning, and his undoubted skills at encouraging boys to engage with literature or the visual arts and have confidence in their own abilities. He often used to write us letters in rhyming couplets when we were children. We loved them, despite having great difficulty interpreting his appalling handwriting! I also have very fond memories of standing at 17 the edge of some games-field with him, while he puffed away on his pipe and patiently tried to explain to me how gerunds and gerundives worked (not sure I ever quite got the hang of them). And I remember him taking us to the Cathedral and taking us up to walk along the vertiginous clerestory gallery, high up above the nave, full of enthusiasm and knowledge about the building. We were fortunate as children to often be packed off down the road from Kingsgate House to spend time with ‘Granny and Grandpa’ at Kingsmead. Alison, his wife, was a wonderful calm counterbalance to his impractical and energetic nature. She frequently prevented small conflagrations when his pipe had been stuffed in his pocket still alight. We loved spending time there, partly because HSA always appeared really interested in us and always had something interesting to tell us about or to show us. Andrew Joy (C, 70-74) writes: Harry Bates’s heart-warming – and instructive – tale of how Harry Altham’s inspirational Div lessons rescued him, in his final term, from relative academic failure, prompted me to look out a piece of memorabilia left by my father, Michael Joy (C, 29-35): he was a great fan of Altham and I had always put this down to his having been in Lords (…without distinction). However, not long ago I found a shoe-box of effects which included a postcard that led me to think Altham’s influence went wider. Sent by my father from Berlin in August 1936 to his sister Nancy in England, it reads: ‘12 pm. Femina was full so we came here. Harry drunk again tonight: Dancing + girl now.’ The handwriting is very small, the graphological equivalent of a whisper,