Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Tindall Era, 1922-1954

From Jonathan Pinhey, 1945-48

I am afraid that anecdotes and trivia are almost all I can manage! Alas, a prep school boy’s thoughts are pretty well self centred.

I came to Blair Atholl for the school’s last term there from a wartime prep school in Kashmir. It had stated as a “bear garden” of untamed savages, but Eric Tyndale Biscoe, the founder, had turned it into a very happy school with an easy discipline, containing many nationalities. West Downs seemed very tight and conformist by comparison. It took me a long time to get over going naked to bath (once only!)

Blair seemed a beautiful place, and still does when I visit or walk there. I remember the walls covered in guns, pikes, swords and armour, the varied and sometimes very quality lavatories available in Sanatory Prep, the really wide wide games, the peacocks. I remember returning alone at night from a meal at the hotel, up that long avenue, in a state of near terror – it has always been my setting for “One that on a lonesome road, Doth walk in fear and dread...” I remember formal rides, ha-has, highland cattle, a dead wildcat and the sight of outdoor curling.

I must have had one of the earliest Pakistani cricket bats in England; “Griff Gruff” tried it and praised it for “driving like butter,” but it split badly.

I remember old Rose bringing out, probably on purpose, the chestnut “Every time I open my mouth, some fool speaks.” I remember Ricardo setting out to teach French genders, and heading his columns M and F, then filling in “other” and “ather.”

I remember Kenneth Tindall’s slides of Pilgrim’s Progress and Life of Christ (if that’s what it was; it included hymns) and his real and infectious Christian faith. I never saw his famous Caliban nor the Yellow Peril melodrama. He was my grandfather’s first cousin, and had shared a nanny with me. She had saved my infant life in her old age, and he used sometimes to greet me with, “How’s our nanny?” He and Tumty cared a lot about all of us, but one didn’t get to know him until one’s last term or two. I was on the Lantern Team, which felt very important and special.

I think running the school on its scout patrols was a mistake, as it made a means out of something that should be an end in itself. The Eagles had been abolished and dispersed, but the Curlews, my patrol, contained a nucleus of Eagles, some quite soured.

I have taught Maths for 31 years. Sheikh Bagh gave me the motive, West Downs the equipment to bring it to effect; academic standards were high and the Sunday mark readings suited a swot like me.

Jonathan Pinhey