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

From John Pratt, 1942-1947

Chapel: I remember with pleasure singing the Benedicite Omnia Opera all the way through. I don’t think Series ‘B’ allows for the delights of singing the B.O.O.

Lantern Slides: This was real excitement. KBT would announce the slide show, and the sense of anticipation and excitement built up. A short time before the lecture started we sometimes were able to inspect KBT’s epidiascope. What a machine! Built of mahoghany and brass it had no less than 3 ’stories’ of huge lenses. Inside one could see those carbon sticks which through some incredible electrical feat produced brilliant light accompanied by sundry hissings and sparks.

Then the slides were magnificent. Brilliantly coloured pictures of scenes from the Pilgrim’s Progress or something else. We were transported away by his lectures and the pictures. Truly a magic lantern show.

Lotti and Gerda: One’s principal memory was the vastness of these two ladies. They were clad, invariably, with stiff starched white coats. Viewed from behind, as these ladies walked, one’s gaze was transfixed by the creases in the coats formed just above their posteriors, which moved from side to side as the ladies proceeded along the Blair Castle corridors. Their cocoa varied between tasting repugnant to revolting.

Old Mungo: To our youthful ears Mungo’s speech was unintelligible. However, I always wanted to know who was the artist who drew the Scottish characters who appeared on the blackboards between the last lesson one day and the first lesson the next.

Fishing: Being taken fishing on Castle Loch by KBT was a great accolade. One made tremendous efforts to do everything right in his earshot. I’m afraid my efforts with my own greenheart trout rod were not crowned with much success, other than an illegal salmon parr caught in the Banvie, which later made an acceptable supper for the Castle cat.

Moneybooks was the weekly ordeal supervised by Mr. Ledgard of the eagle eye and starchy cuffs. Nothing, but nothing, escaped his notice, and if your weekly entries were correct – phew – what a sense of achievement.

The War: I remember a board at Blair covered with flags indicating the position of the Allies and the Axis. Venison was the staple meat diet – mostly it had been hung too long and was very strong. Rationing was not very noticeable, though and we even got the occasional bar of toffee – luxury indeed. Then there was the V.J. night [V.E. – editor] bonfire – that was real excitement.

The Canadians and the Poles were encamped under cover of the trees along the banks of the Banvie, with their mysterious vehicles. The Blackout was strictly adhered to, but it was normal to us.

Blair Castle was a paradise for small boys – it was a real life adventure playground in today’s idiom. There were dozens of memories, amongst them the best marble helter-skelter I have ever seen. This consisted of a large circular staircase starting on the second floor, which terminated outside the Headmaster’s study. A marble, placed in a groove inside the bannister rail would whizz down the two flights of stairs and would exit on the ground floor – the hazard being KBT’s eagle eye and hearing.

KBT’s study: A visit to KBT’s study was the ultimate sanction. Having accumulated three late marks, one’s criminal record then escalated to being awarded “nuisance points.” Horror of horrors, I entered this perilous stage, and worse still, passed through the first nuisance point and then the second. In fear and trembling one approached the door of KBT’s study – an attractive sitting room on the ground floor with a pretty domed ceiling. Then the sanction was applied – three strokes of the cane. It did wonders, needless to say.

40 years later I visited the Castle for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship, when the Duke of Atholl presented the awards. On touring the castle afterwards, he was most amused when I identified the room where I received three of the best from the Headmaster.

John Pratt