1954 has seen many changes in Mount Hermon – changes which are inevitable upon the arrival of a new Principal to a school. It was early in February that our new Principal Rev. D. G. Stewart, M.Sc., B.A., B.D., and Mrs. Stewart reached Mount Hermon to take over the reins.
We should express here the sincere appreciation of the school for the work of Miss L. A. Boles. Miss Boles was due for retirement some time ago, but, knowing the need for someone to look after Mount Hermon Estate, she postponed her return home repeatedly, and graciously and efficiently attended to the affairs of the Estate. It was quite natural, when it appeared that there would be several months’ break between the departure of the old, and arrival of the new Principal, that Miss Boles should volunteer, and take on the added responsibility of Officiating Principal. As such, she made all the preliminary arrangements for the re-opening of the school, and thus made the transfer very smooth indeed. We have all appreciated Miss Boles immensely, and it was natural that when she finally left us in October, the whole school should assemble to send her off with three hearty cheers.
On March 5th the school began to arrive, and soon the empty re-echoing walls were filled with the laughter and excited chatter of a new school year. And then, in a few days’ time, the school was hard at work once more.
The Senior Cambridge results for 1953 were frankly disappointing. Good results were not expected, but the meagre three out of seven passes, and these all only in third division, was disappointing in the extreme. This year’s Senior Cambridge class’ however, should achieve much better results. They have worked hard under the coaxing goad of people like the Principal and Mr. Jones, and have a solid year’s work behind them, so we look for good results.
The first break from the regularity of studies was the Easter recess. Our misguided Principal thought this would be a good time for a dawn trip to Tiger Hill on Easter Saturday. So at about 2.30 a.m. people were rudely awakened from their cosy beds, and dragged out into the shivering darkness. Jeep and trailer helped stragglers along the way until the jeep spluttered protestingly a quarter of the way up Tiger Hill, and faded out of the picture. Naturally, all we got from the top was an excellent view of rolling mist, exactly the same as we would have seen in greater comfort from our dormitory windows! Moral: go to Tiger Hill in the Pujas, Mr. Stewart! Anyhow, we came down to a pleasant spot where a fire was coaxed into being, and we breakfasted on hot dogs. But with all the fun of Easter recess we of course did not forget the significance of the good time, and on Friday held our Good Friday service, commenced Easter Day with the High C Dawn Service, and followed with the morning chapel when we pondered the wonderful fact of a Saviour risen from the dead.
Then, of course, everything moved in preparation for Sale Day, which was held this year on May 29th. It seems that this date is too late, however, for intermittent rain has by then become the usual thing, and this year's Sale Day did not escape, but by lunch time torrents were pouring down, and the outside stalls had to more or less close up business for the day. For weeks before, stall holders had been planning their attractions, the art department had been painting posters to draw the eye and the annas, the ladies on the estate had been sewing, knitting, cooking, and the Language School and our own players had been rehearsing for their concerts. On 28th the Seniors had the day off school for the work of erecting stalls and decorating them. This work continued early on Saturday morning, until the school was gay with its bunting, welcome banner, flowers, and greenery. In the regrettable absence of the Governor through illness, the Principal opened the Sale, and as his last cadence fell, the first raucous voice shattered the stillness" “Ring a duck ! Try your luck! Three shots for four annas !" The loud speakers poured fourth their gay music, the vendors advertised their wares, and the crowd joined hilariously in the fun of the day. There was a record number of stalls -nearly thirty in all –including darts, nine-pins, coconut shy, Humpty-Dumpty, archery, miniature golf, pistol range, treasure island, the staff portrait gallery and other novelty stalls, as well as ice cream, soft drinks, Indian sweets, stalls which our own students organised and ran. The Mount Hermon Community organized fancy goods, sweets and toys stalls, the School Staff a grocery stall, and the Language School hot dogs and coffee stalls.
At eleven o'clock the Language School produced their hilarious effort – “Jack and the Beanstalk", a pantomime which, needless to say, sparkled with topical allusions. Other entertainments included several magician's shows, cartoon films, and the afternoon concluded with the School Concert. This was of very good quality with choir, instrumental and dance items, and a presentation of the play : "The' Poetasters of Ispahan".
After Sale Day we moved rapidly through the ordeal of half-yearly exams to mid-year holidays. A few went away, but most stayed, and we had a week of fun and activity. Some of the Staff organised game and hunts for us each day, and the football season started with a few practice games. In the evenings different dormitories presented con certs, the most noteworthy performer being Miss R. Isaacs.
Football occupied a good deal of our life and interest through the monsoon ; and while direct activity was confined to the boys, interest certainly was not. The Junior Boy did not star, though at time when they kicked and missed one might have thought they were trying to, reach the stars - so much so that some rude teachers spoke of their first match as the "Rushin' Ballet".
However, their game did improve as the season wore on, and they were very triumphant when, with the team reinforced by three over 4 ft. 10 ins., they played St. Paul’s Juniors, and won 3 goals to 1. The Bhandari Team fared very well, and is reported elsewhere.
Football led into an all too restricted Hockey season. With the short time available, it was almost impossible to improve as much as we needed, and while the team combined with some Estate players played a splendid game, our school teams, both of boys and girls, were obviously outclassed by those of other schools. Nevertheless, though beaten, sometimes badly, we all enjoyed the games and played to the best of our ability.
Then as the Pujas approached hockey yielded to athletics. An innovation this year was the “Standard Sports” which after a week or so of practice, introduced the season. Everyone in the school was measured for height and weight, and put in a grade depending on these two things as well as age. Then except for those medically unable, all entered for all events in their grade, such as the different lengths for running, high and broad jump, throwing the cricket ball. Every student’s achievement in each event was measured and recorded, and points 1 to 10 were awarded according to the standard reached. This gave a method of comparing our abilities with those of people overseas, whence the point score came, and also encouraged those who might be hesitant to enter competitive sports, to train and do their best, as well, of course, as starting off training very effectively for those who were able to go on to compete in the school sports.
Sports Day was held on 30th September - a beautiful sunny day. Mr. Betten presided and Mrs. Betten distributed the trophies. After a busy morning in which the field. was prepared, events commenced at 1.30. Our programme went with a zip, as nearly seventy events had to be fitted into one afternoon, as well as three-quarters of an hour break for the luscious afternoon tea the ladies served in the open-air gymnasium. But we managed to streamline them all in, ending by 5.15, the only unfortunate delay being that it took half an hour for the recording table to catch up and have all the lists for trophies and prize certificates ready, so that the, trophy distribution finished, regrettably, in the dark.
But the enthusiasm carried over to the Sports Dinner which followed, when there was much hilarity, speeches and cheering - a happy spirit in which the rival houses concluded the day.
One of the happy, friendly functions of the year was the Annual Speech Day. After the grilling for, the final examinations, Speech Day comes in the last full and happy going-home week. Though so few , visitors were still in Darjeeling at that time, quite a representative group of some sixty outside friends were able to come to Speech Day, including representatives of other schools and colleges. We were glad to have with us Rev. and Mrs. J. E. Duncan, of Kalimpong Homes, who respectively presided and presented the prizes. The Principal's Speech covering the year was rather long, but full of interest. Mr. Duncan spoke on the all-round development of life, and the need for living as a Christian in all spheres of life. A table laden with bright, beribboned prize books was emptied steadily to the delight of the happy recipients, and this year, after several years’ lapse, the Bishop Fisher Cup and the Miss Stahl Cup were presented respectively to Brang Seng and Ruth Isaacs. Honours pockets, designed by our own Seniors, were also awarded for the first time, for school service and for sports, to ten students.
Speech Day, of course, marks the end of the Inter-House contest for the year. In this contest, points are awarded for all Inter-House sports, for examination results, and for debating. Blue House has held the shield for several years, but this year it was won by Gold House, by 105 points to 97.
After the speeches and prize giving, guests adjourned to the cosy fire in the Lounge Room for tea, then inspected the fine array of exhibits in the Art Room arranged by Mrs. von Rauch, and returned to the Hall for the School Concert.
This Concert was doubtless a high-water mark of attainment for 1954. Every item was faultlessly rendered, and the audience, augmented by some seventy boys from St. Joseph’s, was really enthusiastic. The orchestra appeared for the first time accompanying the choir on Handel’s “Largo”; the choir sang several pieces exceptionally well, piano and violin and dance items were splendid, and all appreciated the last performances we persuaded Mr. Jones and Miss Pradhan to include for us – Mr. Jones with a violin solo, and Miss Pradhan with an Indian dance. Then the curtain rose on the early evening Welsh countryside setting of the school play – “Birds of a Feather.” This delightful one-act comedy was well played in a beautiful bushland setting, in which the new stage curtains and lighting were used to good effect.
Other features of the year include choir and orchestra, with Mr. Jones as Conductor, and Mr. Vaughan as Accompanist, scouts, cubs, guides, bluebirds, High Crusaders and Scripture Union, which last two groups meet every Sunday afternoon, and a splendid selection of film programmes. Many of these are reported elsewhere in the magazine.
The year has seen a number of changes in staff. Mr. and Mrs. Anjam, Mrs. Crowell, Mr. Shanker, and Miss Macclesfield, were only with us for short periods of the year. Several are not returning next year, namely Messrs Jones and Law, Mr. and Mrs. Vaughan, Mrs. Daniel and Miss Pradhan. Miss Pradhan will be going to Calcutta to complete her teacher training course in 1955. We congratulate Miss Pradhan upon the successful completion of her Science degree and wish her well. Miss Pradhan has graced our staff most acceptably during 1953 and 1954.
It is a very sorrowful farewell we say to Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones has served three years on the staff, and has contributed a tremendous amount to the school. He has always been not only capable and efficient, but continually cheerful, encouraging, enthusiastic, and helpful. He has not only taught English, History, Latin, and Violin, he has also conducted choir and orchestra, coached games, has been Scout Captain and Warden of Fern Hill. He has earned the affection of staff and students alike, and will be long remembered at Mount Hermon. His three-year term is, however, ended, and we must say farewell. Mr. Jones goes to Yale Divinity School, where he will complete his theological studies. If in a few years’ time he again returns to India, there are many of us who hope we might again see him in Mount Hermon School.
As it has become necessary to curtail finance on the household side, teachers have been asked to act as matrons for older students next year, retaining full-time matrons only for the juniors. Thus we say farewell to Miss Menzies and to Mrs. Armstrong. Also, to our nurse, Miss King, who will be married to Mr. Law in the new year.
To all the members of staff leaving us, we would say thank you for all their past efforts, and wish them good success in the way ahead. New members of staff have been announced for next year, all of whom so far come on a three-year term:
Mr and Mrs Murray will be joining us from New Zealand. Mr Murray holds an M.A. degree in History from Wellington, and a Diploma in Education from Auckland. He represented his University in Cricket and Football, and also is trained as a physical culture instructor. He will be Warden of Fern Hill. Mrs Murray is a trained teacher of New Zealand Education Department, and holds the L.R.S.M. in piano. Mrs Murray will be Matron for Fern Hill also.
Miss Tegel will be joining us from the Education Department of New South Wales. Miss Tegel holds a triple music diploma in the fields of piano, singing and cello, from the Australian Conservatorium of Music, and a Diploma in Education from Sydney. Miss Tegel will be Music Mistress, and will also assist in the teaching of English and History.
I am glad to tell you that Miss R. Mitton, who served some years ago on the Staff, will be rejoining us. Miss Mitton is a trained primary teacher of the South Australian Education Department.
Similarly it is a pleasure to announce that Mr and Mrs S. Rowe who were on the staff formerly will be here again next year from England. Mr Rowe holds a B.A. degree from Calcutta and Diploma in Education from London, while Mrs Rowe holds B. Sc. and Dip. Ed. from Durham. Both will assist in Mathematics and Science, while Mr Rowe will also help with sports and physical training.
Mr and Mrs J. J. Maybin will be joining us also. They have been for some years serving in India as missionaries of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, but are asked to join our Staff. Mr Maybin hails from Ireland and Mrs Maybin from Scotland. Mr Maybin will do a very necessary job of maintenance on the school property-repairs, buildings, outside labour, jeep etc.-as well as assisting with Estate maintenance, and Mr Maybin, who holds a nurses' triple certificate from Scotland, and had three years' specialist experience there of child-nursing, will be School nurse.
And so we came to the end of the year, with the Eighth Standard Farewell to Ninth, the Farewell Banquet, happy and jolly, yet with a few suspiciously moist eyes, and then the buses loaded up, and off they go with a song :
Hermon, although we love you so,
All is excitement, and our hearts are gay,
For we’re going home to-day.”