Last updated on 24 October 2019
I read your article with great interest and enjoyment about last year’s old boys tour of Tollerton Hall.
I was unaware of the event and would have loved to have been there, as I was a boarder at the school from 1971-76.
There were two items that particularly resonated with me, namely the cane in Father Cantwell’s office and the incident with the fall from a window and the resulting broken ankles.
I WAS that boy that fell from the window but the circumstances are not quite as reported /remembered in the article. It was in May 1972 (I was 12yrs old), the evening after returning from half term break. My parents were living in the Outer Hebrides and so I had spent the half term with family friends in Leicester☹. Unfortunately I was “caught” talking in the washrooms before bed and so was sent to the infamous room of the Rector Father Cantwell where I received “six of the best ”…ouch!
I went to bed, naturally upset, in my dormitory (Ludlam) that was located just above the castellated stone balcony that hangs over the main front doors of the Hall. The next thing I knew, I woke up very confused staring at a bright moon above me with a cold pavement underneath me. I had no idea what had happened but I realised I was lying beneath the balcony and in front of the huge main doors. I went to stand but collapsed in a heap as my legs were pretty badly smashed up. I scrambled to the front doors but they were locked. It was around 2am in the morning and to cut a long story short, forcing myself to remain calm, I dragged myself round the back of the hall where I hoped the back door might be unlocked. By the time I had crawled over the gravel road to get to the thankfully open back door (by the refectory) my feet were very bloodied and looked dreadful. I was simply focused on getting to one of the priest’s rooms and hauled myself up the narrow twisting staircase and along the corridor to Father Dolan’s room where I banged loudly on his door until he eventually opened it. With a stunned look on his face he raced down the corridor and soon returned with Father Dazeley, the Master of Discipline. The latter realised the trouble I had been in that evening (the cane) and I guess he thought I was playing up in some way, lying on the floor as I was, and so was not initially realising the severity of my injuries. He at first demanded I get on my feet but the penny soon dropped and the next thing I knew he had picked me up in his arms and marched me to his car via the main central staircase. I remember my legs crashing into the wall as he hurried down the stairs…..the pain was quite intense! My next memory is of arriving at the front door of A&E at Nottingham General where a couple of nurses (they seemed like angels to me!) gently eased me out of the back seat where I was laying and took me into the sanctuary of the hospital.
After a period in hospital, I spent the second half of the term in the school infirmary where the very lovely and elderly Scottish nun (Sister Camilla) looked after me. I did not attend class and missed the end of year exams. I eventually returned home to the Outer Hebrides at the end of term via train and plane. I remember standing by the exit of the small turboprop aeroplane at the top of the primitive Benbecula airport (more like a hut than an airport!) staircase wondering how I was going to get down to terra firma on my crutches! Somehow I managed and soon was in the arms of my mum and dad.
I made a slow recovery but recover I did… very sadly when I returned to school in September the lovely Sister Camilla had passed away over the summer. I was elected to attend the funeral as the student representative because we had formed a close bond during the many weeks I was interned in the infirmary.
Those were the days…..the next summer term I broke my ankle playing football and was back at Nottingham General. Here we go again I thought!!
But what did really happen for me to end up in a heap underneath that balcony in the middle of the night? The school did try to suggest that I had fallen down the stairs but nobody really ever believed that cover-up story 🙂, as is supported by the “jumping out of a window” comment made during last year’s tour. I have always assumed I was sleep walking, possibly due to the trauma of having the cane that night. But the poorly informed comment that I did it “for a laugh” does make me question, which I have done occasionally over the years, if third parties might have been involved. Getting onto that balcony would have been a complex process if awake, let alone doing so in one’s sleep! I was thoroughly bullied in my first couple of years and it is quite possible that some of the lads deposited me on the balcony (in my sleep) as a joke…never imagining that I would then find my way over the edge. It is a mystery that will doubtless remain unsolved but it definitely makes a good story! It is too long ago for me to worry about it but I would like to exercise my right to put the record straight and make it clear that whatever happened, I did not jump out of a window “for a laugh”.
I also noticed on your site that Maureen Lillie has made a contribution regarding her time as a Latin teacher at St. Hugh’s. I remember well Maureen and her husband both teaching Latin which oddly was one of my favourite subjects! Father Tutcher (he of the Notts Forest socks!), together with the lovely Lillies got me an “A” at O Level. Thank you very much Maureen for introducing me to Pliny et al!
I look back at those times and, although I certainly would not describe them as “bliss” (I missed home), they were tremendously character building and prepared me for the challenges of later life. I thank St. Hugh’s College and the very special village of Tollerton for that 🙂 . Funnily enough, it drew me back to Nottingham, as I studied at the University and lived in Cotgrave for a bit in my first job. So I guess it got into my blood!
Please feel free to post all or part of the above. Hopefully you will feel this adds something to your wonderful Tollerton website 🙂 while also adding some interesting depth to the old boys tour article.
Thank you for helping me in a strange way exorcise some quite tame ghosts of the past🙂.
Phil Jones B.Sc (Hons) FBCS
Old Boy St Hugh’s College
Editor note: see https://tollertonvillagehistory.co.uk/tollerton-hall-estate/visit-of-old-st-hughs-pupils-to-tollerton-hall-13-may-2016/ for the original article