Talcum Powder high jinks

I’ve just come across the page of the Visit of Old St Hugh’s pupils to Tollerton Hall in May 2016.

I was interested to see that the model railway was mentioned. I got permission from Fr. Michael Tutcher to set that up in the Tower Room at the top of the Hall. I also remember the incident of the lad who jumped out of the first floor window and broke his ankles – although I can’t now remember his name. I do remember that he was in the the year below me but memory fades!
I never knew there was a problem getting to Nottingham. I just used to walk out of the main gate and catch the bus from the nearby bus stop!

Father Tutcher was the one who scared us stupid when it came to discipline. I remember one particular incident at the end of term. We had been having dorm fights and, in our dormitory, talcum powder had been thrown around with gay abandon. What we had failed to take into account was that our dormitory was directly over the staff room twenty odd feet below and we were being anything but light-footed. I learned much later that it was the flakes of falling plaster that first alerted the priests to our shenanigans rather than the noise. Fr. Tutcher had a way of walking that could put the fear of God into anyone, He had a very heavy deliberate walk and the floors would creak under his tread. He could be heard and feared long before he turned up.

On this occasion, he walked into the dormitory and turned on the light. The place looked like an explosion in a flour mill. We were all marched down to the freezing library and kept there until three o’clock in the morning before being summoned, one at a time, to the top floor where Fr. Tutcher had his bedroom-cum-study. One by one we were caned. One boy’s screams could be heard clear across the main building. The rest of us gritted our teeth and bore it. The most surreal sight of the night was eight boys all in the bathroom, each one of us with our bottom in a sink full of icy cold water to ease the pain!

Fr. Tucther’s most feared phrase? “Manual labour, boy!”. You knew you were doomed. And, yes, weeding the drives by hand was a punishment. On the other hand, we termly boarders would often volunteer for heavier jobs such as clearing the woods or mowing the sports field. As we got older, the more trusted ones were allowed to take out the school tractor and even take out some of the younger boys who we would transport in the trailer. Health & Safety would have fifty fits if anyone tried that nowadays!

“At one time there was scaffolding outside the dormitory window. I would climb out and go and visit my girlfriend. Only got found out when it snowed and the footprints were still there in the morning leading to and from the girlfriend’s house.” That just has to be SR [name removed in case SR doesn’t want to be named! -Editor]

Ah the Mexicans! They were a funny lot. Fr. Daniel Bowdren used to do quite well out of them as their parents were forever sending gifts, very often alcoholic in nature. I learned to drink tequila as a result!

I remember Mrs. Lillie. She taught Latin to me and the sole other Sixth former of my year!

There were three nuns. I forget their names now. As well as running the laundry (with domestic help from the village), they also ran the infirmary and cooked the meals. Some quite awful meals as well. On one occasion, the entire fifth form – of which I was then a member – walked out because the stew was so horrible. The priests must have acknowledged that we had a fair point. There was never any punishment or further mention of the matter.

Fathers John Guest, Anthony Pateman (headmaster immediately prior to Father Guest), Michael Tutcher, Joseph O’Hanlon, Daniel Bowdren, Bernard Needham (last rector of the school) are still alive although all but Father Bowdren are now retired. Canon Cantwell (the rector prior to Fr. Needham) died a long time ago.

Thomas Murphy 1976 – 1982