Public School Magazine, January 1901
OF all the functions which help to lend a pleasing spice to everyday affairs at Dulwich, Founder’s Day is perhaps the most important. It is the anniversary of the day when the Charter of the College first passed the Great Seal.
After the usual morning prayers in the Great Hall, at which a special collect is read on Founder’s Day, are over, cricket begins. There are four matches, all against the Old Alleynians.
Founder’s Day always sees a regular gathering of the clans as regards Old Alleynians. They come in their thousands and tens of thousands.
Lunch—or, rather, a “cold collation”—is served in one of the Form-rooms on the ground floor of the Junior Block, no other room, in fact, than that Shrine of Learning in which the young idea of the Upper Third “A” is taught to shoot.
After lunch come the Speeches. These take place in the Great Hall, and are preceded by an address from the Master, who reads out the list of those who have won the annual Senior and Junior Scholarships. The English Speech is always the first on the programme. It is generally a selection from Shakespeare or Sheridan, especially Sheridan, it being a maxim with the authorities: “When in doubt play ‘The Critic.’ ” The last Founder’s Day saw an innovation, a skit on “Hamlet,” by W. S. Gilbert, called “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.” This was a tremendous success, though there were some who thought that Shakespeare would have come nearer to being worthy of the Dulwich stage. The French and German Speeches which follow suffer from being unintelligible to the majority of the audience, who are never very sorry when they are over and the Greek play begins. This is the pièce de résistance of the entertainment. All through the latter part of the term the Sixth and Remove have been scoured with a view to unearthing talent. Voices have been tried for the Chorus. People who would sooner die than say a word to a public audience have been coerced into mounting the daïs in the Great Hall, and reading a few choice lines from Aristophanes. Cricketers have been obliged to drop cricket in favour of rehearsals. Everything, in short, has been done to ensure success, and the result is invariably that the performance goes with a whizz from start to finish.
The Greek play is the only one in which suitable costumes are used. There is, moreover, more of the “knockabout-comedian” style of wit in it than in the other Speeches. It is this that gives the finishing touch to the performance. When an audience sees a prominent member of the Eleven, as Cleon, being hit on the head by an illustrious Prefect, as the Sausage-Seller, with half-a-yard of raw sausages, it naturally feels that the wit of the ancients was not so very far behind that of Britain’s Variety Theatres, after all.
Roll-call immediately after the Speeches throws the wet-blanket of formality on the pleasures of the day, but this is counteracted by the agency of the School Choir, who sing part-songs in the Master’s garden, where the Master gives a garden-party. At seven o’clock the choir supper comes off, and with its conclusion the festivities end.
The mid-term service, which takes place in the Hall on the Thursday before the mid-term holiday, is another important function. The service lasts from ten till half-past eleven as a rule, concluding with an address from the Master. The rest of the day is a holiday, especially welcome in the Summer term, when Form-matches are played throughout the school. An additional interest is given to these matches by the fact that the fixtures are the same every year. The Classical Sixth plays Mr. Treadgold’s House, the Remove plays the Modern Sixth and so on, each Form pairing off with some other Form.
Clapping in Hall is the technical term for a custom which has been in existence for many years now. Whenever a Scholarship is gained at the ’Varsity, or any other distinction won, the Master reads the name of the hero out to the assembled school after prayers. The gratified audience then applaud. When twelve names have been so applauded, the school is allowed one hour off afternoon school for a period not exceeding one day. There have been members of the school who have considered that the quality of mercy is strained. Such as these think longingly of their “St. Winifred’s,” where, the reader will remember, a whole holiday was granted for a single Scholarship.
While on the subject of applause, it is pleasant to be able to announce that the ancient custom of rushing over to the entrance of the Baths (which, in winter, are boarded over and used as a dressing-room) to cheer opposing school Fifteens has been revived. It was dropped for some years—why, nobody knows. Perhaps it may have been due to the fact that for three years (from 1897 to 1900) we only lost one school match on our native heath out of a possible ten, thus giving excuse for the applauders to confine their attention to their own men. It is a very good thing, however, that it has at last been brought into use again.
When the St. Paul’s match is played at Kensington, it is a point of honour with the school to put as many spectators into the field as there are Paulines. The two opposing factions confine themselves to their own particular side of the ground, St. Paul’s invariably on the touch line nearest to the school buildings, Dulwich at the road side. The volume of sound proceeding from the throats of eight hundred or more rival enthusiasts has an inspiriting effect on the players.
When a school Fifteen visits us, the captain of football proposes their health at the ensuing banquet, and with the rest of the team embarks on “He’s a jolly good fellow.” Statistics show that the captain usually wins by half a line or so, the other competitors coming in in a pack with not much to choose between them. The dinner over, the visitors are escorted to the station, where three cheers are given for them as the train moves out. As we are on the London, Chatham and Dover line there is no danger of any of these cheers being wasted on empty air owing to the premature departure of the visitors.
The regulations affecting dress at Dulwich are simple. Coats and ties must be black or dark blue, but no restrictions are placed upon the other articles of the wardrobe. The authorities, it is supposed, rely on the catholic tastes in dress innate in every Alleynian’s bosom to suppress any spicy things in waistcoats and trousers. Nor is their trust misplaced. The being who tried to introduce such atrocities into our happy community would run the risk of being court-martialled and “touched up” by the other members of his Form. The æsthetic style of blazer largely adopted in the Junior School has led recently to the planning and building of a school blazer, dark blue with D. C. on the pocket. This has been the means of doing away with what used to be one of the most interesting sights the College had to show, namely, the spectacle of an interview between a junior attired in a colour-scheme of green and yellow and a frenzied captain of cricket. Even now, however, the fortunate may still see cricket captains dart off hurriedly to the horizon, their eye caught by some gleam of an illegal hue.
There are other restrictions imposed on cricketers as regards dress. Grey flannels are strictly forbidden. Curiously enough, at Haileybury grey flannels are strictly enforced. The other restrictions are mainly due to the dictates of etiquette. Thus until quite lately no one but a member of one of the Elevens would have thought of appearing in a white hat or white boots, or of carrying a cricket-bag. Even now the law still holds good with regard to the cricket-bags, but the scorching seasons of the last few years have led to the general use of white hats.
The powers of a Prefect at Dulwich are theoretically autocratic, but limited practically by the fact that the use of the flagellum is not allowed except in cases of diabolical and blood-curdling wickedness. In such a case it is necessary to convene a full Prefects’ meeting before the offender can be dealt with. The offence is then reported to the Master, who gives his sanction to the execution if he sees fit. Subsequent proceedings run much on the same lines as at other schools. The mauvais quart d’heure between the entrance of the criminal and the commencement of the more practical part of the day’s work is whiled away by a pithy address from the captain of the school, who acts as Master of the Ceremonies.
The chief weapon of the Prefect in his warfare with vice is the power to send offenders up to Hall. The person sent up to Hall spends from four till four-thirty in a species of writing-class, which corresponds to the treadmill, inasmuch as no one of unspotted character is seen in it. It takes the place of lines, which are seldom used at Dulwich. In the case of some of the more hardened reprobates of the Junior School, it is necessary to book a long time ahead, as most of such have engagements every afternoon for weeks. “You will go up to Hall” says the Prefect with awful sternness. “But,” replies his opponent, “I am kept in for Mr. Blank to-day.” “Go to-morrow, then.” “Kept in for Mr. Dash to-morrow.” This leads to a thorough overhauling of the junior’s engagement-book, when it is found that, after keeping appointments with Messrs. Asterisk, Hyphen, and others, he will be able (wind and weather permitting) to go up to Hall some time after the middle of next term—though he can’t promise. After such a scene as this the Prefect naturally wonders if he is really the Czar-like autocrat he is supposed to be.
P. D., or Punishment Drill, is extensively patronized in the Junior School. This institution was originally merely a punishment, consisting, as it did, of a walk of twenty minutes round and round the Junior Cloisters. Under our present sergeant, however, a zest has been added to the entertainment by the introduction of genuine, corps-like drill. It is, therefore, a privilege to be allowed to take part in it—as the Junior School evidently feels, for attendance shows no signs of falling off in numbers.
On wet afternoons the Blocks are opened in the dinner-hour, and Prefects are told off to patrol. The Blocks are divided into sections, and each section has its Prefect. The flaw in this scheme, which is discussed daily in the Prefects’ room, is mainly this, that, whereas the section known as Top junior contains only one Form-room (which, by the way, never has anyone in it), the section known as Bottom Junior contains no less than five, all crammed with desperadoes who would stick at nothing provided that they could do it incog. And yet the same number of Prefects are allowed to each, viz. one. An institution which was very popular in its day was Boarders’ Singing. It was a custom taken from Harrow.
There are no slang-words peculiar to Dulwich. The school rubs along with borrowed materials. Popular ideas as to what exactly constitutes “side” are varied. It may, for instance, be considered side if a member of the First Eleven appears in a Third Eleven cap. On the other hand, a member of the Third Eleven, who wears his cap on all occasions, such as in the Form-room or in bed, is also open to that accusation.
Perhaps the most exclusive property of the school is it’s cheer, three long-drawn “hi-i-i-p’s,” followed by a short “h’ray.”
Finally, we are Allaynians, not Alleenians.
Published unsigned in Public School Magazine; entered by Wodehouse as “The ways we have at Dulwich” in Money Received for Literary Work.
. . . he throws in a mention of Gilbert’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for good measure and shows off a little French: mauvais quart d’heure: an uncomfortable though brief experience; a phrase used by schoolboys to describe the awkward pause during which the offender has been lectured but the paddle not yet applied.