Dickensian days at Treverton

2009-11-11 00:00

I WAS interested and somewhat amused to read the stor­y “Trompie of Treverton” in your issue of November 2, as I was a boarder there for four long years (1943 to 1946).

Mr Binns, or Plotty as we nicknamed him, was a hard man and used to apply the cane quite frequently, but not altogether undeservedly because, as we know, boys will be boys.

He did have a heart though, as I recall when one of my classmates lost his mother who was already widowed. He had no other relatives around to care for him so Plotty adopted him as his own son, which is saying something for an old bachelor.

The school itself was Spartan to say the least, with outside bucket toilets and it was very cold and dry in winter. We used to stand huddled like sheep to catch the first rays of sunlight in the mornings when you could hear shouts of “Get out of my sunlight” all over the place.

I don’t recall any boys actually running away during my time there but it might have occurred as it was hard not to be extremely homesick.

Toilet paper consisted of cut-up newspapers handed out each morning by the monitor on duty.

This was wartime, a fact of which we were constantly reminded. It was also the excuse given for rather poor-quality food.

The lumps in the Maltabella and mielie-meal porridge were ghastly as we were not allowed to leave anything on our plates since that would have been wasteful.

One of the nicest masters was David Black, who ended up marrying Peter Binns’s secretary, Joy Silburn, and they soon left to start their own school, Cowan House in Hilton.

Then there was “Chinky” Harris, who was nice and a good teacher, as well as a sports coach.

He was nicknamed “Chinky” as he looked like what we imagined a Chinaman looked like.

“Dupe” du Plessis was also there for part of my sojourn and he went on to spend many happy years at Michaelhouse.

The women teachers were all very nice to us youngsters, especially Mrs Erlank, Mrs Murray and Miss Winsome Read who taught art, as well as running the Scouts and Cubs most enthusiastically.

The rugby field was just a piece of veld with some poles at each end and was very hard on our knees when tackling opponents.

The matron was a Mrs Lawrence, or “Fatty” Lawrence as she was called for obvious reasons.

I don’t recall her ever smiling at us boys but then I suppose there wasn’t much to smile about in the circumstances.

With hindsight it was all rather Dickensian and I cannot to this day think why my parents sent me there. They were farming at Lidgetton and I could easily have gone to Clifton at Nottingham Road, which was far closer and, from what we heard from the boys who went there, a far nicer and more humane school.

Well that’s life, I suppose.

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