steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Tom Butler's Schooldays - Part 13: The Hall

The meals in the Hall were preceded by Duty. That was a service of psalm-singing followed by prayers read by a Grecian. The Grecians entered, each one by himself, after all the boys were seated. All eyes were fixed on them as they passed from one end of the Hall to their dining-table at the other end. The boys noticed their style of spadge, how their girdle buckle hung, the colour of their kid-gloves, the whiteness of their bands, how their handkerchief showed from the pocket, and so forth. One Grecian would have a monocle held by the eye, another the same article dangling by a string. I looked with admiration upon a certain Grecian who refrained from following the foolish fashion of his fellows by a studious effort to avoid any appearance of spadging. Now it must not be supposed from the above description that the Grecians were merely young swells. No, they were the most advanced scholars Christ's Hospital possessed. They remained longer in the School than the rest, and had a good classical and mathematical knowledge.

My friend Jeffery for his amusement composed a bogus parliamentary speech about the Corn Laws, and placed it, before the time the Grecians entered, in their path. One of them, supposing that another Grecian had dropped it, picked it up. This was exactly what Jeffery intended, and he was gratified to see all the Grecians having a good laugh over it. It was full of spicy words, an unintelligible jargon, and they tried in vain to find who was the author of it.

An account of our dinner would not be very interesting. In a few words I shall say that on Saturday we always had soup, which was never eaten. It was called "mess". On Tuesday we had pork. This was preferred to the meat of other days. I praise the Christ's Hospital authorities much for providing that the bones that contained marrow should be cracked for the boys, and also that there were plenty of marrow-scoopers at hand for their use. The marrow was spread by us on bread and considered a great delicacy.

One day in the year we had pease pudding and pork. I think the meal was provided by a benefactor. On the occasion the scholars had a double allowance of food. But pease pudding is so nourishing that one could not eat much of it conveniently, and therefore half the amount went back to the kitchen. In summer time salad was provided, the dressing of which was called "jicker." ...

The most interesting affair in the Hall was Supper in Public. The following rhymes about it were known by the scholars. Who was the author? I do not know.

"Gentlemen and ladies, walk up the stairs,
See the hungry lions and the half-starved bears,
The stiff-necked pelican and the over-grown ox,
The squeaking hurdy-gurdy and the sharking money box."

The "lions" were the Grecians, the "bears" the rest of the School: the "pelican was the "Treasurer", the "ox" the Steward, the hurdy-gurdy, the Hall's magnificent organ, and "the sharking money box" the box asking money for the Grecians leaving for College.

On a Supper-in-public we ate, in addition to the ordinary meal, "cruggy nailers", that is Captain's biscuits, which were hard, but pleasant to the taste.

At one Supper-in-public I saw the Duke of Wellington, the Waterloo celebrity. As he passed us, he patted the cheeks of one of the lads of our Ward, No. X. Was not that lad honoured to be thus noticed by this great benefactor of the British nation? The Duke of Wellington is one of three worthies that I am glad to have seen. The other two I saw outside Christ's Hospital, Queen Victoria, also a benefactor of our beloved country, by her bright example of righteousness to her subjects, and Dr. Zamenhof, a very modest man, but a benefactor of the whole world by his marvellous invention of the International Language. [TRB became an Esperantist in 1906, one year after his son.]
Tags: family history, tom butler's schooldays
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