Saturday, November 23, 2002

Circular No 54

Newsletter for past alumni of The Abbey School, Mt. St. Benedict, Trinidad and Tobago, W.I.
Caracas, 23 of November 2002. Circular No. 54
Dear Friends,
Here is the first scouting story written as such for our Circular by Nigel Boos.
Maybe it’s because we grew up in the post WWII era, a time when uniformed soldiers were on every movie screen and were great role-models for us young ones. Maybe it’s because we loved to parade in our khakis, black and gold scarf toggled at the neck, badges there to show as proof of achievement. Or maybe we all simply enjoyed the challenge and the fun associated with scouting. 

But for sure, Scouting at the Abbey School was an unique experience. I believe it is true to say that we had more Queen Scouts than perhaps any other Scout Troop in the island. But what else would one expect than a fantastic record, with a Scout Master like Fr. Ildefonse in charge, a mighty man among men, followed after his resignation by the friendly, humble and caring Fr. Cuthbert, who had to learn everything about scouting from “scratch”, as the Canadians say.

Sunday morning band practice was something to which we looked forward, bringing with it, as it did, noise, music (of a type), discipline, and great efforts by our band to maintain a high quality of martial tempo. The trumpeters, who in my day included John Golding, Juan Marini, Pablo Figuera, Dennis Gurley, and others, led by Manuel Prada, set a wonderful, piercing tune, against the rat-tat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat-tat, ah-rat, ah-rat, ah-rat-tat-tat-tat beating of the side drums, played by (fill in the blanks, fellas, I can’t even remember the names), and backed by the Big Base Drum which was my job. (Wasn’t Stephen Clerk my understudy? I know he was involved, but exactly in which capacity eludes me now.) Frankly, I had the easiest job, as all I had to do was to hit the thing hard and keep time with everyone else. We marched around the School a few times, much to the annoyance of the volleyballers who had to pause in their game as we ducked under the net, and it was a blessed relief to everyone when, finally, we set off down the hill and along the roadway to entertain / annoy the rest of Trinidad and the monks of MSB. It was always a highlight of the parade when Mike Howard was invited to step out in front of the band, with his silver baton (a thing with a heavy wooden ball at the top end). Tall as he was, Mike led the parade from the front and inspired us with his wonderful, fancy marching style and handling of his baton.

Camping with the 1st Mount St. Benedict Scout Troop was an experience never to be forgotten. Fr. Ildefonse would choose his camping ground, after much consultation with the Scout Commissioner, local landowners, and I suppose, our Troop Leader, Gerard Pampellone, and plans would be made. Each Patrol Leader (mine was “Woodpeckers”) was responsible for ensuring that an adequate number of pots, pans, skillets, mugs, plates, cutlery, tents, poles, pegs, mallets, shovels, ropes, semaphore flags, etc. were packed into our “Patrol Boxes” and readied for departure. On the big day, we’d board the bus and accompanying cars in our uniforms and head out for a few days of glorious adventure. On site, the routine began, with unloading, unpacking, distributing, checking, choosing Patrol sites, pitching tents, cutting bamboo, building trestle tables, making gadgets, cooking, inspections, hiking, mealtimes, camp-fires, games and of course, sleeping. 

Each day began with a “Wake-Up” call, followed in short order by Holy Mass, from the back of Fr. Ildefonse’s / Fr. Cuthbert’s Volkswagen van. The back of the van was set up as an altar, and (these were pre-Vatican II days, so the priest had his back to us, facing into the van) we stood around respectfully as the holy sacrifice was offered, in Latin.

We camped at a number of memorable sites all over Trinidad and Tobago, and I vividly recall one camp in Tobago, in 1961. I think, when Mr. Bishop invited us to come to Tobago as guests of the Tobago Scout Association. The land chosen for us was a concave basin, and we were positioned at the very base of the basin. Mr. Bishop brought over the largest “grass-cutter” I’d ever seen (which he probably used to cut the bush between his coconut trees), a huge apparatus pulled behind his tractor. In no time at all, the area was cleared and we began to set up camp, pitching tents randomly around the inside of the basin. We cooked supper and were preparing for bed when the heavens opened up. Rain fell bucket a drop for the entire night and the water rose inch by inch inside of the tents. Everything was soaked, in fact, everything was underwater, and we were cold and miserable. An SOS call was sent out, presumably by Fr. Cuthbert, and in the middle of the night, cars began to arrive to extricate us from the bog which our campsite had become. We were taken to a local school-house and offered accommodation in a few of the classrooms, which thankfully were dry. We slept blissfully into the morning, all semblance of order having temporarily disappeared. But not for long.. . . . . . . as soon as we had woken up and cooked breakfast, back we went to the campsite to salvage everything, travelling back and forth in Mr. Bishop’s tractor-trailer unit to a new campsite chosen for us, a lovely spot right on the water’s edge, with a beautiful view of sea and sand as only those who know and love Tobago can understand. A very memorable camp indeed.

And so the years have flown. We graduated from Abbey School and moved on with our lives. Some of us went on to Form 6 at St. Mary’s, others attended Canadian, American, British and Venezuelan Universities, among others, and settled down, some with families, others not, but all retaining somewhere, in the backs of their minds, distant, lingering memories of those happy days of our youth, when we were ready to take on the world.

Ladislao Kertesz has been asking for someone to write something about Scouting at Mount, for the benefit of us all, and I have tried to fulfil his request. I knew that somewhere among my albums I still had a small collection of photographs which I had taken with my box camera and I’ve dug them up. Hopefully, some of you guys will recognize yourselves. Hopefully, these pictures will remind you of where we’ve been together. Perhaps some of you may feel inspired to write about your own memories of MSB and the Abbey School. At any rate, here they are, for your enjoyment. I recognize a number of the guys from these photos, but perhaps not everyone, so help me out, if you will:

Best regards,

Until my circular No. 55
God Bless
Listado: C54 .xls
Photo: Jeffgransuallandh_11ba35 no Joeazarandhispatrol
Column: 010805 wvb The child of the sea


Listado C54.xls

Names Form V Contact Nickname business address Phone, e-mail
OConnor, Leary

Booragoon, W.Australia,
OConnor, Richard

Booragoon, W.Australia,
OConnor, Wayne

Oliveros, Americo

Olivierre, David Fr.

Olliviere, Fr.

Ortega, Edgar

Ortega, Pedro

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