And later on, each time I returned to school after the Christmas holidays, I remember how much I missed the open fire of home – there weren’t any at Tollerton, at least not until you got into the sixth form and its common room. I must have been quite a shy boy, though, because I was soon given the nickname ‘Horace’. Apparently there was a children’s TV programme at the time, with a character of that name whom no-one could understand, so indistinctly did he speak. That was me! I got used to the name, though I never expected it to follow me for the next ten years: when eventually I arrived in Rome, there the nickname was awaiting me…..
I enjoyed my time at St Hugh’s. In many ways, the education we received was constrained – no geography, not much art and, I think, no real science (there was no science lab then). And French, the only modern foreign language, taught by someone whose knowledge was somewhat limited. But the rest more than made up for it: Latin (and a bit of Greek) made almost into a living language by the incomparable Fr Sweeney; maths taught by Fr Swaby – it wasn’t until I started A-level maths that I really appreciated how good a tutor he was; and history – Fr Higham was perhaps the best teacher I ever had, who made the subject very much a ‘story’. English came mainly, as far as I recall, courtesy of Fr Purdy. He, too, was very good, though my memories of him are a little coloured by his passion for cricket – a passion I didn’t quite share!
But there was much more to life at Tollerton than academic study. Sport was very important. We played football, which suited the largely proletarian background of the boys – an attempt to introduce rugby foundered on our apathy – and maybe also because Horace, in the back the scrum, managed to kick the scrum-half (Fr Purdy) in the eye, with bloody effect… Cricket, though, was the second religion: Sunday evening benediction was not infrequently postponed if the cricket match needed more time. And then there was the running: at least twice a week, plus any time the inclement weather prevented other sports, we would be sent on a run.