St Hugh's College, Tollerton

Michael Kerrigan's pages 3/5

There were, I think, three basic routes: the Square, about 3 miles long, and two longer ones of about 6 and nearly 10 miles. We would run mainly on the roads – I was driving past Tollerton not so long ago and realised how impossibly dangerous it would be nowadays to attempt the same! I enjoyed all the sport – even the cricket, as fielding gave plenty of time for idle thought – but I was never very good at anything except cross-country running.

Then there was the music. Fr Purdy’s third religion was classical polyphony and, though as far as we could tell he couldn’t play any instrument, he got us to sing Palestrina, Di Lassus, Victoria and many others. He hammered us, as he one-fingeredly hammered the poor piano, but I have loved that music every since. In a quite different, and much gentler way, Fr Swaby would invite us to listen to classical music on his ‘hi-fi’. This was long before ready-made music centres became available and he had built his own, with a huge beer barrel converted into a base speaker. He loved Bach and Handel, and the Baroque has been my musical centre of gravity every since. Still, it was fast approaching the appearance of Elvis and we were not unaware of pop music, but I don’t recollect our being allowed to listen to Radio Luxembourg (then the main source), even on the sixth-form common-room wireless. But, as you might guess, a love of music is one of the best gifts St Hugh’s gave me.

Then there was drama: Christmas pantomimes – takes by Fr Higham on traditional themes and/or Gilbert & Sullivan adapted to life at Tollerton – and more serious plays about once a year. I recall being the third witch in Macbeth and a servant in Anastasia, before the high-point of my short thespian career as Dr Faustus.
There was only one student whom I remember as being a really good actor (among his many other talents): Eugene Fox who took the lead in Macbeth. But this reminds me of one of the saddest events during my time at St Hugh’s: Foxy’s accidental death in a fall in the Lake District.

Di Lassus