The School Tower

Donald Shephard

In January, 2005, three Old Buckwellians, who finished school in 1959, met in London. The three were; Alan Moore LL.B., a retired solicitor and businessman; Dr. Roy Oliver B.Sc., Ph.D., D.Sc., retired Reader in zoology at Dundee University; and, myself, Donald Shephard B.Sc., M.P.A., retired trainer for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

We are all family men, Alan has two sons and grandchildren; Roy has four children; and I have three grown sons. Alan, Roy and others established the AIM listed collagen producing company, Tissue Science Laboratories. We are all comfortably retired. We were relaxed together even though it is at least forty years since I last saw Alan. We reminisced, covering such exploits as the horse drawn caravan holiday in Ireland we shared with Robin Ronan, when the painting of the school tower came up.

Our recollections are not identical. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote in his memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” In that spirit, I have included only mutually agreed details.

In 1958, after we had completed our Advanced Level General Certificate of Education examinations, we spent a few weeks decompressing. The usual end-of-year activities were scheduled. I remember only a school play but I believe there were more.

Roy Oliver and I had gathered a can of red paint, a paint brush, two or three red balloons and some string. We easily climbed the perimeter wrought iron fence and walked to the back of the school. We shinned up the drain pipe of the one-story flat-roofed lavatory. We do not recall how we carried the can of paint. Perhaps it was hooked over an arm as we climbed.

From the lavatory roof we shinned up another drain pipe to the ledge around the two-story gym. The ledge was two or three feet wide with a low brick edge. The tiled roof proved to be an obstacle too steep to walk up until I found that the corner was like steps. We went up it bent double to steady ourselves. We straddled the ridge of the gym roof and proceeded slowly to the tower. Climbing the six feet or so from the roof to the tower was troublesome but we finally made it. Pillars supported the domed roof of the cupola. We painted a red cross on some of the pillars and hung red balloons from others.

Having had so much difficulty getting up to the tower, we decided to try the trap door in its floor. This led us to the interior of the roof above the main body of the school. With the help of a few matches, we stumbled our way around the attic rafters. We had further difficulties finding an exit. We do not recall where we dropped through to the upper story. Perhaps it was into one of the class rooms or science labs. We descended the “down only” staircase and climbed out through the window of the prefects’ room.

Once outside, we painted the tongues of the lions on the two concrete urns that guarded the staircase to the school’s main door. We knew that door was reserved for staff and that headmaster “Spud” Taylor would see our primitive graffiti the next morning.

Why did we do it? You may well ask. It is difficult now to recall motivations of forty-seven years ago. Certainly there was the challenge of a good climb, “because it was there.” There was also a certain rebellion against seven years of authority. After leaving Roy and Alan in London, I visited my mother who now lives in Yorkshire. She repeated her old opinion that separately Roy and I were good boys but together we were trouble.

In London, Alan had said something that was news to me.

“We all knew who did it, but nobody wanted to risk your university careers.”

“Spud” Taylor did tell the assembled school that we should own up and no harm would come to our university chances so I suppose he understood the student code of silence. We did not own up and he cancelled all extra-curricular activities. Now, at this safe distance in time, we own up, we did it.

I am wondering if others have memories of those last few weeks of school before we scattered to the unknown winds. I would be glad to hear your recollections in this forum.

Back to ... Back to Lodi Writers Round Table Stories | Home page