(A True Story)
There was a slight, reminiscent smile on the sad-eyed face of the woman who was helping a nervous young man with his badly-knotted black bow-tie as he mentally rehearsed his “impromptu” remarks before going on stage.
I was that young man and the woman was Mrs. Painter, the time the end of the school year 1945. For almost everyone, parents and guests in the packed Great Hall it was a time of optimism and rejoicing. The Occupation had ended; those who had evacuated Jersey in 1940 were returning to their homes; new masters, many demobilised from the Armed Services, were being appointed to replace those who had struggled to maintain the curriculum during the difficult years; College field was being cleared of the material that the Germans had dumped there and the laboratories were being re-equipped and stocked. To celebrate all this, it had been decided to stage a Review comprising sketches, individual and group performances and I had been designated to “provide continuity”, probably because I owned a handed-down dinner suit.
Mrs. Painter had two distinguished sons who had gone through College. The younger, Jacko to all, was a year or so ahead of me while her elder son. Peter had left in 1943 after a dazzling school career, Captain of his House, a School Prefect, colours in cricket and hockey, his ambition had been to join the Royal Navy but the family did not get away before the Germans arrived. Instead, late in 1943 he and his father had been arrested by the Germans for being in possession of a wireless set. They had been deported and nothing further was heard of them during the war. Then, in June 1945, a month after our Liberation, word came through that Peter had died of bronchial pneumonia after, in the words of the College's Second Book of Remembrance “suffering many privations and hardships in different camps and prisons. His father died some time later”
Time to go on stage and start the Review. Putting a final touch to my make-up, Mrs. Painter gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek and wished me luck.