RON THOMPSON’S EARLY SCHOOL IN INDIA


My name is Ron Thompson, and I live in Birmingham, England.

When I was a small boy, I lived in India, and from 1940-1946 I went to school in a small hill town called Nainital (red) in the foothills of the Himalaya mountains, in the State of Uttar Pradesh, about 200 miles North-East of New Delhi (brown).

In 1998, I and my wife took a tour of North India, visiting the wonderful palaces and forts of the old Mogul Empire, including the Taj Mahal in Agra, and forts at Delhi and Jaipur, as well as Lucknow, Benares and Udaipur.

After the main tour was over, we hired a car and driver (shown here) and drove to Nainital from Delhi, a journey of 6 or 7 hours. 



The word “tal” is the Hindi word for lake, and the town surrounds the lake and presents a very pretty picture.


The day after reaching the small town, we visited the school - "St. Joseph's College" . I had left it more than 50 years previously, but we found that it is still a boys’ boarding school with teaching in the English language medium. Of course, as in all schools in India, both Hindi and English are taught to a high standard at all levels of the school.

The school itself is about half a mile above the lake with wonderful views of the surrounding hills.


From some parts of the school and of the town, one can glimpse fantastic views of  the higher snow-capped Himalayan mountains in the distance.


While in Nainital, we visited a nearby town of Raniket, which also boasted fabulous views of the distant snow-capped Himalayas (below).


At the school there are 370 boarders, and over 500 day scholars. There are no females among the pupils but many of the staff are female - a marked change from my day! When I was there in the 1940s there were only about 300 boarders.

The boys all seemed very enthusiastic about their school, and were very glad to be there - conscious, perhaps, of the sacrifices their parents were making in placing them at this school. We saw some smiling happy boys in their classroom.  

This was not how I remembered the school, since when I was here over 50 years ago, from 1940 - 1946, the regime was very strict, and we were there - over a thousand miles from our homes - for 9 months of the year at a stretch, from March to December each year without a break. However, I guess I must have benefited from attending this school in more ways that I appreciated at the time, although the experience made me vow that I would not send my own children away to a boarding school. Nevertheless, I realise now that it was the custom for educated families in India at the time to send their children away to the “hills” for their schooling, to escape the heat of the “plains” during the summer months, and there were ( and still are ) many such “hill schools” around India, mostly in the north, in the foothills of the Himalayas. They still provide a good education, modeled somewhat on the English Public School system.

During our recent visit, the Head of the school kindly got out an old school magazine for 1941, in which there were references to my two brothers and myself, and indeed, a reminder of an early thespian episode in my life(!), taken at the 1941 Annual School Concert, which took the form of a series of sketches.


There was a picture of me dressed as a girl, when I sang in a duet with another boy in a sketch called "You Say So". This has provided much amusement for my family, but it was my first and last recorded attempt at making out on the stage!