Your February number was a most interesting one, and observing your note on page 615 thereof, I thought I would venture to send you a few lines to shew you that there is an O.K.S. even in this out-of-the-way corner of the world, who remembers the old school with affection and pride. When home on leave I find such profound ignorance prevailing on the subject of British Guiana, that I am tempted to ask if anyone in the school knows where Berbice is. But this is a rude question, and will no doubt call down upon me the wrath of Carrington, Percy Dalton & Co.
For five years I was under Dr. Mitchinson, and am proud to say that I retain my reverence, and even, I believe, my fear of him, to this day, and am heartily glad to see that he has been appointed Master of his old college, an appointment, no doubt, after his own heart, and one that he will assuredly adorn.
After reading your description of the school room as it now is, I am sure I should hardly recognize it as the one in which I went through, and saw so much. The old mint yard was still in existence when I joined first, and I saw the first pickaxe come through the wall of the old building, where the Headmaster’s house now stands, when the work of destruction began. I had the honour of taking part in, I believe, the first school concert in the old Head Master’s house in the corner, when Dean Alford was present. And there too saw the “Doctor” descend from the carriage in which he had been triumphantly dragged home by the boys, after the celebrated Delasaux case, and in a voice, broken with emotion, thanked us all and gave us a holiday on the spot.
I was present also, and slightly wounded, at the great snow fight with the roughs of Northgate, when the Green Court Gate had to be closed, and smashed windows and black-eyes were the order of the day. Was I not also a witness of the greatest fight that ever took place in the “Foreigns,” that between Steve Martin and Walter Kemp, both good men and true. There were seven Horsleys in my time, of whom John (primus) was especially kind to me. Septimus came to Demerara the other day in command of H.M.S. Pelican, and we renewed our old friendship with much pleasure. Other giant names I can call to mind as having looked up to from a respectful distance; John Kemp, Frank Hall, Arthur Gardiner, Dundas, George Fowler and many others, and among my own pals, Lyall, Reid, Wightwick, Hallowes, Kemp, Martin &c., honoured remembrances all.
I must not forget to mention that I was in Mr. Plant’s first singing class, and am right glad to see that he is still going strong; in it also was another good old pal, “Tadpole” Archer, why so called I cannot say, as he was a particularly good looking chap. Of great days that I remember none can equal the last speech day on which Dr. Mitchinson was present as Head Master, the events of which are indelibly engraved on my memory. Of sad occasions, two stand out, the funerals of Dean Alford and of Mr. Lipscomb, our second master, much loved, in spite of a voice of thunder which used to paralize us with fear.
Of my humble self I may say that although I have added nothing to the scholastics or academic honours gained by the school, I yield to none in affectionate remembrance of it, and all connected with it.
Percy Hemery (1851-1935) joined King’s in 1860 and left in 1865. He became a banker and going out to British Guiana in 1877. He was later a JP, coroner and commissioner of oaths. This letter was written to The Cantuarian and published in May 1899.