MGS: Mr Brampton Asst Head Master and Head of History
©Bob Hadley Cape Town, October 2001
Like other discerners who had the great fortune to experience his authority, I will remember our Assistant Head Master, ‘Beaky’ Brampton with a mixture of respect and affection.
He taught history, you know, and he taught it very well. So well, in fact that I passed ‘O’ level with at least 1% to spare, – And I was a bit thick in those days, (as Neddy Bacon, demon of the General Science faculty will verify).
But, back to ‘Beaky’; He was a last remnant of the Grand Masters. His finely chiselled academic features and statesman’s gait allowed him to glide the corridors of learning with his nose parallel to the ceiling, whilst mildly chiding the majority,gown flowing and historical tombs clasped to his bosom. He taught me all manner of totally useless dates; when things of little current importance happened; but he had the knack of making the dry and dusty past interesting. His dissertation on the table manners of the Younger Pitt, (he had a soft spot for [the then revolutionary] chunky marmalade) and the extra-mural caprices of Napoleon Bones Apart, [he had a harder spot for La Contesse Cheri du Barric ]), live with me yet.
His dusty light brown suite matched his aging Wolesely 1.5 motor car inwhich he travelled to and from Baronet Green, my home suburb. I got to know that vehicle quite well in the 6th as, when circumstances permitted, the great man took pity on the combination of inclement weather and my wasting time at the delay of Mssrs. Midland Red Omnibus Co Ltd.
“Your time will be better spent in homework study, Hadley – You’d better get in”
Always a cautious driver, he would launch intohis pet historical theory and regale me with all manner of interesting snippets that were to grace the pages of his next text-book.
He was a show man too; of the old school. One day, when the Head was indisposed, he took the school assembly and announced that “There is a miscreant within our very midst”. Though I forget the crime, (we had a rash of 5th formers nickin’ fags from the shop down Wake Green Road about that time), we all felt the unaccustomed disciplinary draught. Sure enough, come late morning, the School was again convened – an unheard of occurrence. Totally perplexed and chattering, we all filed in and lined up. As a 6th former, I had a privileged post by the door to the notice board lobby, ½ way down the Hall. The Staff came trooping in and up onto the stage. With a clatter of his steel-tipped heels, down the granite stairs, Mr.Brampton wafted his entrance. And, taking the lectern in both hands, stretched his arms and glared for instant silence. We quivered. The Charge was read. The three Accused were named. The three Accused were ordered into the lobby. The Beak descended. Reaching the lobby, and unseen by the School, in stentorian tones he ordered the Convicted to “Touch you Toes Boys!” . Three lanky 5thformers, individually, easily his physical superiors, obeyed. We all still quivered. Some shuffled nervously. I then saw The Beak recover the pre- concealed size 12 gym shoe. He lifted same and smote the wall with all his sexagenarian might. Once, Twice, Three times. Then again for three… and again for three. The confined lobby, acting like a sound box, amplified the smacks to THWACKS. Silence. The School was terrified. The Beak re-entered. Eyes were downcast. Mr. Brampton mounted the stage and armed the lectern. “If any boy EVER disgraces my school again – that was but a sample of the wrath I will rain upon him …. Dismiss”
Though it takes a little practice, I have since used that trick – to great effect. I owe the Great Man. (I recall that the three were expelled and the rot stopped).