Malcolm Eastcott. D.H.S.B 1943—1948.
(With apologies for the any missing 3 i’s! )
So this brown envelope announced I had passed the ‘Scholarship’, I would go to DHS, but I did not realise, until that moment, that it meant evacuation to Cornwall !!
Clothing ration coupons spent, school outfit bought, case packed, standing on the railway platform at Plymouth North Road with hundreds of other school boys I was off into the unknown with great trepidation.
Parents waved, tears flowed and we were off. There were two schools aboard the train, Sutton High School who got off at St Austell, whilst we continued to Penzance. Having disembarked, the new ‘first formers’ were directed into groups to go to their new place of residence - HOME !! I and several others were redirected to another train out of Penzance travelling to Marazion.
On arrival we all marched from the railway station to Lord St Levans’ house, ‘The Rookery’, in Marazion. We approached the house up a wide drive to be faced with a large 3 or4 storey impressive but daunting building set in its own grounds.
We were met on the steps by our house master and his wife, Mr and Mrs Sparrow, (‘Dickey’ Sparrow off course! ). Into the main entrance and the house unfolds. To the right all the accommodation was the domain of Mr Sparrow and his family. To the left the very large ground floor through lounge was our meeting and work space (homework). Upstairs were the dormitories, mine was first right on the first floor with an encouraging name of RATBAR! I should explain that each dorm had prefects and our two were a R.A.Taylor (RAT...) and .........Barton (BAR)- nick name Pussy--I never understood why! Below stairs were the kitchens and dining area with large wooden scrubbed tables and benches. This floor also housed the infamous shoe rack into which all our outdoor footwear was orderly placed. A daily changing rota of two boys cleaned all the days’ shoes after eating, but before homework!. This was HOME !!
There were of course some bright bits. If my memory serves me right, Saturday was very special as after morning homework in the lounge, post and parcels were handed out. In those wartime days when phones were generally not available at home or on site the letter was of huge importance to know the family was safe after any air raids. A Saturday and the week following without a letter was a disaster. The rest of the day was ours and we ranged from exploring the grounds including the Grotto to roaming Marizion beach, Chapel Rock, Long Rock and the causeway to St Michaels Mount. With, of course, due regard to the tide state and the danger of the barbed wire and mined (???) sections of the beach.
Saturday evening was the highlight of the week with entertainment and for one night only---Supper! Following our weekly bath and head inspection the entertainment consisted of an 8mm silent film show following the adventures of Rin Tin Tin. This was a canine version of our later day James Bond. Supper was a drink and a sandwich. The drink was coco made with water and no sugar, whilst the choice of sandwich was red or brown-----sauce! This was, of course, on bread with no butter, but as ‘Sir’ said ‘there ‘IS’ a war on’!! Sunday morning was the time we all wrote home and after letters were collected we all went to the churches of our own denomination. Afternoon was free time.
As a contribution to the war effort I recall two events. Firstly ‘we’, but not all, from the Rookery were taken to Long Rock on Marazion beach at a very low tide, at a certain time of the year, and harvested a specific seaweed which we were told would be used in the production of Penicillin. Secondly the same ‘we’ helped to harvest some of the local potato crops. This was more interesting as we, with the farmers’ men, followed the horse and plough as the crop was dug up. The men quickly picked up all the large potatoes and we followed on to dig and rummage for the small ones, and oh yes, best of all, we got paid !!. It was a small sum but we all felt rich!
One final recollection of that time was our (The Rookery groups’ ‘et all’) annual visit to Lord St Levan’s St Michael’s Mount. This was off course on a specific Sunday when the tide allowed a morning’ transit and return with enough time to attend the morning service in the church. After the service we, under direction, explored the church and castle. Of greatest interest was the visit to the dungeon, yes that’s correct the dungeon, even though the NT do not generally acknowledge its presence!! I and a few others on that visit entered the said dungeon. If you stand with your back to the altar in the centre aisle the entrance is to the right. I think it is in the middle third of the pews, second tranche in. Under a trap door and down a very narrow spiral group of steps hewn from the rock, to a very small space big enough for only one person, which was also hollowed from the solid rock. It was illuminated with a single light bulb, and it was not a place to dally! I’m sure in today’s Health and Safety environment, without proper ventilation and a face mask, entry will be impossible!
My first year was also my last year in Cornwall as my poor health moved me back home. I attended the ‘Emergency High School’ housed in (ugh) Sutton’s buildings until the great VE Day when soon after all of DHS assembled at your current site Stoke Military Hospital.
I left in 1948 With a School Certificate (Cambridge of course!).
As you can see the old saying still has some relevance----You can take the boy out of school, but you can’t take the school out of boy!!
Good luck for the future.
Prorsum Semper Honeste.