Boy's College Calcutta

La Martiniere Boy's College, Calcutta (West Bengal), INDIA
 
 
 
 
The Calcutta La Martiniere Schools, were the result of Martin’s desire to start a school "for the public good of the town of Calcutta or establish a school for educating a certain number of children of any sex to a certain age, and to have them put prentice to some profession." Through it generations of young lives would find a footing in the world. It took 30 years to dispose of the litigation arising out of the will. Finally, as a result of a Supreme Court decision , La Martiniere School, opened in Calcutta on 1st of March, 1836. The first body of Governors determined what sort of school La Martiniere was to be. Their report, dated 1835, showing exceptional enlightenment for that age, decided that the school should provide a liberal education, in which foundationers as well as day scholars should participate. Twenty poor girls and thirty poor boys were to be chosen from the Christian population of Calcutta and they were to be directly educated and supported from school funds. Other Christian students could be admitted on payment of fees. The main building was then occupied by both boys and girls; the boys being on the eastern, and the girls on the western side. There were iron railings running north and south on both sides of the building, dividing the two departments. Both sexes attended the School Chapel.

The classes were entirely separate; Mrs. Martindell was Head Mistress, and there was a staff of lady teachers. The Head Master was Mr. Masters. In 1844 or 1845 the Girls’ School house was purchased and the girls department was transferred to it. The earliest records available show that from a modest beginning of 30 boys and 20 girls the Schools have expanded until there are now over 500 boys and about 300 girls. The only manly game was cricket. Boys’ games outside the organised games in the school year, were rounders, leap-frog and wrestling. Swimming, though under difficulties as the tank was in Entally and Puddapookur , was popular. In accordance with the wishes of the Founder, the Schools attached great importance to the teaching of scientific and technical subjects. The subjects taught in the Boys’ School were English, Writing, Arithmetic, Mathematics, Geography, History, Latin, Greek, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Surveying, Plan and Map drawing, Natural History, Music and Singing. Prize Day and Founder’s day were the two red letter days in the School Year. The Bible was read systematically at Morning and Evening Assembly for prayers. Religious instruction was of paramount importance and some 30 psalms and 40 hymns were expected to be memorised.

In his address to the School in December 1870, Lord Mayo commented on the wisdom of a system of education," as will not produce the poor exotic results of cramming but will give a sound, general and useful education even though some brilliancy of achievement is sacrificed in the process." The numbers of both schools were now much increased, both boarders and day scholars being admitted. A good number of the boarders came from the North West Province, Burma and the Straits. The Boys’ School has been buffeted by the forces of nature on two occasions. In 1864 a disastrous cyclone flooded the dormitories. Then in 1897 a devastating earthquake rocked Calcutta and damaged buildings at both Schools (Boys and Girls). The south portico of the Girls’ School partly collapsed and cracks widened on the magnificent dome atop the Boys School leading to its eventual removal.
The Boys’ School was the centre of the first Cambridge Examinations to be held in India in 1901. During the First World War several teachers were drafted into the Indian Army and joined the North Staffordshire Regiment as well as the 1st Punjabis. Corporal Wilton Manuel died in the trenches at Loos.Around 1922, the Principal, Mr. Adcock introduced the House system that bore names according to the alphabet. There were seven Houses from A to G. Sometime between 1923 and 1927 the number of Houses was reduced to four and they were given the current names. In 1935 a landmark decision of the High Court partially removed religious and racial restrictions on the admission of non-European, non-Christian, fee-paying students. The School was now empowered to admit such students up to a maximum of 25 % of its total strength. In March 1942 the threat of a Japanese invasion prompted the relocation of both Boys’ and Girls’ Schools to Lucknow. Some 166 boys, 95 girls and most of the staff made the journey to Lucknow where the students were housed in buildings which had been requisitioned for the purpose by the United Provinces government. The Calcutta Schools shared the facilities of the Lucknow Schools.As part of its social responsibility to the wider community, the Boys’ School in 1974 introduced a number of vocational courses for young people from the under-privileged sections of society with the objective of setting them up as entrepreneurs. Thus the Self-Employment Oriented Multi-purpose Training Centre (SEOMP) came into being. In February 1979 the Schools further extended their range and started a non-formal education project for underprivileged children aged between the ages of 3 and 10 years. They also initiated an ambitious scheme to uncover the deficient factors of environment, nutrition, health, etc; that adversely affect the learning abilities of the young of Calcutta and how these deficiencies may be overcome by a specially created stimulation and "total education" project to last them a life time. A number of old boys did well after leaving School. Some notables of the last century were Sir G.C. Paul, Sir A. Lethbridge, Mr.C. Longhurst, head of the Stamp Office, and Mr.C. Todd of the Telegraph Department who made an invaluable contribution during the Mutiny of 1857. Todd was the man on duty at Delhi when the mutineers broke in and it was he who sent the message to Sir John Lawrence, "the mutineers are in", that saved the Punjab. Unfortunately, he was killed soon after in the Telegraph grounds. Old boys like Sir Paul Chater, M.Thaddeus, C.Stewart and G.R.McNair, in the traditions of the Founder, have earned the esteem of generations of Martinians with generous bequests made to their alma mater.

In 1976 a new building Atmodhya Bhavan was opened to accommodate the ever expanding educational streams and student numbers. A new class eleven was originated in 1976 as a co-educational experiment. The School has produced some outstanding scholars such as Ronodeb Roy who topped the All India Merit List in 1986. The School has always been noted for its sporting prowess. Sporting links were established with the Lucknow Martiniere, local Calcutta Swimming, Rugby and basketball teams and the Doon School. Christopher Wallington was awarded the Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak for rescuing a boy from drowning. Rugby was played between the twenties and sixties and many epic struggles took place between the two Boys’ Martinieres. Over the years a number of boys have represented Bengal in hockey. Outstanding individual athletes were Oscar Ward who represented India as a Light-Heavyweight boxer at the Helsinki Olympics and later, Rishi Narain represented India as a golfer at Asiad 82. The School has a proud record in every field of human endeavour and has justly lived up to the vision of the Founder.
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