Short stories, Travel and Health Information
“You should bear in mind that parish priests, in addition to flesh and blood and brains, are also made of yet another thing.”
“You mean to say” Don Camillo shook his head “ that I should bear in mind that priests are also made of heart?”
-Giovanni Guareschi: The World of Don Camillo (1950)
A few years ago when I visited Melbourne I had the good fortune to visit my old teacher Rev Baldwin Daniel.
During our schooldays Rev Daniel (or Father Baldwin, as all of us knew him) was the chaplain of our school S. Thomas’ College, and being an ordained Anglican priest in an Anglican school, he used to be entrusted with taking classes in Christianity. But he was also a teacher – and many of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, had the privilege during our teenage years of being taught English by him.
He was a good teacher, able to explain things in simple terms that all of us in the class could understand, and used to draw on easy to understand examples to clarify matters. That said, he certainly could be strict. Many of us meeting him in later years after we left school would remind him (to his embarrassment!) of the “cuts” he gave us when we misbehaved or missed answering a simple question – “cuts” painfully administered with the thin end of a foot ruler on our legs.
But what endeared Father Baldwin to all of us at that school was that he was one of those teachers who participated fully in the life of the school. If there was an away match being played by our first fifteen rugger team at Kotahena or Reid Avenue or the old Army grounds, you could be sure that Father Baldwin would be there to support the team, dressed in his “civilian clothing” of slacks, bush shirt and topee hat – and carrying his ubiquitous umbrella. If the scout troop was having its annual camp up in the hills at Pedro, he was always chosen to accompany us. If there was a class picnic being organised, you would be sure that Father Baldwin would be invited as one of the staff members to accompany the group.
After he finished his term as chaplain at our school he served for a while as a parish priest in Ratnapura and Milagiriya and then migrated to Australia – where he was stationed for several years as the vicar of a picturesque rural church some distance from Melbourne in the Gisborne hills. Afyer his retirement he lived in a small flat in Melbourne, where he used to welcome visits from his old pupils whose number includes not only old pupils visiting from Sri Lanka but also many among that huge population of Sri Lankans resident in Australia.
On the day I called on him, he pulled out a couple of old group photographs – including one of a 1962 class trip to Bentota. I was amazed to recognise in it so many familiar faces of my contemporaries – young cheeky faced schoolboys then but long since grown to man’s estate.
He was eager for news of his old students and showed genuine pleasure to learn of their successes. “How is young K…?” he asked me – and “Where is this chap M…now?” He was pleased to know that “young K…” , after a distnguished academic and diplomatic career, is now Sri Lanka’s ambassador to China, and that “this chap M…” qualified as a doctor and is a much loved family physician in Panadura. He was sad to learn that a couple of the “young fellows” in our class had passed away – and pleasantly surprised that more than a couple of the others were now grandfathers.
When I left, he thanked me for taking the time to drop in and see him. I must admit that I enjoyed the visit as much as he seemed to do, because it was so nice to see my old teacher and chat about days gone by. The years just fell away and I could picture myself again at the old school with “young K…” and “this chap M…” and all the other scallywags in my class that year.
It was, even if I do say so myself, an extremely good year.
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