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What St. Paul's School means to its Boys

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Source: Old Paulite Association (Europe) Newsletter,
Issue 4, September 2003[1]

The French have an expression when trying to describe something that has a certain special quality beyond adequate description “Je ne sais quoi!” Loosely translated: “I don’t quite know what!” Its use in English conveys the same meaning when trying to define that certain something.

What is it about St. Paul’s that touches all who have been there, in a special and inexplicable way - pupil and staff alike? 

We were not all angels. Some moments were unpleasant. Many of us of more advanced years will remember the swish of that cane and the relief as one charged round the library or down the Lyon Hall corridor to work off its sting! Or we remember the torture of P.D. and the restrictive tedium of Detention. Yet we loved the place. It moulded limb and brain.

Why? All of us will have attempted to answer that question. Most of us will not have been able to explain that indefinable something. 

David Gibbs and Michael Cross tried to at the North American Reunion in New Jersey. Both succeeded up to a point. Like the majority, one suspects, neither quite put their finger on it.

The Chapel,” emerged as the preferred explanation. 

“The Chapel and all it stands for, for all of us no matter what religion, and all that took place within it certainly were a major influence, but was there something more?

Don Tanner in his article in this Newsletter last August hinted it may have been: “the beautiful surroundings in which we lived, high in the mountains with a view of the spectacular Kanchenjunga Range almost every day of our lives. The environment was almost spiritual, conducive to the contemplation of God and the finer things of life.” 

Wow! Try explaining the sentiments behind those words to a stranger! Or attempt to convey ones feelings at an Ascension Day Service in the open by the quarry and water tower, on a beautiful May morning, surrounded by those breathtaking mountains, with the prospect of the Staff vs Boys annual cricket match to come later in the day. Or, describe the walk back from the chapel to the quad on a cold, crystal clear moonlit night in November: “Going Home Day is Coming Soon!” Oh! the joy and exuberance of the preparations for the end of term supper. One has difficulty finding words to do them justice. 

The Chapel. The Environment. It all begins to add up. Combine them with the enduring bond and genuine friendship between boys irrespective of colour or of creed, the dedication of their teachers, the devotion of the servants, and maybe – just maybe...

We will begin to arrive at an answer.


  1. Link to post on Sumant Dalmiya's Facebook album