[From The Barrovian #135]
They were a great triumvirate. Not that they ever acted together as a united governing body Rather were they three separate entities. Each administered to our wants in a different sphere Their spheres were of the lower order. they were not planets of the first magnitude; but were lesser luminaries hovering on the outskirts of our solar system. They were. so to speak, semi-celestial bodies apt to be overlooked by the casual observer of our local constellation. Yet they were indispensable in the general scheme of things and, albeit the link that bound was invisible they were none the less, an integral part of the government of our commonwealth, With comprehensive euphony they were generally referred to as "Kelly, Born, Barr."
Casting euphony aside, let us follow rather the order of precedence and deal first with " Bom," easily primus inter pares by virtue of the regular appearance of his name at the end of the list of the school staff. The other two, I am afraid, did not appear on that noble roll.
BOM,-for it was only when personally addressing him or when one lusted after some pleasing piece of oak, perfect in line and grain, that one saluted him, ingratiatingly, as " Mr. Hamilton,"-will be remembered by hundreds of Old Boys as the benevolent tyrant in the old Wood Workshop on the site of the entrance to the present Gymnasium.
Like all of his name, from His Grace the Duke downwards he came from Lanarkshire and the district of Hamilton. Witness his home in Derbyhaven-Lanark House-an outlying colony of his native land. What brought him to K.W.C. I know not, except the general tendency of his race to furnish the civilised world with engineers, carpenters and gardeners. He was, however, to, the last a foreigner in a strange land. He never lost his nationality and never was it more apparent than when some particularly mischievous boy, for the better carrying out of his own nefarious ends, had helped himself without licence to Bom's favourite chisel or plane. Then would the vials of his wrath be emptied upon the unfortunate youth and the interested spectator, seeking perfection in all things, could not but lament that the full flood of his Celtic oratory was dammed by reason of his being in loco tutoris to the young idea in good workmanship.
But if he was great as he ruled in his workshop, he was at his best in chapel. There all the blood of his Covenanting forbears surged within him. Let Sunday fall on the 28th day of the month, then, to see and hear him sing the 135th Psalm, to Lord Mornington's chant, was a performance calculated to cheer the most atrabilious temperament. How his great bearded head rolled from side to side, the better to give his lungs full play, as he shouted with childish glee and holy unction of the discomfiture of " Sehon, King of the Amorites and Og: the King of Basan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan!" With what wise head-waggings did he endorse, with the added weight of his considered approval, the general condemnation of the makers of graven images, " They that made them are like unto them ! " "there was no redemption for those that have ears and hear not " in Bom's theology. Or let the organ swell with the glorious tones of the Old Hundredth and you found Born in his natural element. The Litany and the Responses his Presbyterian palate tasted with something of the diffidence of a guest at the table of the Borgias. But the metrical version of the Psalms had been his earliest spiritual pabulum. Here was the fare for which he hungered with all the longing of the homesick exile. Right joyously did he feast. Indeed in a parlous state of hardness must have been the heart of the man, who, hearing Bom's imperious rendering of the Psalmist's command to "All people that on earth do dwell," failed to join him in singing "with a cheerful voice." On such an occasion, no " Preceptor " in the Highlands or Islands could come near him. All the fervour of his religious being entered into that song of jubilation.
It will be remembered that Bom's house in Derbyhaven was also the Post Office and village shop and was presided over by Mrs. Hamilton. Now that they are both dead their daughter lives here and purveys stamps and chocolates. The particular attraction about Mrs. Bom's establishment was that there one used to be able to buy biscuits and chocolate on a Sunday afternoon. It was never settled quite whether this was an infraction of any school rule connived at by sympathetic authority.
When I think of KELLY, two pictures rise before my mind's eye. In the former it is 6-45 on a dark winter's morning, and in the gaslight, Kelly, in the role of a modern Prometheus, is discovered putting a match to the houseroom fire. Never was the secret stolen from the Gods more welcomed by any mortal. To me, a miserable youth with fingers swollen with chilblains to the semblance of sausages and with nose and adjacent portions of face raw with much blowing, meditating gloomily on a Latin Prose to be executed in morning prep. for the present delectation or distraction of Mr. Wilson, Kelly came as a messenger direct from Heaven. It is thus I always think of him, either lighting fires or conducting operations with a bucket and a brush. Ready to down tools and become anecdotal on the slightest provocation, he was a mine of information regarding the giants and heroes whose deeds of dering do illuminated the history of the school in a more glorious age than ours. And so, in the second picture I see him leaning on his brush as on a staff of office, a mound of dust and paper at his feet. Established in this picturesque pose, before a group round a houseroom fire, he would sing the saga of some great shield-winning house or tell again the tale of that,great day, when on the old 1st XI ;round, Mr. Dickson (I think it was he) "carted" some miserable bowler clean over both walls and into the sea. (The truth of this legend I have never been able to verify.) With some little persuasion he wouldfavour us with a song. His repertoire consisted of " We'll hunt the Wren," and, "Tommy, make room for your Un-kil," the latter accompanied with a step-dance.
To the visiting Old Boy, it is a refreshing solace, in these days of change, to find Kelly's daughter, Mrs. Gray, still ensconced behind the Tuck Shop counter.
Of the third member of the "Triumvirate my memory is not so clear. For one thing we did not see much of him. Many will remember him. The roller with its superimposed box of faded blue, laden with stones and the sorrel nag with its leather roots klipklopping up and down can never be omitted from any picture of BARR. His labour was as that of Sisyphus, for by the time his task reached completion he had perforce to begin all over again. With indefatigable feet he plodded backwards and forwards across College Field cutting and rolling alternately and incessantly. With him, converse was difficult by reason of a throaty thickness of utterance that rendered his remarks as enigmatical as those of any oracle.
These three, then, were the great triumvirate known as " Kelly, Bom, Barr." They were, perhaps, but three obscure men. They did not control the lightning and loosed no thunderbolts and are not to be compared with the Olympians who guided our Destinies. Yet, to one gazing upon the rapidly fading picture of those seemingly far off days, although not. in the centre of the canvas, they are plainly discernible in their own appointed corner as very necessary parts of the whole.
Kelly was William Kelly, a porter at the college for 34 years, who died aged 73 in 1918 (buried Malew 18 Dec 1918);
Bom probably William Hamilton buried Malew 3 April 1912 age 71 (wife Christina buried 11 July 1912 age 73).
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2009