Early History of SLOBA
The old boys' associations had had many faltering on its way to be formed. Efforts were made once in the early seventies to hold annual reunions but nothing much came out of it except a memorable performance by the folk maestro of Bengal Late Nirmalendu Chowdhury. This was in 1973.
It was not until 1982 that these efforts were revived, with very active support from the students who had just about left school and a few from the previous adventure, who had it in their blood to form an alumni association.
This time in 1982, many of the old teachers of the school, some of them no longer alive, threw in their lot with the students.
Fr. Boris D'Santos s.j. who was the Rector at the time took it upon him to make the event a success. The attendance was not encouraging and the tag was graciously picked up by the school. However, this was a beginning which never looked back and went on from strength to strength.
In time in 1985, SLOBA started the Free Clinic in the school premises very Sunday aided by voluntary efforts of the doctor alumni and other active members. The clinic treats more than 50 patients every Sunday till today and is the centre point of the bulk of the activities of the association.
- In 1986, SLOBA was registered as a body and the Constitution of the association was adopted.
- In 1987, SLOBA celebrated the Golden Jubilee of St. Lawrence High School.
- In 1993, the first Members' Directory was launched.
- In 1995, SLOBA celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Free Clinic.
- In 1997, it was time for SLOBA and the school to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the school as well as 50 years of independence.
- 1999 saw the birth of the Federation of Jesuit Alumni/ae Associations of India (JAAI).
- In 2003 St. Lawrence High School proudly co-hosted the Global Conference of World Union of Jecuit Alumni/ae.
Early History of St. Lawrence High School
(By late Sri A.D. Hazra, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee in 1987)
We came away from Boitakhana to Ballygunge on a crisp winter morning of January 1937. Welcoming us at the junction of Ritchie Road and Ballygunge Circular Road under the shade of a giant mahogany tree, later a victim of the axe of some thoughtless city official, was a freshly painted signboard : St Lawrence High School, conducted by the Jesuit Fathers.
As the first group of teachers and students entered the compound, they couldn't but be overawed by the sheer size of their new school building, neatly painted in cream colour, and of the 6 acre compound sprawling behind it. The property was once upon a time the summer residence of the Mullick family, better known for their Marble Palace in North Calcutta. A beautiful flower garden delighted visitors, also the imposing row of tall eucalyptus trees along Ritchie Road. A marble fountain near the western gate and another on the eastern side of the property adorned the land giving it a Victorian look.
The first batch of students remember the large pound at the back extending from nearly one end of the boundary to the other. White marble benches surrounded another two smaller pounds closer to Ballygunge Circular Road. A garden of delight! This was the site of our new school. Fr Joseph Arimont, S.J., himself an old timer of Boitakhana, took over the direction of the new school. In the short span of two years he gave the school a definite thrust. Time tables, syllabi and examination schedules were firmly set. In this he was ably assisted by Mr M. Banerjee, Headmaster and his close collaborator. The weekly test system spread over the three terms was introduced and hostel life was organized on the pattern of a scout group. His most precious legacy perhaps was his choice of the school motto, Like Gold in a Furnace. The present school motto is For God and Country.
1939 brought in the war years, and while battles were fought on far off fronts, the rigours of war took their toll on the school. The marble benches and fountains of the erstwhile Mullick's garden were sold out to ease the precarious financial situation. Fr. L. Schillebeeckx courageously steered the young institution through much of the difficult forties. Days became even darker when the dismal hooting of sirens reminded Calcuttans of the reality of the world conflict. The few Japanese bombs dropped over Kidderpore Docks drove thousands out of the city. In the school, the number of students fell off sharply. The monthly contribution from the Government for payment of teachers was reduced from Rs 200 to Rs 180. But the worse was still to come.
In 1943, the Government requisitioned the school land and buildings for the Royal Air Force. Staff and hostelites became refugees overnight. Still God provided in the person of Swami Animananda who placed his Boys Own Home at the disposal of our school. With the few students left; it became nearly impossible to run the institution. Still the teachers commuted everyday between Calcutta and Cossipore, and to come to the rescue of the hard pressed Director, they voluntarily offered to draw their salaries at reduced rates. Once again Providence had its ways. Two days before the payment of salaries that month, news came that Lord Wavell, Governor General of India, had been pleased to sanction the sum of Rs 17,000 as rent for the use of the premises on Ballygunge Circular Road.
Back in Ballygunge in 1945, the school shared with the rest of the country the economic harshness of the after war years, the horrors of the 1946 riots, the sorrow of the partition of Bengal and the happy dawn of Independence. Fr. August Cordeiro had taken over with the title of Rector and Headmaster. In January 1953, the old Mullick's villa surrendered to a demolition squad. A new residence had just been completed in line with the original school building. Another block on the Western corner of the property was erected in 1958 to house the Primary Section. The latter was the work of Fr A. Wautier. Under his dynamic rectorship the school population increased fast, partly thanks to a vintage fleet of four mini buses. The school was upgraded to the class XI Higher Secondary status. With Government subsidies the science laboratories were installed and the success at the Board exams reached an all time high of 100%. The process of consolidation in academic and other fields was continued and extended during Fr T. Richir's time. He introduced the NCC Air Wing which was to distinguish itself during the next 22 years by the smartness of its Cadets and the quality of their drill and parades. Fr Richir personally designed the school uniform which is still today the distinguishing sign of the Lawrencian in South Calcutta. The old uniform gave way in 1996 in favour of silver grey trousers and white shirts.
During his time also, the school concert with its display of artistic talents among Staff and students became an annual event. The annual school concert is now held as the Annual Day with performances by students and proclamation of ranks. Fr. Principal also presents the activities and academics in the school for the entire year.
Heads succeeded one another continuing the work of their predecessors. The new Higher Secondary syllabus (Cl XII) was introduced in 1978 with science and commerce streams. A novel feature was the opening of a Bengali medium stream for Cl XI-XII commerce. In the same spirit, a Bengali medium section destined to cover the entire primary and secondary course was launched in 1980. To respond to the increasing space requirements, the Hostel which for many years occupied the top floor of the school building was relodged in 1981 in an entirely new complex erected on the site of the old swimming pool. There too we now have a beautiful school chapel. In 1984, the school library and reading room, known as Rabindra Granthagar, was inaugurated. Finally, in 1986 in keeping with the demands of the electronic age a computer room was opened where boys from Cl VII to Cl XII have facilities for hands-on experience.
But what of the many who have nurtured the young plant and contributed so much to the steady growth of the school. Among them, we may single out three, who more specially sum up the love and devotion which endear teachers and students to one another. Mr M. Banerjee, a towering figure, besides being Headmaster, taught History and Geography in the senior classes, Mathematics in the Junior section, corrected homework, evaluated exam papers. Often unable to complete by 5 in the evening the clerical work which he took upon himself, he would shuffle the registers into the large pockets of his kurta to be back punctually the following day by 9.30 a.m.
A mathematical genius was Mr K.C. Mukherjee who introduced the boys to a love for and confidence in an otherwise dreaded subject. Mr R. Chakravorty, the Bengali Master, is remembered for his loveable ways and for the thoroughness of his secretarial work as Assistant to the many Rectors he served.
The story is not complete and will never be. It goes on, with generations of staff and students following another. We know it is a story of love. One does the planting; others do the watering.
"The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because He makes the plant grow. We are fellow workers with God." (1 Cor. 3,7-10).