Tag Archives: Battersea Training School;

Good intentions are tough to execute

I had a great idea recently. Because we often have requests to find information on somebody that at one point was in Marjon, as a student or otherwise, I decided to create a little project. Normally, when such request comes in, we have to scour the materials in search of that person. That means digging through registers, year books and other assorted material. One day I had this great idea to put all the names in a small database, so if a request comes, we at least have a rough idea where to find them. Big mistake. I started with the earliest register we have, one from Battersea Training School. This dusty old tome contains around 1400 names alone. Written in scribbles. Yeah, you already know where this is going. I managed to do about thirty before I had to stop. On one hand, I’m pretty sure this qualifies as a cruel and unusual punishment. On the other hand, this database would be a great help and save a lot of time. Decisions, decisions…

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To travel without taking a step-‘The Grand Chaco’ by George Manville Fenn

Well, the book display of Marjon’s authors is up, but I still have a lot more books to talk about. And Untitledthat brings me to George Manville Fenn. Fenn was a student when the St John College was still called Battersea Training School; He was one of the first teachers that were trained here. He turned to writing, mostly adventure novels both for boys and adults. And man, what a list that is! He rivals DeFoe in the number of published books. In our collection there is ‘The Grand Chaco’ one of his books for the younger audience. It tells the story of teen-aged Rob Harlow as he travels up the Grand Chaco in Paraguay and all the exciting incidents that befall him.
When I lived under the metaphorical rock (long time ago, far away AND with no internet access), I would eat up books like that. We all know the story: a boy goes into the world, meets people, has adventures and sees all the wonders of the world- no surprises there. But that was not the point. In my days and the days before me, if you wanted to learn about far-away lands you either buried yourself under dry descriptions in encyclopaedia or read that kind of books. They would tell you how would you go about hunting a jaguar or catching a local fish; What sunrise would look in the deepest jungle and what kind of people would live in that place. Granted, those books don’t age well, some things would make you go ‘ow, my modern sensibilities!’. Still they contain the delight of looking at a different reality, be it thousands of miles away or hundreds of years ago, most often both.

Also, no post next week as I am walking in Mendip Hills.

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