Willie Wood – Joined St. Edmund’s in 1940

Recollection of my Early Days at St. Edmund’s

I joined St Edmund’s in 1940. The school had boarding dormitories then. These were occupied mainly by students from Calcutta (as boarders).

During those pre-Pacific war days, we had a wonderful school set -up, separated from the College. I do recall our drill-master, a Mr. Webber, the strongest man I have personally met, who at our school concert accomplished feats of strength I thought were impossible. These included breaking a dog-chain, tightly wrapped around his upper shoulders (and breaking it) in less than 90 seconds, then telling the time-keeper, “You count like race-horse!”

In those years, our battle cry at football and hockey games was “Ishe quaila, woompa quaila, woom, woom, woompa quaila.”

How we adopted this battle cry is interesting. The origin of the battle cry was told to us by Brother McGee, when, in 1951, he took our pre-Senior Cambridge class.

Brother McGee said a young British officer with the Gurkha Rifles told the senior lads that his football team would go easy on our St. Edmund’s team, and allow them to win the trophy as long as they all shouted this war cry at his signal towards the end of the school concert. His intention was to impress a Pinemount girl he was sweet on. He sat at the front row and towards the end of the concert, he stood up. This was the signal for the boys. The energetic war cry, in one solid voice,
from the gallery thrilled the boys and pleased the officer.

In addition to the football and hockey games, the battle cry was chanted when boarders returned to St. Edmund’s in spring and when they left for the winter holidays. They would also let out this war cry when they tried to shoot out the street light bulbs from the buses.
Starting in the 1942 year, when the Pacific war broke out, we had to abandoned our school buildings and move to the college buildings and share space with the older college lads. Our school was then used as a British Military hospital and the boarding of students from outside was no longer available. I’m proud of this contribution of our school to the war effort.

With the end of the war in 1946, school students moved back to our old buildings and the boarding of students from Calcutta was re-introduced. I myself was a boarder for a year in 1946.

After my pre-Seniors in 1951, I left St. Edmund’s for England and completed my education in electrical engineering in London. My career involved technical sales and the servicing of scientific instruments, first in the U.K. and Europe and then in Canada and the USA. I credit my success in my career to my initial education at St. Edmund’s.

Wille Wood