Chapter 34: The Still

Father Head took over as Rector after Father Parker died. We called him Slinky George. He was a very kind man, but of the "old school" where politeness and courtesy took precedence over everything else. At the end of the year it was announced that the Rector for 1967 would be Father Kevin O'Connor.

Father O'Connor was the Science teacher. He was called Krark, because he had a voice that rumbled in the depths. He'd been to primary school at Waipawa with Mum.

It was my Seventh Form. In fact, in those days it was called Upper Sixth. Father O'Connor's first job was to announce the prefects. He did it alphabetically.

Du Fresne

G for Goodman was nearly there!


I was not a prefect. I tried to sound nonchalant. "Dear Mum and Dad", I wrote. "I'm not a prefect".

Those that I'd grown up with for four years were prefects. There was even one sixth former, a fourth year, who'd been made a prefect. He was a dick. It's funny, but no matter how much you say you don't give a stuff, deep down you ask, "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?"

The new prefects went off into their Prefects' Room, with its radio and toaster, and windows papered over so we couldn't see in. Somehow, friendships had sort of ended. We didn't hang around much any more. It doesn't boost the self-esteem to be told how important prefects are, and then not be made one. "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?"

If they didn't want me as a prefect I could take a new direction. Since we didn't have a Prefects' Room, Peter Noon, Tim Ongley and I made our own. Underneath a piano in a practice room was a trap door. Down the trap door was a cellar. Peter Noon tapped the power mains and we had electric lighting and a heater and a toaster.

And we had a still.

We reckoned that the still made as pure alcohol as you could get. We kept our produce in little medicine bottles with eye-droppers as lids. You only had to put a couple of drops in a bottle of coke and you'd have a potent mix.

Father O'Connor
Father O'Connor

So the year went on. Krark O'Connor was a good Rector. He built a new dining room extension. He was fair and hearty. We filled in rainy Sunday afternoons by making radio programmes on a reel to reel tape recorder. We made Goon-type comedy programmes. One we made had the theme of Krark O'Connor's funeral.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Dear Krark has passed away!

Thus went the hymn at the funeral as the pedal organ rattled on.

Towards the end of the year, Krark appeared at ranks.

"Prefects have raided a den of iniquity beneath the piano rooms. Some students have tapped the mains, and have a heater and a toaster and electric lighting. We have confiscated these, along with pipes used for smoking and a still that made alcohol. Those who have done this have forty-eight hours to report to my office. I intend to deal with it seriously. Alcohol is an offence that means expulsion. I know the names of those concerned. They have forty-eight hours".

What was I meant to do? What was I meant to do?

Once I tried knocking at the Rector's open door to confess all. But he wasn't in. He was away at a meeting in Rotorua. Through the crack in the door I could see the still on the filing cabinet behind his desk.

The forty-eight hours dragged on. Tomorrow morning I would have to face the music. This could be my last day at school.

The final day dawned. It was half past eight. Father O'Connor came out of the priests' dining room holding a cup of tea. David Egan was in the corridor.

"Morning, Father".

"Morning, David. I've got a lot of work to do today", he said.

He went into his office and fell down dead, cutting his head on the corner of the filing cabinet. It was a heart attack. He was only forty-seven.

The school didn't know and went to classes. The roll boy said there would be ranks after first period. We assembled. Father Head, the Deputy Rector, appeared. He took the microphone.

"My dear boys", he said. "Our beloved Rector is dead".

In an eerie shock the whole school whispered in unison: "Shhhhit". We were to go to chapel and pray the rosary. And while the school filed away in a state of shock, I crept to the Rector's room and took back my stuff. It was callous but necessary. I guess it changed my life.

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