The history of St Joseph’s College.  Chapter 3. The Headmaster’s Shame.

‘The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face,
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.’ Omar Khayyám

In the heady days of the 1920’s, the world turned on its head and all the austerity of the pre war years was forgotten, and the misery of the Great War was put aside, and the young generation gained the ascendancy. This was because business flourished, and the world belonged to those who had the acumen to enter business and succeed.

Business, in the 1920’s, was run by typewriters. Typewriters distributed business letters to all parts of the globe. If you had a typewriter, you could send up to a hundred business letters a day, advertising your products, you could send invoices by the score, you could get business cards and menus and price lists and all sorts if you had a typewriter. Typewriters were usually squat little things. They had black ribbons about them. They had armbands on their sleeves and shades about their eyes. Typewriters usually belonged to tennis clubs, sat in deckchairs after a hard day typewriting, and drank Pimms, in tall glasses, and simpered about the latest Noel Coward production. Typewriters did their work on a typewriting machine, and the more advanced of them learned a new technique called ‘shorthand’ and could take notes at the speed of a speaker, and later reproduce, on their typewriting machines, exactly what a speaker or speakers had said verbatim! When, technology allowed lightweight typewriting machines, which could be carried without effort, ladies could become typewriters. When ladies became typewriters, the typewriting machines became known as typewriters, and typewriters became known as typists, and then the world turned sour.

In 1919, when Dr Riley held his meeting, typewriters had not yet come to the fore, and the erudite Dr Riley could not, even had he wanted to, employ a typewriter to take down the minutes of the meeting. We therefore know nothing whatsoever of the events of that fateful meeting.

But all is not lost for we do have handwritten notes of subsequent meetings and documents from other sources and from these we can piece together the events of that momentous meeting. It seems that the erudite Dr Riley had taken on a short term lease with the tacit understanding that an offer for the freehold would follow shortly. Dr Riley did not have the wherewithal to purchase the property outright and so had applied for a mortgage loan, first from one bank and had been refused, then from another bank an had been refused and then from a third and so on and so forth.

But then we ask “why was this” and the answer is simple. Dr Riley was a bankrupt! His personal history was one of learning, scholarship and erudition but, sad to say, he was not wordly wise and had little if any knowledge of the mores of commerce. Dr Riley was obliged to come clean and he told the committee his entire antecedents and so now we break off from our narrative and pause to consider the years of the learned if imprudent Rueben Riley.

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