WHPS Throwback Thursday – Class of 1958: Prehistoric WHPSians and the discovery of stone tools on Pop’s field.
WHPS is well known for its excellent schoolboys who obtain their Wisdom and their extraordinary Skills from inspiring teachers at our famous school. WHPSians have been highly Skilled and Wise for almost 100 years. But hey – did you know that WHPS was also the site where prehistoric people lived about 100,000 years ago? Let’s call them prehistoric WHPSians. They too were filled with Wisdom and were highly Skilled. You will ask me – how do I know? Well, as an archaeologist and as a palaeontologist, I ought to know. The answer lies in stones, notably stone tools that were manufactured by Stone Age people many thousands of years ago.
In my “anecdotage” (a new word), let me tell you a story. Long, long ago I began at WHPS in 1958. In that year it was recognised by Wilf MacRobert that something needed to be done about the problematic sloping cricket field. After all, the school had produced fine cricketers such as Eddie Barlow (our very own Springbok) and Patrick Hamilton. But they had learnt their cricketing skills on a field that sloped at an angle of about 10 degrees! (Maybe I exaggerate a little). Can you imagine the potential implications? For example, you might hit the ball low on the ground towards the boundary, such that you would have expected it to be a definite “four” – only to see that the ball quickly slowed down as it rolled upslope. And perhaps it would never reach the boundary! This would have been of grave concern, especially if the match could be won or lost depending on just one crucial run.
So Wilf MacRobert decided to level the lower cricket field, which was given the name Pop’s field in honour of Pop. A big bulldozer was brought in to remove vast quantities of soil, which was then carried away in big trucks. I remember well the noise of those machines during lessons, but it was always fun to watch the excavations during the break periods.
On one occasion a huge black boulder was exposed, too big to be moved by the bulldozer, and too big to be broken manually with sledgehammers. So the 20th century WHPSians resorted to their Wisdom that had been passed down to them from their Wise and Skilled ancestors thousands of years ago. The WHPSians built a big fire around and over the big black rock. It was a fire of the kind that was used in the Cradle of Humankind long long ago, in a controlled manner.
After a few days, buckets of water were brought in. When the cold water was thrown against the extremely hot rock, it caused it to crack with an extremely big bang, and split into smaller pieces that the bulldozers could manage. What a Wise thing to do. But we always knew that WHPSians are clever.
While the bulldozers were doing their excavations, a Wise geologist named Tony Brink discovered that there were wonderful stone tools in the soil. Clearly these were the work of clever prehistoric WHPSians, thousands of years ago. Tony called in a professional archaeologist, Revil Mason (a good friend of mine who sadly passed away only a month ago).
Revil studied them most carefully, according to their shape and mode of manufacture. His official report was published in the glossy WHPS magazine, to great acclaim. WHPS could be proud of its Stone Age Heritage!
Among the stone tools discovered in 1958 and 1959 were spherical objects that can be classified as “polyhedral cores”. Skilled Stone Age Men (and no doubt also Stone Age Women) were able to knock off flakes from the core, to produce a sphere as big as a cricket ball.
At the 75th anniversary of WHPS, in 1998, Tony Brink and I officially declared that these (and additional) spherical artefacts were in fact Stone Age Protocricket Balls. Trevor Quirk was a witness to this declaration. Rugby may have been invented on the playing fields of a school in Rugby in England, but cricket had most definitely been invented at WHPS, on Pop’s field, at least 100,000 years ago – or at least that is what Thackeray and Brink certified.
You can see some of the WHPSian artefacts on display in the WHPS museum. And in the WHPS Theatre you can also see other stone tools on display, ones which were donated by Tony Brink whom I remember fondly as a good friend, a fine actor in Gilbert & Sullivan performances, and an excellent geologist with strong archaeological interests
WHPS is the best school of its kind in the world. And we can be truly proud of our prehistoric WHPSian forefathers, foremothers and their children, who were all Wise and highly Skillful, thousands of years ago.
Francis Thackeray / WHPS Old Boy