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Mr. Peter Rogerson O.B.E., M.A. (Cantab.)

Oct 7th, 2008 | By | Category: Content
Mr. Peter Rogerson O.B.E., M.A. (Cantab)<br />Principal RKC, 1963-1991

Mr. Peter Rogerson O.B.E., M.A. (Cantab.) Principal RKC, 1963-1991

A living legend, Peter Rogerson made history at RKC for around forty-two of his sixty-eight years. He seldom left the College except for spells at ‘Shabbir House’ in Mangrol or when required to attend conferences. Not all the persuasion in the world shook his strong determination to live and, as it tragically turned out – die at his beloved Rajkumar College. He loved his Family in the U.K. dearly and they treasured him but he could not bring himself to visit them in spite of all the arrangements they made to hospitalize him, for cardiac treatment he was in need of urgently. He feared that his brothers would pressurize him to stay on with them even though they assured him that they would respect his wishes.

The situation never arose. Sat on the steps of the Duleep Pavilion whilst addressing the Final Year boys and staff in his characteristic manner he could only have had a premonition of his last moments on that fateful evening of March 31″, 1991 as he gently said, “…….and now, for my last words”. Indeed they were. He bent over on his right side and slipped away to eternity. The glorious Rogersonian era had come to an end. Peter Rogerson’s end was as dramatic and as poetic as the incredible life he lived. A gentleman of the finest order, everything he said and did emanated from that one premise.

First born of a Father who was awarded the Military Cross TWICE over for gallantry by the British Army and a gentle Mother, the love of his life, who wrote poetry for her son, Peter Rogerson inherited the best attributes of each of his Parents. These combined to make one of the finest human beings the College could call its own.

After studying History at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Peter Rogerson opted for a career in the Indian Army. As an Officer in the Sikh Regiment, Captain Rogerson was posted in the sub-continent’s North West Frontier Province. It was love at first sight. He studied Urdu, mastered it and qualified for teaching and examining his Cadets. He published the Regiment’s Newsletter, travelling to Lahore to print it at the Civil and Military Gazette – once edited by Kipling. Captain Rogerson was in his element!

Back at Cambridge in 1949, Goldstein, a friend, brought over an advertisement he’d noticed in the Sunday Times inviting applications for the post of a House Master at Rajkumar College. Enamored of India as Captain Rogerson was, he applied, was selected by M.A. Wynter Blyth, the Principal. and soon enough found himself sailing East to India at a time when most Englishmen were travelling West! There was rapid adjustment to civilian life and school mastering. Captain of his Old School, Ellesmere and then Captain Rogerson of the Sikh Regiment, Peter Rogerson proved more than equal to it! His remarkable qualities of mind and heart soon gained the respect and admiration of his boys and associates.

The senior boys to whom he was House Master grew to love him. Being British merely complemented his being more Indian that a lot of Indians. ‘SIR’ or ‘Roggie’ as he was affectionately called had become one of and one with them – an indispensable, life-long father figure, friend and confidante. The sheer warmth of his presence made a tremendous difference to everybody not least the naughtiest of his charges. Peter Rogerson had already become an RKCian! He had hamessed all his great talent and boundless energy and imagination to meet his challenges.

A club for the seniors seemed a priority to set the scene for fellowship. What’s more, the idea clicked so well, the boys offered to fund the Club from their pocket money! A Tea Committee was formed for serving drinks and refreshment. With a mass of material for meaningful leisure-time activity, photographs and murals added, the Senior Club was poised to receive the highest in the land – and it did! Governing it all was a code of conduct. RKCians were expected to be gentlemen the wond over! The seniors had a glowing example in their House Master.

As First Officer of RKC’s National Cadet Corps, Captain Rogerson groomed his Cadets to be the smartest and the best by setting a personal example. In subsequent years FIVE RKC boys were judged All-India Best Junior Division Cadets. They had the honor of taking part in the Republic Day Parades in Delhi when the Indian President or an international dignitary took the salute. It was easy to see Captain Rogerson’s crucial role in this outstanding military achievement. A special trophy was presented to the College for this distinction.

It was not only ‘khakhi’ that brought us credit. The school uniform of ‘khakhi ‘ shorts/skirts and cream shirts as worn today decades later, were originally given its military touches by Captain Rogerson.

The entire Prefectural system was formalized and the award of badges and ranks made into a dignified ceremonial. It became traditional for boys to receive their crimson badges with gold stripes from the Principal. It was a very solemn moment for a boy. Simultaneously, it was made abundantly clear that ‘top brass’ ruled NOT by the sword but by brotherly understanding. Peter Rogerson, House Master, seniors, set such a shining example of just that.

Literature classes in preparation for the Cambridge examinations brought forth Peter Rogerson’s legendary communication skills. The boys looked forward to his classes and the knowledge he shared with them. He never ‘preached’ – he talked to his boys as man to man and they revered him for it.

Peter Rogerson used drama as a vehicle to discover and nurture dramatic talent. Especially, over his fourteen years as House Master, he produced a variety of thecrirical pieces, sketches, dramatisations and entertainments in the Senior Club on its terrace much to the delight of the boy participants and the audiences. Many may remember ‘Radio RkC’. ‘Fa/codr and ‘Stlnker. These were all pieces written by House Master, seniors, himself. There were also full-length plays of Shaw, Wilde, Shakespeare and others. They were memorable performances. Could anyone forget ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ or ‘Arms and the Man’?

It was, however, the Searchlight Tattoo, later to be re-named ‘The Peter Rogerson Memorial Searchlight Tattoo’ that captured the hearts and imagination of the spectators. Irs masterful blend of light sound and movement set in a vast arena had no parallel. The earliest Tattoo was performed between the walls of the tennis courts with Peter Rogerson LIVE on the piano – yes, he was a fantastic performer, who could play the classics or improvise Hindi film songs! The Tattoo developed over the years into the grand, panoramic spectacle – is today performed in an arena spanning a vast portion of the South Ground, with a backdrop of the front East fa<;;ade of the College before which displays and comic interludes set to evocative music, beat by beat are performed non-stop for around three hours. Virtually the whole school, students and staff, participate in one or other aspect of the production.

In 1986, Peter Rogerson was voted Chairman of the All-India body of the Indian Public Schools’ Conference. In this arena, too, he was to make a superb contribution. In 1981, the College hosted the Annual General Meeting of the IPSC for the second time. A new constitution was prepared by His Highness Sriraj Meghrajji of Dhrangadhara, the College’s President, which was presented to the Members of the IPSC. His Highness also designed and gifted a beautiful Coat of Arms, which has been used ever since by the IPSC.

Not long after Peter Rogerson took over as Principal and after the sorrowful, most untimely demise of His Highness Maharaja Jam Shri Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar, Her Highness expressed a wish to build a fitting memorial in tribute to His Late Highness, the College’s illustrious President for twenty-six eventful years. His late Highness epitomised those essential qualities of leadership and gentlemanliness – loyalty, justice, discipline and service – which he urged RKCians everywhere to practice. In due course, a most befitting memorial was envisaged and gifted munificently by Her Highness Rajmata Gulakunverba of Nawanagar. The main body of the new single-storey memorial wing designed in the semi-Gothic architecture similar to the three existing wings consisted of Reception and Conference. Rooms, twelve subject-wise classrooms, a very spacious Library and a comprehensive Science block.

Named, the Jam Shri Digvijaysinhji Bhavan, its opening was scheduled for the 1″ of April 1970. His Holiness Sri Sathya Sai Baba graced this historic, holy occasion with his benign presence. His Holiness singled out Peter Rogerson for a rare honor in the form of a gem-encrusted gold ring. It was the holy man’s acknowledgement of Peter Rogerson’s great virtues and recognition of the manner in which he selflessly used these gifts and talents in the service of all mankind. The ring was never taken off his finger. Peter Rogerson lies at rest with it in the British Cemetery at Rajkot.

It was time now, for yet another honor, recognition of the great Schoolmaster Principal’s genius! This time from the country of his birth. It was conveyed to Peter Rogerson in June 1987 that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was pleased to award her distinguished subject, the ‘Order of the British Empire’ in recognition of all the worthy services he had rendered over so many years. Few knew of this honor conferred on Rajkumar College’s Principal. With characteristic modesty Peter Rogerson declined proposals for a public investiture on behalf of the Queen by the British High Commissioner. He preferred to call on his Excellency informally and quietly accepted the honor awarded to him. He always referred to the OBE as “Old Boys Endeavour”.

Such was Peter Rogerson. Was there ever such a man? An excerpt from the epitaph on his monument in the British Cemetery at Rajkot, incisively drafted by His Highness Maharaja Sriraj Megrajji of Dhrangadhara, the College’s President at the time, says it all:

Devoted to his task, Mindless of self,
Open-Hearted, Open-handed,
Model of Modesty,
By his very qualifies and sterling

A divine Providence has guided the destiny of Rajkumar College these hundred and thirty seven years, bequeathing us with Peter Rogerson, who was everything a School could wish of its Principal.

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