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U3A Writing: Interesting News

When John Ricketts was headmaster of a school in Africa he encouraged children to gain in confidence by standing up before the class to tell the news.

But the news which young Bill eventually brought to the class was more interesting than he realised.

Every day at the beginning of school in Kalomo we had an assembly for all the children. We said prayers , sang hymns, made announcements and encouraged the children to get up and tell their fellow pupils any news which they might have. By getting up in front of their peers they gained confidence and status. All the children seemed to enjoy the experience and by the end of term nearly all had got up and said something.

But there was one little boy, Bill Watson, who never got up to speak no matter how much we encouraged him. We wondered if it was because of the situation at home. His father, a farmer, was very straight-laced. He was a member of a very strict sect and, several times a year, he organised and preached at open air evangelical meetings which he held on his farm and which were attended by people from far and near.

When we had spoken to him about addressing our assemblies he had always said that he had nothing to say because he had no news. One day towards the end of the year when the tobacco and maize had been sold and we were rather weary of hearing about new cars, new boats and in two cases of new aeroplanes, we were pleased to see Billy bouncing up and down with excitement bursting to tell his news. When he was called he ran to the front, scrambled on to the platform and his news burst from him.

“My dad came home late last night. When I heard him, I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Dad was singing a song about an Eskimo called Nel and he was hanging on to uncle Fred Horton and Uncle Johnny Uys who were laughing and joining in. My mum ran out of the house and my dad pushed off uncle Fred and fell over.’’

By the time we realised what the news was all about it was too late and though we did manage to cut short the only news that Bill ever gave we were much too slow. The whole community knew that William Watson, that pillar of society and noted preacher, had been roaring drunk the night before.

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