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William Norman Cameron Anderson, class of 1953

William Norman Cameron Anderson, class of 1953

Son of an Austrian mother and a Scottish father, William (Willie) Anderson found his way to St. Paul’s School in 1946, after his father was killed in action in the Second World War. In a school which was founded to “provide a sound education for the sons and daughters of British parents”, he could stay connected to his family origins and to the British community in Brazil. 

Also, St. Paul’s School may be even more involved in Anderson’s family history, since William believes his father, Ian, might have been also a former pupil of the British school. Unfortunately, part of the history is not so well documented, and we cannot confirm if Ian was indeed a Paulean. Proof that St. Paul's School runs in the family is that both his daughter Elizabeth and his son Richard are also Old Pauleans. In this interview, William, 83 years old, shares more about this memory and many others from his time at school.

What’s your history with the school? 

My mother was Austrian and my father, Scottish. They married in Brazil and in 1942 my father volunteered to go to the war when I was about two years old. He joined the Cameron Highlanders in Edinburgh, did all his training in Scotland and was killed in action in Italy in 1944. The point is that one of the people who convinced my father to go [to war] was his boss at the company where he worked, which was Fabrica de Aços Tupi a subsidiary of an English company called Thomas Elwell who made agricultural implements. His boss, Mr. Skinner, was instrumental in convincing my father to go to war and when my father died, he was so terribly sorry that he offered my mother to pay for my education and that’s how I came to St. Paul’s School. I was six years old when I joined the school in 1946 (see photo). 

a group of pupils at St Pauls in 1946

As William said, you can see a girl in the picture when, as he remembers, the girls were taught separated. 


Don't you have any memories from your first days at school? 

Not really. What I do have is that one of these pictures raises a doubt in my mind about the format of the school at that time, because what I remember was that it was at first a boy's school but there's a girl there [in the picture] on my first day. There is also a photograph of Junior School published in the newspaper of the British community called the Times of Brazil where there are lots of girls and which shows Mr Mr. Hindley who was the headmaster when I joined the school; now the interesting thing for me is that there are boys and girls [William showing them in a photo] but I remember a time when the school was a boy’s school. At that time the girls were studying at Instituto de Letras Inglesa run by Miss Hoffsteter. I know this is so because there was once an occasion when we were rehearsing a Scottish dance for some special event and the boys were taken to the girls’ school to rehearse with them. 


So, it was completely separate. Right? 

Yes, the girls were completely separate. In fact, St. Paul’s was a boarding school and I have two cousins who were boarders here. The dormitories were on the top floor. I think that it was in the early 1950’s that it became a mixed school again and the girls were moved from Instituto de Letras to the school. Exactly how and when all that happened I really don ‘know; I was only 6, 7, or 8 years old then. 

Another strong memory I have is that for many years there was a photograph of my father in his army uniform hanging on the wall of the landing on the main staircase which is what leads me to believe that he was also an Old Paulean or was somehow connected with the school. When the school was founded, he was 12 years old so he could well have been a pupil. 


When did you leave the school? 

In 1953, my two cousins who were boarders and I went to different boarding schools in the UK. By then my mother had remarried and my Scottish stepfather sent me to study in Aberdeen – Scotland from where I returned when I was 19 years old. 

One of the strong memories I have from school was that we had a teacher called Mr. Schnorenbergh, who taught music and he organised a boys’ choir which used to practice in the school hall and on Sundays used to sing in St. Paul’s Church together with the adult choir. My cousin James Colin Allan was lead boy singer and I also took part. Mr. Schnorenberg also taught the boys to play cricket and was often the umpire at the matches. 

There was also Joãozinho who ran the tuck-shop and I am sure every Old Paulean from that time will remember him well. I also remember fondly Ms. Margaret Mee who was the art teacher and a great artist in her own right. I am not sure how long she taught at the school, but I enjoyed her lessons immensely and it was she who motivated me to study art later on in life. I always say to people that she was the person who taught me to see colour and I remember her saying to everybody that shadows are not grey; shadows are a darker colour of the background.   


What about sports? 

I'm so glad you mentioned sports because one of the strong memories I have is about sports and nowadays when I watch athletic events I can say “I did that”. I did that because the school taught me and gave me the opportunity of participating in every sport that you can think of except rugby. They didn't have rugby at that time. But I threw the javelin, I threw the discus, I threw the shotput, I did high jump, I did long jump, I did hop, skip and jump, I did 100 meters, I did 200 meters, I did relay races, I did football and played tennis. You know, when I watch sports today I know what they are all about and that comes from my school days here. 


Do you have any contact with other people from your time here? 

Yes, I have made contact with people who were at the school at the time especially through the social networks. Maureen Tinkler was at the school at my time and she was the sister of my best friend, Patrick Tinkler who eventually was best man at my wedding. And then I can remember all sorts of names like Colin Berry, Alan Sadler, John Downey, David Adams, Robert Speyer, Sandra Hagler (Ibbotson), Linley Adams, May Jean Job (MacIntyre), Peter Riding, Peter Forrest – the list goes on… 


Do you have any other memories? 

I have three very strong memories. When I was 11, I joined the Carajas Scout Group which used to meet at the school in what was called the covered playground. I think the kindergarten used to be at the end of the building... and of course, we used to go onto the field and play games and we did all sort of stuff. And from those days, I remember the Scout Master Toby Shellard who was brilliant, but I also remember Julian Sewell and Hugo Vidal who were Seniors and Peter Forrest who was my patrol leader. We went on many camps and had a lot of fun but also picked up a lot of knowledge and human values. I enjoyed scouts so much that when I went to Scotland the I joined Scouts there as well and went camping in various places around Scotland. 

The other thing I remember is that there were two occasions when we were taken on an outing. One of them was to the Crush factory which made an Orange drink and what most impressed me were the mountains of oranges waiting to be processed and I thought “Oh my God, they must be all going rotten”. 

Another outing which was memorable was in 1953, when the school took us to see the film of the Queen's coronation which was screened in a cinema at Rua da Consolação. It was a memorable occasion. 

The two last things I remember which for some reason I cannot explain is that I was the official bell ringer for a couple of years. That was funny. The school gave me a bell and every time there was a change of class, I used to go to the top of the stairs and ring the bell. I thought I was very important!! Today all of that is automatic. 

And the last thing I remember has to do with punishments for bad behaviour. For something which was too serious, the punishment was to stay after classes and write 100 lines “I will not fool around in class” or some such thing. But I remember that on a couple of occasions I received more severe punishment which meant going to the school on a Saturday morning and carrying out some useful task like weeding the front lawn. I thought that was quite creative.  Anyway, those are some of my memories. 

First communion. 

William's first day at school, 1946.

As William said, you can see a girl in the picture when, as he remembers, the girls were taught separated.