The Enid Blyton Society
Mischief at St Rollo's
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Book Details...

First edition: 1943
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: Hilda McGavin
Category: Mary Pollock Books
Genre: School
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

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Tower House edition from 1947, Illustrated by Hilda McGavin
Three more schools were spawned from early ground-work which produced a book that began documenting the life of Elizabeth Allen and her class-mates at Whyteleafe. The schools in question were St. Clare's and Malory Towers which both catered to the education of girls from reasonably sophisticated families, and the third, like Whyteleafe School, was mixed gender and named St. Rollo's. Despite the many pupils she wrote about who are aligned closely as far as character or talent goes and the quite similar sub-plots, such was End Blyton's talent that she managed to introduce some individuality all round. Because of this, I can't think that anyone would find the school stories duplicating each other to the extent that they were lack-luster or monotonous. Mischief at St Rollo's is another of the Mary Pollock books — M.P. being one of Enid Blyton's pen-names that she used for a short time in her career.

The formula for a Blyton school story is pretty standard ... a new pupil (or pupils) commences at an institute of learning and there's a 'settling in' period. At least one nasty student makes his or her presence felt as does a class clown or player-of-tricks, a Brain-of-Britain, and a dunce. There's usually a Matron who's been there forever, a French teacher who is 'very' French and a very wise Head (or Heads). There has to be at least one midnight feast and a sports tournament although the latter doesn't occur in this book but thatís not surprising because there's not enough room in the ninety or so pages.

Enter Mike and Janet Fairley. They don't want to go to boarding school but they have no choice so after voting to make the St. Rollo's students 'sit up a bit' they're sent away to muck-in as best they can. Dressed in neat grey uniforms they journey to their new school by train where they pal up with a boy called Tom Young who is the class character. He clues them up a little as to what St. Rollo's is like and he shows them how he makes paper-darts and he gets pummeled by the other kids for cheeking them and he puts his watch forward so that he can have his lunch early and he gets caught by a teacher and has to have his lunch half an hour later. Yes, Tom's a character all right. The other children seem friendly as well and the train speeds on to its destination where the new kids experience a sight that has frequently been recorded — 'The First Glimpse.' "They caught sight of their new school. It looked grand ...there it stood on the hill with big towers at each end built of grey stone. Creeper climbed over most of the walls, and here and there a touch of red showed that when autumn came the walls would glow red with the crimson leaves."

Mike and Janet are introduced to various children but there is one who is not approached and the impression is gained that this particular individual is 'Not Very Nice!' Mike meets up with him first in the dormitory when the various boys are pointed out to him by the lively Tom. 'Hugh' is the shunned boy's name and he obviously realizes that the others will talk about him to Mike in due course so he forestalls them and reveals that he cheated in the exams last term and, what's more, Tom found out and gave him away to the authorities! Tom has always denied this accusation.

Although Janet is a year younger than her brother she's put in the same form as Mike and Tom due to the fact that she's a rather bright girl. They both settle in and get to know Eric and Doris and Fred and Connie and George and Bertha and the rest and they take part in various out-of-class activities which includes hockey, gym, and finishing off their tuck-boxes. 'Tuck boxes' are containers of food that British school children in Blyton books take back with them at the beginning of term as a kind of 'Last Connection' with home and here's the contents of Mike and Janet's (they had exactly the same) — one big currant cake, one big ginger cake, twelve chocolate buns, a tin of toffee and a large bar of chocolate. Long letters are written home and the consensus is that itís great to be with boys and girls together. "St. Rollo's is fine," writes Janet. "I am glad we came here. We do have fun!" She and her brother cement their relationship with Tom and join him for walks in the hills looking for ripe blackberries and peering at the nut trees. They also experience the day to day excitement of the classroom environment which includes the appreciation of a few tricks played on teachers by young Tom who possesses a similar penchant for 'Tomfoolery' (appropriate word) to that of a few other bright-sparks that feature in the author's school tales. He causes the children much merriment one day when he secretly flicks little bits of clay at the gardener who is just outside the open window. The poor man is completely baffled as to what is hitting him and then catches on and does something about it. Poor Tom!

There are two types of midnight feasts. One is when the girls (or girls and boys) make plans and whisper in corners, smuggle in food and then on the Big Night, make their way to the chosen venue to partake in a Babylonian meal. After clearing up and sneaking back to bed the only thing left to do is to talk about it next day and savour the sweet memory of all that food and camadarie. The other type of feast is similar but with a different ending. Someone with a grudge may find out about the clandestine get-together and spoil it in one of several ways — a teacher can be directly informed, a little note might find its way to the appropriate authority, or perhaps some noise can be made when the party is in full swing so that staff are aroused. The one and only recorded St. Rollo's midnight feast is, unfortunately, in the second category! Eleven errant children have to suffer the consequences of their actions — the twelfth child wasn't invited so one can put two and two together!

An unpopular class-mate is 'Sent to Coventry' in this book. Coventry is a city in England and has a rather obscure connection with the practice that has been used once or twice in other school sagas by the author. 'Sent to Coventry' means that no one talks or otherwise communicates with the person in disgrace and Hugh is the unfortunate recipient of this treatment. The pressure builds up to boiling point and then overflows when an accusation is made against him. A dramatic finish involves a chase and various changes of attitude after a little sorting out of things and Tom, like Bobby in the St. Clare's books, takes on a slightly more responsible attitude when he realizes that he can't fool around all his life.

This Mary Pollock tale ends in the same way as a typical last day of term at Malory Towers or St. Clare's ... one happy scene of children bustling around and packing up their possessions, saying their 'Goodbyes' and presumably exchanging addresses. Then they all pile into the big coach which takes them to the station — "Good-bye St. Rollo's. See you next term."

We never learnt what took place in any future terms at St. Rollo's but very fortunately we had extensions added to the St. Clare's and Whyteleafe books and then two or three years after this younger-orientated school story had made its one and only mark, another more involved and mature series loomed up — 'Malory Towers.'
The illustrations in the original copy are by Hilda McGavin and the pictures in the re-issue are credited to C. Holland.

At the beginning, Mike and Janet reflect the attitude held by the O'Sullivan twins in the St. Clare's school series who also voted to present themselves as a little superior to the other girls — "People are going to know who we are, and what we can do. All the mistresses are going to sit up and take notice of us. The O'Sullivan twins are going to be 'Somebodies!' And don't you forget it." Curiously, there is no further mention or evidence of the Fairleys' resolve. They simply enter the school and pal up with the other students just as any other pupil would.

Mike, Janet and Tom bag desks at the back of the room when they first arrive. Tom is transferred to the front as is the norm with him because of his tendency to indulge in mischief. Presumably Mike and Janet were still at the back, but in the picture. at the start of the chapter called 'Tom is up to Tricks' (1952) Janet can be seen much nearer the front and if the boy next to her is Mike, then I reckon that Tom who is meant to be at the front of the class would find it very difficult to flick bits of clay at the gardener who is outside the window.

On the cover of the 1952 edition you will see a crowd of children in their dressing-gowns. They're returning from their midnight feast so take a good look at them. If you had risen just before midnight to attend such a 'Do' would you put on your tie?

Still in the 'Slightly Curious' vein, if you are familiar with the Malory Towers books you would see that a popular girl namely Alicia Johns very naturally has a special friend as most of the girls would. In Mischief at St. Rollo's there's another very popular and merry student in the form of Tom Young who immediately adopts Mike and Janet as his mates. It's funny how the boy seemed not to have any pal as in 'Special Friend' before the Fairleys arrived!

The class 'brain' is Doris! Remember who the class 'dunce' was at St. Clare's?

The names of many saints can be recalled because we often use them in everyday life. 'St. Rollo' is one of whom there seems no record.

On a page at the back of the reference copy (1952) and also on the back cover are advertisements for the 'Werner Laurie Showbooks'. These are unusual items of Enid Blyton memorabilia and the book-listing on this site has some information about them. They are a series of pictures arranged in concertina fashion and you open up the 'book' by pulling the front cover forward thus displaying all the pictures as a 3D version of the story. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.