Alma Mater of a True Lakhnavi

Athar Husain

0n April 26, 1885 Revered Father Norbert, the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Church, took two students under his guidance and teaching instructions. Father Norbert thus founded the St. Francis’ School and Orphanage with his bungalow serving as classrooms, kitchen and dormitory. (Presently Cathedral Senior Secondary School stands where the priest house was located. Later, Father Bartholomew set forth the foundation of St. Francis’ Boarding and Day School for boys, Father Bartholomew constructed the new priest house (presently, the Bishop’s House) and gave the old presbytery to be used as boys’ dorm.

It was in May 6, 1915 the then Principal Father Celestine laid the foundation stones for the new buildings to be constructed at the property purchased near the priest house (the present location of the school), one serving as the school hall and classes, other as the boarding dormitory. Currently these locations serve as the Gymnasium and Old Concert Hall respectively. Later, a playground was added to the front of the plot for sports, and games. In 1918 the large plot behind the current plot was purchased to serve as the Backfield and in 1921 St. Francis’ College was given the stature of high school and was affiliated to the Cambridge University for the Senior Cambridge Examination, in 1974 the ICSE and ISC board for 10th and 12th respectively was introduced and in January, 1976 the institute was renamed to St. Francis’ College, providing Intermediate level education. The construction and expansion of the infrastructure never stopped, for which Lucknow has reaped benefits in terms of a quality institution coming up in the heart of the city, Hazratganj.

As a Franciscan I had the privilege to be part of this institution during the time when this school was having expansion to include modern amenities in 70’s and 80’s, my most nostalgic memories are of 1985-86 when we had centenary celebrations. Even in celebrations the thrust was on to serve and do charity, we had dinners arranged exclusively for orphans and major centenary celebration function had patients with leprosy as guests, these things had major impression to my mind and many others, I don’t think any other educational institution of that time institutionalized in its curriculum to teach young minds about serving humanity in different ways.

“We will answer when duty shall call” words from the school anthem still arouse lot of feelings and source for inspiration. The connect of St. Francis and Lucknow is like of a loving father and his spellbound son always awestruck of his father’s presence, boys from all over the Lucknow since the time of cycle rickshaws and today in school vans are ferried through Hazratganj, as if Ganjing is in their curriculum, but still they come to St Francis College and get mastered with humanity and modernity in Lakhnavi ‘tehzeeb’ and discipline in the most simple way, by attending the school. St. Francis College building is tall and elegant (Without any war memorial of a war that was fought against our fellow countrymen) and still its elegance shapes humanity and pride together which is typical of Lakhnavi ‘tehzeeb’.

This humanity and pride can be best explained in the colors and mottos of college houses:

St. Andrew’s – Blue – For Honour Alone

St. George’s – Red – In Honour Bound

St. Patrick’s – Green – Fight the good Fight

St. Francis’ – Yellow – Perseverance Conquers All

St Francis College has contributed to society in many ways through its inclusive curriculum, there are Franciscans of all hues, academicians, sportsmen, musicians, public servants, soldiers and lastly the best, pure Lakhnavis. I want to be in the last of the list.

Writer is a Social Activist and associated with the NGO Lucknow First

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 9 Issue 1, Dated 05 December 2015)

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