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Speech at Aitchison College Assembly, 3 Nov 2011
On thr anniversary of the laying of the Foundation stone at Aitchison College.




Many of you may be wondering why we are holding our Morning Assembly here today.

For every Aitchisonian, this is a historic day. All of us are part of a continuing tradition that began exactly 125 years today – on 3rd November 1886. 

The first boy to be enrolled in our College that year as No 1 on our Rolls was Nawab Mumtaz Hussain Khan of Pataudi.

The latest boy to become an Aitchisonian is No. 17,634 who joined us this year in K3.

All of us – whether it was No 1 or No 17,634 have one thing in common. We belong to a fraternity that began with an ideal expressed by Sir Charles Aitchison on this very spot – the place where you are standing – 125 years ago.

At that time, this whole area was an open wilderness. The only occupants were two dead Pirs - Pir Bodh Shah whose shrine under the big Bodh tree you pass on your way to Prep School, and Pir Pinjra Shah whose mazar is between the Swimming School and the Amphitheatre. The rest of this area was a dusty plain.

On 3rd November – a Wednesday – shamianas were erected here.

At 3.50 p.m. Sir Charles Aitchison, Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, arrived to receive the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. The Duke of Connaught was Queen Victoria’s third son.

Sharp at 4.00 pm (they were particularly punctual in those days), the then Viceroy and Governor-General of India Lord Dufferin arrived on this campus.

He laid the foundation stone of the Building that you see behind me. As there were very few pupils then, its rooms were used as classrooms, science lab, assembly area, library, art room, and teachers’ common room.

Three Boarding Houses was started some months later. No 1 – now Kelly House for the Muslim boarders, No 2 now Godley house for the Hindu and Sikh boarders, and No 3  now Leslie-Jones-House for the boys on scholarships financed by various Districts.

Let me read out to you an extract from the speech that Sir Charles Aitchison made 125 years ago today. What he said then is still valid today.

         ‘From the middle and lower ranks of Native Society is rising up year by year an ever           increasing number of candidates for honors in our academical institutions and for       positions of responsibility under the Government; while those who are the hereditary     leaders of the people are being elbowed out of the positions which they are naturally         expected by their fellow-countrymen to occupy, …

         As tone upon stone in the visible structure of this edifice, and tier upon tier arises from      the level plain, let it be our earnest hope that there may rise a still fairer edifice in which     the aristocracy of the Punjab shall be the cornerstones, bright examples to their          countrymen of true manliness, of the highest culture and the gentlest manners that the        times can boast.’

The book I have written to commemorate our College’s first 125 years is now ready. A personalized copy of Commanding Success will be available for each one of you to commemorate this milestone in our College’s history, and your own.

Today, I will ask you, as you leave this Assembly to file past the foundation stone that was laid on 3rd November, 125 years ago.

Remember, you are one out of over 17,000 Aitchisonians to have stood where are standing.

Live up to the College’s ideals. Live up to their standards.  Exceed every day of your life your own expectations of yourself. And that is how you will be remembered by those who will stand here -  125 years from now.

19 October 2012
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