Students and teachers recall the “omnipresence” of Brother Columba during his time as principal, walking around the school corridors, checking on students as well as teachers; scanning students` weekly report cards and giving those with any “red” mark a stroke on the palm and making sure everyone was in the field for sports and games and so forth.
Josephine Kong, a former student who returned to teach at St Joseph`s after graduating, found Brother Columba “very demanding” and some fellow teachers called him “the policeman” as he used to patrol the corridors of the classrooms.
But she also said it “clearly indicated the kind of headmaster he was hardworking, efficient and totally dedicated to his calling.”
Lim Tze Yaw, an ex-Thomian, served under Brother Columba as disciplinary master. He said Brother Columba backed him all the way in his line of duty, making his job a lot easier.
Brother Columba was unbending in disciplinary matters from students caught smoking inside as well as outside school (if they were in uniform), to ground staff maintaining the gardens and playing fields.
An Education Dept rule required teachers to fill up pages of record books each week to be checked by the principal but Lim said Brother Columba preferred checking on them on the ground than relying on their record books.
When Donald Lam joined the Transition Class at St Joseph`s Secondary School in 1975, he and all the junior students were in awe of the principal, the mat saleh in white robe. The presence of the white robe struck fear in their hearts.
Brother checked on students even during their night study in the library at 8.45pm sharp.
“If you thought he had left and started talking, you might be pulled up the next moment because he would have seen you from the darkened, adjacent junior library, without you noticing.”
That was no Robert Redford in their eyes. That was the white ghost or the tiger. But as Donald later found out, that tiger could be surprisingly open.
He recalled that in the 1975 World Boxing Championship bout between Mohamad Ali and Joe Bugner, Brother Columba actually allowed the whole school to listen in to the live coverage on their transistor radios. Every class was listening in and Brother Columba was patrolling the classrooms with a transistor radio held close to his ear!-The Sunday Post