Phil Lancaster

Author Archives: Phil Lancaster

Grade 5 and the True Meaning of Decimation

Roman Decimation

From Wikipedia: Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = "ten") was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by his cohorts. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman Army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions. The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning "removal of a tenth". The procedure was a pragmatic attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

December 11, 2019

The 12 Days of Christmas


In celebration of rapidly approaching Christmas. I believe this was originally presented by Frank Kelly, who played Father Jack in the Irish television series Father Ted.

Day One

Dear Nuala,
Thank you very much for your lovely present of a partridge in a pear-tree. We're getting the hang of feeding the partridge now, although it was difficult at first to win its confidence. It bit the mother rather badly on the hand but they're good friends now and we're keeping the pear-tree indoors in a bucket. Thank you again. Yours affectionately,
Gobnait O'Lúnasa

Day Two


Santa Claus Vs God

Santa Claus 400

I sometimes reflect on the fact that to a child there is much more evidence for the existence of Santa Claus (photo to the left) than for the existence of God (no photo available).

Consider the similarities.

The child is told by the main authority figures in his or her life, parents, grandparents and extended family that both exist.

Furthermore, that both perform miracles. God created the Earth and everything on it in 7 days (even before there was a Sun to provide a measure for days) and Santa Claus delivers gifts all over the planet in 24 hours once a year, dispensing them from a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer.

There the similarities end.


Cusack Goes Apeshit

It was 1953 and we had all just started in Grade 4 at St Laurence's College. Such a change from the nuns at a Catholic convent school.

The photo above is St Patrick's at Strathfield (Sydney) where our teachers were trained.

Our new teacher was Brother Cusack (for some reason, the Irish Christian Brothers were referred to by their family name, rather than the more historical given name). It didn't really matter, as we were instructed to refer to them as "Sir" in both the first person (Excuse me, Sir) and the third person (Sir said...).

So here was our first teacher on our road to becoming men.

Brother Cusack (I never learnt his first name, so if any of my fellow students know it, please respond below) was an earnest young fellow of, I'm guessing now, around 20 years of age. He was in control of a class of some 60 or so nine year olds. He had us again in Grade 6.

More on that later. This is just recounting one incident.

December 7, 2019

Inventions That Changed the World

Clearly, we as humans are on an exponential curve of discovery.


This is reflected in statements like "95% of everything we know has been discovered in the past 10 years".

And we no longer believe, as the Victorians did at the turn of the (19th) century that "everything of significance has already been discovered". Or, as Thomas Watson, the first president of IBM famously predicted "that there might someday be a world wide market for as many as 5 computers".

Nonetheless, there have been many paradigm shifting inventions that have been made during our journey from the mid 1940s (slightly earlier than the baby boomers) to the early parts of the 21st century.

If I had to pick two (and it's very difficult to leave out television and solid state technology) I'd have to pick

December 7, 2019

About Me


Born in 1944, I attended St Laurence's College (SLC) from 1953 to 1961, which was the full nine years offered by the school, from Year 4 to Year 12. Called in those days Grade 4 and Senior respectively.

Other years had special names as well. Year 7 was Sub-Scholarship and Year 8 was Scholarship. So called because if you passed, the State Government contributed towards your school fees for the next four years.

Several kids left school and entered the work force after Scholarship. This included my best friend at the time. He would have been thirteen. We didn't remain in contact. Without a telephone, it was too difficult.