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Sunderland College [2.A – The Broken Curse: A History of Sunderland College]

THE BROKEN CURSE: A HISTORY OF SUNDERLAND COLLEGE

Ray Macklesfield

Published 1993

 

Introduction

 

Sunderland College was formed in 1974, but this is far from where it began. Its beginnings are humble: the city of Macew founded the Academy for Battle Clothing many years before, in 1838. Between 1838 and 1974, a terrible fate overcame many of the inhabitants, and many problems arose that led to the utter destruction of the Academy. Through this chaos, several individuals rose up to transform the building into Sunderland College as it is known today: one of the most illustrious places of Battle Clothing education that has ever existed, rivalling that of Harvard and Wellstein in the US, and even La Lumière, the most famous model agency and college in France, and perhaps the world.

 

The Macew Academy for Battle Clothing

 

In 1838, the Macew Academy for Battle Clothing was completed and opened to the public for the first time. The headmaster, Newton Barrett, said “Let this be a place open to all, to hone their power and develop their strength in such a manner that they can bear the burden of the future with easy shoulders and high spirits.”

Indeed, being open to all was the key component of the Academy. Barrett and the board of governors intended for the Academy to be accessible to all children, even those who had not previously been able to access proper education. The school’s main building could fit 150 pupils, but the Academy became wildly popular with the working-class children, and demand forced them to expand the school’s facilities. By 1840, the school could fit 300 children, and by 1847, the school had expanded fully to fit 850 students. During this time, several courses were put into place, teaching advanced mathematics, literacy, combat and physics.

It was during this time that the first of Newton Barrett’s many problems would arise. With the increased number of students, but a lack of teaching staff, the Academy was hard-pressed to keep up with the staff’s wages, and eventually, the unimpressed staff had a general strike, starting on 16th October 1852 and lasting for sixteen days. Barrett was eventually forced to take on new staff and cut his own pay. The board of governors, naturally, was unimpressed, and discussions began regarding their original message of being open to all.

In 1854, the decision was made to introduce a test that students had to pass before they could be accepted into the Academy – the first part was a general knowledge test featuring questions about science, literacy and maths, and the second part was a mock battle against another student, where their fighting style would be analysed. In this year, student admissions dropped from 850 to just 214.

 

Barrett and Conspiracy

 

Following the poor showing of 1854’s student body, Barrett began to more frequently challenge the governors for changing their mission statement and introducing the admissions test. One of the governors, the Viscount Hereford, Larrion Dusing, expressed his concern regarding Barrett’s challenges, and an obvious power split between headmaster and governors was formed.

In 1856, however, a stroke of luck on the part of the governors occurred. A frightening conspiracy arose suggesting that Barrett, fearing that the school would soon be foreclosed or shut down by the governors, had been training secrets groups of students with powerful and terrifying pieces of Battle Clothing. Rumours ran rampant throughout the next six months, but there was no way to prove them.

It was during this time that the Royal, Alec Schmidt, joined the school’s teaching body all the way from Germany, and he began teaching in September of 1856. The sheer popularity of his presence led to a huge increase in admissions in the next year, and in 1857, 1300 students signed up to take the entrance exams.

Curiously, of those 1300, 850 students managed to pass, filling up the school to maximum capacity once again. The governors were suspicious, and began to look into it. There, they discovered little of value. However, Barrett had made a crucial mistake; he had taken on a teacher by the name of Drusilla to teach Combat Training.

It was the year after Drusilla and Alec had joined the teaching body, in 1858, when the conspiracy was finally revealed. It was first fed to nearby publications, then publicly revealed by a protest of parents outside the Academy’s gates on 14th June 1858. Barrett had been training students in a secret classroom in the basement of the school, using them as his personal guard and sending them on missions, which, if completed, would grant them high grades. The secret classroom in the basement, however, was never discovered, and none of the students, nor Barrett, would reveal its location.

Furthermore, it was that revealed that Barrett had changed the entrance exams to make them incredibly easy to pass, which explained why 850 students passed the year before. With these accusations against him, Barrett was forced to resign, and disappeared – the governors had won. This, of course, was all thanks to them having an inside agent: the Viscount Hereford’s loyal maid, Drusilla.

 

A Renaissance Under a Woman’s Hand

 

From 1858 to 1891, the Academy underwent a number of changes. As the entrance exam became stricter and the school’s regimen became tougher, though, it was clear that the Academy had lost a lot of favour with the working-class population of Macew. Student numbers dwindled from 250 per year to just 130, and the headmasters who replaced Barrett were struggling to keep the school afloat.

In 1865, during the servitude of Michael Aberdeen as head, there was a worrying year where just 107 students passed the obscene entrance examination, and due to the mistreatment at the hands of teachers and the extreme strain of passing their courses, 24 of those students ended up dropping out of the Academy in their first year.

Changes would need to be made. The Academy’s first headmistress, Susan Yates, made a promise when she acquiesced to the position in 1871: “I shall bring this Academy back from the brink and create an environment where children can develop themselves, not into automatons, but to whatever they want to be; here, their life will be happy and memorable.”

It was explicitly reminiscent of Barrett’s original statement in 1838, and it was clear that Yates was refusing to bow to the wishes of the governors. However, rather than dealing in conspiracy or simply accepting their ideals, Yates was able to find a happy middle ground: she personally oversaw and developed the Macew Parent-Teacher Association, or the MPTA. This was a uniquely brilliant move: by electing parent governors to help oversee matters in the school, Yates was able to give the working-class more of a voice, one that could almost challenge the governors themselves.

The MPTA became a key component of the Academy, managing clubs, student welfare, school meals, and plenty of other developments that would be a rarity in most schools across the country until well after 1945. The governors could have bowed Yates, but they could not deny the demands of the parent governors or the MPTA, lest they risk losing the last few students going to their Academy.

Student numbers began to increase once again: in 1875, there were 300 students, by 1880, there were 750 students, and following a number of expansion projects overseen by Yates and the governors, in 1885 there were a record 1450 students attending the Academy. Yates, however, had served for fourteen years and was reaching the end of her career. Her last goal was to cement the MPTA so that the governors could not dismantle them, which she achieved in 1887, when she finally retired.

 

The Kieley Case

 

It was 1891 when problems continued to arise for Macew Academy. In a tragic accident on 17th December 1891, just days before the term was to finish for Christmas, the young student Marina Kieley was found dead, her body ripped to shreds and left in the headmaster’s office. The true terror of the case was not revealed until the headmaster, Marvin Cardinal, realised that the school had been empty that night, and he had been the only person in the school.

Suspicions began to arise once people began to realise this, and the terror felt by all the parents and children meant that the Academy was closed for investigation throughout December of 1891 until June of 1892. During this time, people began to assume that Cardinal had been the one to murder young Kieley, though it was still unknown what she would have been doing in the school after hours.

The lead detective on the case, Kingsley Lenore, began to look into the secrets of Macew Academy, and made some extremely notable discoveries. Lenore discovered information on Barrett’s secret classroom, though he could not locate it. He did find, however, that Kieley had come back to the school because she had forgotten a book in a classroom near to the head’s office.

Further developments were made when it was revealed that Cardinal could not have been the killer; his Battle Clothing contained no ways to have murdered Kieley as she had been, and Lenore was reported to have believed that the murder weapon was “not Battle Clothing at all, but something far darker.”

The truth eventually came out in June 1892, when Lenore was finally able to locate Barrett’s secret classroom: Kieley, returning to the school to get a book, had encountered a monstrous creature that had murdered her on sight. The monster, however, was Barrett’s final surprise: though he had disappeared, he had not gone far. Barrett had locked himself in the classroom and put on an experimental piece of Silhouette Clothing. Over many years, he had lost his mind to the madness until he was able to think somewhat clearly. The monstrous Barrett, which Lenore referred to as Curse, had left the classroom that night to kill the headmaster. However, instead, the beast had encountered Kieley, and killed her before returning the classroom.

Realising this the moment the classroom was discovered, Lenore and the Peacekeepers with him were forced to hold Curse at bay until someone could arrive to put him down. He was eventually killed by the Bombardier, Jacob Strantham. However, the damage had been done: the tragic death of Kieley and the horror of what lay in the basement of the Academy led to a foreclosure, and the building was abandoned.

 

The Sunderland Restoration Project

 

This was the state that Macew Academy lay in for the next seventy years. Over that time, it fell to disrepair and was left dormant; however, in 1962, there was a subtle change. The Academy became a secluded meeting spot where a group of brash youths would meet up to relax, chill out and spend time together, breaking into the Academy in secret during the night. These youths were Lorenzo Stunne, June Sunderland, Brian Mallard, Terry Waterside and Mina Downes.

It was a happy youth for these figures, but soon, they had to grow up; many of them, though, ended up falling in love with the Academy. June Sunderland herself was enamoured with the building and always dreamed of restoring it to what it was. After a promising career of being a Peacekeeper alongside Waterside and Downes, June ended up putting together a plan for restoring the building in 1966, just three years after leaving college.

The financing came from Lorenzo Stunne, who was making a promising living from his line of clothes, though the brand would not achieve worldwide success until his daughter Lindsey took over the company in 1990. Stunne and Downes became the lead benefactors of June’s project, as Downes had just come upon a large inheritance following the passing of her aunt.

With funding from the government, June put together the Sunderland Restoration Project and began work on restoring the building in 1967. Over this time, she received a large amount of support from the people of Macew, who did fundraisers and gave donations to help. With the excessive support, June was able to expand her initial view and restore the building not just to its former glory, but outfit it in the latest designs and begin forming a governing body; her initial view was just to restore the building of her teenage childhood’s happiest memories, but with the money, she was now interested in turning it back into a place of education.

By 1973, the restoration project was completed, and plans were being put into action to transform the building into a college. It was opposed by those who knew of Macew Academy’s dark history, but in the end, June’s optimism and charm won the people over, and in 1974, the college opened its doors to students for the first time since 1891. There was some confusion over a possible name, and June believed that changing the name would allow the old history of the place to lie forgotten. Her friends had supported her, and so they suggested that she take responsibility for what she had created: thus, they named the restored building Sunderland College. Retiring from her modest Peacekeeper career, Mina Downes became the first headmistress of Sunderland, whilst June began to undertake a teaching course so she could teach Social Relations.

 

The Era of the Gods

 

The opening of Sunderland College was a remarkable success. Over the next seven years up to 1980, the college produced some of the finest models, Peacekeepers and Bombardiers the world had ever seen, including the legendary Fire and Ice, Sarah Monsman and Barry Noble, who in 1984, became the youngest Commissioner in the history of Peacekeeping.

The true crowning jewel of Sunderland College, however, occurred in 1987. Growing quickly in popularity and taking on new students, whilst developing their college’s building to make it ever more beautiful and fit ever more students – a maximum of 1800 by 1986 – it was not long before they became a fierce competitor in the International Collegiate Bombardier Competition. In 1987, the finals were between Sunderland and Harvard, and nobody could have expected the outcome. Roy Preston, Harvard’s top Bombardier, was 19 years of age and just about to finish college, and had won the ICBC in 1985 and 1986.

The challenger that year was a young upstart from Sunderland, in her first year and 17 years old. She had performed admirably, but in the final, nobody expected the legendary Roy Preston to lose: but he did. Roy Preston was soundly defeated after a tough battle by the young girl from a small college in the UK, and her name was Elizabeth Giles.

After this, Sunderland was put on the map for good; Lindsey Stunne began her illustrious career at Sunderland, as did the Royal, Louisa Lefay. Though it has been through a tough upbringing, under the guidance of the current principal, Marlene Kinsfolk, the ancient building where learning was put before wealth and status has now achieved its goal in full. It is a world-famous institution and one that will continue to produce individuals that could change the face of the world.

June Sunderland has since become a patron of the college, though she is often lecturing in universities across the world. Her visits, however, are always a wondrous thing for the students of the college.

 

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