Keith (Toni) Roland


Keith Roland passed away in London, England, on July 18th 2008. He is survived by his wife, June and his son, Darryl, who lives in Cornwall, England. He leaves behind an older sister, Betty and a younger sister, Penny. His sisters and their families live in the US. Keith adopted ‘Toni’ as his stage name in 1959 when he began his career as a singer with a group in Calcutta and that is how he was known as even his son knew him as Toni.

In late June/early July Keith learned that he had lung cancer and he went downhill from there. It was a mere matter of weeks before he was gone.

I am sure you remember him well in your own way as we each have our own memories of our time in school and our days together. The fun times we had. The brutality meted out by KPB and the tight knit group that we, the class of ’58, became as a result of it. You may recall that KPB singled out Keith for special attention. Maybe he just did not like the name Keith, as I too suffered the brunt of his outbursts. Keith enjoyed many wonderful years in Mt. Abu as he was a student there from 1952 through to 1958 where he did his Senior Cambridge.

Keith’s father, Nino, died during our school holidays in 1957. It must have been tough for him losing his Dad when he was so young. Nino was born in Greece and I often kidded Keith about being Greek, an ancient Greek. In 2003, Keith told me that the owners of the Ambassador Hotel, where Nino was the chef, an outstanding one, paid Keith’s school fees for his last year in Abu. That was a tough year for Keith’s Mum as she had a teenage daughter, Betty, a year or two older than Keith, who now lives in Las Vegas, and another daughter, Penny, who was a few years younger than Keith. She also now lives in Las Vegas.

I still recall where Keith sat in our last year in school, where his bed was in the dorm, how well he played sport, his great play as a forward on the school and class hockey teams, the way he bowled in cricket, how he was committed to the 440s and running, his great art work, how he spent his time making lists of musical artists and performers, but mostly as my friend and classmate, and one who loved to sing. One of his favourite songs in our last year in school was Anastasia.

Keith was a great competitor in all sports and athletic events, be it table tennis, handball, cricket, soccer or hockey. He was a team captain in hockey, soccer and cricket in junior school and in high school. Somehow he made a decision not to really study and remained unfocussed on his studies in his last year in school, yet I recall him coming second in class in 1953, when he really wanted to study and achieved an overall average of 97.4 for the entire year, in all subjects. We had two great teachers that year, both old boys. Firstly, Jimmy Stuart who now lives in Leeds, and then Peter Callaghan who came up from Bombay to teach us after Jimmy emigrated to England. Everybody in our class studied and did well, some exceptionally well. We beat the 5th standard in cricket by an innings and 11 runs. We won the gold cross, the holy childhood and thus earned an extra picnic at Oria, by beating them by an average of one pie (aik paisa). Yes, the currency then was Rupees, Annas and Pies. 

May I share with you a poignant memory from our last year in Abu. The beds in the senior dorm were arranged in 5 columns with 5 rows to the right as one entered the dorm from the outside door and I expect 20 or more rows to the left. This door and the walkway from it led to steps to the washroom and showers. The beds to the right were those of students in their final year, i.e. our class. Keith’s bed was in the row beside mine and Brian Farrell’s was one over, by the window. We decided to have some fun at Bro. J.P. Murray’s (JPM) expense. After lights out, JPM liked to read while sitting on the bed in KPB’s room (the dorm master). As soon as JPM sat down Keith would signal to Brian Farrell to throw a tin of Kiwi shoe polish and let it rattle on the floor for a bit. From my bed I could observe JPM in the master’s room and signalled to Keith. At the first sound he would cock an ear and stir. After the second throw he would walk to the door, look about the room, then walk back to the bed and resume reading. As soon as he sat down again we would repeat the exercise with the can. This would cause JPM to walk to the common walkway which was in line with the washrooms and the outside door. He would then return to reading. As soon as he sat down again we would spin the tin. This would cause JPM to walk out and switch on all the dorm lights. As soon as JPM had done this we would take out our library books and start reading. This would cause JPM to turn off the lights. This activity continued every night for the week JPM was on duty. Both JPM and KPB decided that they had to put a stop to this. KPB tried to determine the culprits and promised no bodily harm to those responsible for it. Who was he kidding? He eventually got Brian Farrell to confess. Brian was invited to visit KPB in his room at the dorm while we were at studies. He was given a thrashing. After which I too was summoned and received far too many punches from KPB. I recall putting my arms up in a boxing pose of defence to ward off the blows. Then it was Keith Roland’s turn I warned him of what had happened to me and suggested that he keep his cool and not retaliate that day. Yes, Keith was also a good boxer and I was concerned that if he decided to retaliate in anyway, as we all wanted to, that he would get an even more severe thrashing. We were boys and KPB was a strong man. Oh! If we were only bigger and stronger! We really felt bad for JPM because he was a good guy and still is. It was just our attempt to relieve the pressure and we took advantage of him and his good nature. Brian Farrell’s bed was moved to a location that kept him a few beds away, in line with the doorway and two away from the door. Keith Roland’s was moved to the window. The story does not end there. We decided to do it once again when JPM was on dorm duty for a week. This time I cannot remember whether Keith Roland or I spun the can while Brian Farrell slept in his new location. Poor Brian! He was fast asleep when he was picked up and thrown outside the dorm. After that we decided to abandon our little ruse/game/fun as it might lead to severe injury to one of us.

Keith was competitive. We polished our shoes nightly and Keith, Cedric Moraes, Brian Farrell and I, as well as a few others would try outshining each other. Keith hit upon an idea, to polish part of the soles of his shoes, just ahead of the heel and was thus declared the winner. I occasionally recall those days and Keith’s polishing gambit when polishing my shoes.

In early January 1959 Keith moved to Calcutta where he performed as a singer in a group at various night clubs. From there he emmigrated to England and lived in London. Keith has performed at the London Palladium and at many other elite venues in London and elsewhere in England as well as in Western Europe, including Scandinavia, Germany and France. The London Palladium was the top venue in England during the 60s. Really big acts performed there such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck and performances there were often televised and beamed to the entire country. Yes, Keith did scale dizzying heights with his performances as a singer. When Keith decided to retire from performing, he set up an agency that booked performance artists and then also managed several groups of musicians and singers.

I am so glad that we got to meet with Keith in the summer of 2003, through the good graces of Bob Amore, when we met in a pub on our way from Bob’s place near Southampton to London’s Heathrow airport before returning to Canada. It was wonderful to chat with him and learn of his great successes and of his wife, June, and son Darryl. Yes, we relived old memories and I learned about a few of Keith’s successes and accomplishments. He still looked good, fit and healthy although he had not grown any taller than he was in school. We expected him be around for a lot longer. Others got to meet Keith, Brian Jansen, Norman Phillips, all three since deceased, and many Abuites who finished school in the ‘50s when Bob Amore organized a very successful reunion at his home near Southampton, England on the occasion of Bro. R.D. Barrett’s visit to Britain.

It is unfortunate that the school web site did not exist in the 60s as many of our classmates and contemporaries were in England at the same time and quite a few in the London area. Unfortunately a few have passed on. In 2003, Keith shared with me that hockey was his favourite game/sport even though he was an outstanding cricketer, soccer player, excelled at table tennis and a fine athlete who won several cups at the school annual sports day event. His home was about 5 minutes drive away from my hockey club in London. He would have been a valuable asset to the club, which, at the time, was one of the top hockey clubs in London and Keith may have gone on to represent the county if not the country.

Keith was a great guy in school, popular in his class group and with other class groups as well. He was an even better and much liked chap as an adult, a husband to June, a father to Darryl, a loving owner to his dog Dino, a mentor to many performance artists, and one who has helped many musicians, singers and entertainers climb to new heights.

I remember Keith as a keen competitor, a smart guy, a fine singer, a graphic artist, an accomplished athlete and an outstanding classmate. I can still picture him running, with his short powerful strides, a hockey stick in his hands and the ball ahead of him. May he rest in peace.

— Keith Fernandes (1958)

Keith was one the shining lights of the classes of the 1955-58 years. He will ever be remembered as a vital asset to whatever activity he participated in, always the captain in every sport, great athlete ... the list goes on and on. Most of all he was one of my closest friends; we started together and stayed for 9 years at SMHS. We were always entertained by his stories, his singing, his harmonica playing ... his drawing and artistic talents were the best, and I can recall being so very envious of his handwriting and his dress sense. I had a happy 9 years at St.Mary's and Keith played a large part in it, for which I thank him ... wherever you are, Keith, rest in peace dear friend.

— Christopher Ashe (1958)