Boys Town

Thanks for the latest, Opus. I really enjoyed reading your recollections.

I know Homan started a Boys Town in India, so it must be the same one.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/12/joe-homan-obituary

I’ve read a most  disturbing account of his conduct at St J’s – think it was at Oak Hill. And also accounts by an investigative journalist linking him to a Body Shop scandal. Cheap labour and worse. I keep meaning to write to the journalist to ask for confirmation on a couple of points.  I also believe that’s where the notorious Brother Solomon headed one time.
So I was disappointed to read fellow old boy Chris Mullin singing Homan’s praises in The Guardian, especially as i’m a huge fan of Chris’s novel and film, A Very British Coup.
I believe these days, if someone said they were going to set up a ‘Boys Town’, they’d be locked up. Thus there was a very recent case of a paedophile who was one of the founders of  ‘Street Kids International.’
I think I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia with the school and the Brothers flinching at some of the scenes. There was an implied rape – that could have been it.  They also flinched and blushed when they took us to see Guns of Navarone and a woman’s naked back was revealed. Understandable – all these kids watching them for signs of human weakness. The pressure must have been terrible!

 

–Pat

Pat,

Whether my memories are correct or even materially fair (and I obviously think they are) is something I cannot judge.

I thought then that you might appreciate on perhaps a largely lighter note though not unsexually related my further reminiscences:

1. The new chapel had just been completed and was shortly be opened. On a morning on exiting from the dormitories, was, to be seen flying high from its spire, a pair of knickers. How the roof of the chapel was ascended (and descended without injury) and who was responsible for the prank and indeed from where the pair of knickers had been obtained remained a mystery.

2. Aside from being Head Master, Elwin Gerard was, when I was about fifteen in charge of the dormitories in the main house which was where I then resided. In a room on the ground floor was a monochrome television set and chairs for viewing. It being a Saturday night we would crowd into the room to watch whatever the BBC were providing by way of entertainment. On the occasion in question the Beeb had imported in from the United States a light entertainment series featuring the comic actor and singer Mr Danny Kaye. Some way through the show came what would surely turn out to be a comic sketch: it commenced with the camera tracking the back of a woman with long blonde hair and the accompanying music was of the type associated with strippers. The woman’s back was bare. Elwin Gerard who was watching with us promptly jumped up and switched off the television set ordering us all to bed. I will thus never know what the joke was for surely a joke which I would long have forgotten was coming and had Elwin Gerard not been so hasty I think we would have discovered that the woman was a man, Kaye himself.

3. At a time when Lawrence of Arabia was a justly popular film a White Father who was the brother of one of the monks (John?) visited the school, talked about his work in North Africa and to our great delight demonstrated how he put on his arab-style robes. I was told decades later that he was later convicted of indecent assault upon his charges whilst in India at a place known as Boys Town. Would that be right?

4. My little brother was at Oak Hill from the age of just nine commencing at the beginning of the autumn term. When he returned at Xmas my Mother said (later) that she no longer recognised him as the same happy-go-lucky little boy whom she had sent off some three months earlier.

5. I was a boomer and that meant that at that time there was by reason of increased birth-rates pressure on places in schools and thus schools could become a law unto themselves. It was also the case that the La Salles were not able to recruit sufficient men to their order and thus appear to have taken any man who was willing to join them. Certainly the calibre of many of the monks – as teachers – left much to be desired. From my point of view this was to the good such that by the time I reached the dizzy heights of the sixth-form none of my teachers were monks and (I was also studying outside the school and thus was semi-detached from it) a majority of my teachers were not even Roman Catholics. To a large extent then the Brothers faded out of my life for apart from being in Ipswich a fair amount of the week I ended my career at Birkfield living in the little lodge by its entrance where we were without any form of supervision. Neither being a Prefect nor playing in team sports (I never took to Rugby and became bored by Cricket) and by reason of one task I performed happily from the age of fourteen until I left and which gained me access daily to the lay-Master’s Common Room such that I had a good relationship with them I was by then left to my own devices.

–Opus

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5 thoughts on “Boys Town

  1. Wow….Flashback time again…And as we are outside the “wackable” timeline ……………I’ll confess …mea culpa……I can honestly put my hand up …..to the flying the flag…as an April first joke…they were in fact Bro James/Judge Dreads …. pyjama bottoms …which I had borrowed from his room…as I knew where his key was!!! .. and it was run up the Goldrood flagpole…. ?;-}>

      • I saw Lawrence of Arabia at the time but thought that I had seen it with my Mother and siblings in the school holidays. A more recent viewing revealed that Lawrence was merely beaten by the Turks although he seemed to have been indifferent to the death of a young Arab boy whom he had befriended. I would have said we saw Guns of Navarone in the school’s hall but perhaps my memory plays me false as it obviously does about what was flying from the top of the school’s chapel. It is good to have that mystery cleared and the culprit fully revealed. Likewise as to Boys Town I was going to say Joseph – his own brother must have been John.

        Mention of Lawrence put me in mind of this: the school play was to be a production of Robert Bolt’s Man for all Seasons. The Brother in charge (Gregory?) felt however that Bolt had failed to bring out the true character of Wolsey (?) and so he added a scene wherein one of the character’s hand is burned by it being held in a flame. Whatever the accuracy of this character destruction its sadism entirely destroys the quiet tone of the play such that of the production that is all I recall.

      • History is composed of two words…His Story…in my way of thinking …so it always depends on whom “the storyteller” is, in my book . Laughter brings back memories for sure…! And I have had another …..history Flashback….At lunchtime , I remember seeing Bro James, just after I reckoned he’d found the Pyjamas at half mast…he was scurrying back from Goldrood along the path to the Refectories…he looked embarrassed worried and shamed…and was going along at a heck of a pace….for him. I had kept this practical joke very quiet at the time, as I had earlier experiences!…. In the 4th form we had been studying in the wing attached to the main building. At the end of the block was the Toilets….metal sided cubicles lockable from outside with a coin. The Brothers always went quietly to the chapel at 5.30 for their Holy rituals etc. in silence. I had some Bangers…………and got some of the Wax paper straws that were given out with the free milk in the mornings. At 5.20 I put my hand up to go to the Loo…I attached the straws to 4 bangers and placed these on the toilet cubicles seats…I quickly lit all four and locked the doors…and got back into the homework study class… A couple of minutes later 4 bangs echoed up and down the corridors and out towards the Bros on their way to the chapel and I had a foolproof alibi! . I did tell a couple of friends about it…as it was such a good wheeze! But by Supper it was headline news…and Bro Leonard came into the refectory fuming , just before our weekly ration of a Banana ! Bro Kevin and Bro Leonard then asked ” Who was responsible for these Explosions?…. otherwise if you don’t own up the Bananas will be stopped! “……so I slowly got up out of my seat….only to notice my friend who had also “let off a banger or two” ….was slowly getting up too…so I sat down….so did he! Then we both stood up again…and were ordered to see both Kevin and Leonard afterwards….we then all got our singular banana each! My thoughts were …who will give me the least painful Whacks! My money was on Bro Kevin …who was a dinky lil’git….rather than Leonard who was ordinary sized…So I shot off to Kevin straight after bananas and got a couple of whacks…easy.! ..then off to Bro Leonard…. who then said ” Bend over ” to which I replied….”I have already got whacked by Bro Kevin” and did not get anymore whacks……The other lad made the mistake of going to Leonard first…and he was hurting more…while we were both still laughing!

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