ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE OLD BOY 1942 – 1951

Many thanks to an Old  Boy for his most interesting recollections of this early time at St Jo’s.

I was sent to the school in Ipswich in 1942 aged just 7. You will appreciate it was wartime and things were in short supply. Sunday mornings were taken up with writing letters home.

These were inspected before sealing, to check for bad writing, blots, presumeably for adverse comments home etc. The opportunity was also taken by one, Bro Edwin Gerard, house master, to punish pupils for misdemeanours.

As I have noted before, it was wartime and our laundry was done once a week, being wartime with a shortage of most things, we were expected to make a hand-towel last all week.

Having had now 4 children of my own, and now 7 grand children and even 2 great grand children, I cannot think, for the life of me, how a hand-towel, could last a 7 year old for a whole week without getting filthy.

But the sight of my filthy towel was too much for Edwin Gerard, and I was called out in front of the assembled boarders and subjected to a severe 6 of the best.

Now I know that 80 years ago things were very different and corporal punishment was commonplace, but reading other things since and with what you have written and the BBC article about a Scottish School has made me think.

What possible excuse could there be for inflicting punishment of that sort on a 7 year old. In the scheme of things I don’t think it has had a lasting effect on me but I vividly remember the humiliation and have always hated him for it.

He is long dead, and my only regret is that I can do nothing about it, and I would dearly love to have been able to confront him about it. Perhaps writing this to you will let me forget it.

You write about a much later time than that of my experience, and I am bound to say that in the time I was at the school I did not come across any of the things you wrote about, apart from the corporal punishment,

perhaps I was naive, but I can attest to an amount of brutality way beyond equitable punishment for wrong doing. Edwin Gerard was not alone.

I well remember a Brother Michael, a huge man in my recollection known to all as “Hoagy” (Hoagy Carmichael). He had fists like hams. His method of punishment was to rap one sharply on the head with his knuckles, to be quite clear on the top side edge of one’s head. Goodness knows what damage that did. Of course in those days one never told parents what was going on.

It is interesting to hear you talk about vulnerable children. Perhaps I was not picked out for other abuse, but I have to say I never heard of any going on and rumours always travelled round very quicly at school, but I never heard anything.

And I am bound to say that on one occasion, when a boy was discovered misbehaving sexually with a younger boy, he, the older boy,was immediately expelled.

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