Tag Archives: boarding school

There Was A Young Lady Called Holly

There was a young lady called Holly
Who’s favourite word was golly.
At her boarding school
She broke every rule
Along with her best friend Molly!

There was a young lady called Holly
Who’s favourite word was golly.
At her boarding school
She played the fool
Along with a cat named Molly!

There was a young lady called Holly
Who wrote poetry far from jolly.
Being rather posh
She said golly and gosh,
And she lived in an ancient folly.

Old School Caps

“We spread rumours about the man above then, when he is replaced …”.
Being blind, I can not see his face.
His voice says private school.
The man’s a fool.
A girl’s upper middle class laugh brays
In response to what he says.

I think of dorms
And cricket on the lawns.
I dwell on old school caps
And half educated prats.
A harsh judgement perhaps
For we all lapse
From time to time
When wine
Gets our tongue
And inane songs are sung.

I went to a boarding school.
No doubt played the fool
And disregarded the rule.
So why so critical of my fellow man?
Who can
In honesty say
They have their days in virtue spent
And do not repent
Of a foolish word said
When alcohol has clouded the head?


A child plays ball below.
A long time ago
I lay in bed
The same sound running through my head.
The thud of ball on wall
Is all I recall.
The ball is now still
As evening falls over Beulah Hill.

As I wrote this, a child and an adult played ball in the garden below my home. The sound brought to mind lying in bed at boarding school (I was sick), as children played football in the playground below my window. The poem was penned today (as the game took place).


Thud, the sound of a ball being kicked against the wall drifts up to me, as I lie in the dormitory.

Me sick but strangely content to lie abed while my fellow pupils play below. The room is peaceful save for the distant noise of the ball. A gentle breze stirs the curtains. I read, perhaps Palgrave’s Golden Treasury.

Oh the tranquillity, would that I could be ill more often.

Something Lurking

Lurking in the headmaster’s office, the unspeakable punishment which awaited we unruly boys and girls. A thing joked about, part of school mythology but, deep in our subconscious we half believed (feared) that it was real.

I can not recollect, at this distance in time, from whence this fantastical object which aroused such terror mingled with glee in the minds of we children came. Perhaps it was the headmaster himself who first mentioned the existence of the thing. Equally plausibly it may have been one of us children who invented the instrument of punishment in order to strike fear into the hearts of his fellow pupils.

“If you are very bad you will get the …”.

I smile, removed as I am in time from my school days, at the remembrance of the ultimate punishment. No one, to the best of my recollection ever experienced or admitted to having experienced the full force of the headmaster’s displeasure. I among others received the full force of his wrath expressed in tones which brooked no opposition. We stood outside his office not daring to speak for fear of arousing the fearsome power which lurked within.

What was it which inspired such dread? and dread it we did despite our protestations to one another that such a thing could not possibly exist. Was it the swish of the bamboo prior to it bringing out welts on our unhappy legs and arms?

Imagine the most homely of objects, a slipper. Grandfather sitting by the fire in carpet slippers drinking tea or maybe smoking a pipe. Warm red slippers, now there is nothing to alarm one in such a homely sceene. Ah, but wait a moment what if grandfather in a fit of anger at the misbehaviour of his grandchild where to remove one of those homely objects, bend the child over his knee and slipper him? Not such a benign object then.

In our case it was no ordinary slipper we boys and girls feared. It was a slipper of demonic proportions, one possessed of an inner life which would deliver a slippering never to be forgotten by it’s unfortunate recipient. We feared, my dear reader the electric slipper.

Now I have no idea whether the slipper plugged into the mains or whether it was operated by batteries, none the less the demon slipper was the talk of the dormatories, the malign presence, always lurking just out of sight but waiting to wreak a terrible vengeance on anyone who aroused the ire of the headmaster sufficiently.

Did I and my fellow students really believe in the existence of the electric slipper? It was, largely a school myth designed and perpetuated by we boys and girls to add a frisson of excitement to the relatively humdrum existence of school. However I well recall passing by the headmaster’s office as night fell and feeling a shiver at the thought that something terrible might, just possibly be lurking inside.

School Days

A row of basins, cold and clinical in their perfection of pure white. Carbolic, it’s scent floating down the years, pungent, smelling of boarding school.

The scent of freshly polished floors. Teachers scolding girls who trip along in high heels

“You will ruin the floor. Those shoes are unsuitable”.

Polish, carbolic, the smell of food wafting from the refectory.

An institution functioning like a well oiled machine? The bullying in dark corners. Teachers generally kind but lacking eyes in the back of their heads.

Baths in the communal bathroom, the scent of vim (now called jiff I think). Water running down plug holes, getting dry thence to bed.

Lights out. Children whispering.

“Who’s talking?” the voice of the house master booms. Silence,

“OK you can all stand outside in the corridor”.

We stand a sense of pride that no one told tales. Sometimes, shame to say one of we boys would crack and, pointing the finger at such and such would escape the corridor only to be ostracised by our peers for “being a grass”.

Sometimes happy, other times sad, oh distant school days.

By the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes

As a child I attended several boarding schools for blind children. During this time I shared a number of  dormatories with boys most of who’s names I can still remember! The first dormitory I can recollect had wooden floors with only small mats by each bed onto which we boys could step when dressing or undressing. Despite the huge old radiators my memory is of shivering with cold while dressing in the frosty winter mornings. Oh happy days!

Being boys we regailed one another with all kinds of stories after the lights had been switched off and we should have been in the land of dreams. Among these where stories of ghosts and ghouls. I well remember some clever soul (I think it may have been me but I can’t be sure at this distance in time) regailing his fellow dorm dwellers with a story of a boy who returned from the toilet only to find that the school had been boarded up and that he was trapped inside the building with all kinds of ghosts and ghouls. All this story telling was fine until one of us wanted to leave the room to use the toilet only to find ourselves scared half to death to go alone. What ghastly creatures lurked in the passage outside our dormitory god only knew!

I believe that my interest in ghost stories stems from my early school days. Even now I can feel cold shivers run down my spine when I read or hear a ghost story.

I am an agnostic and keep an open mind as to whether anything beyond the purely material world exists. However, irrespective of whether god or something god-like exists I continue to find ghost stories a great source of enjoyment.

Thus far I have written one ghost story, There are More Things in Heaven and Earth (http://newauthoronline.com/2013/03/17/there-are-more-things-in-heaven-and-earth/). In the story Michael,a devout atheist (now theirs a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) decides to sleep in the chamber of an old house in which a Victorian serving maid hanged herself. The result is tragic with Michael being found dead the following day.

The story suggests that Michael saw something unspeakable which brought on a massive heart attack. However the sceptic will no doubt argue that people can work themselves up to such a state of fear and/or excitement that they bring about their own demise. The imagination is an extremely powerful thing and I can recollect lying in bed at school listening to creaking floor boards and cooling pipes and being at least half convinced that unearthly forces where abroad.

I’m off to bed now to dream what I hope will be dreams lacking in ghosts and ghouls!