Royal Masonic Junior Boys School, Bushey, Herts.
Memories from 1949 - 1953
All colour pictures are by kind permission of Brian Thomas
who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison."
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My name is Geoff Kirby and I attended the Royal Masonic Junior School for Boys (click here for information on this school) at Bushey, Hertfordshire between 1949 and 1953.
This was the most miserable time of my life.
To be fair, not everyone was as miserable as me in Masonic schools; please click here for an account of time at the Dublin Masonic School in the 1940s. Also, a pupil who was at the Bushey school a decade or two later seems to have fared much better than I did, please click here. Never-the-less, for me and many other pupils, life at the Freemasons' Boys Junior School at Bushey was a nightmare of physical and mental abuse and degradation.
One aspect of the tragedy of this Junior School saga in the 1950s was that well-meaning Freemasons were pouring huge amounts of money to fund an educational system that was far worse than the free State School system. They were also unknowingly giving a living to a collection of teachers; too many of whom were incompetent and sadistic and who would have been unemployable elsewhere. Not all the teachers were bad. But even they are guilty for not stopping the abuse that was common knowledge.
Recent events suggest that our suffering at this dreadful Masonic school in the 1940s/50s may have continued elsewhere into recent years, click here to view.
This is my story...
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF FREEMASONS' "CHARITY"
This was undoubtedly the most miserable time of my life and when I left at the age of 13 to go into the state education system I was assessed to be about 18 months behind pupils of my age. This was due to the appallingly bad standard of teaching at the Junior School.
The fact that I went on to catch up with my contemporaries in the state schooling system, go to university and attain an Honours degree proves that the fault did not lie with my abilities but with the teachers at the Masonic Junior Boys School.
In February 1949 my father died suddenly - he had been standing in a pub with a pint of beer in hand when his heart stopped.
With my father dead my mother was the sole bread winner. Times were very hard. Her earnings from working six days a week at the local Co-op store scarcely paid for the essentials of life.
My mother wrote to the Freemasons Lodge in India where my father had been active but they never replied.
She wrote to his local Lodge in Hampstead and they spoke to her several times. It was agreed that the Freemasons would do two things for us. They would provide us with a holiday and would send me away to the Masonic School at Bushey in Hertfordshire to be educated.
The holiday was great. We were given two weeks at Broadstairs in a guest house which obviously belonged to a Kentish Freemason. We were treated well and we were given spending money.
In school uniform c1951
We had been put under the patronage of a wealthy Freemason in North London. He had no contact with us except after our holiday to Broadstairs. We were invited - summoned would be more accurate – to his house where I was sat down and told to write a letter of thanks that could be read out at the next Lodge meeting. The words were dictated and I carefully wrote my letter.
Our patron tore this up and told me to write it all out again which I did.
He tore this one up and became angry. My mother was getting upset.
By the fifth or sixth letter he was red in the face. I had left too few words on the second page so that the letter was “unbalanced” - I remember his words very clearly.
I had got the handwriting fine, there were no mistakes but I had to get fewer words on the first page and more on the second.
He ranted at me for wasting his writing paper. My mother was sobbing and pleading with me to try again so that we could go home.
I wrote out another letter.
My tormentor's wife stepped in. She was clearly upset and pleaded with her husband to accept this last letter which had, by now, taken over an hour to get right.
|At Broadstairs, 1949|
Yes, the final version would be accepted and read out at the next Lodge meeting. However, I had made
“a very poor effort and had shown too little gratitude!”
My mother cuddled me, both of us crying, and took me home on the train. She swore that we would never see my persecutor again.
A few months after my father’s death it was arranged that I would start at the Royal Masonic School for Boys at Bushey. I left the Fleet Road Primary School with the best wishes of the teachers. They had all been very kind to me when my father died.
I was driven with my mother to the school.
I was terrified.
The last thing that should happen to any young child is to be sent to a boarding school so soon after the loss of a parent. I cannot blame my mother for allowing me to go there - she thought she was doing the best thing for me. It was a couple of friends of my mother who eventually persuaded her to start a new life for me outside the Masonic schooling system because they were horrified by my experiences and lack of educational progress.
Never-the-less, the fact that my mother refused to remove me from that evil place for four years soured my relationship with her for the next two decades.
The Main Hall.
It was through that entrance door that I entered Hell in 1949
To be sent to a school where the older pupils and the teachers terrorised the younger boys was horrible.
Having said that, not all the teachers were appalling. A few were almost kind but they were rare. Obviously the Freemasons paid very poorly as it was clearly the last resting place for the flotsam and jetsam of the educational world.
I was left, a scared and confused 8-year old, with a teacher who showed no hint of kindness or compassion. He showed me where to store my personal possessions in a ‘luggage box’ room. This contained wooden boxes with steel reinforced corners with our names painted on. My clothing was handed over to the house matron - who was the kindest person I came across. I was in ‘C House’ - not very imaginative names!
And that was that.
A luggage box
When the time came for the evening meal we had to line up and were marched along in ‘crocodiles’ under 'cloisters' to the 'refectory' - all new names to me.
This was a huge hall ringing with the din of hundreds of young boys shouting. I was sat at a table - there were about twenty boys to each table. At one end was a huge urn full of tea.
The youngest boys had to serve the tea into mugs. Once I couldn’t get the urn tap to stop and the tea spilled over on to the floor.
The oldest boy who was allocated on the table to take charge told me that my father was
“...better off dead than to know that his son was as stupid as you are!”
Meal times were a riot.
One game which we all indulged in was to flick circular butter pats from a knife and get them to stick to the ceiling. The ones that reached and stuck stayed there for years as tiny yellow discs against the brown wooden beams.
Those that didn’t fell back onto our heads, on to the serving girls' heads or went on the floor where we slid on them as we left.
Impoverished Irish girls were employed as serving staff and they were teased horribly by the older boys who were beginning to exhibit a gift for crude sexual innuendo that seems to afflict some boys when hovering at the start of puberty.
This was accentuated by the total lack of contact with female company other than these serving girls, the matrons and the nursing staff in the infirmary. Only the serving girls were subjected to these crude jibes by the older boys - the matrons were both feared and respected whilst the nursing staff were worldly and had authority.
A recent picture of a 'House'
At the start of each meal Grace was said. Some of the more religious teachers made a big thing of this whilst we boys farted and giggled as loud as we could. Other teachers were more sensible. One elderly and extremely fat jovial teacher - known as ‘Pop’ to us all - just stood up and shouted
“For what we are about to receive - Thank God!”
The irony of this went over our heads - like the butter pats!
‘Pop’ was probably the most popular teacher in the school but he was terribly obese. Once he had a coughing fit and wet himself in class. Perhaps surprisingly, we children were sorry for him.
Above left - A general view of two ‘houses’. These were semi-detached. I suspect that these are ‘G’ and ‘H’ houses.
Above right - A view along the playground. My ‘house’ was third from the right.
The range of ages in the Junior School went from about seven to thirteen; I left in early 1953 and was in the top year. I was then a good six inches tallest in the school - as can be judged from the picture below.
Gymnastic Display Team, 1952. I’m the tall one in the front row.
To be in a boarding school from such a young age with a teaching staff of men - not one of whom had any real sympathetic or parenting talents - was appalling.
Bullying by the oldest boys was rampant and bullying by the teachers was almost as bad. The picture above shows me in an Athletic Display Team. The boy sitting on my left suffered from sticking out ears. It was bad enough to be teased by his classmates. The most savage teasing however came from a teacher who called the lad “RAF”. Even when the poor boy was reduced to tears the teacher never gave up the relentless taunting.
Most of the teachers were appalling. Many were bachelors and some were of suspect sexuality. One teacher would come to classes wearing pastel pink or blue flowery shirts. He would sit on the front of his desk swinging his legs as he spoke with his legs apart.
He was an enthusiast Communist and told us of his holidays in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Remember that in 1950 this was still during Stalin’s reign of terror!
He spent so much time telling us about the wonderful achievements of the Communists that I cannot now remember what subject he was supposed to be teaching!
The maths teacher was appalling. He would sit for whole lessons just staring out of the window whilst biting his finger nails. The class ran riot but he seldom stirred. He just sat staring and, when the bell went, we ran out and left him to ignore the next class.
Two friends pose for my camera - how I hated hockey!
The Latin teacher spent his time with us ranting against the current Labour Government. I recall there was a scandal at that time about trying to grow Ground Nuts in African - click here for details. He would rant on and on for whole lessons about how stupid the Government was and how we must always vote Conservative when we grew up.
I never learned any Latin!
The Physics teacher was a Welshman with a violent temper. He would throw the board duster or chalk at us. Once he hit a boy over the crown of the head with the edge of a steel ruler and blood started to run down his cheeks. The teacher refused to let him go and wash it off until class was finished.
Music appreciation consisted of getting the entire school together every Saturday morning in the Main Hall for three hours. The teacher would insist on absolute silence. If there was the slightest shuffling of feet, coughing or whispering he would fly into a rage and make us either sit with our hands on our heads, or stand to attention. I don’t remember ever hearing any music because the entire school was always in this state of perpetual punishment.
We briefly had a house master who was young, covered in spots, terrifyingly naive and very religious. He decided to introduce a special extra prayer time on Sundays. We hated this. He asked us ten-year olds if we had any favourite passages from the bible he would like us to read out loud.
One boy put up his hand.
“Please Sir! Isaiah chapter 36 verses 10 onwards”
The idiot teacher smiled. Here was his salvation from the eternal damnation of Hell. He was getting through to us and saving our souls.
He was visibly emotional as he found the place and started to read.
“And am I now come up without the Lord against this land to destroy it? The Lord said unto me, Go up against this land and destroy it.”
We were starting to snigger. The idiot teacher looked slightly puzzled.
“Then said Eliakim and Shebna unto Rabshakeh, Speak I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.”
Any teacher with an IQ over 50 and who was not a religious pervert would have realised that this rubbish was not of any slight interest to a bunch of ten-year old kids. But, the idiot kept on going...
“But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? Hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their...”
At last, the penny dropped in his vacuous head as he read the next few words. (Look them up!)
He slowly and very sadly closed his bible having just stopped himself from reading the bit that we had set him up to read. He looked around at us and quietly left the room. Very soon after this incident that teacher left the school.
Whether he was pushed or whether he resigned, I cannot say. That such an idiot should ever have considered going into teaching was ludicrous. That the Freemasons should have employed him shows how low their standards were.
In my ‘house’ was a set of triplets – very rare! Two boys were identical and couldn’t be told apart. The third was quite different. The boy in the left hand picture is one of the identical brothers. The two boys whose faces you can see in the right hand picture are the non-identical triplet and one of his brothers.
Saturday afternoons were for games. I hated games. I was bad at everything.
At football, cricket and hockey I was always in the left-overs; an odd number of boys in thick, heavy leather boots with steel studs running around frozen fields trying to keep warm. For cricket I would be put at Long Stop. This meant that I could lay under a tree and sleep without ever getting involved in the game. Nobody ever noticed that I was never changing ends after each 'over'.
Hockey in 1952.
A nightmare as it always seemed to be me that got cracked over the shins with a hockey stick
SUNDAYS - DAYS OF DESPAIR
Sunday was a day of boredom.
In the morning there was a mass religious service in the Main Hall and this was repeated in the evening. I remember clearly spending interminable hours examining the surface of my thighs for want of anything else to do. I had a deep scar on my right knee from where I had stumbled in the dark over the demolished concrete remains of the air raid shelter in our garden and removed a huge lump of flesh. On my left thigh was a curious mole with a single long hair sprouting from it. I would measure this hair every Sunday during evensong.
That long hair that helped to pass so many hours of tedium fell out some time during my teens. I was sorry to lose that old friend.
It was at about the age of ten that I became an atheist.
It suddenly become obvious to me that God was a concept of equal merit to Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy - all three being illusions that instil good behaviour by use of the 'carrot and stick' technique. However, neither Father Christmas nor the Tooth Fairy were ever the driving forces behind many of the bloodiest wars and atrocities ever imposed on humanity.
This revelation can be pinned down to a Sunday evening service at which the clergyman gave a sermon. It involved a Royal Navy ship in World War 2. Suddenly, the crew saw a German torpedo heading straight towards their ship. The crew dropped to their knees and prayed and the torpedo stopped dead in the water. They were saved.
Now I would normally have been asleep at this point in the evening service or admiring the long hair on my thigh and its parent mole. However, the absurdity of this story held me rigid. How unlikely that the crew of a naval ship would pray like that! I had two uncles in the Royal Navy - and I therefore knew that sailors would not be kneeling and praying under these circumstances. And how was God able to stop this torpedo? What part of its mechanism was altered by some mystical force? Why this torpedo and not all the thousands that did not stop and hit their targets?
It was an absurd story and I realised, in a flash of revelation, that the whole incident could be much more plausibly explained by eliminating God and assuming that torpedoes were not totally reliable.
Much of my career was later to lie in torpedo research so I knew that these weapon were extremely unreliable in World War 2. One United States submarine fired 19 torpedoes at a Japanese ship in 1943 and none of them exploded! Please click here for the story.
In fact, as I looked around the world with the newly opened eyes of a ten year old everything seemed to fit into place if God was eliminated from the universe. There was no need to invent a Devil to explain the conflicting evidence against God - just get rid of God and the Devil and it all becomes clear.
Well, that's how it seemed to me as a ten-year old. Perhaps I was simple minded and naive but that doddery old vicar saved me from a lifetime's enslavement to the mind-dulling curse of institutionalised religion.
Religion played an unusual part in some boys' lives. One boy in my 'House' started preaching religion and would hold meetings in a toilet cubicle where the five or so boys who could comfortably squeeze into that small space would pray and read a bible. I went along once and, even at the age of ten, found this to be a strange spiritual experience during which the only pleasure was being the one allowed to sit on the closed toilet lid whilst the others had to stand!
The 'preaching' boy persuaded his acolytes to perform tasks to show their devotion to him - including getting boys to sleep on the bare floor under his bed.
All very odd!
In school uniform 1951
On Sunday afternoons we were taken for a walk. This consisted of walking around the perimeter of the school grounds in a single file behind a teacher. In fact, it was not until I was in the top year of the school in 1953 that I was given long trousers to wear and was entrusted to go out of the school grounds with groups of classmates.
We were restricted to about an hour of freedom. This was not very exciting however as we had no money and all we could do was walk around the perimeter of the school grounds as before - but we had no teacher at our head.
Perhaps the teacher would have been an advantage because we boys ‘on the loose’ were terrified by local kids who made fun of our school caps and uniforms.
One Sunday during a freezing period several of us were rounded up by gang of thugs from the Senior School and forced to jump up and down in the centre of a frozen pond.
Luckily the ice held otherwise I would not be writing this now!
We were allowed a limited range of hobbies. I was given a self-build crystal radio set.
This remarkable object required no power source such as a battery and would pick up BBC radio stations which could be heard through headphones.
Having made a set from a kit I used to lie in bed under the blankets listening to the BBC Light Programme. I used the steel frame of my bed as the aerial.
Click here to find out how to build one of these remarkable devices. The picture at left shows a crystal set in a cigar box much as I built.
The headphones were also used to get a warning of teachers on the prowl after dark in the dormitories. Two headphone sets in adjacent dormitories were connected by wire strung out of the window. When a teacher left one dormitory a message would be sent to the other dormitory ensuring that boys were back in their beds and feigning sleep by the time the teacher arrived. (The headphones also worked as microphones.)
I was also given a kit which could be made into a simple electric motor. It consisted of nothing more than a spool of fine wire, some stiff wire and a battery. Amazingly, I got this to rotate, much to the amusement of my friends.
CENSORED LETTERS AND BEATEN BARE BUTTOCKS
We were allowed to have very little contact with home during term time. We got letters – and Eagle comics - from home but, like the letters that went out, these were censored by the teachers. I was once taken ill and spent time in the school ‘Infirmary’. To cause some disruption to the nursing staff I used to put the clinical thermometer on the radiator to get it up a couple of degrees to make it look as though I was feverish. Foolishly, I wrote to my mother about this. Although the letter had been sealed down by me I got a walloping for what I had done because all letters were opened and re-sealed.
My revenge was unintentional but effective. The ward in which about ten boys were kept had only a commode on wheels behind a screen. We all had to use this and it was emptied once a day. One day I was messing about behind the screen when one boy said something to me. I climbed on top of the commode to talk to him over the screen when over the whole thing went over. A stream of faeces and urine spread all over the floor, under the beds and cupboards.
I was less than popular as my buttocks testified later on!
Beatings were a usual form of punishment. I was often beaten by teachers with a slipper on my bare buttocks and I am now convinced that many of the teachers looked for any slight excuse to have a young boy touching his toes in front of them and giving those young naked buttocks a thorough thrashing.
Ex-pupils whose stories at at the start of this story tell of being beaten on their bare buttocks with a sawn off cricket bat and with a teacher's bare hand - the latter must have given them particular sexual gratification!
I've speculated over the intervening years about sexual abuse by teachers at this school. I have no direct evidence that it happened - it never happened to me. However, knowing the lack of control on staff selection and the clear observation that the Freemason's were employing - by and large - the dross from the teaching market, it would be surprising if a significant number of teachers were not perverts.
The ease of getting employment at this boys' boarding school at that time would have been too tempting to resist. The frequency with which boys - including me - were beaten on their bare buttocks whilst touching their toes suggests an unhealthy interest by some of the teachers in their pupils' anatomies.
However, I have no direct memory of any sexual abuse by the teaching staff and none of the many ex-pupils who have contacted me have come up with any evidence.
My mother and me at the Festival of Britain (1951) - see the badge.
One teacher was a keen photographer and these two posed shots were taken in the Prefects Study - probably around 1953 not long before I left. I’m the nerdy one standing in the above picture.
|Notice the Eagle comic being read by the boy on the right. This was the only reading material allowed to be sent from home. Please click here to visit the Eagle comic fan website.|
These two group pictures have been scanned from 80 mm by 50 mm prints - so apologies for the quality. Versions of these two group pictures scanned at 1,200 dpi can be viewed by clicking here.
This was ‘C’ House in 1952 with Mr. Reid as housemaster. He played cricket for Middlesex in his earlier years. Mr. Reid was a rare person at the school - a thoroughly decent caring teacher. Why he was at this school I cannot imagine with so many incompetent deadbeats.
The other teacher in the picture below was also a kindly chap and I suppose I was lucky to be in a house that had a couple of good teachers - but why didn't they see what was going on around them and do something about it?
Mr Reid with pupils in 1953
A Coronation Pageant - 1953.
MY EYES ARE RUINED BY INCOMPETENT MEDICAL STAFF
I had very good eyesight as a child. I used to sit at the back of the class (because I was better behaved than those who had to sit at the front) and could easily read the blackboard.
Then I had an eye test for no good reason - many pupils were exposed to this test. Drops were put into my eyes and my vision went extremely blurred.
They never recovered.
I was sat in the front row of classes but I still couldn’t read the board. A desk was put right under the blackboard but I still had trouble reading the blackboard. No teacher wondered why this was happening to me.
I had a tiny telescope which was a present from my mother. I smuggled this into classes and used it discreetly to read from the front row. I never told any teachers about this little visual aid because I feared I might get beaten for using it!
However, when the dreadful state of my eyes was eventually realised panic broke out!
I was given a quick eye test by the school doctor who judged me to be now extremely short-sighted - the farthest I could focus was four inches (100 mm) from the end of my nose! I was rushed to an optician in Harley Street who did lots of tests and I was fitted out with glasses with thick lenses. For the rest of my life I wore strong glasses.
My eyesight was ruined by the treatment I was subjected to at the Masonic Junior School.
My new 'Harry Potter' glasses with the thick lenses.
I was taught to swim at the Masonic School. In fact, I was not so much taught as put in the swimming pool and told that I was not to be allowed out until I had swum a width. Instructions were yelled at me as I floundered about with the rest of my class standing on the poolside shivering and moaning.
I worked out that if I could thrash around enough the teacher might not notice that I was hopping since the water was about three feet deep.
That didn’t work and he yelled even more and my classmates moaned even more.
After dunking several times and swallowing water I made a huge effort - pushing myself away from the side and waving my arms and legs at random - I had received no lessons. I reached the other side and was told to get out and go back to my class. I had been in that unheated pool for about an hour.
I was reminded in 2008 by an ex-pupil that we boys had to swim naked. I can think of no reason for this other than to excite those teachers who were inclined to enjoy watching that sort of thing. It was also odd that the toilet cubicles at the school had no doors and teachers would wander around watch boys sitting on the toilets.
I never really liked swimming after that.
At right we see me on a family holiday in 1950 wearing a woollen bathing costume knitted by my mother. I really don't know why I am smiling!
In uniform during my last term at the Masonic Junior School - the first time I got to wear long trousers.
In 1953 my half-sister and her husband came to visit from South Africa where he was the General Manager for the OXO Corporation. They persuaded my mother to take me to South Africa to live - a plan that never materialised. As a result, I left the Royal Masonic Junior Boys’ School.
My mother had, at last, come to appreciate my wretchedness at the Masonic School and did not try to send me back to Bushey. Sadly, her failure to take notice of my misery at Bushey over four years put a chasm between us for the rest of her life.
I was sent for an interview at the nearest Grammar School to my family home in London.
This was the William Ellis Grammar School (click here for more details) at Gospel Oak, London. At an informal interview, the deputy headmaster, ‘Bertie’ Ball quizzed me and sadly shook his head.
“Your son, Mrs. Kirby, is yet another victim of the private schools system”
I was assessed to be about 18 months behind other children of my age - hardly surprising in view of the appalling quality of many of my teachers over the past four years.
However, I spent the summer of 1953 reading school books lent to me by my new school and, by the time I started at William Ellis, I was almost in a fit state to keep up with the classes.
Since this web site first appeared in 2001 many ex-pupils have contacted me with their experiences. The following are some stories that I have received and proves that I was not alone in my suffering. The identities of the writers and of the teachers involved have been disguised.
It must be said that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these individual stories but they are certainly consistent with my memories.
The most recent account arrived in November 2009 and is a story of a pupil who enjoyed his time at this school. I am pleased to be able to offer this alternative and balancing view.
My father died in ’52 and I started at RMS in the Spring term ’53 at 9 years old. I left in July ’56. I was in H house and the housemaster was a Mr White – I seem to remember he was older than most of the other teachers and was always very kind to us, even allowing us to watch his TV (pretty rare in ’53).
Apart from initial homesickness I enjoyed my time there and the only time I can remember being punished was for something trivial and it was a couple of whacks with a table tennis bat – nothing compared to the beating I once got at my next school.
I was never a great sportsman but I did enjoy the swimming. It was certainly not in the nude as I remember it. We had a huge board with everyone's name on it and across the top a series of swimming achievements to be completed. I learnt quickly and at the end of the first summer term swam 20 lengths. It certainly was not a question of being thrown in the deep end. I can only assume it depended on which house you were in as to how you were treated in this and in many other things.
I have just dug out the original letters that I wrote to my mother the first term. She had kept them as a memento. They make interesting reading. Apart from admitting to being slightly homesick at first I cannot find anything to suggest I was unhappy or ill-treated in any way. I was encouraged to do well academically and received praise where due and also criticism where warranted – Latin was always a problem!
In my last year before I would have been due to go across to the senior school it was decided to close the senior school (actually that did not happen until later). As a result those of us in the top stream were offered the opportunity to take the Common Entrance exam and depending on the results we would be able to go to the public school of our choice.
I did fairly well and I was awarded a small scholarship (provided by the Old Boys’ Lodge) and the RMIB picked up the rest of the, not inconsiderable, tab for everything down to my football socks for the next 5 years.
So, as you can see, my experiences conflict greatly with yours and others – I can only assume that I was lucky to be in the house I was and in the top stream academically. I can’t say I totally enjoyed the experience any more than any other young boy at a boarding school at that age but it certainly did me no harm and ultimately gave me an education that, by now, is out of reach of everyone except for the most wealthy parents in the country.
My only major criticism of the RMS was the institutionalised regime which would have been more appropriate for a military based public school rather than a prep school for recently bereaved 8 year olds! I can see from your experiences that I was very lucky indeed not to have had the same problems but with 350 boys in one place there is bound to be a range of experiences – I seem to have been one of the lucky ones!
I've just read your website and it brought back memories that I choose to put to the back of my mind. I was a pupil at the school between 1968 and 1973.
It was the worse time of my life.
I hated it.
It was a bright September morning and I had just been ripped from the bosom of a happy family. My mother and I registered in at the main reception, and I remember looking around and thinking
"This is bl**dy Colditz Castle!"
I thought the red brick building was the kind of place they would film a horror movie
"What have I done to deserve this, mother" I thought.
After being booked in by a woman who looked like she had a wasp stuck in her throat I was taken away into a room where the other prisoners were kept. We all sat there looking rather pensive when this figure crashed in. He had a nose the size of Wales and a craggy face. He demanded we all stand, pick up our personal effects and follow him to where we were ushered to a room with lockers, and told to put them in a locker with our name on a tag.
being shouted at to "...hurry up!" we were led down a
long open air corridor down a ramp into a massive play
ground and told to stand in line and await our masters.
As all this was going on I thought I would break the ice with the boy standing next to me - he was to become a life-long friend. As we were chatting away a master paused, skulked across and hit me with a open hand slap so hard it knocked me over. He then turned to my new-found friend and asked his name.
He replied rather meekly and the blood drained out of the master's face.
He said that he knew his brother at this school and then said
"He is a little bastard!" and hit my friend with a clip board cutting his lip.
That was the last
dealing we had with that master for a long while.
The food was
terrible; not fit for a pig and I feel sick thinking
about it even now.
As you walked further on down to your right there was a sliding door with steps going up to a staff room and administration rooms this was the place where one teacher would stand with a big stick and whack any boy who chose to talk or look at him the wrong way. He was a total and utter bastard.
on down to your right was a finely manicured grassed
area and to the left of it was the place we used to eat
that swill. Straight ahead was the Assembly Hall where
we had to go every Sunday.
During one lesson I spoke in class and, of course he kept me back behind after the lesson. He told me to take my trousers down - which I refused to do - and I questioned his sexual preference saying
"You touch me Sir and I will hit you!"
His response to that was to produce two pairs of boxing gloves and arranging the desks into a makeshift boxing ring and have it out with me. The result was my nose being plastered all over my face.
After leaving I
learned he was killed on his motorbike. That day I held
up a glass of beer and toasted the best thing that could
have happened to that bastard.
A word of advice to fellow ex-pupils - don't be bitter and twisted! They are gone now and we can still move forward with our lives.
Another ex-pupil wrote to me in July 2008 as follows:-
I have read your website with interest and share your miserable memories of the Junior School.
I was there from 55-63. Mercifully I have forgotten the names of all the bastards except for Mr D - the swine!
I do, however, fondly remember my housemaster and the matron at the Infirmary, whose names escape me.
I am glad to say that things improved considerable at the Senior School - probable because, like a hardened convict, I had learned to play the system rather than rebel against it as I had done at the Junior School.
The Masonic movement should be careful that they do not find themselves embroiled in a similar situation to the Catholic Church in Ireland!
Thanks for your efforts.
Keep up the good work.
An ex-pupil wrote to me in June 2008 as follows
"I just found your web page about the memories of RMS, and wanted to share some of my experiences.
I was put into the Junior School back in 1964. My older brother was already there and I felt safe for the first term. After my brother left for the Senior School I was no longer safe and was subjected to anything and everything, ranging from pure bullying and being subjected to abuse from the Masters.
My House Master once beat me - I got four strokes - and he would use a sawn off cricket bat to inflict his punishment. I must have been about 10 at the time and after the beating could not walk properly for days. One child had been beaten by him and got 6 strokes. He was paralyzed for days and had to spend days in the infirmary.
The Senior School was no better and to this day I still cannot understand why, when we went swimming, we all had to swim in the nude. Remember that we where now growing into young men. Perhaps it was to give the teachers some sexual pleasures.
My brother and I still to this day have nightmares about that hell hole and do not think that we have fully recovered. We were both deprived of a childhood and abused as children. I hope that one day I meet those bastards on the other side so I can inflict the same torment on them that we endured.
My fondest memory of that place was the day I left. I was 16 and had spent 8 years in jail. I was now free but had no idea what the real world was all about but it could be no worse than I had been through the last eight years."
Another ex-pupil wrote to me in May 2008 as follows
I've just read your website and I was moved to tears.
I too suffered at the hands of
small minded, insignificant nobodies who couldn't make it in the
real world but managed to get their kicks through tormenting
young vulnerable children. It was a long time after you left and
at the senior school, which I attended between 1971 and 1976,
rather than the junior school.
In my case on the recommendation
of one of the members of my father's Lodge, who had no idea that
their fundraising went towards providing a safe haven for
misfits and inadequates and allowed then to prey on the
vulnerable and innocent.
Another pupil wrote in November 2007 as follows:
"I was also a pupil at the Junior Masonic School at about the same time as you.
remember vividly the idiot teacher you refer to who read the passage
from the bible. I have
never forgotten that passage and as my wife looked over my shoulder
tonight I was still able to complete that passage, though like you, I
have probably never read a passage from the bible since.
I do remember attempting to sing and getting swatted on a
regular basis because I could not sing in tune.
entered the Senior School about '53 or '54 and left in 1957. A master there arranged for me to come to Canada and work
under slave labour conditions for an old Freemason, who left the school
in the 30's. He paid me
minimum wage and I worked from dawn to dusk 7 days a week.
I had to stay for a year and left as soon as I was able at which
time he probably phoned the school and asked for a replacement.
you remember the teacher who used to walk into the dormitory smoking two
cigarettes at once after lights out.
He was about 6' 3" and he tiptoed in on stockinged feet.
He beat me with a slipper on a regular basis.
The memories your piece brought back was amazing. I too suffered terribly at that school and I think my mind tried to block out the whole episode."
Here is another response:-
"When I first went to the school I was placed in the charge of Mr. X.
This vile man treated me in a most inhuman manner during the whole of my time in his care.
The first maths prep I was ever given completely baffled me. As I sat at the table trying to make sense of the questions I had to answer I suddenly heard a voice behind me yell, 'NO' and the next thing I remember was finding myself knocked to the ground by a blow to the side of my head. I was dragged up from the floor and put on my chair and told to continue with my prep, whilst Mr. X stood behind me. He offered me no help and every time I made a mistake, as I cowered before him, I was subjected to the same brutal treatment. Consequently in future I would never do my maths prep when he was on duty and now, in later life, I am hopeless with figures (long live the calculator)!
I also have a lifelong aversion to fresh tomatoes, but I can vividly remember how X forced me to eat them until I was physically sick. But that was not the end of it! I can remember being made to take my plate from the dining hall back to the house where I had to stand outside the duty master's study, while he shouted and bawled at me as he tried to make me eat my own vomit.
These are only two incidents in my time at the RMS and, like you, I have many more bad memories of the terrible treatment I received there.
The Latin master you mention I presume was the hateful and sadistic Mr. Y, who actually taught me English. I can remember him pulling and twisting our cheeks, slapping us around the face and hitting us across the back of our knuckles or on the crown of our heads with 12" rulers, edge on.
My early adult years and relationships were definitely scarred by my experiences at the RMS. Reading your reminiscences brought many memories flooding back to me. I am just so glad that nobody else has to go through such an ordeal there anymore. "
I was at the RMS about ten years after you and I enjoyed reading your memories. In the ten years difference between us the school didn't change much. I was terribly unhappy at JSton and when I think back to how barbaric the system was I am surprised we are not all locked away in a mental institution.
I notice you have not named any of the perverted or vindictive teachers. That's probably the right thing but the one who stands out the most for me was Mr. Z. I know he's dead now and I also hope he is rotting in hell. He really was the worst! I had only been at school two weeks (at the age of eight) when one of the boys who joined on the same day was talking about running away and I was overheard encouraging him. I was sent to the headmaster and given 4 strokes of the cane with my pants down at half mast! This at the age of eight - I can't believe it!
Early in 2007 I received an e-mail from which the following is extracted:-
Your description of the maths teacher sounds like Mr. A, who certainly used to bite his nails and was a vicious, hateful bastard, but then so was the other maths teacher Mr. B.
The eccentric Latin teacher sounds like Mr. C who was a self-confessed fascist.
I very much have to agree with your overall description of teaching staff and the appalling conditions but in the immediate post-war period, a demobbed army officer, even with a degree, probably had somewhat limited career prospects and teaching in a prep school for a few hundred a year and all found would have provided some of them with sort of security.
What I remember most about school was being hungry all the time. On St David's Day, my mother always used to send me a leek to wear in my lapel and I recall that by lunchtime, I would eat it. I even used to eat the plasticine when I was in the Junior School.
Here are comments from a fellow pupil in my year and 'House'.
"I am now 66 and my two brothers are both alive and fairly well. It was interesting reading your experiences which concur fully with mine and I must also say that my experience at both schools were probably worse than yours and this was without doubt the most unhappy and wretched part of my life.
I am glad someone had the courage to put their thoughts on the web."
Keywords: Freemasons, boarding, school, abuse, boys, Masonic, Masons, Bushey, 01101939