Learning to adapt, scared and lonely

To the class of 64

My first weeks at the Farmers school were a mixture of new experiences and a deep longing for home.

The regimentation of having to make your bed in a certain way, of having your locker inspected for the way you folded your clothes, of having fingernails and shoes inspected at every opportunity; combined with the punishment which went with failure on any of these scores, made the adaptation to a routine an arduous and difficult process

Why someone should be caned for not having perfect hospital corners on a bed, or; not having their tie done in a perfect Windsor knot is completely beyond me; even more difficult to comprehend was the enthusiasm for meting out these punishments shared by prefects and Teachers.

The longing for home was devastating; even the sight of my parents arguing furiously would have been a welcome diversion from the flurry of petty rules, I now had to negotiate.

I missed the rolling hills and the sounds of the Farm, I craved the lost solitude and the silence, I yearned for the freedom of the ride home from school in the afternoons.

Hardest of all was the experience of being surrounded for 24 hours a day by 350 other boys, most of whom I had nothing in common with, there was no escape from the incessant humanity.

You were forced to conform to a set of rules and a code of behavior. The second year boys had been bullied mercilessly in their first year, and now it was their turn to exercise their latent sadism.

Beatings for the most trivial of offences were commonplace; this made the beltings we had experienced as kids on the farm seem reasonable, at least then; it was your parents dishing out the punishment and somehow, that was more right than being surrounded by a group of second year students with no agenda other than to humiliate and to hurt.

The fact this bullying seemed to be condoned by Teachers and Prefects alike, seemed alien to me; my father may have been prone to whipping off his belt and giving us a hell of a hiding, but he would not have tolerated a complete stranger belting his children for no reason.

The agricultural aspect of the school meant that the tasks of working in the dairy, the poultry shed, the vegetable garden, the piggery and assorted other enterprises were allocated to the boys under the loose supervision of the farm workers.

These Stocks, as they were called, lasted for a week at a time and each boy was assigned at least two stocks per term, this involved getting up in the pre dawn hours and working on your allocated stock for an hour or 90 minutes before school; this was repeated in the afternoon when you went straight from the classroom to your particular task.

As the youngest boys on these assignments and given their isolation from the main student body, woe betide any poor bastard, who draw the short straw to work alongside a particularly vicious or sadistic second or third former.

I know many people have better memories of their time at the Farmer’s School, than I; this had a lot to do with their skill with a cricket bat, a rugby ball and, in some cases; their aptitude for music or even perhaps; schoolwork.

There were of course, other kids not naturally gifted in any particular way, who were gregarious by nature, their skill with words and their natural warmth endeared them to all.

I was a boy better suited to my own company, I did not possess any great skills and I was certainly not gregarious.

These first months at the Farmers School were to set the tone for the rest of my next six years in this place, but; worse was to come before things got any better, as they did eventually.

Desolation would be a simple word to describe the pain of a painfully shy, and socially bereft 12-year-old forced to share his life with hundreds of boys, locked away in an isolated oasis.

I now know some of you, as men whose company I enjoy, and; whose warmth and intellect are very dear to me.

An open man has few enemies, certainly among those who matter to him; but a locked child had many.

Hope you are all well




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