Sunday, 24 April 2011

A Very Painful Truth. Mr Boswell Is A Pseudonym.

We all like to paint ourselves in a good light, don't we? But if I'm to continue to use this blog as a cathartic exercise as well as entertaining people with a hopefully interesting read, then I have to be truthful in what I write.
This is the reason I'm admitting today, that I was an horrible attention seeking little so and so when I was a teenager. A reaction perhaps to the fact that I didn't get a lot of attention -at least not of the positive kind- during my early formative years. Not that I realised this at the time of course. I thought I was perfect.
My decline from a fairly promising and somewhat placid child, albeit one with a temper apparently, to loud, rebellious teenager, started almost as soon as I began living with my Mother, after many years of being under the care of the London County Council children's department. Allowing me to live with my extremely volatile Mother, turned out to be a big mistake on the part of the authorities. But this is a part of my life which I will bore you with another time.
Going to school in Scotland was something I found very difficult. Actually I found it difficult in England too if I'm honest about it. But in Scotland I had to contend with, not only the perplexing local dialect, but also the fact that I spoke with a broad London accent. Combine these two things, and you come up with a way of speaking that caused a lot of amusement to my peers, and which almost inevitably led to bullying from some of them.
Now I didn't spend years in children's homes and foster care, without learning how to take care of myself in these kind of circumstances, and I was able to quickly show these village school upstarts, exactly how a tough London kid could stick up for himself. Unfortunately, in doing so, I gained as they say, a bit of a reputation. Not just amongst the kids but the teachers also.
The science teacher Mr Boswell didn't like me. He wasn't used to kids that talked back. I didn't like him either. So in that respect we were on a fairly even level. However, Mr Boswell had somewhat of an advantage in our mutual hatred. Mr Boswell had the tawse. The tawse was the favoured method of corporal punishment in Scottish schools. It was a vicious two thonged hard leather strap. Usually applied to the palm of the hand, but sometimes, in the case of certain, to my mind, suspect teachers, the buttocks. It hurt like hell! Mr Boswell was fond of applying the tawse.
All right, I know that I should not have done it. But it should be borne in mind that I was a 13 year old boy in the grip of some gruesomely nasty hormonal changes, and also carrying an enormous chip on my shoulder about the way life had treated me so far. Anyway, that apart, looking back on it now, even from an adult standpoint it seems a relatively minor misdemeanour.
What I had done was to make a poster during art class. Even though I do say so myself, it was a beautiful piece of artwork. I thought I had got the colours spot on, and the lettering, which had taken some considerable time and diligence on my part, spelled out in large and beautifully constructed format, the words, 'MR BOSWELL IS A BIG FAT B-----D'.
Not wanting to waste this magnificent piece of work, I waited until the class was empty and pinned it to the wall. Then went off home for the weekend.
For some odd reason, I can recall the following Monday morning with great clarity. It began normally enough with a maths lesson, but it wasn't long before a strange thing started happening. One by one my classmates were called out of the room, only to return a few seconds later. This went on and on. Until there were just a few of us boys left. George went out, and returned seconds later. I looked at him. Was he avoiding my gaze? Gavin, my best friend, went out and duly returned a few seconds later. I was the only one left to go. I tried to get Gavin's attention but he was definitely not going to look at me. Of course, by this time I knew something was up. The whole class was quiet. Everyone had their head down, seemingly lost in concentration.
It was my turn and nervously curious I went into the classroom next door. The headmaster, or as he was known in the local dialect the 'Dominee', was standing there with my nemesis Mr Boswell. I also could not fail to notice that my colourful poster was pinned slap bang in the middle of the blackboard. The Dominee was wearing his black gown and mortarboard cap. They take education seriously in Scotland. It was a forbidding sight.
Now I ask you what was the point of such a long protracted process? Why would two grown, and supposedly intelligent men, go through all this rigmorale? I was obviously the culprit. Look, there is my signature in the bottom right hand corner. Even today forty years later I am beginning to get my dander up. The only answer I can come up with is that they enjoyed the whole process. Hey! Who are the kids here?
Mr Boswell opened the desk drawer and took out the tawse. The usual punishment for misdemeanours was one stinging blow to each hand. On this occasion he had other intentions. My hands and wrists -he wasn't very accurate- were subjected to six, increasingly painful blows. It was an excruciating punishment to inflict on anyone, let alone a child. Thank God that common sense finally prevailed and corporal punishment was abolished.
After I had numbed the pain somewhat under the cold tap, I returned to the classroom. It wasn't only my hands that hurt, it was my pride. How were my classmates to know that my tears were caused by rage, and not because I wasn't tough enough to take the pain. I swore that when I grew up I would make Mr Boswell suffer.
That day at the age of 13 heralded the end of my school life. I hardly ever went back except when the school board forced me to. Although I was expected to do well, I never took any exams, and my leaving certificate may as well have been a blank piece of paper, for all it was worth.
All my own fault? Perhaps, but I was only a child and knew no better. We expect too much of kids sometimes. It is easy to forget that the young brain is still growing and needs time to mature.
My word! I have gone on a bit today. Sorry to take up your time. I would just like to finish by saying that I met Mr Boswell in a pub many years later. We had a pint together. I felt no malice towards him. I had it seems, grown up.
Today if I were to make a poster about him, I would leave out the word fat. I think that was what upset him!


  1. I was hoping you were going to steal that awful torture device and never would it be seen again. I would have taken you out for ice cream! I very nicely informed the principals at the schools my children attended that I would back them in any discipline that was meted out fairly as long as they did not lay a hand on my child. How dare your Mr. Boswell do that and how dare the headmaster condone it. Oops. I guess my soap box is getting a little too high. Sorry.

  2. I wish I had thought about stealing the tawse. What a missed opportunity. They probably had spares anyway. Thanks for commenting Emma. I do appreciate it.