Using a phrase from the late R.V. Metcallfe, if you put "boys and girls of both sexes" in close proximity there is bound to be social interaction in many and varied forms. This page is intended to capture our related memories of awkwardness, painful adoration from afar, tongue-tied affection ..... [stop there; we can imagine the rest - Ed.]
The Management View
The experimental nature of co-educational boarding, particularly in the early days, posed managerial problems for the staff and a paper that has recently come to light (below) gives an insight into their thinking in the late 1960s. It is believed to have been written by the then Deputy Warden Ken Bowman and is a comment on .... well ... we don't know what - perhaps a report related to a scandal?
Comments from my Deputy who has had the unique experience of being a House Master in a Boys' School and a co-educational Boarding School.
For nine years before I came to Wymondham, I was a House Master in a single sex boarding school, in which my House was a cross section of the community with boys from eleven to eighteen years of age. I enjoyed these years enormously as I have my years here at Wymondham, but the ever-present bogey of sex problems was a constant worry. Nor did I feel that I was successful in removing the stigma of shame and indecency from those cases of sexual experiment with which I had to deal.
Under the Co-educational Boarding system children coming in at eleven plus have been brought up from earliest childhood at home and in the primary school, as members of a community in which the two sexes mingle normally and naturally, and this relation maintains during the first two years. Little boys of 11 - 13 need to be made to wash behind their ears whatever type of school thy attend but in the Co-educational Boarding school it is most unusual for them to attract the attention of and arouse the affections of older boys in the House.
Then, of course, their interest in the opposite sex starts. The more precocious ape their elders at an earlier age and form attachments with members of the opposite sex which are limited to walking together along the corridors and drinking their lemonade together, after games. These what I would call 'prestige' friendships are rarely accompanied by an improvement in personal hygiene and turnout but, as the children grow older, the normal urge to impress the boy or girl friend almost always has this effect; not so much when they wear school uniform - for uniform however well chosen and however desirable is, and is meant to be a great leveller, particularly for girls. At the third form parties and fourth form dances the efforts which girls and boys make to turnout smartly and with the utmost 'chic' they can manage is often quite astonishing. Girls do sometimes develop 'crushes' on young male members of the teaching staff but these they work out most frequently - with tactful handling on the staff side - in working much harder for their 'crushes' than they do for members of staff they find less attractive. Not a few girls have obtained a good pass at "O" level in History, say, because Mr. X who teaches it ranks as 'FAB'.
And so the pattern continues up the school. Now and again a so-called "case" builds up between a couple, but usually public opinion or a well-placed word of advice from on high is sufficient to keep the attachment within reasonable and acceptable bounds. It is, perhaps, worth of note that the English Department of the College has a quite disproportionate influence on the elder boys and girls in that they very frequently follow Shakespeare's advice - "Yet ever let the woman take an older than herself."
Joking apart however, it has been my experience that the lot of the House Master in a Co-educational Boarding School is in general much more pleasant - though not less busy - than in a single-sex school and I gladly accepted the so-called problems of co-education in exchange for the very real problems that arise in the single sex boarding school.
There are two or three other points of difference that should be mentioned. These we at Wymondham accept as the natural order of things because they are a normal feature of everyday life, but they do arise from the mixing of the sexes which does not occur in a single sex boarding school. In the first place, swearing and foul language is very rarely heard and is not "done" in public, and secondly, it is universal custom here, for girls to be allowed to enter or leave before the boys and boys who inadvertently commit a breach of this etiquette are immediately checked by their male companions. One last point which is not perhaps a point in favour of Co-education. In group discussions boys are always more forthcoming than girls. In mixed company girls say little and only when they have returned to their Houses will they pour forth their opinions to their House Mistresses complaining that they couldn't get a word in because the boys had so much to say, so perhaps the fair sex is right after all in maintaining that the males are the real gossips of this world.
Going 'Too Far'
Towards the end of my time at WC, Wolsey was "suspended" for having an affair with the wife of the Classics teacher (whose name escapes me - but I remember him as being a very nice chap).
Simon Bull (Kett boarder 1972-78, Lincoln 1978-79)
I can remember Peanut Wolsey coming around all the Houses (c. 1973?) to talk about two of the House Captains who'd been caught in bed together and had been expelled as a consequence and how she'd ruined her life, by offering herself at this young age (nothing about the bloke, note!); and then he promptly went off with Puke Paxton's wife, but that was OK. Obviously a case of don't do as I do ... e'er it was thus!
In 1964 (?), a girl's diary fell into the hands of a member of staff and revealed a catalogue of who-was-doing-it-to-whom in the sexual department, including dates, names and places. This resulted in numerous interrogations, closely followed by Prefect demotions and expulsions. I won't name names, but does anyone know more details?
Now I don't know if it was the same incident (above) but I remember something similar in 1968/9. It appears that there were a group meeting down on the sports field at the pavilion in the early hours of the morning on a regular basis; couples etc. Seems that one girl made a list of those present on one night and what they were getting up to. This diary was either found by the girls parents or a member of staff who had a "nose" through it.
The result was that one Sunday evening most of the participants were sat in the dining room and told to write down what had been happening, when and with whom. I assume this was repeated across all the houses involved. I think they were closely watched by staff in the dining room to prevent any collaboration and interviewed one at a time. If memory serves me right no one in Gloucester was expelled or suspended but I don't know about the other houses.
As a sixth former with a study/bedroom of my own in Wells House, I allowed a 5th former to borrow it for revision or homework one day. Returning to my room I found her engrossed in reading my diary. Furious, I threw her out, feeling deeply betrayed. Could this be the diary incident (1964) mentioned in Rules and Punishment? I suspect it may have been a recurring motif over the years at WyColl. Naive teenage girls are prone to open their hearts to diaries, and others will always be fascinated by prurient snuffling around.
Anyhow, the contents of my diary led to my suspension from the school during the following term (Spring 1965). 'Shocking' details no doubt circulated until they reached the appropriate ears. The bitter relief at being sent home allowed me to refuse to ever return, except on an ad hoc basis to sit my 'A' levels. No doubt the school authorities were glad they could wash their hands of me.
It's no wonder that I never wanted to attend any school reunions. WyColl became like a disgusting nightmare in my mind. Now that I'm safely past 50 (and many other things) perhaps I'm ready to re-establish contact. We'll see.
What was my horrendous crime? To use Muz's subtly chosen words during my final 'interrogation,' I had 'committed intercourse.' I was 16, in a steady relationship and the sex was always 'safe.' Today such a thing would be laughed at, but back then I was demonised and whisked away so I couldn't exert my evil influence on any other girls. The only member of staff who demonstrated any human kindness at this time was Mr. McConkey, my language teacher, bless him. Where is HE now I wonder?
The late sixties scandal was in 1968 I think. Half of Westminster 5th and 6th form were leaving the house every night to meet boys on the oval. I think all they did was smoke and giggle although it was never very clear! I was in the Upper Sixth at the time, was not one of the culprits, but got some blame for not reporting it to the Housemistress, quite why I was supposed to be the morals police I never found out. Imagine my social life if I had gone to Miss Howard with a list!
There was a girl in Winchester (I remember her name but will suppress it) who was regularly sleeping with a house captain from another house. He used to go over there several times a week and everyone except the staff used to know about it. Apparently she avoided pregnancy by utilising the rhythm method and had all kinds of charts pinned to her wall to aid in this. The matron had no idea what these were all about.
There was at least one poor girl who did get pregnant and appeared every morning in Assembly sobbing until someone rumbled the problem and she was instantly expelled. I was around Muz's office for some reason when her parents came to pick her up and shall never forget her face. I hope it turned out OK for her.
Re the 1968/69 Dastardly Diary Deeds, I may be able to add to the tale of debauchery and betrayal around the diary revelations. There were several of us named and shamed in that diary …. read by a Westminster Housemistress as I recall. The owner and author (who shall remain nameless but came from Watton) had done a bunk and her diary was examined for clues. Some of us were invited ‘not to return’ to WC at the end of term by Muz. It was indeed, fairly innocent – the major crime committed was being absent from our beds without leave and sharing a fag or two down the park.
Mary George (1964-69)Top
(submit yours here)
"Are you [insert typical Muz pause here] sisters?" This question was addressed by Metcalfe to Alleyne Wright and me. It led to me getting a detention; maybe Alleyne did as well, I can't remember. You might think it unreasonable that I got a detention for not being Alleyne Wright's sister (or anyone else's sister for that matter), but in fact it was because we were talking on the covered way right outside his office. Quite why that was a crime I have also now forgotten.
In Fry, we couldn't muster up the energy for going with people in New or Kett as it was too far to walk in the rain!
Well Morag, those who went out with people in Kett and maybe New (can't swear by that) will testify that the walk was worth it whether it was raining or not ... lol.
Wymondham College Remembered