steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Tom Butler's Schooldays - Part 7: Three Latin Masters

There were three masters in the Grammar School, the Revd. Nathaniel Keymer, the Revd. Henry Hawkins and Mr Bowry, who took the lowest classes. Mr Bowry was a bulky and dangerous-looking man, and very bearish in his ways towards the poor little kiddies under him. He made unsparing and senseless use of the cane in order to make them learn and recollect the parts of speech in the Latin Grammar, which was to them, and perhaps to him, unintelligible jargon. ...

After a short time Mr Hawkins became my master. He was not coarse in manner and appearance and speech like the former master, and on the first morning after the holidays graciously condescended to say "Good morning" to his scholars. I chiefly recollect him as frequently flapping his arms and gown as if he were imitating a barn fowl when it lifts itself up on its legs and flaps vigorously. This process was to fan the room, and it became a constant habit. Mr Hawkins, by way of punishment, gave a great many titches, that is, canings on the seat of the trousers pulled tight over the form [bench]. Occasionally he gave a brushing (birching). Selecting one of the lads, he would cross-examine him upon some trifle in such a manner that the scholar would, through nervousness, unwittingly contradict himself and apparently tell a lie. Then the guilty one was strapped to a form, and brushed for several minutes, Mr Hawkins, throughout the performance, loudly bewailing his hard lot in having so painful a duty to perform.

I remained with Mr Hawkins some months, and was then removed to the Rev. Nathaniel Keymer. This master had a fine aquiline nose, long face and chin, a mouth curved downwards, expressing the reverse of a smile, and long hair waving concavely and gracefully below the neck [Anyone else see Alan Rickman at this point?]. He wore, at all times, a tall silk hat on the back of his head, his eyes were gravely turned as he spoke, and he jerked out his words with little nods. His study had a window through which he would see his two classes outside, and they could see his nose refracted in the panes and distorted. The Latin lesson was generally the same - "the parts of speech to the end of Audior". This took up a long time. Mr Keymer standing with one foot on the form before the boys, the other on the ground, moved round to every one to hear him in turn say his part. In one hand Mr Keymer held a cane, in the other the wrist of the lad whose turn it was to speak. The master was thus ready to deal at once with a mistake, and to chastise the delay of an instant. He twisted the poor child's wrist backwards and forwards, rapping meanwhile the back and front of the little one's hand so that the child in excruciating pain stood with difficulty on one leg and sometimes fell. ...

[I've left out a lot about Mr Keymer, because he apparently had a strange way of pronouncing things, and TRB insists on writing everything he said out phonetically, which is tedious to transcribe. Fwiw, it reads to me like a Black Country accent, though I've checked and Keymer was actually a Mancunian.]

On one side of Mr Keymer's garden was the Field of the C. H. children, a brick wall forming the division between the garden and the field. One the top of this wall Mr Keymer used to place an apple, and then remain concealed from view with a cane in his hand. Should one of the children in the Field happen to see the apple and try to get it, the master amused himself by defending it. I am sorry to say that some cruel boys had a spite against Mr Keymer's fowls, threw stones at them, and broke a leg of one of them.

Guy Fawkes day was a holiday, but of course everyone went to Church in the morning. The boys came to Mr Keymer's house to remind him of the horrible treason. He came out smiling and was quite prepared for the occasion. "Yo must all prass as close as yow can to the railing and have yo're hands ready" said he, "Because I want yer all to have a fair chance." Mr Keymer then beat their hands with prickly sticks which he had gathered out of his garden. Then he scrambled windfall apples, water and cinders. Some lads went away soaked with the water. The master was having a lark.
Tags: family history, tom butler's schooldays
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