Leaving School

Ronald Leedham: A Miserable Time

Ronald Leedham was born in 1929 in India. His family moved back to England in 1931after Ronald contracted Polio. Ronald spent some years in Hospital as a young child after contracting Diptheria. When he was six he returned home to Catford for a short while to live with his father, eventually ending up living in ‘homes for crippled children’ run by the Shaftesbury Society, until he was sixteen.

Here Ron talks about the advice he was given when he left school.

Transcript

They made an effort when we were in our late fifteens to to introduce us to the outside world, they had an idea because you didn't have to go to bed until quarter to nine, when you were fifteen and a half you could stay up for another half an hour or something like that.
And in that time they made arrangements where you could.. they had a sort of little club where you could go and have a question and answer session. The idea was that one of the masters, the headmaster or someone like that would sit down and four or five of you older boys would go in and ask questions about life after school. And I thought alright, fair enough, it was a bit embarrassing you didn't know what to do and that sort of thing.
We only had two as far as I can remember and he said to us when we all went in there we sat down in this room and he sat on a chair, he said 'Right boys' he said 'Ask away any questions you want and I'll see if I can answer them for you. What's going to happen to you and all this sort of thing. Just ask away, I'm listening.'
There was a long silence I can remember and then I think it was me or maybe it was one of the others I've got a horrible feeling it was me. We just didn’t know what to ask him and I can remember this question was 'How do we deport ourselves when we pray? Did we do this? Did we do that? Did we do this or whatever it happened to be?' And the chap with all respect to the superintendent, he was nonplussed, I don’t think he'd ever been asked such a stupid question from somebody who was just going out into the world.
They gave it up in the end, what it boiled down to was that we were so ignorant of the outside world at that age that we didn’t even know what questions to ask! So how could I in my misery, as it was at the time, I'll always remember it, it was a miserable period for me, wondering what was going to go on, I didn't even know what questions to ask, how I would be able to cope with whatever situation arose? And then they wonder why you have so much trouble when you leave home when you've been in one of those places?
When I left there I was sixteen and a bit and I had to go into the office to pick up your ration book and all that sort of thing that you had in those days. And I had me parcel with me with me few bits of belongings that were mine, there weren’t many, brown paper parcel.
And I can remember the matron, she was a lovely lady, she used to play the piano at our services and at the concerts we used to give and this, that and the other, she was a nice lady. I can remember her saying to me, she said 'Well Ronnie we've looked after you as best we can and we hope you've had a good time here and we hope you're successful' but she said 'Whatever you do in life, don't forget to say your prayers.' So I said 'Yes matron.' And that was it, that was all the advice I had after incarceration since I was seven about how to conduct my life. But as I say that's the way the school was made.