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  1. I always wondered why nobody wore swimming trunks at prep school, even our vicar headmaster. The only exception was a teacher who went about patting our faces, and was sacked. Perhaps it was to desexualise us, in the same way as keeping the Eagle comic from us was meant to keep our minds pure. But by being ducked to make me “like” the water made me a lifelong aquaphobe, so “Barrel” R.I.P., but, you may yet cause me to drown.


    1. I’m not sure if the ‘no swimming trunks rule’ was to desexualise. I think it was a norm in prep schools: in mine until I could swim a length of the pool. I was already sexually shamed before learning of my boarding school fate at 6. So cumulatively devastating effects from which I am still in recovery at 62


  2. My brother just died from a heart attack and stroke having been struggling with substance abuse most of his 53 years
    He was abused at Cothill in 1976 the master was sacked and I believe was Jeremy Malim. My brother was adopted then our parents divorced my mum left Dad had custody then he died 5 yrs later then we were sent to England to live with my remarried mother and sent to boarding school
    And then this scum bag prayed on my vulnerable brother.
    I am so angry and saddened that this scum lives and he ruined an already fragile soul and lives in France and my brother had such a shitty life because of this ….


  3. Hi Alex

    I have just finished Stiff Upper Lip: thank you very much for writing it. So much of it chimes with my experience of boarding school and many parts I could hardly bear to read. Yet, like so many, I was in deep denial at how damaged I had been by the experience even though I would tell anyone who would listen that I had hated it.

    It was only last year at the age of 63 that I found myself overwhelmed by the memories and needing to seek help. It will be no surprise that this happened when my son (my firstborn) turned 8 – the age at which I was both abused and punished for being abused. Perhaps not surprising either that it took me so long to start a family.

    I read one of your pieces in the Guardian about Ashdown House in 2013. While agreeing and sympathising with what you wrote, I still believed then that I had successfully moved on, that I had turned the page. How very wrong I was.

    Thanks again.


    1. It’s a great thing for you and your family you have been able to acknowledge the abuse. It is better out than in my brother was unable to and kept it bottled up and suffered substance abuse and he has died as a result of struggling to keep the daemons at bay.. Thank goodness people like ALEX draw attention to this mass abuse it’s just horrific.
      Wishing you health and healing.


  4. Alex I enjoyed your book. I am from Dublin and heard you talking on George Hook’s radio show last Easter. The Magnet and other school stories 1908-1940 are on line now at and can be read in their original magazine form adds and all. Though nostalgic to read they are obviously a very idealized version of Public School life in those years and it is very interesting to contrast it with your book. You might be interested in a short story by Frank O’Connor 1903-1966 from Cork. “The Idealist” from “The Stories of Frank O’Connor 1965. The New Yorker, February 18, 1950 P. 24
    In Ireland, a boy at school, tries to imitate the actions of the young men he reads about in books on English schools. Telling the truth and not tattling on friends is contrary to the usual practice and somehow it does not work out. The teacher and the students do not understand what the boy is trying to accomplish so he finally goes back to ordinary behavior and changes his reading habits.
    This was based on his own childhood in Cork around 1914 where he contrasted his own School life with the school life in The Magnet & The gem etc. I would love if he had lived to read your great book. James Joyce’s account of late 19th century Public School life in Ireland would be very close to your account in “Portrait of the artist as a young man”. Congrats again it was a great read.


    1. Hi Henry yes it was early days in my investigation I’ve since realised it’s easy to recall the wrong age. I have his change of address card for as of September 75 Brambletye. However what can’t be wrong is the teacher was made to leave. Everyone seems to know Richardson he’d something to so with his leaving but what was it really about.
      Thanks for info but that doesn’t get him off the hook only 2 teachers left 75 76 and he was one of them!


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