Otto L. Shaw (February 21st 1908 - July 3rd 1976)

An Ottobiography

[©Ralph Gee, November 2001]

click to view 1973 Christmas card sent to friends & ex-pupils by Joan & Otto (courtesy of Peter Snaith)

click to view March 1957 letter sent by Otto to Peter Snaith in Canada (Paul is Paul Pollak)


by Keith Wright

Books by Otto L. Shaw:

School Discipline • Publisher: London, Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd [1936] 38 pages see Discipline

A Brief Study of Re-educational Factors in a Progressive Boarding School for Delinquent Children and Adolescents
• Publisher: Red Hill School [May 1945], booklet, 12 pages not including cover see 1945 Brief Study....

Maladjusted boys • Publisher: London, Allen & Unwin [1963] 135 pages. In USA retitled "Youth in crisis: a radical approach to delinquency" Publisher: New York, Hart Publishing Co. [1966] 135 pages

Prisons of the mind: Psychological Roots Of Delinquency, And How Cures Can Be Effected • Publisher: London, Allen & Unwin [1969] • ISBN: 0041570057 ------ U.S.A. Publisher: Hart Publishing Co, New York [1974] • ISBN: 0805511199 0805501789

Memories honed at Red Hill reunions had accord until we moved to Otto Shaw, when retrospection was mixed. Our acceptance of him over five or more years moved, like annular rings, from terror; through fear, awe, disrespect, indifference and idolatry. To some that last word was replaced by hostility, and after fifty years I am cautious. Probing the same memories for a visual image, I would find a hundred, but the strongest would be of an opulent man striding down the Back Drive, in ulster and deer-stalker, with bulging and open briefcase banging against his legs, and pungent clouds of John Cotton No 1 fuming from a well-burning pipe. There should have been a man scuttling ahead with a red flag to warn of his approach, and for ten minutes there was no doubt he had passed. Another common memory would be an incoming forehead bumped on entry into the Study, to hear him at his desk drawling: "Had any dreams, at all, at all?"

Click the title to view Otto's introduction to his book "Prisons of the Mind"

As with all of English and Swedish parentage, he was a compound of complexity and naivity, impressing with profound philosophy one moment and flattering with undivided attention the next. His pride was his perplexing humour and enigmatic responses, as he measured the progress of any boy by the reaction to spontaneous mischief. His twinkling was a quality invisible to those without belief in him. People with no Red Hill connections, meeting him beyond the school, held him in contempt as a bad-mannered and arrogant ogre - with a front confusing those unprepared for reaction. Simultaneously humble democrat and arrogant bully; he was both big-hearted and parsimonious - and a natural poseur. He used his size and bluster to create timerity in opponents, but he had no time for sycophants. Not materialistically generous, he was kind as an angel; mean with money, but profligate with love. It was, however, a form of love new to children fatherless through the late war.

His religion was typical of everyone with a Celtic-Viking mix - and there were not too many of those around to be typical. His ideology was corrupted by the Socialism of a Shell-Mex chemist, and that Socialism tainted by inherited wealth. On 31st May 1939 he married Joan Goodbody at All Saints Parish Church, Maidstone. George Bennett officiated (Vicar of Sutton Valence and East Sutton). They had 3 children - Timothy, Carole and Kevin. Until 1949 Shaw lived in a tiny bungalow on the Chart Sutton road, running the pre-war Wolseley he later sold to PD (Powell-Davies]. After his mother's death in June 1949 he bought Millfield House, a Jaguar and began to acquire expensive illuminated manuscripts. He amassed a large book collection - mainly biographies and fiction and was keenly interested in Thomas Rowlandson, Gillray, and other political satirists, and was an authority on their works. His purchased knowledge of antique bibliography came from Maggs Brothers, as many who increase the price of things for ever while spending just a few moments on the value. He pretended to being a polymath, but seemed more a Phillistine. What did he do in the war? He had a pilot's licence, but kept that fact from the RAF. He had "PAX" as the school logo, but did not seem to have been a Conscientious Objector, and avoided the RAMC and Bevin's coal mines. Was the headship of Red Hill a protected occupation?

Such acquired labels were wielded to offset any prejudices created by his politicking, wrong-footing opponents and perplexing colleagues. Whether he helped or hindered the local Labour party was a gamble, and in those elections I trudged around for him, he never once knocked on a door. He said things about his agent that curled the toes. He loved public meetings, and demeaning opponents - the more stupid, the better. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than driving (furiously) across Kent to trample on Clive Bossom (Maidstone constituency) or Lord Carson's grandson (Thanet). A brilliant opportunist, he impressed the right people at the right time, while crushing those in the way with quick but unoriginal wit. The techniques he used in politics were not wasted elsewhere, but he would have been a bad MP, even in those days when most had far more character than just a few of today. It did not occur to him to wonder what would happen to us should he be elected. Perhaps that is why he always tried for seats with safe Conservative majorities. What a shame he will never read this.

The acceptance of Shaw as a person and respect for his advice were strongly related. Many boys never took to him, while to others he was on a Peronist perch, and that analogy is deliberate. It is not easy to accept the phrase "father-figure" when applied to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito, Franco, Castro or Peron when we have not experienced such patronage, but they can each be seen as Shaw-figures. Behind all his facades, when not showing off, he was a humble man, and that only became apparent to the adult ex-pupils with Red Hill behind them. Perhaps his secret was that he was always on your wavelength, and he understood children, although his own never seemed to adjust to him, or, perhaps, he to them. He pushed his two boys into public schools, and a pacifist himself, saw the elder become captain of a nuclear submarine. Tragically his daughter Carole died from cancer in May 1981and his wife Joan passed away in April 1996 after a long illness. If one could find a solution to those events, the enigma of Otto Shaw may be resolved - should that be important.

His advice was sought, not imposed, and I rarely rejected it. Knowing his religious beliefs (the depth was another enigma), and aware of my incipient strain of agnosticism, I asked him about God and the reality of Christianity. Most adults faced with that from an uncertain adolescent would have either run away from it or generated opportune polemics justifying their own beliefs and collecting "brownie" points. Shaw said the key lay in accepting the Divinity of Christ, leaving me to define divinity for myself, and I have not worried since. I registered as agnostic during my National Service, and had to explain my doubts to the Chaplain of HMS Eagle to avoid a charge of disgracing Her Majesty's uniform - or whatever could be winnowed from Queen's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. My disbelief in the Divinity of Christ was unexpected from an Able Seaman, so he informed the Captain that I was beyond redemption and would have to come to terms with my fate without benefit of Admiralty clergy. When I told Shaw that story some years later, he was delighted, but asked if he had really so advised me. Most of his advice took such abruptly percipient form, identifying the core of concern on which anxiety should be successfully concentrated. It was the basis of his psychoanalytical method, conducted without couch or sandpit, and that will be returned to later.

Shaw and politics

He wielded all his acquired labels to offset any prejudices created by his politicking, wrong-footing all his opponents and perplexing all his colleagues. I was never sure whether he helped or hindered the local Labour party, and in the elections I trudged and canvassed for him, he never once knocked on a door. He loved the public meetings, and demeaning his opponents - the more stupid they were, the better. Nothing gave him more pleasure than driving across Kent to trample on Clive Bossom (Maidstone constituency) or Lord Carson's grandson (Thanet). He was a brilliant opportunist, and impressed the right people at the right time; while crushing those in the way - being quick of wit, if not entirely original. The techniques he used in politics were not wasted elsewhere.

Encapsulation of him by his quotes is meaningless, because of the complexities of context. He would react with short temper to a passing nonsense, that within a few days would cause him great amusement. One example of his puerility comes to mind. On a Labour Party Brains Trust at Teston, he was to scintillate the village hall with profound wit. A rather pathetic question came from the floor.: "What do members of the panel think of the Tories?" After dramatic deep thought, Shaw's wisdom revealed itself: "I merely put lava- in front of them". Childish, perhaps - but it was one way of dismissing a time-wasting question. Unless it had been planted... Party politics was to him a way of reforming the world, not a platform for derogatory banter nor a pathway to power, although that was not then a rare philosophy. He could reduce a political opponent to a twittering wreck by quickness of debate without resorting to counter-productive insults. If he wished to insult, he made the victim feel singled out for praise, and the only clue to the barb was a slight twitch of the mouth, and a barely perceptible twinkle in the eye.

He took two of us to the public gallery at Maidstone's County Hall, for a debate on nursery school provision (yes, they were squabbling over that in 1951). On the Tory benches was an old eccentric, for whom Shaw had much time, Mr Tichman-Durville [correct spelling unsure], well beyond his county council use-by date, and in a rumbling slumber. He woke suddenly in the middle of Shaw's well-rehearsed piece and launched into a loud and incoherent ramble on nothing in particular, complete with the body emphases of oration, and plainly driven by a broken dream. The Tory Chairman was too stunned to know how to deal with his side's oldest statesman. Shaw crisply intervened, paying handsome tribute to the old man's perspicacity, pertinence and wit. The Tory benches erupted into applause, without knowing why, like Pavlov's dogs. I asked Shaw later why he got his arch-enemies off such a ridiculous hook: "I could not let them humiliate that old man". In his own way he had effectively castrated him, just to impress us. He could have sat down and given T-D the floor. As it was, the next county council election ended Tichman-Durville's long political career, and Shaw had once again confused his enemies.

For the 1951 Parliamentary Election he fought Thanet, against one of the Irish Carsons. Either the wrong hall was booked, or the wrong posters posted, or something. Shaw, his agent, and two Red Hill boys were in the hall, while an impatient audience awaited him in another. Eventually Shaw ordered the agent to be the audience, me to keep the door, and sent Jack Horner into the street to press-gang passers-by. It was a disaster, but on the way back Shaw said, with all seriousness: "Went very well, I thought". Horner suggested it had been the right hall after all, whereupon Shaw lost his sense of humour and would have kicked Jack out of the car, just east of Faversham, had not Joan pleaded with him. The best way of coping with Shaw was to wait for the froth to settle. Incidentally, Carson increased the Tory majority, and then took flight. Months later he turned up at his mother's, in Scotland. Shaw did that.

Shaw and humour

His humour was based on the obvious, hidden by the sophistications of the recipient, and he never felt the need to explain anything. Leaving things enigmatic was part of his sense of humour. One evening Shaw, Joan, Brian Reeves, myself and another boy were off to some event in Maidstone. His car faltered to a stop about a hundred yards from Millfield House. He leapt out and peered under the bonnet, muttering knowledgeably about some technicality far beyond him. He was completely impractical, incapable of matching a nut with a bolt or performing any mechanical function. He reached a quick Shavian decision, and stuck his head into the car:

"Reeves! Fetch me my stilson!"

Brian, no more the terrified lad of the past, shot away, returning with a kitchen whisk:

"I said a stilson, Reeves!"

"We call them stilsons in St Albans, Shaw".

Ribs was just as impractical as Shaw, and both knew that, but neither was going to seek or give explanation. Had I been sent, Shaw would have got his stilson and half the garage - leaving him with the embarrassing problem of purposeful use of tools. It was not part of the game for Ribs to question, and get the stilson defined, so Shaw got what he deserved. He adored humour of that nature, delighting in exploited ambivalence. If it operated against himself, so much the better, although his appreciation in such circumstances was rarely immediate.

When Alan Garnett and I were earning money for our Cornwall cycling holiday, we did work for Shaw at Millfield House. He wanted the kitchen floor stained, which we did beautifully while the house was empty for the day. However, we painted round my feet leaving two defined footprints by the backdoor. He was furious, and refused to pay us. Some six months later, after I had left, he sent me a card. On it were two crudely drawn marks, with the caption "Two bloody great blobs!" I was told he dined out on the lark for months, but he never paid us for the work.

He relished practical jokes. He had insisted that Ted Brown, the handyman, should have a phone installed. Visiting Ted, and hearing his doubt about the whole idea, I rang Shaw at home, purporting to be the GPO Telephone Maintenance Service. We were about to clean the lines and recommended that he put paper bags on all his hand-sets to prevent dust blowing into the rooms. I later cycled over to Millfield House, to find he had done just that. He knew it was a hoax and was waiting to see who came in pursuit. Throughout the evening he never referred to the bags, but knew I had set him up. I kept my patience until leaving, when I asked him why he put his phones in paper bags: "So very silly people wait three hours to ask damn-fool questions".

I responded to his "two-blob" card by ringing him up from Nottingham to report an imminent water shortage. He was to fill all receptacles in the house with water: baths; sinks; piss-pots; buckets; saucepans - since the cut-off would be both acute and chronic. ("Chronic" was then the word of the decade). He spotted the lark, and checked with the water board, but liked it so much that he hit the Oxendales with it, and Margot answered the phone. John Oxendale was a director of the school, and a wealthy Chart Sutton farmer with more land elsewhere. When he returned in the small hours his place was littered with contained water, with warning labels attached. Shaw told me this months later, with chuckling relish, saying pointedly that he never discovered who had rung him up, but thought it was the Mayor of Maidstone and had a riposte planned. He knew it was me.

His style of verbal humour was dominated by the absurd understatement of a literal one, but never quite dead-pan. I have a mental cartoon of boys demolishing the school, with Shaw analysing the situation saying: "I do think self-expression such an important part of adolescent development" One boy, a brilliant artist, was not far from completing a very difficult painting. Shaw, who could not draw a crooked line and had no intention of trying, looked at it, puffed his pipe, and said: "I wish I could do that". Such litotes would have been fatuous from anyone else, but from Shaw had the air of the metaphysical. John Martin, the artist, handed Shaw his brushes and told him to carry on, but he wanted them washed when they were finished with. For some odd reason, Shaw thought that hilarious.

The next anecdote, told by Shaw, is an excellent example of his love of the ridiculously literal. A Red Hill boy (David Davies?) was a National Service seaman on duty in the bridge area of a cruiser, in the Far East. The Chart-room table was a mess of untidy paper that should have been put away, so the Captain ordered the Red Hill boy to "get rid of them". The seaman dutifully collected them all together, and threw them over the side. They were all the ship's charts of the perilous South China Seas. That sort of delightful Harpo Marx initiative gets unpunished, and powers-that-be avoid the perpetrator doing anything in future. Just the philosophy for conscripts. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't stop him shitting in it.

Shaw and autocracy

Despite his views on the democratic values within Red Hill, he could be loftily autocratic (Ottocratic to us, naturally). Garnett and I were racing back from Sutton Valence, and he was leading and riding wide as we sped round Skinner's Corner. I looked at the radiator of a Jaguar, coming at me on the wrong side of the road and moving faster than that tricky stretch of road facilitated. It and I both braked, and I edged alongside the driver's door, opened quickly to prevent me nipping off - as Alan had. Of course, it had to be Shaw. So we were racing, but at least I had been in full control, on the correct side of the road. That was not the argument to use, so he fined me 5/- on the spot and gated me for a fortnight - ordering me not to appeal his decision in court or he would confiscate my bike. That was really being a bastard.

His removal of the impressive chimneys may have been a financial expedient, but felling the handsome and wind-breaking roadside pines, for short-term revenue, was undefendable. The building extensions tore me between two moods: envy for the improved facilities we'd have loved, but anger over the unconsidered architectural phillistinism. With imagination, he could have either set up an initial internal competition amongst the boys for a design; or contacted Michael Dixey, an old boy, who designed an ingenious house for himself in Richmond. I bought it in 1968 not knowing the name of the architect until much later. Dixey would have done a first class job, and it says something about Shaw that he always told us how clever we were, but never used the old boys at all.

Another tangram was him preventing any boy seeing the 1955 BBC film on the school, with Rupert Davies as a saintly Otto Shaw. Davies became famous in the sixties as Inspector Maigret in the long running 'Maigret' TV series. With only one set in the place, technology was on his side. I suspect the BBC checked his interference, but another reason may have been him not accepting its dramatic title The unloved. Presumably the producer, Colin Morris, insisted on it, and Shaw did not wish such a label stuck on the boys, implying there was no love within the school. Shaw was right about the title, and the BBC stupid, since apart from that, and its superficiality, there was nothing contentious about the film. However, he was wrong in censoring the programme. A rental copy of it is in the BBC archives, so it is still possible to judge those comments.

Around 1965 he invited me to attend one of his Magistrates' Courts. He said it would not be a long day, as he was taking the guilty cases. That was not an autocratic opinion, but a technicality, as the offenders had already opted for guilty pleas, being advised that they would be better off in not wasting court time. Some of the juvenile offenders changed their minds, angering him, but he took it in his stride. I felt the change of plea was from discovering who the magistrate was to be, and that "not guilty" meant fairer consideration, which proved to be true. Shortly before his death (3rd July 1976) he won national notoriety. Someone in a parish near to East Sutton was in his court for failing to have a television licence, and he ordered confiscation of the set. Hell snapped its chains. Not only did he get the Daily Mail front page and a furious leader attacking an arrogant rural magistrate's savage sentence, but he had a cartoon from a famous pen (that I tried to buy). As it was a hired set, known to Shaw all along, the issue moved onto another plain, particularly as he had challenged a little known law from the reign of William and Mary - on bailiffs capturing the property of a third party. Should rental companies profit from such criminal activities as encouraging evasion, or face up to their responsibilities by ensuring their customers have licences? In due course they made new rules, and the Daily Mail looked stupid. It never apologised, of course.

Shaw and women

I know nothing about this, but he upset them more than I would have thought. We took the occasional public demeaning of his wife as a joint act to amuse us, as he was not above a feeble taste in humour, and showed that all were equal in his eyes. I recall some female staff coming and leaving quickly, who had seemed worthy and well-liked. They were possibly on short-term contracts or conducting research in return for a working contribution - but neither Barbara Bradbury nor Audrey Davies stayed long; and Janet Payne, who helped Bob with art, was never even seen near the place after a couple of months.

Those who stayed loyal were remarkably strong characters: Marion Farrell, Phyllis (Oliver) Mills; while others married to staff, like Lily Holland and Betty Pollak were not easily ruffled by him. Others, like Betty Gayton, kept away from us. Indeed, in six years, I never met her. He was highly respected by the women who supported the school at the edges, such as Mrs Brown, Street and Freed - but, of course, they were domestics, and Shaw, amongst his other qualifications, was a snob. Either women misjudged him, or they saw duplicity through his blustering. They should have considered his impact on them was exactly what we faced, trembling, at the age of 11 - and it took most of us at least 3 years to tell him to sod off. As Colin Hart once advised me, "his bark is worse than his whimper - so what?"

Shaw and psychology

I know nothing about qualification and certification of psychologists, but guess that such fancy bits of paper passed Shaw by, and, indeed he may well have been on unsteady ground in playing games under the guise of running a school. Conversely, I do not believe in qualifications for psychologists, since they are dispensed by formal examination of undergraduates without any practical experience of peering into the seething souls of the tormented. Furthermore, there is ever the ongoing squabble between the peering devices of Freud, Jung and Adler - to name but a few - and the current fashion to scoff at all of them, as if their ideas never had any proven practical therapeutic effect. All the unbelievers need know is that psychoanalysis works, but may be seen to change nothing; or to aggravate the situation, or to suggest a miracle cure - and each of these effects are equally likely whether the practitioner is a highly skilled altruist or a charlatan. That is so because psychological patients are their own physicians. The psychologist is merely a guide through a maze of placebos, panaceas, reliefs and experiments - and as such Shaw was as good as any one else working with adolescent boys. Beyond that I will never prepare myself to hold opinion. That is a joint disclaimer, on behalf of both Shaw and myself.

From his books and the general publicity during the 50s, it could be assumed that Red Hill's success rate was very high for those who stayed the course. I have not been deeply in touch with all the 150 or so boys I knew, and have only a few pictures of a handful of them. It is therefore statistically odd that two of those I photographed, who left at the optimum time, later killed themselves. One in Broadmoor having been committed there some years before for slaying his wife and children.

Red Hill must be assumed as largely a success. That was not to do with Shaw alone, and the intent of my other personal histories of the school was to point to that. The ingredients were our constitution, leisure pursuits, approach to learning, domestic stability, rustic isolation and tolerance of each other. We were each constituents of it all, including the foster-parent staff constantly seeing their charges leaving - many not to be heard of again. Any discussion of disturbed children needs to throw around words like "love", invariably without defining what has far too many meanings, particularly with children who see it as far too simplistic. Red Hill was not a hot-bed of cuddles and tactile reward, and there was no favouritism. The fight for our own rewards created the self-confidence possibly never there from birth. There was little hatred, certainly not long-term, and for most of us that was a sufficient base for remedy when coupled with us being noticed and respected - for the first time in our lives.

It is not the child that is maladjusted, but the surrounding society with which it tries to come to terms. The comparisons between love and cruelty at home may be irrelevant, since it may be the stability of that home that is the key, and factors far outside the front door will have as much affect as those very peculiar to that household. What Victorian society, and its more immediate forebears had, was a stable routine. Apart from the Crimea, there had been no domestic threat since the Napoleonic Wars and the reform Bill riots, and this pattern of cosy reliability held until the autumn of 1914; becoming exacebated through the 1930s until international violence once again became the norm in 1939.

That is relevant today because once again we have lost immutability, through all manner of reasons - not all malignant. Unemployment, job instability and ambient anti-social attitudes are half the problem. More mobility, less family emphasis and greater social freedoms further stress the fabric. "Love" as a panacea password for resisting maladjustment is too trite. The Victorians had few monuments as loving parents. If children were not at boarding schools, they were up chimneys or trembling in housemaids' garrets - but there do not seem to have been great outbursts of what we would recognise as the symptoms of a maladjusted juvenile society. There was no such thing as a juvenile society. All adolescents were little adults, with men hacking heads off in battle, or paddling up the Orinoco, as soon as their voices broke.

One very common contributing factor to juvenile emotional disturbance fifty years ago was Adolph Hitler, and the five years of war to get rid of him and his Axis. If that is an acceptable argument - and taking account of the most indirect effects of war, it must be - then one must ask what it was about the war that caused the emotional trauma? That is not a stupid question as far as Britain was concerned. We were not occupied, and even in blitzed areas saw insufficient blood and gore to give us those Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, with capital letters, that today salivate juvenile journalists into specially devoted Sunday supplements.

We Home Front warriors were not captured and sent to Death Camps. Our war was not like those suffered by the people of the Soviet Union, Vietnam or Bosnia - so what did it do for child maladjustment? I think it was the destruction of stable routine and daily fear of a different tomorrow, and that is what Red Hill restored. To Shaw, that was water under the bridge, and his task was to solve problems carried by the disturbed sent to him - not to tinker with what had already been broken beyond repair. He knew of the point obscure to most modern politico-social workers: that a sound fostering environment is better than atrociously hating parents.

These paragraphs are probably too po-faced, and I am not qualified to pretend to be a mixture of Freud, Jung and Adler - confusing human relationships with long words. It seems to me that "love" is confusing. Incest. Pederasty. Homosexuality. Adultery. All are physical aspects of love. So is over-indulging a child. But all are potentially ruinous, so love has an aspect of pollution. On the other hand, a strict upbringing in loveless isolation does not automatically produce Vlad the Impaler; but even he had a mummy and daddy.

Shaw the author

Despite its rubric, the preceding section says little on Shaw as a psychologist, because I wanted to put into historical perspective the social problems that had affected post-war adolescents. It is also another way of revealing my belief that patterns of mental stability reflect the transient social problems, and that the deep traumas of one generation are superficial distractions to another. If so, then psychologists are people of their own times, as was Shaw. That is seen from reading his two books: Maladjusted boys and Prisons of the mind, published in 1963 and 1969 by Allen and Unwin. It is only from these that I can judge him as a psychologist, even though I was one of his analysands for six years. After all, I was then more bothered with observing me than him. A quibble with a Maladjusted boys quote:

"When the boy arrives he is seen and told very clearly by me that I know all about his private affairs but that those affairs are utterly confidential and not told to my wufe, my secretary, my colleagues, the children, or anyone else... invariably the result that no new child has ever spoken to another pupil about any of the private matters that have occasioned his arrival at the school".

I find no quarrel with this, in that we definitely respected the confidences and the result given by Shaw was true. However, he may have misjudged our motives. The cruelty of male children is such that those innermost thoughts too deep for tears are poweful knowledge to others when deliberate hurt is sought. We were not so daft to make ourselves so vulnerable that we could let terrible secrets become irradicable weapons. His naivity shows when he expected us to believe that he, and only he, were party to these private affairs. Most of us had spent some time with the sandpits and the white coats of Child Guidance Clinics, as we put square pegs in round holes...and answered some very funny questions. If he knew all about me from before the first time we met, someone had been talking...

In Maladjusted boys he admits that one of his prime difficulties was that, unlike the traditionally remote relationships normally desirable between analyst and analysand, he could not prevent children forming ideas as to the moral, theological , political or domestic beliefs of Otto Shaw. I cannot remember that upsetting me, as I preferred to discuss my disturbances with someone who knew me than with an aloof stranger in a white coat. I don't even remember thinking about it - although I conceivably called Shaw a hypocrite from time to time, that I could not have done had he been beyond social contact. I feel a little stronger on another statement:

"On the whole we have been successful in establishing that the treatment situation is one constantly divorced from lessons, mealtimes, play, work, games, hobbies, courts, committees and from all the other activities within the school".

Stated so simply he may have been right, but he overlooked the obverse, one of the purposes of my documentation. If the "treatment situation" was to effect a cure, then that could not have been brought about in isolation from all the indicated school activities. His divorced treatment situation relied on our entire East Sutton sandpit, but he seemed unaware of that, or felt it expedient to profess so in his book, written partly to alleviate the school's finances. More saliently, I do not know what the "treatment situation" was, beyond our regular analysis sessions, none of mine lasting more than 15 minutes, so I am even more convinced of some practical purpose behind the meaningless quote. Compare with it the following three:

"It cannot be said too often that children must be free to show their maladjustment"

"To some degree one can tolerate a maladjusted child whose maladjustment inconveniences himself rather than others, but the same toleration is required for those who express their maladjustment to the inconvenience of others"

"The sight of maladjusted children showing their maladjustment is so irksome to the inexperienced person that he itches to rebuke...and that generally the main reaction to a sulkiness or aggression"

A tolerant view, unless the inconveniencing maladjustment was freely expressed in lessons, mealtimes, play, work, games, hobbies, courts, committees and all the other activities within the school. Fortunately for my argument, that rarely happened, but it is extraordinary that Shaw failed to exploit that side of our recovery in his book! I hardly expected him to say he excused any transgression if a boy merely claimed his right to exercise his maladjustment. It was an excuse kept from me by a book coming too late for me to use to such advantage.

I am unsure of that tag, possibly the result of opportunism, Shaw having heard it somewhere other than in the original text. In his book he attributes it to St. Augustine, conveniently with the home pitch at our local Cathedral (Canterbury), but I have insufficient knowledge to confirm that. I've spent much time chasing it, and feel it more Franciscan than Augustinian. Perhaps its provenance is the Carmelite Priory at Aylesford? However, it's damned good. Full of conditionals, it is difficult to translate into tidy English. It is from a prayer, directed as an injunction to God. That much I know, so I must have found something at one time. Perhaps my Latin was once so much better that I recognised that.



"[O Lord] let me know myself [and] let me know thyself so that I may know myself better"

I have yet to find a succinct meaning of "despicciam", but that's how Shaw gave it.

Ralph Gee

Red Hill School, 1947-1953