Chapter 3: Five Years
I soon ran away again and was gone for several days. I was still on police bail, awaiting the court appearance. I had returned to my hideout in the woods. My tent was still in place, hidden from general view. I stayed out in the freezing, icy weather for several days before being caught by police. I was taken home to collect my things and taken to Myton Park Assessment Centre in Warwick.
I was twelve years old. I arrived at Myton in the middle on the night and was not told where I was going until I had actually arrived at the place.
I was shown a heavy ball and chain in the office,"We put that on our runaways," the man said jokingly. I was not amused. "Go on, pick it up," he suggested.
I went over and attempted to demonstrate my strength but the heavy steel ball appeared to be rooted to the spot... It wasn't and I just managed to clear it from the ground.
I laughed at the man, "It wouldn't stop me! I'd drag the bastard thing around until I could chop the fucking thing off."
The man took a padlock out of his drawer and padlocked the ball and chain to my ankle. "Come on, I'll show you to your unit. You'll like it here," he said.
I followed behind, dragging the heavy weight behind me. 'Wish I'd kept my bloody mouth shut now, ' I thought as I struggled across the main hall.
The man showed me to my bedroom, "You're in here. Good night!"
"Hey, what about this bloody thing?" I enquired, trying to remind the man about my heavy burden.
Seriously straight faced, the man looked at me, "In your own words, you said you would drag the bastard thing around until you could chop the fucking thing off. Well, now you've got your chance... Oh, by the way, it's hardened steel. Good night."
The next morning everyone got up and went to the main hall for breakfast. One of the other lads started laughing at me dragging the ball behind.
"I see you've met the boss. I'm `Rags' and I've been here forever," he stated.
"Not here, you ain't," Rags stated. He looked at me struggling to get up the steps.
"You're Scar face," he declared.
"Yeah, ok, now how do I get this bloody thing off? It weighs a ton," I said. "I've only been here three hours, and I've already decided I don't like the place!"
"You'll have to ask the boss and you'll have to apologise for your manners," Rags explained.
"I don't even know his name and I haven't seen him yet anyway," I explained anxiously to Rags.
"His name is `Boss' and you call him 'Boss.' Yes Boss, No Boss, Thank you Boss. I really don't know his name so I just call him Boss. I had to wear that bloody thing when I arrived here because I played my face. I wore it for two days before I gave in and apologised properly," Rags explained.
I sat down to my breakfast and smiled quietly as I noticed this was a mixed sex institution. There were males and females with ages ranging from about eight to sixteen years. The main building was divided into three units, the male wing, the female wing and the junior wing for the younger residents. I was placed on the male wing. Before my first day was over, I spoke to the Boss and after a mutual understanding the ball was removed. The solution was simple, I agreed to call the man Boss and promised not to refer to him or at him by any other name and he took the bloody thing off.
During the days everyone mixed together in the school rooms, and after schooling in the dining room, which was the centre piece of the main, modern, brick building. After school lessons, residents could return to their units and watch television or play table tennis in the room adjoining the dining room. The old juke-box stood against the wall and played the same records over and over again.
I learned many things at Myton Park, like how to get passed guard dogs, how to break into buildings, how to steal from cars or maybe the car itself. Some of the older girls were also keen to teach me about some of lives pleasures. Myton Park was a depressing place full of sad-faced and unwanted kids, awaiting decisions on their futures.
I spent Christmas at Myton Park and went to court in February 1974, just before my thirteenth birthday. I pleaded guilty to the charge of `Robbery with violence'. My father was in the court and was asked by the Magistrate if he could stop his son from running away from home.
"No, Your Honour, I can't," my father replied.
I was placed on a care order until I reached the age of eighteen. I left the court in tears. It felt as if I had been sentenced to five years imprisonment. My father said that he was sorry as I was taken passed him and out of court.
Back at Myton, some of the girls aged between fifteen and sixteen thought they would have some fun with me when my birthday came around. They stripped me naked in the middle of a disco and left me standing there, totally humiliated, with everyone laughing at me while I tried to hide my embarrassment. I promised myself I would get revenge. It took me a little time and a lot of patience but I had promised myself I would get them back, so I did.
There was a large log construction in the middle of a field, known to the residents as, 'Bobs Bunker.' I tricked two of the girls into taking their clothes off in the bunker and then ran off with their clothes. I threw their clothes up into the trees. I had no real problem persuading the clothes off the first girls, who obviously thought I had other things in mind. I did have a slight problem with the third who had heard about what I had done to her friends but I still managed to leave her as they had left me, totally embarrassed. The other residents watched from the windows and found it rather funny, the sight of grown women climbing trees in the nude and I thought it was absolutely hilarious.
One night I went out with a few of the other lads while everyone was asleep. We broke into a cash & carry warehouse in nearby Leamington. We stole a box of 5000 Consulate cigarettes and a case of whisky. On the way back to Myton we stole a Landrover, just for the fun of it. One of the other lads drove us back to Myton Park and we all returned to our beds, leaving the Landrover parked outside next to the Jenson Intercepter which belonged to the `Boss'. The staff did become curious when everyone in the place started smoking Consulate cigarettes and they could never figure out why they were having so much trouble waking everyone in the mornings. They never realized half the residents were drinking whisky after light out. My stay at Myton was a short but eventful one as I still managed to get into a fair amount of trouble. There was one lad who was much bigger than me, who kept pushing me around and booting me under the tables at meal times. I knew that in every institution there was a known `hardman' and in here, it was Frankie, also known as `Face Ache'.
"He's a real nasty piece of work, I wouldn't mess with him if I were you. He's likely to rip your sodding head off," Rags said, warning me of Frankie.
"I haven't done anything to him," I explained. "He's just taken a disliking to me for some sodding reason, but if he thinks he's just going to bash me about for no reason he's got another thing coming. I'm gonna try and sit at another table if I can, see what happens then."
The next mealtime came and I quickly sat at a different table, hoping to steer clear of Frankie. Frankie sat at the same table. I knew this was it. Frankie started booting me in the shins and messing with my food. I looked at Frankie, but tried not to provoke him.
"You fucking lost something, you Scarface bastard?" Frankie asked.
I said nothing and tried to eat my food. Frankie booted me again a little harder and repeated the question. I moved my legs and tried to ignore him. So Frankie started messing with my food once again. I was sat nervously at the table holding my knife and fork.
"Move your fucking hand out of my dinner or I'm gonna stick my fork through it," I demanded.
Frankie tried to give me another vicious boot under the table. "Come on then you Scarface bastard, try and stick your fucking fork in me," he said angrily.
I attempted to leave the table, still holding my knife and fork and Frankie got up. I threw my knife down towards the table, which shattered Frankie's dinner plate. He was furious and chased me across the room. I ran down the steps into the games area and I went mad. I swung a snooker cue, breaking it round his head and followed up by smashing a wooden chair across his back. Rags was right, Frankie did want to rip my head off! It was a violent battle with things flying in all directions. I was throwing things at Frankie, trying to keep him away, hoping to split his head open, or preferably knock him out, but there was little chance of that. I was pounced on and brought under control by staff and from then on tried to keep well out of Frankie's way although he never really bothered me again after that.
I disappeared once from Myton. I didn't exactly run away, I simply went a.w.o.l. (absent without leave). I had been working with one of the staff, chopping down a few small trees and decided to go for a walkabout.
The police were notified immediately as I had taken a hatchet (small axe) with me. I hadn't really run away, I just went for an unauthorised stroll through the `spinney' (small woods) which was still officially on Myton Park grounds. A policeman tried to catch me running in the spinney and I turned round to face him, still holding the hatchet which I refused to put down. The police officer picked something up off the ground and threw into my stomach, causing me to keel over with the wind taken out me. The officer then removed the hatchet and hit me once in each arm and each leg with his truncheon. He sunk the hatchet in a tree, out of my reach but he didn't take me back. He just left me lying on the ground, groaning in pain. I later went back on my own and told the staff I had thrown the hatchet in the tree. It just seemed more heroic than all the residents knowing I had been disarmed by an unarmed copper. I think the 'Boss' knew what had happened but nothing was ever said. Shortly after this incident I was moved from Myton Park and taken to a childrens home in Chelmsley Wood.
Woodside childrens home was only home to me for a very short time. While at the home I returned to Whitesmore Comprehensive school, just for the duration of my stay at the home. Shortly after arriving at the home a fire broke out and swept through a few of the dormitories causing a lot of damage. Nobody was hurt in the fire or had any idea how it had started, but I was the newcomer and the blame fell on me. I was a known cigarette smoker! I had absolutely nothing to do with the fire but some of the staff had other opinions.
I was therefore moved from the home to The Hermitage in Solihull. The Hermitage was a huge, prewar, brick building and was being renovated at the time of my arrival. I was the only resident living in the place, as the building was officially closed. Decorators were working inside the building and a few staff were helping out. An ex-police officer was the officer in charge of the Hermitage and the only other member of staff regularly drove to work in a hearse. I had met this man a few years earlier, at River House School. I had taken an instant disliking to the man. There was just something about him that sent me cold. He had never done or said anything wrong but there was just something about him that spooked me and it wasn't just his chosen style of transport. After a nights sleep in this new home, I had breakfast then went to help with the painting. I painted a few doors and skirting boards, mainly to pass some time. Occasionally I played table tennis with the ex-copper. He seemed o.k. but he had figured that I was none too keen on the police. We told each other stories about incidents involving the police and I told him about a few of the `smacks' I'd received from police officers who considered me too cheeky for my own good or simply got mad at having to chase after me on cross-country jaunts. We often put each other to the test to see who could run the faster. On the flat road the ex-copper always won, but on rough ground he nearly always lost.
During my stay at the Hermitage, I started going to the local school in Solihull but before I even had chance to find my way around the school it was time to be moved on yet again. My social worker came to see me at the Hermitage.
"Hello Billy, how have you settled in?" the social worker asked.
'This guy is a real waste of space and thinks I'm bloody stupid, ' I thought. I looked at my social worker through suspicious eyes, knowing he hadn't called for a social visit.
"What brings you here?" I asked politely. I wondered what happened to my previous social worker as she was much better than this two-faced idiot.
"Just come to see how you are in your new home. Heard anything from your family?" he asked.
"No. I haven't seen or heard anything since leaving Woodside. My mother came up, trying to cause trouble. You must have told her where I was. The boss told her to bugger off or he was going to phone the police and she just went. Why what's happened?" I asked.
"Nothing's happened. I just wondered how you felt about your family and I have something I need to talk to you about," he said. "You can't stay here forever, this was only meant as a 'stop-gap' until we could arrange something more permanent."
"Just get to the point," I said, interrupting him, knowing that this social worker was inclined to go miles around everything.
"You have two choices, you can go back home to your family or go to Quinta School. It's a . . ."
I interrupted again. "Quinta!"
"O.K. Billy, we leave tomorrow. It's a long way, so we will be leaving early. See you about 8.30am," he stated.
"Just one question. Where on earth is Quinta?" I asked.
The reply came as he was walking out of the door. "Wales, North Wales."
On 14th October 1974 the social worker drove me to Quinta School, Weston Rhyn, North Wales. The journey was very long and seemed to take forever. The social worker explained about Quinta along the journey. He tried to lead me to believe that this was going to be some sort of holiday camp, which I soon discovered for myself was total and utter bloody nonsense. I had no real idea of what really lay ahead of me, only what the social worker had told me. I felt very apprehensive, as I always did when being moved from one place to another.
There were no gates to the long driveway which lead to the main building. The old, large, stone building stood like a monument in the middle of nowhere.
'It's fucking Colditz, ' I thought.
The social worker took me through the heavy arched door, leading to the small hallway. Old bottles, which had been dug up within the school grounds were on display in the wall mounted glass cabinet, behind the huge entrance door. After meeting the head master, I was lead through the church-like building to the extention which had obviously been built much later.
A full size snooker table stood in the middle of the room upon the wooden floor. Long wooden benches were fixed along the lengths of three of the walls.
I waited outside the office, looking through the open door at the man at the desk. "I'm Captain Dowling," he stated.
'It is fucking Colditz!' I said to myself.
Captain Dowling took me to the cellar to be kitted out with shirts, jumpers, jeans and heavy workboots. This was standard school issue, the school uniform. I was weighed and measured. At thirteen years old, I stood 4'10" tall and weighed just 4st 5lb, I was the smallest kid in the school. The school was divided into three house units, each housing around thirty lads. Severn-house was the oldest and largest of the three houses and this was where I started 'my sentence'. This was another all boys school with ages from thirteen through to sixteen years.
I learned very quickly that the older lads were really in control of the younger and smaller lads and I learned very quickly to keep my eyes open and my mouth shut. It was very foolish and sometimes could be dangerous to trust people at Quinta. Most of the time I tried to keep myself to myself. I had always had difficulty in mixing with people and being at Quinta made it a hundred times more difficult. In reality there was no such thing as a friend at Quinta, there were people you trusted a little and people you didn't trust at all.
One of the staff told me the facts of life, "You're nobody in here. You're all nobody in here and I'm nobody and nobody gives a fuck about nobody else."
Cigarettes were like gold dust and `Inmates' often tried to smuggle them into school after any holiday or weekend leave. Inmates were generally searched back at school after any leave. There were always a few lads caught trying to smuggle cigarettes or tobacco into school but there were always the same faces who managed to get through without being caught. At times cigarettes changed hands at between ten and fifty pence each and anyone who failed to pay up at the end of the week was usually beaten up. The smaller lads often had their cigarettes taken by the older and bigger lads. Smoking was allowed at the school at fixed times and fixed places and the staff would hand out the cigarettes at these times.
I settled in Quinta very quickly as usually if any of the lads caused trouble it would result in privileges being stopped for everyone in the house-unit or at times the whole school. If any of the lads absconded or failed to return after any home leave the next weekend leave would be cancelled for everyone in the school. This would make you very unpopular with the other lads. Lads who absconded or failed to return from leave would be forced to wear long shorts and looked absolutely ridiculous with their heavy work boots on. It was done as a sort of deterrent but also so that everyone knew who was to blame for the weekend leave being cancelled. The culprit would walked round a nervous wreck, like a rabbit in a dogs home.
Most lesser offences were generally dealt with by the headmaster fining the offender. Inmates caught smoking wrong time, wrong place, were usually fined and stopped from smoking for a day or even a week. Abusive behaviour, causing damage and most other offences were dealt with by fines. Any damage had to be paid for by whoever caused the damage or in cases where the culprit was unknown everyone had to pay. There was no such thing as 'benefit of the doubt' at Quinta. This was standard school policy, school justice!
Wake-up was at 7.30am and each of the staff had a different way to get the lads out of bed. One member of staff would come round chanting, "Wakey Wakey rise `n' shine," who would then open all the windows and pull all the bedclothes off everyone, which did work, but not very well.
Another member of staff would simply come round tip the body and the mattress on the floor and then say, "Good morning," which had a slightly better effect, or another would come round and just tip the whole bed upside down. This was how inmates were taught about respect and courtesy.
After washing and dressing the inmates made their beds, which were inspected by the staff and had to be made again if not done properly. Then it was time for breakfast and breakfast was porridge. The porridge often had a strong resemblance to cement and at times lads would put their spoons in the plastic, unbreakable dish, lift the spoon and the dish would leave the table. After breakfast we all had work duty and each lad would be given a job to do in the house or in the grounds of the school.
These jobs would vary from polishing wooden floors or stairs, cleaning toilets or washing dishes. Everyone had a job to do and after all the work was completed the morning cigarettes would be handed out by a member of staff.
Each day all three house units went to assembly in Severn-house, where the headmaster would hand out any fines or cancel any leave for anyone or everyone. Schooling followed assembly, with each class holding about fifteen lads, five from each house.
An elderly man taught maths and english. Most of the lads had played truancy regularly from their previous schools and were being taught primary school basics.
The teacher wrote a whole blackboard full of various words before turning to face the class. "Can anyone tell me what this word says?" the teacher asked.
"Just put your hand up if you think you know." The teacher stood pointing at a word on the board. The class just sat there, nobody moved.
I looked at the blackboard and frowned. "Excuse me Sir, I think I'm in the wrong class," I said, "I learned these words in Infant school."
"Stand up lad," the teacher ordered. "You, tell me, what does that say?"
He asked me to read the one word but I started to read the whole blackboard, "This, that, they, then, there..."
The teacher was amazed at my reading and furious at the time he had wasted in writing on the board. The inmates started laughing and the teacher wiped the blackboard clean. I sat back down in my seat.
Suddenly, I was tapped on the shoulder by some kid who handed me a letter. "Will you read this for me?" he asked. I looked at him and looked at his letter and started reading it quietly to him.
"Stand up," the teacher ordered. "Bring that here!" I went to the front of the class, taking the kids letter with me.
"Now read it so we can all hear," the teacher demanded and sat down, ready to hear me read the kids letter.
I looked at the kid whose letter I was holding. He didn't seem to object. I started reading the boys letter. "Dear Son..." I suddenly stopped reading as the letter was very personal.
I raised my head and glared at the faces sitting around the classroom, "This isn't for you lot to laugh at." I gave the letter back to the lad. "I'll read it to you later."
The teacher was not amused. "Maths books out, come on quickly."
The teacher turned to the blackboard and commenced writing. "Start writing these down and we'll go through them in a minute," he said.
The class started copying the sums from the board. When he had finished he turned around and started showing the class how to do the sums. I put my head on the table and closed my eyes. The teacher just ignored me.
"O.K. you can all start answering the questions now. When you have finished you can go to break," he said. I stood up and handed my book to the teacher.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
"You said when we have finished we could go. I have finished! 1x2 is 2, 2x2 is 4, 3x2 is 6..."
"This school is a total waste of fucking time, it's like going through infant and junior school all over again," I said.
I continued to pay very little attention in the classes and was continually fined for disrupting classes. I hated P.E. as this was usually a good excuse for the bigger lads to batter the smaller lads and get away with it. I tried my hand at boxing and soon found the difference between boxing for sport and boxing without any rules.
The P.E. teacher told the fighters, "No kicking, no head butts, no holding and no biting." Then he'd stand back and watch two kids try to beat each other half to death.
Very few head butts were thrown and only a few used their teeth but in this ring there were no rules. I was stupid enough to have a go a few times but soon found there were a lot of tough nuts at this school.
The P.E. teacher called out, "Everyone, make a line across the room. Right, you lad, out here. We're going to play a game called British Bulldog. The idea is you run through that lot and get to the wall behind them. They're going to try to stop you from getting there." Some helpless young hooligan would face fourteen other lads he was supposed to get passed.
The teacher turned to the line of lads, spreading out across the room, "No kicking, no punching, no head butts, no smacking in the bollocks and no biting." Nobody ever seemed to hear the teacher. This wasn't a game. It was more like a riot!
Only one kid ever made it across the room, he was a big black kid, the `knock' at the school. Nobody moved to try to take the hardman down. This fourteen year old kid also entered the boxing arena and was never seen to lose a single fight. The strange thing about this kid was, he was really boxing, abiding by boxing rules, in that he only hit you with his fists. One of the staff who had done some amateur boxing entered the arena with the young black kid, nearly half his size. As a result of this fight, boxing was banned at the school... Everyone lost.
There were other lessons at the school like woodwork and metalwork where a variety of weapons were made, mostly primitive type knives and 'kung fu style' throwing stars. Some less secretive things were also made like decorative steel plant holders and wrought iron gates and lathe turned wooden fruit bowls and wooden magazine racks.
During one lesson, in the woodwork class, one of the bigger lads came over and started shoving me around which he had been doing for several days. On this occasion I was working on a wood turning lathe. The lad crept up behind me and I felt the sole of his boot land heavily in the middle of my back, knocking me into the lathe.
I turned to face my attacker, "Fuck off you fat bastard," I said angrily.
This upset the lad who turned and went to kick again. I held out the chisel I was using, just as the lad delivered his rising toe kick towards my groin. The chisel went deep into his leg and the lad fell to the ground but didn't let go. While still holding the handle of the chisel and pushing it deeper into the kids leg, I turned and picked up a mallet. I was real mad.
I looked down at my attacker, "I'll cave your fucking head in if you don't leave me alone," I said. "I'm nobodies punchbag anymore. Do you understand, you fat bastard?"
I pushed the chisel a little deeper into his leg just to make sure the kid had got the message, then viciously pulled it out. After dropping the chisel and the mallet on the workbench, I casually walked out of the class.
This lad never did pick on me again but quite a few of the other lads did and I was getting fed up with being knocked about. It was standard practice at Quinta for the bigger lads to pick on the smaller lads, it happened all the time. There were three or four of the toughest and most feared lads who were never very quick to test each other in battle and put their reputations at risk.
There were activities after school lessons, which included darts, snooker and table tennis. The television room was fairly comfortable and on occasions inmates would be allowed to watch a late film in relative peace. Other activities were mostly limited to the weekends, including pony riding by the select few. There was also canoeing and fishing. Fishing was a fairly popular pass-time on the school lake. Most of the lads would throw back any Perch or Roach caught but there were always the exceptions to the rule. On one occasion one of the lads had caught a fish and took a large bite out of it before throwing it back into the water. Canadian geese also occupied the lake and goose feathers were to be found all around the bank of the lake. Feathers were often used by inmates for making floats for fishing. Some of the lads would insert these feathers into the fishes mouths and push until it came out of the other end.
I hated to see such unnecessary cruelty. I had a real respect for animals and did not like to see them hurt or killed. One of the lads liked punching the ponies in the head, while they were tied up, until one of the biggest horses smashed his foot. While fishing on the lake I found a baby Heron, it was covered in slime and tangled in fishing line, it appeared to be in a very poor state of health. Animals were certainly not allowed in the school buildings but I took the needy bird under my care. I smuggled the bird into the school, took it in the shower room and bathed it and tried to feed it, with porridge. I kept the bird in a large cardboard box in the boot room and nursed the bird back to health. One of the staff had discovered what I was doing for the bird, both of us knew if the other lads found the bird they would kill it. The member of staff decided to turn a blind eye, until one day the bird managed to get out of the box.
"Billy, your friends out and you better find him quick. Come and look in here, he's shit all over the place," the staff member announced.
I entered the boot room. My stomach turned and I began to heave. "Bloody typical, help someone and they shit all over you," I muttered under my breath. "I'll kill the sodding thing."
I went in search of my feathered friend and released him back to the wild. I then had to clean thirty pairs of boots and wash out the boot room.
"Bloody thing, how the hell can such a lot of shit come from such a small bird? It's bloody green. It must have swallowed half that slime," I cursed, trying not to bring up my dinner.
As Christmas approached everyone was preparing for the holiday, all except me. I wasn't going home for Christmas and as the school was to close I wondered where I would be sent. I regularly helped out in the kitchen on weekends and got on really well with Mrs Poole, the weekend cook. Just before Christmas Mrs Poole asked me if I would like to spend Christmas at her house with her family. I accepted the invitation, trying not to show how excited I really was.
I felt at bit out of place at first, at Mrs Pooles house. I felt as if I were intruding and as if I shouldn't have been there but the whole family made me feel welcome and we all got on really well. Mr Poole took me shooting with his two elder sons, Chris and Billy. Having two lads in the house with the same name did cause some confusion but did not create any real problems. They also had a younger son, Damon, who was about two years old and two teenage daughters, Karen and Dawn. Everyone had a nice Christmas and I felt happy as if this family had accepted me as one of them, although in my heart I always knew I wasn't and never would be. The Christmas passed by very quickly and I was very sad when the holiday came to an end and I had to return to school. I was a little surprised and very happy when Mr and Mrs Poole asked me if I would like to go to their home on weekends. When I returned to school, I tried very hard to keep out of trouble as I now had something to look forward to and somewhere to go at weekends.
Shortly before Easter 1975 I received a letter from my mother. This was the first I had heard since being put away, in care. My mother said the family were missing me and they wanted me to come home for the Easter holiday. I was very confused. I knew I could go to Mrs Pooles house and that I would be well-treated and have a good time. My mother had invited me home but I had no idea what sort of response I would get from my family. I did miss my brother and sisters, I had always missed my father and deep down I also missed my mother. I did love my family but lived in constant fear of what would happen next. I decided to give my family a chance and went home for the Easter holiday.
As soon as I arrived home, my mother offered me a cigarette. At first I thought it was a trick and refused. I had cigarettes of my own which had been hidden away.
"Things have changed here now," my mother said. "I'm much calmer than I used to be. You can smoke if you want to and I know you do smoke. Just two things, you don't smoke in your bedroom and not in front of your father." I took the cigarette and later offered her one of mine.
When my father returned home from work, he too offered me a cigarette. "I'm really sorry about what I said in court, about not being able to stop you from running away from home, but it was the truth. I feel responsible for you being in care," my father explained.
I looked at my father who looked as if his heart was breaking. "It's not your fault and I don't blame you," I said. "You only told the truth. You couldn't stop me running away because you never understood why I was running away."
I never told my father that I felt safe or at least safer at school than I did at home. I did feel very lonely, unwanted and depressed but I never felt suicidal as I always did at home.
During the holiday I asked my brother to go to the local shop for me but Laurence was afraid and refused. "Every time I go to the shop, there's this kid who beats me up and pinches the money off me and then mother beats me up for losing her money," Laurence told me.
"You go to the shop and I'll follow you," I told him. "If you see the kid let me know and I'll have a word with him."
Laurence agreed and I followed fairly close behind. The kid tried to strike again, he grabbed my brother but before he had chance to do anything I grabbed him.
"I strongly suggest you leave my brother alone," I said calmly. "You beat him up and pinch his money and then he goes home and gets beat up again. I want to know where you live."
The frightened kid showed me where he lived and I knocked on the door. "Excuse me Missus, could you have a word with your son? He keeps beating up my kid brother and pinching his money," I said.
"My son wouldn't do something like that. He's not a thief. You get your bloody hands off him... Come on son," she replied angrily.
"I've asked you nicely to stop him. If you don't, I will. I won't ask again, I'll just drop his body on your doorstep next time," I said and calmly walked away.
A few days later Laurence was told by my mother to go to the shop and fetch a few things. "I've written a list. And hurry up," she said.
Laurence could not refuse our mother, despite his fear. The kid struck again. Laurence was thumped about by the kid and then by our mother for losing her money. My mother turned and punched me in the mouth, for not stopping the kid.
'I'm gonna fucking kill that kid. Laurence has been beaten up twice and I've had a smack in the mouth for no reason, he's had it now, ' I thought.
The next time Laurence went to the shop, I followed from a distance. The kid grabbed my brother from behind as he left the shop, pulling him to the ground. I marched up behind the kid, tapped him on the shoulder and lined him up for my best shot. The kid turned his head into the direction of the tapped shoulder to find a steam-train coming towards him. - Bang! My fist landed hard in his face and the blood poured from his nose.
I turned my attention to my brother lying on the floor to make sure he wasn't injured. "Go home," I told him.
The kid had ran off, but it was not over for him yet. His nose was bleeding quite bad but I knew if I left it at that, the kid would just give my brother a worse beating the next time. This kid had to be taught a lesson.
I was still looking for the kid when suddenly I was hit in the back by some missile, a partial housebrick. The kid was on the garage roof, trapped! I climbed onto the roof. The kid was still throwing but had no way of escape. I ran at him, thumping him with open hands straight to the chest with such force that the kid flew off the roof. - Thud!
'He's dead. I've bloody killed him, ' I thought.
I looked down at him, lying flat on his belly on the tarmac, only slightly groaning, fighting to get his breath. I lowered myself over the side of the garages and dropped to the ground.
"Are you all right?" I asked, but it was a really stupid question.
"Looks like a broken arm job to me and your nose by the look of it, you poor bastard," I declared.
I picked up the kid and carried him to his house and kicked the door until it was opened. His mother stood there, obviously not very happy to see me again. I dropped the boys injured body on the doorstep. "I did warn you!" I stated, before walking away.
After this incident the holiday settled down and went fairly well. There were a few uncomfortable moments but there were no more serious beatings at all. Michele, Laurence and Beverley kept asking me to come home to stay. They told me that mother really had calmed down. Laurence told me that mother no longer used the curtain wire but that he was getting more beltings, although he added they were never as bad as what I had received.
After the holiday I returned to school and really wanted to continue going to Mrs Pooles house but was never asked again and didn't like to ask. They had invited me for the Easter holiday and were a little upset when I went home to my family. I continued going home for the occasional weekend and on the whole the visits went well. There were no more serious beatings, although I was still pushed down the stairs from time to time. My brother and sisters kept asking me, begging me to return home to stay but I was not ready for that at all.
At school I tried to keep out of trouble, but at times trouble just came round and you had to face it. Occasionally someone would just push me a bit too far and I would retaliate. I did some crazy things at school as most of the bigger lads simply would not leave me alone.
At night, I placed a thin board full of nails under my bedside mat so that if anyone came to tip me out of bed they would stand on these nails. My little security mat worked more than once and some sneaky sod would howl, chant and wardance around the room. One night one of the other lads and myself carried a bed with someone still snoring in it, out of the room, down the long corridor and put it on the fire escape and left him there. Many of the lads would sneak into other dormitories and throw boots at people sleeping. Another trick was to rewire the night lights, so that when the lights were turned on, they blew, or the operator would be electrocuted. My favourite trick was to remove the majority of the bed springs from the base of the hospital style beds. Many of the lads would just run and belly-dive onto the thin mattress of their beds, and with the springs removed, the landed on the floor, splat!
I was constantly getting into scrapes in Severn-house and I would usually let fly with a snooker ball across the room or smash a snooker cue around someones head. I regularly walked around with two snooker balls in a sock which I kept concealed and always handy. I knew the weapon could be used to devastating effect and carried it for emergency use only, luckily I never found need to use it. There were some real head cases at Quinta and that included some of the staff.
One of the lads used to climb the trees and swing and jump from tree to tree. He was either very brave or a complete nut case. He was like a trapeze artist without a catcher. One day he leaped to another tree and missed the branch to which he was jumping. He slid about fifty feet down the tree, being torn by the branches and miraculously escaped with only a few dozen superficial cuts and bruises. One lad looked very much like a prehistoric man, his nickname was Caveman and his real name was not much different. This was the kid we left on the fire escape. He was as strong as an ox and had the capability to pick up a person twice his own weight and size and throw them bodily across the room, and did so whenever he got upset. He was a force not to be messed around with. He regularly went into mad rages and was known to have dived through unopened windows head first. I was told that the Caveman had wedged the knee of one of the other lads down the side of a radiator pipe and held him there with the pipe burning into the kids leg while the kid was screaming in pain. A member of staff pulled the screaming kid out of the pipe and the Caveman threw the member of staff across the dining room. The burned kid was probably scared for life.
After being in Severn-house for about twelve months I asked to be transferred to another house and was transferred to Ceriog house. The staff in Ceriog house were much better and the lads were not generally quite so quick to pick on the other lads, although there were a few who got a little heavy handed at times. I was much happier in Ceriog house as generally there was not quite as much aggravation and the staff remained in control most of the time. I continued going to lessons but still paid little attention to what was going on as I simply wasn't learning anything.
I started going home regularly for weekends and at times even looked forward to weekends at home. I still went over to see Mrs Poole whenever I could. I went home for the Christmas holiday of 1975 but after only two days at home just couldn't take anymore. I wasn't beaten but the constant nagging and the tension became too much to bear, so I started back to school. I had no money and so had to walk and hitch lifts for the ninety miles back to school.
I started my journey and was offered a lift by a taxi driver soon after leaving the house. I explained to the taxi driver that I had no money and could not afford a taxi.
The man told me, "Jump in, don't worry about the money. You look as if you could do with a lift."
I accepted the lift and stated, "You can drop us anywhere on the route to town, if you don't mind, and thanks."
The taxi driver started along the road and was heading towards town. I was sat in the front of the cab, with my feet resting on a pile of tools. When the driver placed his hand on my leg, I suddenly become very nervous and pushed his hand away. The driver turned off the main road and I was getting really worried. I knew the way to town and this wasn't it.
"Where are you going? It's straight on to town," I remarked. The driver put his hand on my leg again. He didn't answer. He drove on and turned the corner of another road.
'I'm in the shit here, ' I thought. My heart was pounding so much I could feel it beating in my head.
I started trying to plan an escape but he was driving too fast for me to just jump out. The driver drove to a secluded area in Garretts Green and stopped the taxi. The pervert tried to put his hand down my trousers but he'd picked on the wrong one.
I grabbed the mans arm and sank my teeth in it and wouldn't let go. With my teeth still in his arm I folded myself in half, reached down between my feet and picked something up. The man tried to grab me with his other hand. He groaned in pain from the dull hollow thud as I hit him in the chest with the cold steel wheel-brace. I opened the taxi door to make my escape from the man but the battle wasn't over yet. I managed to scramble out of the taxi but the man was climbing out also. I knew this man was dangerous and I had to stop him. As the man tried to get out, he lowered his legs out first, struggling to get up from his seat. I ran at the door, slamming it against his legs, and I slammed it again and again. The man was groaning in pain. I picked up the wheelbrace and smashed it into the blokes feet and he slumped back into his cab. Clang! The sound echoed in the night-air as I dropped the wheelbrace and started to run.
Then I suddenly thought, 'What the hell am I running for? He aint going nowhere.'
I was still psyched up, muttering to myself, "Fucking dirty bastard, mess with the wrong one this time... He'll probably never walk again... The bastard."
I continued on my way, still hitching lifts whenever I could but using a lot more caution. Ninety miles is a long walk. When I eventually arrived back at school, it was bloody closed, so I wandered around the grounds, trying to think how I was going to get into the school, preferably without smashing any windows. I was spotted by one of the staff who lived within the grounds. I spent Christmas at the home of Mr and Mrs Bartley, who were both house staff at the school. The Christmas went ok but Mr and Mrs Bartley made it clear that I had disrupted their holiday and they were none too pleased about that. I never went home again after that. I simply remained at school and may have been the only lad not to go home for any leave. I regularly went over to Severn-house to see Mrs Poole and really hoped to be invited to her house but never was again.
Generally speaking, I managed to keep out of trouble in Ceriog house. There were a few minor incidents but nothing too serious. I continually got into trouble in the classrooms. On one occasion I had been arguing with a lad from Severn-house in the art class and walked out of the class still holding the lump of clay that I had been working with.
The teacher shouted after me, "Oi, let's have the clay in here." So I let him have the clay back, throwing it straight through the window, aiming for the lad I'd been arguing with.
Life at Quinta was just a routine, just like anywhere else. At times it was hard, but for me living at home was much harder. When a person is being brought up by strangers in institutions there are no real emotions. There are no feelings towards other people, there is only doubt and the unknown, distrust and suspicion. Like the man said, 'you're nobody, I'm nobody and nobody gives a fuck about nobody else'. As a general rule, I believe what he said was true.
Another Christmas passed by as just another day and I began to wonder what 1977 would have install for me. I wondered what would happen when my time came to leave Quinta, my time was nearly up and I was getting worried. It had seemed like a lifetime at this school but I knew it would have been much worse living at home.
Shortly before my sixteenth birthday my case conference was held at the school. My social worker and members of staff were to reveal what options there would be for me, now I was due to leave school.
"You can return home to your family, you can go into a hostel and later into your own flat or you can be fostered by Mr Bond."
Mr bond was one of the staff from the school and a real headcase. I thought the options over but there was really very little to think about.
"I certainly don't want to go home and if Mr Bond wants to foster me, why offer now? I've been at the school for two and half years, he could have offered before, but being honest I would have still refused," I said. "I would like to go into the hostel please," I replied, thinking this my best option, thinking I would soon have my own flat and a new start in life.
A few days before I was due to leave, I received a letter from my mother. In the letter she said she wanted me to return home and was threatening to kill herself if I didn't return. I didn't want to be responsible for my mothers death, although I had, many times, felt like killing her myself.
I had already started making plans in my own mind for my own future, 'I'm going to go into the hostel, get my flat and a job and get the flat done out nice. Find myself a nice girlfriend, get married and have a couple of kids.' I wanted to settle down to something I'd never had, a happy family life.'
At the last minute I decided to go home and told a member of staff, "I know I'm making a terrible mistake but I don't want my brother and sisters to end up in a place like this. It would destroy them. I have no choice but to go home now."
Chapter 4: Betrayed
© Copyright 2016 Billy Casper. All rights reserved.
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