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The Darker Side of Beechholme 1

GUARDIAN. February 19 1999 - Heritage

We have been inundated with letters following our articles about Beechholme residential school.

One letter from an ex-student who does not wish to be named because she has never told anyone of her "appalling" time there - paints a radically different picture to the ones published so far.

Look out for the second instalment in next week's Heritage.

"My memories were of sadistic 'cottage mothers'. We were referred to by number, which was on our clothing and lockers.

The Headmaster, Mr Rayner, and the matron were horrendous creatures, dishing out corporal punishment at the drop of a hat without enquiring as to whether we were guilty or not.

They and the cottage mothers had total control over our lives and our belongings. My own blood mother sent me one shilling every week which over the years amounted to a small fortune. I never saw a penny of that and the obligatory two pence pocket money handed out by the Matron was taken away by the cottage mother.

I also remember being on a near starvation diet. We would have two slices of bread and margarine, whilst the cottage mothers would have bacon and eggs.

The house was freezing and in the midst of winter with six inches of snow, we wore only shoes, black stockings, vest, liberty bodice, shirt, drill slip and thin coat. We had no gloves, scarves or cardigans and we would freeze going to school and in the house.

We would have chilblains on hands and feet with the skin bursting open and becoming infected - the backs of our knees would break open with being chapped."