Somerset expects

In the essentially masculine society of Goldings, failure to take
part in the inter-house boxing tournaments could lead to being
branded a coward.
E. D. R, (Goldings 1944-47) gives this humorous
account of his experience of 'being volunteered' to represent
Somerset House some 50 years ago in the ring at Goldings.

FOR SOME SIX WEEKS before the appointed. time of the tournament, at
the twice-weekly gym sessions, instructions were given in the rudiments
of the noble art. They consisted of each class forming four lines of equal
length, then turning inwards to face each other. The boys would then
respond to shouted instructions to 'lead with the left', 'deflect with the right',
'feint with this' or 'counter with that'. Joe Patch was the gym master's name.
An ex-army P. T. instructor, it was his habit to be pulled to the gym on his
bicycle by an enormous Alsatian called Wolf a name more consistent
with the dog's temperament than its pedigree, as the ankles of more than one
boy who was slow to climb the wall bars will testify. Joe was unfailing in
detecting any boy conducting the movements he taught with anything other
than the utmost commitment and vigour. A sharp rap on the back of the
head with a short stick would follow. The same implement was used to
control Wolf the dog.
By the end of six weeks the whole school would have learned to lead,
deflect, feint, counter (or combinations of the same) along with the
rudiments of footwork. A ring was then set up in the gymnasium, with chairs
taking up the rest of the floor space for the boys and masters to observe the
gladiatorial spectacle. More often than not, Joe's training failed to produce
the balletic exchange of his
imagination. What took place was more akin to the onset of colliding
My first bout was against a lad from Cairns House, whose name has long
since slipped from my memory. For the first round, I kept my gloves
'well up' and circled, slipping in the occasional token left lead. The second
round had scarcely begun when I received a stunning blow to the side of my head. The effect on me was so painful, both physically
and mentally, it caused me to forget all tactics and, through a red mist of rage, seek only to gain some measure of revenge. For the rest
of the round I mounted a blind and ferocious assault on my opponent, sufficient to disincline him from coming out for the third round.
My satisfaction in seeing Joe's barely perceptible nod of approval as he held up my hand as victor was somewhat short-lived. I realised
I must engage in at least one further bout!
This, against another lad from Cairns House, named Perry, resulted in further points for Somerset House at a cost to myself. I am
reminded, each morning as I shave, of the modification to my features brought about by the application of Perry's left lead to my nose.
And so to a third bout, against a boy from Buxton House, Carson I think. He possessed a natural skill, and as I watched Joe raise
Carson's arm in victory I felt relief and gratitude. Carson had at last converted my status to that of disinterested spectator.

E. D. R, (Goldings 1944-47)

Page Compiled November 2006

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