In talking with Hugh Maltby, Director of the Old Bedfordians Club, a while back, the question was raised: “What is it like for a boy who struggles his whole life at Bedford School? A boy who is in the lowest stream for 10 years, who is, dare I say it, “below average”, who never shines at anything, be it academics, sport or extracurricular activities. How does he feel about his schooling and what becomes of him after he leaves? Well, here’s the story of one such boy – me, John Allan (49-59).


It was the worst day of my life- September 14th 1949 – it still is – worse than my father’s or mother’s death. It was the day I was sent to boarding school at the age of 8 and a half. I was prepared for it…and not prepared for it. I was born during the war and my father was serving in Egypt. My mother, a Canadian, went into our local bank in Grantham, Lincs and the bank manager said:

“Oh Mrs. Allan I hear you have a son. I wonder whether you have enrolled him in a Public school yet.” My mother answered “No, why would I do that? We have a perfectly good school here in Grantham”. “Well” he replied “it’s what we do in England for our sons and daughters to help them succeed in society”. “Then I’ll write to my husband. Do you have a school in mind?” “Yes, Bedford School, where my son goes”.

So, my mother wrote to my father and 6 weeks later got the reply: “Definitely Edith – at Edinburgh Academy I always wanted to be a boarder- they had more fun than us day boys”! So, my mother dutifully sent in the deposit to hold a place for me 5 years hence.

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