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being a schoolboy surfer, in 1959

There is much to regret.

{Meaning of insolence (noun) pride or haughtiness exhibited in contemptuous and overbearing treatment of others.}

We invented both the word and the underlying meaning of the word, we used insolence as our weapon and we honed the blade sharp and often. The ten of us in a school of about eight hundred. Waverley College. Less than 4 k’s from Bondi and only ten surfers in the school.

1959.

Waverley College was ruled by large men dressed in heavy black robes, some of them gentle, others brutal and all of them equipped with a one metre long leather-bound metal-cored punishment strap manufactured by a cobbler in Charing Cross, a man with his own special problems. These straps the Brothers hid about themselves in their sleeves or tucked into a belt or pocket somewhere and when the hitting time came around – as it did often – we used it to practice our insolence.

We were punished for being absent without acceptable reason, whether it be a whole day, a series of days or a couple of hours. We were punished for not attending weekend rugby or cricket matches, swimming meets, training afternoons, athletic competitions, handball comps, tennis matches – six almighty strokes on the left hand and then another six almighty strokes on the right hand. Wielded by a fully grown man who grew angrier with each blow, so much so that the last few landed on inner wrists and forearms. The price of surfing. That’s why we were absent so often.

Here was the time to sharpen our insolence, when the dull whack of hard leather on flesh was the silky rasp of a personal blade upon whetsone – and never a trembling or looking away because the master of a punishment is the one who receives it without flinching.

The grown man and the sixteen year-old boy in the midst of a public welter, because all punishments were done in full view, then we walked away with hands too swollen and numb to hold a pen, with bruisings to the inner wrists and peculiarly bent fingers. Deep abrasions that took days to heal. Some straps were thicker than others, heavy, and others were skinny and rigid. Some Brothers took great pleasure in the pain they meted out, why else would they smile? Others softened their blows or discounted the number of them.

They didn’t see us run cold water over our throbbing hands and arms, and they didn’t hear the few words we spoke to each other over the sinks, the wry smiles.

We had no time for their Prefects and sport-games, their cadet corps and exams, no time for their rules and commandments, their uniforms, their classrooms and lessons. Their floggings.

We had the sea. We were surfers.

1962 – North Narra

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In later years we were all reconciled, and the Faith held firm.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Suffering for your art – probably worth every lash though…

    September 19, 2011
  2. missed a big rugby game one weekend and showed up on monday with a bandage around my shin with blood by rosella tomato sauce – scored a double sixer off the biggest brother, who also happened to be the team coach – a couple of weeks later I scored 5 tries in one game and he cornered me outside the tuckshop and belted me on the arm once nice and hard, like mates do – he was a good bloke was bumper farrell

    September 19, 2011
  3. Mr Wolf #

    Marcellin College throughout the 60’s – weapon of choice, the cane. The Principal had a whole quiver – selection from which was based on the conditions of the day. Got six one morning fro in the wrong gate minus the boater.

    September 19, 2011
  4. mr wolf – the people you see when you don’t have a shotgun ..

    the f.cken boater .. ! I forgot about that blessed lid, pity they hadn’t invented frisbees back then, boaters were nose breakers, the only thing that held them together was the wet-weather cover

    September 19, 2011
  5. We had Sister Martin de Porres, a fat piggy woman and that was just her face because the rest of her was covered in the habit. She wielded the cane. After lighting the tip of it until it glowed. We heard her coming from the rattle of the matches in her pocket. Those marist and christian brothers however were in a league of their own. To have the surf wash that away for you, now that is power!

    September 21, 2011
  6. We had a reunion a few years back and one of the most savage of the brothers showed up, 30 years older and with the handshake of a grandmother – he sat down the back all night and seemed most pleased when we acknowledged and included him – seemed he was making some kind of reparation

    September 21, 2011
  7. I have always suspected these men of having more than a touch of the Norman Bates about them – mother issues, and how many of those had dreams of giving a son to the Church etc? But moving on, the sight of those surfboards – I can smell the wax, the resin of the repairs and you do tell the truth. Others might call them tales but they weren’t there.

    September 22, 2011
  8. ok pk, who do you know there? … there are a few obvious ones, trouble is you have to be a codger to recognise most of them

    September 22, 2011
  9. Karen #

    I live across the road from Waverley College Pete. I think the flogging has given way for group consciousness meetings. But the cadets still strut their stuff on a Friday.

    September 25, 2011
  10. Incredible as it seems, we used to have a live firing range against the wall of the handball courts – and an armoury of 303 Lee Enfields in a room by the same courts .. and nobody ever thought of friendly fire back then, not that a couple of those fellows rated a wound at least

    September 25, 2011
  11. Hey Pete, I am certainly no codger but I have much older brothers who were. They would recognise more than a few but I was just a (very) young girl and what would I know about anything anyway!

    My non-Catholic friends accuse me of complete exaggeration when it comes to tales from the classroom, the church, the family . . . that they live in blissful ignorance of the true glories of suffering!

    September 27, 2011
  12. Shane Fisher #

    I remember being presented to the Principal after wagging weeks on end. I had supplied written notice, it was copied and followed a pattern. An addressing line, three lines advising of how I was incapacitated and signature. After awhile they caught onto this pattern. Hairy Nose (Mr Holland from memory), was quite annoyed.

    He had layed out several of my forgeries, at least four of five. He said, “They look common?” I may have just shrugged my shoulders, I can’t remember. What I do remember is Hairy bringing out the canes. Not just one cane, but a multindinual of numbered canes. I can’t remember the cane Hairy chose, but I feigned pain.

    Man, I wish I lived by the beach back then (in my hindsight) but d and d motivated us then and generally stealing everthing that wasn’t nailed down.

    December 17, 2015
  13. Oldman #

    Hey Pete,

    An old Marist boy myself, and although I didn’t receive that many cuts, I’ll never forgive them for what I witnessed them do to others. ‘Love one another’ was a creed they did not follow in practice.

    I don’t hold a grudge, but they won’t be getting forgiveness from me, they can ask the Lord for that (ha, if there is one, they is in big trouble.)

    Friends from a nearby Maros were among those victimised by dolly Dunn and his cohorts.

    I’d say you were a better man for your reconciliation, but I don’t think that’s true. You may be a better man, but not for that reason. 🙂

    We had a 30 year reunion, a few of the lay teachers came, and they were good people.

    I was lucky though, the stories from my elder brothers was way worse.

    Best

    March 1, 2016

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