What was it like?
Ottershaw School - The introduction When my parents first told me I would be attending boarding school I was filled with trepidation. They explained to me that as my father would be moving around the country due to his work, there was a need to provide me with a more settled education. They informed me that I would have to attend an interview at Ottershaw School where the headmaster was a certain Mr Foot. In the coming weeks I found out only two things about Mr Foot. It was believed he was related to the rather charismatic labour MP Michael Foot, but I was not sure in what way he was related; but more relevant was that I heard he was most particular about the state of pupil’s shoes. I was therefore most careful to ensure my shoes were immaculately polished for my interview.
My parents took me to the school by car and I clearly remember entering the main gates for the first time. It was awesome - like going into another world. The long winding drive past the out-buildings and then under the little bridge to the school seemed to go on forever. I remember noting an old fire engine parked outside of what I later learned were the school workshops. When I came face to face with the mansion for the first time it seemed like a castle, huge, cold, slightly forbidding, mysterious. We rang the bell and were soon quickly escorted though the massive bronze looking doors to the interior and then shown up the huge oak staircase to the first floor and on into the headmaster's study were for the first time I came face-to-face with the man who was to become my new headmaster. Wearing his university gown, but not a mortarboard hat as I had expected, Mr Foot slowly stood up from behind his huge desk at the far end of the rather large room which was his study. For a full minute he looked me up and down over the top of his half spectacles and then eventually asked my parents and I to sit - but then he seemed to stare at me for several moments more before sitting down himself. He appeared to have an almost mystical air and you definitely knew you were in the presence of someone very important. I cannot recall what was said at the interview but I did note on several occasions he did appear to look at my shoes and so I felt pleased that I had paid so much attention to them. After the interview he showed us into the room next door to his study, the unique octagonal dormitory which was called Galsworthy where all the windows were wide open and a freezing gale seemed to be blowing though the room. Mr Foot chuckled slightly as he pulled some of the windows closed and casually explained how the boys all liked the fresh air. To me it seemed I had entered a freezing hell. I was sure this was not the place I wanted to be.
A few weeks later I was to return to the school with my parents for a proper look around. A boy from East House called Jacobson was to be our escort and he spent almost three hours showing my parents and I all around the school and the grounds. I can remember thinking I didn't want to be sleeping anywhere in the mansion, to me it felt creepy and intimidating. I was sure I would want to be in the new more cosy and friendly looking buildings that we had seen which were West and Tulk houses. Eventually my parents received a notice to say that I would be joining the school later that year. I had been allocated to North House and this alone gave me my first feeling of dread as I knew this was to be in the mansion. I had also been assigned a strange number, OTT812 and to me this confirmed I was indeed entering some form of prison or perhaps place of terror.