This week marks the return of London Writers Week, a celebration of new writing in the UK, and also 106 years since a particular David Knights-Whittome photograph was taken of the Carshalton Convent School boys. An unlikely connection it may seem! However, as you may know, over the last year we are proud to have worked alongside Sutton Writers group running a series of creative writing workshops. A result of the collaboration was a wonderful creative writing anthology Writing On Glass that we launched in May (you can find out more about the process behind this here). The writers who worked alongside the project engaged with the Knights-Whittome collection, bringing back to life the portraits in ways we could never have imagined, whilst helping to continue the longevity of the collection.
Each writing piece was imaginatively inspired by one of the collection’s photographs, interpreting the images through Poetry, short stories, Tweets and Plays. Today we are sharing a delightful piece written by LJ McMenemy, inspired by the ‘Carshalton Convent School boys’, taken on 17th July 1912.
What Became of These Likely Lads?
Gosh darn these boys are just a terror to deal with. Running around, throwing sticks at each other. They shouldn’t be throwing the sticks; they should be collecting them. This is a biology class, after all!
Take them on a field trip, they said. It will help them to better understand the class. They’ll pick up the leaves, touch the trees, feel the grass. They can take samples back to school and put them under the microscope.
But these boys? It’s ludicrous. They don’t listen. They don’t respect me. Mr Harmsworth never has this trouble with them, so why me? It’s not like I’m the first woman to teach here. OK, I’m the first woman to teach science here, but still…
“Boys! Boys! Calm down, please. It’s time for your photo. – Oh, I am sorry, sir. They just can’t be controlled, but Mr Harmsworth insisted we record this day trip; he does like his photos, y’know – Boys!”
Sometimes I do wonder why I do this to myself. Mother said teaching is no way to find a husband. She said female teachers always end up old spinsters. She’s just worried what people will say. It’s a wonder I’m even allowed out of the house for anything other than Sunday service at All Saints or our annual lavender-picking trip.
“Oh, for goodness’ sake – BOYS. Charles Wilson, won’t you please come here and join your classmates? Alfred Morris – Alfred, dear, please please button your jacket or I’ll never hear the end of it – sir, Mr Photographer, would you mind helping me here? They might listen to you – Errol Johnson! Where is your jacket! Oh dear, oh dear. This will not do.”
Why do we need a photo of this anyway? I know Mr Harmsworth is fussing over recording everything of late, but he’s not even here to be in this one – or to help, but that’s hardly surprising. I do wonder if the rumours are true and he’s not well in himself? Mrs Jennings said she saw him along the Fulham Road the other day, near that big cancer hospital. Why a lonely old codger like him would be doing there if he wasn’t sick, I’ll never know…
“Do gather together now, boys. The longer this goes on, the less time you will have for exploring the ponds. We must be back at the school by 11, remember – it’s assembly day. Mr Harmsworth has a big announcement to make and we mustn’t be late. Oh, goodness. That will have to do. Sir, please do what you can with this lot. We must get on. Big change is coming, you understand.”
Big change indeed. What will become of this lot? Heaven help us all…