(c) Alain Plouviez

CREATIVE Robert and Amanda Oosthuizen

NWR Issue 115

Boystown, SA

My first visit to Boystown, South Africa, was not what I expected. To me Boystown was just a school you went to from Nazareth House, Joburg. I’d heard of it. I knew of it. But that was all. One day a few of us boys from Nazareth House were taken for an afternoon taster session. They led us to this hugely muddy field where a couple of boys were riding round on horses. I looked and thought, Jaysus what am I doing here? I was used to the city. Not all this land and open space and mud. I felt pretty bad about the whole thing. Then I recognised one of the riders, my old friend Toofie O’Brian. I’d known him at Nazareth House and I’d forgotten he’d gone on to Boystown. It was so good to see old Toofie again. It changed my whole outlook on this muddy field. From then I thoroughly enjoyed the day and got as filthy as anything.
January came. I arrived at Boystown with nothing so I was taken to the workroom nun.

‘What size are you?’ she asked.
I shrugged. I was eleven. I didn’t know what the hell size I was. She issued me with used clothes and, as for the rest, God, was I in for a shock!

Father Orsmond, who set up the place, was one of the few adults other than the teachers. German nuns cooked for us and Sister Consolata looked after our health; well, she sent us to the horse doctor if things looked anywhere near serious. But the rest was run by the boys. We had a mayor, councillors, cops and varying degrees of citizenship, the lowest of which was undercop. In theory you were undercop for your own protection. Undercops had to follow a cop around all day and were not allowed contact with anybody else and they were not allowed to sit down. Fortunately, I was never in that position but I was a cop for a while and it was a damn pain looking after the undercops. A favourite punishment was weeding the rugby pitch. Not as easy as you might think. Anyway, the structure of the school took a lot of getting used to and I’m not quite sure I ever did. The mayor was elected, as were the councillors and cops. OK, so forget about that, the bottom line was: Boystown was run by the boys. It was scary.

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