Mr Lyward's Answer
At the time I went there, Mr Lyward had about forty boys in residence, between the ages of fifteen and twenty, with an occasional fourteen-year old. The average age was seventeen and a half, a time, as one visiting psychiatrist remarked, 'when many people used to this work think it's too late'. Roughly half were private 'patients', paid for by their families and sent from public schools; local authorities paid in part or entirely for most of the remainder. There were and always had been some half-dozen whom Mr Lyward kept for nothing. He had no money of his own. Financially Finchden had to support itself For twenty-six years it had existed on a precarious margin, and looked like having to continue so. No one had endowed it. It received no State grant; as long as the boys remained there, Mr Lyward bore sole responsibility. His reputation as healer and teacher stood so high that most authorities and doctors were content to leave them to him; this, naturally enough, was not always quite true of parents.
He had a staff of six, most of them in their thirties. There were no fixed hours, except for meals, which the boys cooked and served themselves, and bed-time; no fixed term-times; and no fixed holidays. The local doctor, a wise and co-operative friend, looked after the boys' health. The staff had holidays, weekends, days off; but could not be spared for the much longer vacations of an ordinary school. Although the house itself and the general sense of being immune and harboured reminded me of one of the old public schools, Finchden had no speech-days; no old boys' tie; no blazers; no chapel or school-hall; no Board of Governors, Visitor or Patron; and no conventions, written or unwritten, of what was or was not correct behaviour. It did not publish a prospectus. It was not Borstal nor an approved school. No boy, once there, could feel that he had been sent as a punishment and he found no punishments imposed. The rebel child of blue blood lived for years alongside the potential cosh boy. None seemed curious why any of the others had been sent. Once settled there, they had crossed a frontier from the past.
For the first few days I was given time to find my feet. I had no duties yet. Changes, an occasional crisis, occurred all round me, situations and odd entanglements developed, of which I was only vaguely aware; some I did not know were happening at all. I could understand Mr Lyward when he was talking to the boys; but when to me, I continued to feel as if I had walked into a labyrinth. First to the morning's mail, then to an article he had written during the war, then to a memory twenty years old and still fresh; and so to the New Testament, Shelley, Shakespeare, and back to some inquiry sent him from a County Council. (He spoke of local authorities as if they were the nobles in Shakespeare's historical plays: 'Kent wants to know', or 'Northumberland is now asking ...'). I followed him, never fewer than two thoughts behind
It became clear within a week that I had stumbled on something far more than rehabilitation. This indeed was achieved; but incidentally, as part of a much larger liberation. My first clue became the small word 'respite'.
'Ponder over this word,' Mr Lyward suggested in a lecture to a learned society. 'I say it as one who loved teaching subjects, but has not officially taught them for twenty-one years; not since I decided that some young people needed complete respite from lessons as such, in schools as such, so that they could be shepherded back from the ways ... by which they have escaped for a while their real challenge...' I resolved to investigate why and how the boys had come, and what happened on their arrival.
Brief extract from Chapter Two of Mr Lyward's Answer
by Michael Burn
The story of George Lyward and Finchden Manor
First published 1956 by Hamish Hamilton Ltd