My Canterbury tale

The Oldie Magazine|June 2020

My Canterbury tale
850 years after Thomas à Becket’s murder, Ferdie Rous revisits his Kent school, the oldest in the world, and exorcises his bullies’ ghosts
Ferdie Rous

It’s cold when I arrive at Canterbury station. I’m still not sure I want to come back to my old school, King’s, Canterbury.

As I make my way down the hill – Bell Harry, the cathedral’s central tower, and the disgusting, grey, glassy Marlowe Theatre poking out of the flat skyline – I remember making the reverse journey seven years before.

It was the middle of the school term. I was coming home on exeat for a weekend. I didn’t return for two months.

Boarding got the better of me. I was stuck in a house with 50 other boys, commanded by a man whose only interest was a sport I couldn’t play. Badly bullied at school, I became bitter and cruel. And I am still not over it. I had refused to leave, when given the chance. That would’ve meant accepting defeat. Saving face was all.

As I get to the entrance to the cathedral precincts – also the entrance to my school – hesitating to go in, I see Sir John Boys House, named after the MP. Built-in the 17th century, it is a delight to the eye. Also called the Crooked House because of its squashed doorway, caused by a structural collapse, it is now a charity bookshop.

After much umming and aahing and three cigarettes, bought specially for the day – I quit eight months ago – I pluck up the courage to go in.

The King’s School, Canterbury, the oldest school in the world, founded in 597 by St Augustine of Canterbury – the first Archbishop of Canterbury and the founder of the English Church – takes up a good half of the cathedral precincts with boarding houses and its mix of medieval and modern classroom blocks.

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June 2020