Whatever Happened to the Y?

by Andrew Watson (OA 1957 – 64)

As one of the older OAs who regularly reads the Ashvillian Update and its predecessors, I look in particular for anything that reminds me of my time at Ashville: news of boysAndrew Watson of that time, masters, staff, and changes in the use of the older buildings. One thing that I don’t recall being mentioned is the ‘Y’. Has it been retired and, if so, when and why? Perhaps it has been replaced by some more modern, educationally-correct system.

Many readers will wonder what on earth I am talking about, but those who remember the following line will know exactly what I mean:

Few things are more distressing to a well educated mind than to see a boy WHO OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER disporting himself at improper moments.

I am of course referring to the punishment system used throughout the school. In my day – late fifties and early sixties – it worked as follows: 2Y was issued for being late, 3Y for something a bit more serious, and 6Y for being really bad. Y was issued by both masters and prefects and was added up every Wednesday. For every Y issued “Few things are more distressing …” had to be written out a certain number of times depending on which form the boy was in. I seem to remember that it was 14 times per Y for sixth form boys. However, no one put pen to paper until the Wednesday list was published, as there was a fair-to-middling chance that the master or prefect had forgotten to put it in the book! “Phew – got away with that one”, was often heard at lunchtime on a Wednesday.

The lines had to be written on pink paper purchased from the stock cupboard run by David Welsh, the physics master, at 1d per sheet, and posted through the office letter box by 9 am on the following Monday. Those with 4Y and above had to serve time in detention on a Saturday afternoon. This was supervised by Jack Ingham, the French master. He required each boy to bring pink paper and a text book – any textbook – and spend up to two hours copying from that book. Any boy with a bit of nous used this time to revise for tests or exams.

Detention served in lieu of line-writing for those with 4, 5 or 6Y so there was no rushing to meet the Monday deadline. However, more than 6Y required that the additional Y had to be written out. So a boy who had been cheeky once and late once, receiving a total of 8Y, would serve two hours in detention and have to write 2Y as lines.

This complicated system was well known to all the boys as we had grown up with it, but it flummoxed new masters during their first weeks at Ashville, and often resulted in Y not being booked!

That’s not all. If I remember correctly, 9Y meant the issue of a green card. This was about postcard size and printed as a blank time table. It had to be placed on the master’s desk at the beginning of every lesson and prep period for a week, and hopefully the master or prefect would write “Good” in the appropriate box to reflect the boy’s behaviour. The card had to be checked by Harry Davies, the Senior Master, after lunch every day. Every blank or “Bad” resulted in another 2Y, and forgetting to get it checked a further 2Y. They soon added up. One other thing – 6Y and above (I think) meant a chat with the Headmaster, Ron Southam, and you weren’t offered coffee!

So there we have it: the Y system as I remember it. Others from that era may wish to correct the detail and give their experiences. Perhaps someone younger may wish to write a sequel describing the Y’s successor. Someone older could perhaps say why the Y was called the Y!

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