Harold Gill attended a Catholic school from the age of four and he states that he spent the first days at school sat on the infant teachers knee, he later says that this is because when he compared the thought of being at school rather than being at home in his mother’s company he was upset and reluctant to accept the change.
However, Gill had to go to school and as he adjusted, he began to learn and the first glimpse we get of this education taking effect is when he says that the first lines he ever wrote at school was “Little white Lily sat by a stone, drooping and waiting until the sun shone” (page 2, section 1). Therefore, it can then be suggested that this is where Gill’s love for poetry stems from as it was one of the first things he learnt and thus he appreciated the words and their meaning because of the writing style in which was used.
Throughout the text Gill is constantly using different forms of poetry to try and convey his feelings whether it is information about his experiences of being a prisoner of war or just a quote he likes from poets such as Kipling. The use of poetry is important note because it appears to be a big part of his life.
In later years Harold then goes on to talk about how sometimes at school he would have a substitute teacher called Marion Pinder and he states that her presence had an important impact upon his life because he was later susceptible to girls with ‘pretty faces’.
However, Harold does not just discuss his teachers but also his experiences of being disciplined at school and how the penalty for misbehaving was two strokes of the cane. He also talks about a time in which the teacher left the classroom and expected the class to behave and when some of them misbehaved, they all got punished and had to copy and reflect upon “Tis the same with human nature, use the kindly they rebel; But be rough as nutmet greater, and the rogues obey ye well”. He states that this is important because it was the one and only example of teacher psychology he ever experienced at school.
Throughout the autobiography Gill mentions about the importance of religion in his life and as to how it gave him something to believe in when he was a P.O.W. This influence began in his childhood and not only did he attend church but he also read to the congregation ‘Ordinary of the mass’. Gill’s mother was told by the priest that his ‘intonation of the Latin mass was perfect’ and that he should have been a tutor. Gill looks upon this memory fondly as he recalls that irony of the fact that he had to ask his mother what a tutor was.
Nevertheless, as Gill got older he continued to learn even when the circumstances were not ideal, for example when he is first taken prisoner at a war camp in Japan, he states that it was suggested that they have lessons to help their academic advancement. Gill says that specialists in arts and crafts and teachers of all subjects willingly volunteered their services and it was only then that he found himself learning short-hand and studying French.
Written by Alexandra Meadwell and Joanne Gibson
Gill, Harold, Untitled, TS, pp.66 (c. 31,000 words). Brunel University Library, July 1987.