Hello. How are you doing? We never hang out any more. I miss you. I miss us. Everyone’s just so busy, that’s the problem. But we have to make the time. Soon. We should get the whole gang together. We can drink Bloody Marys like we used to and talk about the old times. Do you ever think about the old times?
Do you remember how it used to be when we were together?
We didn’t have so many commitments then, any of us. So much work, so much keeping up with everyone to do. But we tried harder as well. Let’s not tell ourselves that it was just easy. We used to try, that’s the difference between then and now. One of the differences, I should say. I know there are others.
Then when will I see you?
We’re sitting at some table, the whole group, or some configuration of the group, at one of those countless tables that we sat around and chattered endlessly, as we came together and played games and shared meals and celebrated birthdays, as we drank wine, argued about politics and had falling outs that didn’t matter even as they were happening. And in this aggregate memory of who knows how many nights over the course of, god.., it’s upsetting even to guess how many years.., I think of the two of us. Though we’re not sitting beside each other, maybe we’re even at opposite ends of the table. But somethingsomething has been saidsaid, some comment by Laura about a boy of hers, or by Faisal about that dog, that fucking dogfucking dog of his, and I’ve looked up at you and found you already looking at me, and you roll your eyes and smile, or maybe nothing, and I’ve just fallen into the pleasant red wine slump of contentment and gratitude, where I’m happy to be in this place with these people, and I’ve looked up at you and found your eyes already waiting for me. And you smile, and it’s like lying in bed in a stretch of sunlight on a freshly laundered Sunday morning.
We knew each other’s thoughts without having to speak them. We were just held in the curve of the same wave, and we lived there for years, without ever thinking it was something special. It’s only now that we’ve been carried apart that I realise just how special it was, and I begin to worry that I’ll never have it again.
Actually, I’m moving just now, so it might be better to wait.
I’ve been a freelance journalist (working for the NME and the Guardian, among others) and done a range of work for publishers like Penguin (where I worked full-time), Random House, Granta, Pushkin Press and Hodder, including writing copy, making videos and websites.
Muscle won the Sceptre Prize (£1,500 given by the publisher to a novel-in-progress) six years ago. I've recently completed a first draft of it. It’s shorter than you might think, considering how long it’s taken.
You can buy one of my storiesmy story ‘A Hospital for Boys’ as an ebook. It's pay-what-you-want. I get an email when someone buys it, telling me how much they paid. I don't mind when they pay nothing, I'm just glad someone's interested in reading the story. I just thought you might want to know, about the email I get.
It’s a horror story. It startsreads:
Head Governor Crikk calls for attention.
To begin the meeting the Rev. Moleson leads the Governors in the Lord’s Prayer. Then Crikk himself gives a short prayer, thanking the Lord for granting the Founder such expansive generosity and asking Him for the continued success of the Founder’s investments and – should He, in His benevolence, see fit – perhaps some improvement in the Founder’s regrettable ill health.
Maybury records in the Minutes that Youngshank apparently does not see reason to grant his concurrence to the Head Governor’s sentiments regarding either Lord, Founder or both, and instead remains silent, his head unbowed, while the others Amen.
The Minutes from the previous meeting are read by Maybury.:
The Lord’s Prayer and a prayer for the improved health and continuing financial good fortunes of the Founder were given. The minutes from the inaugural meeting of the Board were then read. Youngshank was accepted as a Governor on a vote of 13–1 (with Maybury dissenting) and his oath given. The Founder’s current condition (largely unchanged) was conveyed to the Board by Doctor Hughes, who had kindly delayed his return to Edinburgh in order to appear. The most judicious manner in which to go about accessing the funds necessary for the purchase of building materials was discussed and settled (as the collection of selected debts owed to the Founder), with Treasurer Gormley to report on progress made at the next meeting of the Board. Changes to the proposed plans for the main Hospital building were discussed and unanimously agreed to (including the rotation of the building to more closely follow the natural slope of the proposed site), and a further motion to commend the architect in an official letter, to be drafted by the Head Governor’s assistant, passed, also unanimously. The Founder’s condition was again raised, with Governor Humphries generously offering that a recent addition to his house staff – a young boy of much promise and apparently much cared for by Governor Humphries’ head servant (perhaps the boy’s father) – be gifted in the interests of the Founder’s well-being. Governor Humphries asked that his personal sacrifice be noted, not because it flattered him that it be so, but rather as a reminder of the inconvenience that would surely incur on all of the Governors should the admission of the first boys to the Hospital suffer delay. This was duly done. Finally, a date was agreed for the Board to reconvene and the proceedings were called to an end by Head Governor Crikk.
Maybury retakes his seat.
Of the debtors selected in consultation with the Founder, Treasurer Gormley reports, eighteen of the twenty-seven have responded with full or partial payment of the debt due. Their combined payment has amounted to a total of 11,217 pounds, easily surpassing the 10,000 pounds deemed by the Board to be the sum necessary to proceed with preparations for the construction of the Hospital buildings.
Here he turns to Treasurer Gormley, who informs the Board that these nine men represent a combined debt of some 392 pounds.
– will be expunged and the money they owe be absorbed as an unfortunate but necessary loss into the Hospital’s accounts. By so doing, the Board wish to encourage other debtors not to consider abandoning their duties regarding the Hospital and the benevolent Founder.
Head Governor Crikk then proposes that, unless there is any objection, Governor Blake be put in charge of the sending of ships to Norway for the timber necessary to begin construction. Also, that Governor Youngshank set about hiring the necessary wrights (supposed to number about twenty), ensuring that they be ready to work immediately on the arrival of materials.
Governor Youngshank agrees without hesitation to his new charge but wonders whether he might raise a query about the quantities of materials earmarked for construction of the Hospital – which he imagines, though he admits to being untrained in such matters, may outweigh necessity – as well as the purpose of the second building, which he finds it hard to discern from the Hospital plans.
Head Governor Crikk explains to Governor Youngshank that both matters were dealt with in the Board’s inaugural meeting and he would prefer that their discussion not come to dominate proceedings for a second time. He hopes it will be enough to satisfy Governor Youngshank’s curiosity to know that an excess of materials has been deliberately allowed for and that it is these which are to be housed in the second building. This has been done to satisfy an explicit request by the Founder, with the second building to be built within a distance allowing convenient access should the use of the reserve materials at any time be deemed necessary by the Founder, though not so close that it might impede expansion of the Hospital building should such expansion prove necessary. If Governor Youngshank still finds his curiosity unsatisfied, it may be useful for him to refer to the minutes of the inaugural meeting of the Board.
Governor Youngshank explains to Head Governor Crikk that he has indeed referred to the minutes of the inaugural meeting of the Board, but still struggles to grasp the service to be performed by the execution of the Founder’s plans regarding the reserve materials, as outlined in the adjusted Hospital plans by the Founder’s own architect. He wonders under what circumstances measures of fortification such as those anticipated and allowed for by the Founder should ever be required by a Hospital for boys.
Head Governor Crikk explains to Governor Youngshank that the Founder is a great man – as great, even now, in the grip of his illness, as the most distinguished of his fellow countrymen – and that, though some of his notions may be beyond the grasp of the Board, nonetheless it was their duty to fulfil his wishes in these matters to the full extent of their limited abilities. As these wishes did not interfere with the Board’s stated aims as regards the creation and upkeep of a Hospital for indigent boys, Head Governor Crikk struggles to see why Governor Youngshank might wish to raise an objection, if he is indeed so doing, to following the Founder’s wishes. Particularly as it is the Founder’s incomparable generosity and charity that makes the noble endeavour of the Hospital, as well as the existence of the Board, possible.
Governor Youngshank apologises and takes pains to explain that he in no way means to imply a criticism of the Founder or his wishes regarding the second building. His curiosity regarding the Founder’s doubtlessly visionary plans stems only from his deep-seated respect for a man and a thinker quite without peer, and his own desire to improve himself through as keen an understanding as possible of the Founder’s illuminating ideals.
Minutes-Keeper Maybury records this chastisement verbatim.
The unresolved difficulty of transporting the stone required from the architect’s preferred supplier is raised and Governor Carnum informs the Board that there is a man with whom he is acquainted currently in the process of opening a granite quarry within the City’s boundaries. Carnum suggests that some, if not all, of the building might be composed of granite from this venture at an extremely reasonable cost, saving the Board the inconvenience and expense of transporting the stone a great distance. This suggestion is agreed to, in principle, by the Board and a Committee of Five elected (Governors Carnum, Youngshank, Gormley, Donne and Hucheon) to explore the advantages and costs of pursuing it and report back to the Board at their next meeting.
While Governor Watson recognises that this is an issue some time from becoming pressing, he thinks it prudent to consider the number of boys the Board would ideally like to see in an initial intake on the building’s completion, as well as the number of boys it is imagined the Hospital will be able to comfortably accommodate.
The matter is discussed at some length until Governor Riach requests that, in deference to the considerable advancement of the hour and of his years, the Board postpone further talk on the subject until the time of the next meeting. A date for such is set and Head Governor Crikk calls proceedings to a close.
Head Governor Crikk calls for attention.
The Rev. Moleson leads the Governors in the Lord’s Prayer. Then Head Governor Crikk does likewise in a prayer thanking the Lord for the Founder’s charity, asking for continued success in the financial endeavours that make this charity possible and any improvement in health that the Lord may be willing to bestow upon him.
With this done, Maybury reads the Minutes from the previous meeting.:
The Lord’s Prayer and a prayer of thanks for the Founder, asking for his improved health and continuing financial good fortunes, were given. The minutes from the fifth meeting of the Board were then read. The Committee of Three under Governor Youngshank (with Governors Donne and Hucheon) gave a brief report on their visit to the site of the Hospital, delivering the news that since the expunging of Foreman Robertson and the instatement of Foreman More, progress had been much improved, with completion likely to occur little more than a month after the initially proposed deadline. A motion to commend Foreman More on his efforts in an official letter, to be drafted by the Head Governor’s assistant, was passed unanimously, with a further motion to express the condolences of the Board to the Widow Robertson also passed on a vote of 13–2 (with Rev. Moleson and Governor Maybury dissenting). The number and arrangement of the boys’ beds was finalised (with three beds to a room, each bed measuring three and one half foot wide and five and one half foot in length, and two boys to a bed) and the initial intake of boys determined (to be fifteen, with an expectation that the number would rise to thirty within the first two months and to ninety within the first three years). With no other business raised, Head Governor Crikk informed the Board that he had visited the Founder and found his condition considerably worsened since the return of Doctors Hughes and Knott to Edinburgh. The Board agreed that some action would have to be determined at their next meeting to forestall any continued depletion of the benevolent Founder’s reserves of health. A date was set for the next meeting of the Board and Head Governor Crikk called proceedings to a close.
Minutes-Keeper Maybury sits.
Head Governor Crikk takes this opportunity to officially announce that of which the members of the Board are doubtless already aware – that the construction of the Hospital, under the supervision of Forman More, continues without interruption at a most satisfactory pace and will soon be ready to accept the sons of the common poor.
There is scattered applause from the Governors.
Crikk continues that, with the dignified severity of the Hospital building already commanding the attention and admiration of the City, the time has come for the Governors to appoint the Master and two Schoolmasters necessary to instruct the first intake of boys.
He suggests that the Governors accept Rev. Gordon, Minister of New Deer, as Master. Governor Carnum suggests an alternative candidate – an acquaintance of his called Menzies, who has, through the expansive nature of his travels and business dealings, doubtless accrued much knowledge that would prove of invigorating interest to his wards. Head Governor Crikk suggests that if the Menzies Governor Carnum refers to is the man he believes him to be then he falls short of several of the requirements set out for a prospective Master of the Hospital, not least the Statute insisting that any member of staff employed by the Hospital be celibate and of good moral character. After a short discussion, a vote is taken and Gordon accepted as Master 14–1, with only Governor Carnum voting instead for his acquaintance.
Governor Youngshank inquires what candidates there are currently contending for the positions of the two Schoolmasters, as well as for the other roles that would by necessity arise on the introduction of the first boys to the Hospital, such as a Cook and Steward, and whether it might not be circumspect of the Board to publicly advertise these roles to ensure that the most capable man for each be found. He reminds the Board of the difficulties and delay incurred after the hiring of Foreman Robertson, another acquaintance of Governor Carnum’s, who, he does not think it necessary to say, proved to be not best qualified for his new position of responsibility.
Governor Carnum seems momentarily moved to make comment on this rather impolitic statement by Governor Youngshank (Minutes-Keeper Maybury records) but, with admirable dignity and restraint, ultimately declines to do so.
Governor Riach suggests that, given the value of the Board’s limited and increasingly dwindling time on this good earth, these matters may profitably be left to the newly appointed Master to deal with, interfering in the daily affairs of the Hospital, after all, not being their function.
There is scattered applause.
Head Governor Crikk suggests that the new Master be advised to select his staff as he see fit for ultimate approval by the Board at their next meeting. The Board agrees to this without objection, though Governor Youngshank signals his agreement by silence only.
This matter dealt with, the Head Governor has to raise a rather unfortunate issue. The Founder’s sister, a lady, as he is sure the Governors recall, whose communications it has been the unfortunate duty of the Board to deal with once in the past, has again been in touch insisting that she is entitled to some provision of care from the Founder’s estate. The Head Governor informs the Board she has seemingly taken up with a man by the name of Finnie and his petitions on her behalf that she not go unprovided for by her more respectable kin have become too insistent to ignore any longer.
It is the Rev. Moleson who first wonders aloud whether anything might be done by way of expunging her, and perhaps her suitor, Finnie, if they could not be discouraged by other means from their impudent pleas for undeserved charity. Governor Watson reminds the Reverend that the Founder has clearly expressed his wish that she go unmolested at the hands of the Board.
Governor Carnum has heard it said among some of the most moral and decent circles of society that, when necessity requires it, there is nothing shameful in the use of money in purchasing reprieve from a persistent woman.
Head Governor Crikk suggests that Treasurer Gormley try to discern whether a single small payment to the Founder’s sister might be enough to dissuade her from further harassing the Board. The Treasurer agrees to contact her and attempt to discern what figure might be suitable to offer. Governor Youngshank takes this moment to express the importance of keeping the Founder’s sister mindful that any donation is evidence only of the considerable compassion of the Board and the Founder, and not of any duty or obligation to which she might imagine them bound.
The Head Governor moves that if Treasurer Gormley can deflect her petitions with a sum he feels to be reasonable then he should do so without further discussion in order that the Board may consider the matter, for the time being, dealt with.
This is unanimously agreed.
Doctors Hughes and Knott had again visited the Founder, bringing with them this time their colleagues the Doctors Gall, Marr and Livingstone. Unfortunately, the most pronounced result of this visit was a significant downturn in the health of the Founder, doubtless brought on by some controversial comments regarding the Founder’s condition by Dr Marr, unhelpfully endorsed by Dr Gall.
Ah – the Head Governor has just remembered some business that went unattended to this morning. He asks the good gentlemen of the Board for their forbearance for one minute, while he sends his assistant to deliver a letter of some urgency.
While the Head Governor is not about to dignify the doctors’ ill-considered comments by re-airing them, they vexed the Founder considerably and pushed his health to quite its lowest ebb. Head Governor Crikk informs the Board that in order to secure the Founder’s well-being until the admission of the first boys to the Hospital, he has taken the difficult step of deciding to gift his assistant, a fine and capable young man in whom the Founder, on the Head Governor’s last visit to him, had expressed some considerable interest.
The only necessary addendum to the sorry affair, Head Governor Crikk feels, is that the Board should doubtless respond to the unnecessary distress caused the Founder by the Doctors Marr and Gall with an official letter of admonishment, to be drafted by the Head Governor’s assistant . . . Ah, indeed. The Head Governor wonders if Governor Youngshank might undertake to draft the letter to the two doctors.
Head Governor Crikk calls for attention.
Rev. Moleson leads the Governors in the Lord’s Prayer and Head Governor Crikk delivers a prayer thanking the Lord for the Founder’s charity and asking for the continued success of his financial endeavours.
The minutes from the previous meeting are read by Maybury.:
Before proceedings began, Head Governor Crikk made it known that the Founder had forbidden anyone associated with the Hospital, whether Governors, Master, Schoolmasters, general staff or boys, from ever publicly implying or privately supposing that the Founder’s condition was a detrimental one, as this could not be further from the truth. Any suggestion that the Founder’s health was depleted, by explicit reference to an illness, or implicit in an expression of hope for his improved well being, should be looked on in a very hostile light by the Board, as it doubtless would be by the Founder himself. The seriousness of any such offence was made unambiguously clear. The Lord’s Prayer and a prayer thankful for the Founder and appealing for the continued success of his financial affairs were given. The minutes of the ninth meeting of the Board were then read. Head Governor Crikk informed the Board that, after the most recent visit of Doctors Hughes, Knotts, Livingstone, Webster, Donald, Bennet, Hardy, Eglistone, Findlater and Thom to the Founder, no further medical attention would be necessary, with the Doctors to be informed of this in an official letter to be drafted by the Head Governor’s assistant. Head Governor Crikk raised the issue of increasing reports of indiscipline amongst the boys of the Hospital. A Committee of Four was elected (Governors Youngshank, Watson, Donne and Hucheon) to visit the Hospital and discern whether Master Gordon was capable of controlling his charges. The two boys selected by Master Gordon as those to be gifted to the Founder were confirmed by the Board without objection, and a date for the next meeting of the Board set. Head Governor Crikk called proceedings to a close.
Minutes-Keeper Maybury retakes his seat.
Governor Youngshank laments that the news the Committee of Four carry from their visit to the Hospital will not well please the Board. On visiting the Hospital, not only were the negative accounts regarding the behaviour of the boys confirmed, they found the situationto be substantially further deteriorated than they anticipated.
The Committee understood prior to their visit that one of the main areas of concern was the number of boys absconding or attempting to abscond. Over the duration of their visit some eleven of the twenty-three enrolled boys were found to be absent, six of these subsequently found endeavouring to join a Russian ship in the City harbour. In addition, two members of staff, including a Schoolmaster named Strachan, were unaccounted for. Strachan, the Committee reports, has been absent for some five weeks after failing to return from a leave of three days that had been granted him.
Another worry of the Committee, Youngshank makes known, is that the Hospital has suffered a sharp increase in the number of boys wetting their beds, leading to many of the beds becoming rotten through and requiring replacement. Punishment of this unpleasant practice, including whipping, has done little to curtail its prevalence.
Governor Youngshank reports that both of these regrettable developments were found by the Committee to be linked in some considerable measure to rumours circulating amongst the boys regarding the condition of the Founder – the staff of the Hospital failing to successfully quash said rumours. In fact, remarkably, Governor Watson was able to trace one of the most widespread and pernicious expressions of these rumours to the woman that comes every morning to comb the boys’ heads.
The common features of these rumours, Governor Youngshank goes on until interrupted by Rev. Moleson, who wonders what the Board has to gain by rooting in the unwholesome and baseless prattle of indigent children about a fine man, a great man, whose sad state, in the grip of a debilitating and awful sickness, should in a decent and Godly world protect him from the derisive and shameful heckles of those most profoundly in his debt.
There is a silence of some moments. Minutes-Keeper Maybury notes that the Rev. Moleson’s distasteful comments regarding the Founder confirm the long-held doubts of some of the more perceptive of the Governors regarding his inaptness for serving on the Board.
Governor Riach roars with a large, righteous fury, and moves for the Reverend Moleson with a speed quite unexpected, the vigour of his attack unfortunately proving irreconcilable with the condition and age (enfeebled and considerable) of his heart. Riach expires and it is left to the other Governors, their irritation increased by his loss, to expunge Rev. Moleson. With the Head Governor’s assistant set to dealing with the debris of the two ex-Governors, Head Governor Crikk calls the Board again to order.
Governor Youngshank asks that, although it is of the utmost importance to frame them as the detestable chatterings of the ignorant, superstitious and disrespectful, the Board grant the Committee of Four leave to repeat the ugly rumours circulating the Hospital on the subject of the Founder, on the basis that as full an understanding of them as possible may be necessary in correcting the troubled minds and injurious beliefs of the boys.
Head Governor Crikk believes it should be possible for the Board to officially recognise the need for the Committee of Four to document the rumours without reprise – it having been clearly stated and understood that they would be speaking out of unpleasant duty, rather than revelling in the pleasure of scurrilous gossip. Head Governor Crikk is sure that to do otherwise would be hostile to the interests of the benevolent Founder, which they must never be moved to shy from, despite any understandable coyness following the unpleasant scene caused by ex-Governor Moleson –
Here, Minutes-Keeper Maybury crosses himself.
– and his meritless attack on the good Founder. Though he suggests that perhaps the obnoxious details might best be omitted from the Minutes, in the interests of sparing the Founder unnecessary upset. This is agreed 12–0, with Governor Hucheon apparently still too shaken to participate in the vote.
Governor Youngshank continues the report of the Committee of Four on the inharmonious state of the Hospital. He informs the Board that, as he had been saying, the common features of the rumours possessing the Hospital and its boys were that the Founder was, in essence, in league with, or in thrall to a . . . Here it was difficult, Governor Youngshank admitted, to know precisely with which words to proceed. Perhaps the importance of religious observance and instruction had been overstressed in the education of the boys, but they felt a devilish power of some sort inhabited the Founder. Most commonly the belief expressed was that this power inhabited the body of the Founder, much as a lung or kidney could be said to, but was capable of separating at night and moving as a creature of its own volition.
Head Governor Crikk assumes that whatever Governor Maybury is currently writing it is certainly not the Minutes of the meeting of the Board, in which, and as agreed, certainly no mention of any of the material currently under discussion will appear.
Governor Youngshank does not wish to dwell on unnecessary details but imagines it will suffice to say that the creature is supposed to search for the young, most frequently the indigent young and, and here the gesture of Governor Youngshank’s hand lays a dismissive etcetera before the eminent members of the Board.
Governor Watson, speaking for the Committee of Four, makes it known that the Committee has some suggestions for how the distemper of the boys of the Hospital might be addressed in the short term. The response to these measures might inform the Board as to whether it see fit to adjust the staffing of the Hospital – almost certainly replacing Strachan, the absent schoolmaster, and in all likelihood seriously considering the position of Master Gordon.
These measures are discussed. They include the induction of some of the more dependable boys as Censors for the control of the others, and that whippings be in future conducted in the square in front of the main building with all boys required to observe. In order to encourage and reward positive behaviour, Governor Youngshank for the Committee suggests that boys found to be adequately obeying Hospital rules be allowed to keep rabbits, pigeons or crows as pets. The Committee also recommends that the previously forbidden practice of onanism be encouraged in those boys over twelve years of age as a means to release pent up energies that may otherwise find release in destructive tendencies, such as the recent incident involving the acquirement and discharge of a cannon (causing some damage to the Hospital building and the death of one of the boys involved). Each of these measures is voted on and agreed (Censors, 9–3; boys to observe whippings, 10–2; pets, 9–3; onanism, unanimous; Governor Hucheon found still incapable of voting), and a Committee of Three comprised of Governors Youngshank, Watson and Donne is appointed – Governor Hucheon’s continued state of agitation by necessity excusing him – to convey them to the Master and gauge their success.
Head Governor Crikk regrets that, although proceedings have gone on at great length already and not without unsightly disturbance, there is still the matter of some communications received from the Founder to be dealt with.
The Founder instructs that he will be taking up residence within the Hospital, with the Board to manage arrangements for the movement of the Founder’s bed, containing the Founder, into position in the centre of the lead cupola that caps the main building. In order to achieve this a scaffold will be erected and the cupola temporarily removed and then replaced following the Founder’s insertion. Additionally, the Founder instructs that the plans for fortification, using the materials housed in the second Hospital building, be put into effect, including the digging of a trench, to be fifteen foot wide at its top and fronted by palisades with regular watchtowers along their perimeter.
Governor Youngshank wonders if he might interject with some questions, and Head Governor Crikk intimates that a questioning by Governor Youngshank is not something he feels quite strong enough to deal with at this juncture.
The execution of the Founder’s wishes has been broadly prepared and Head Governor Crikk will by the end of the week be in touch with Governors Youngshank, Maybury, Watson, Donne, Carnum, Humphries and, if he is quite recovered, Hucheon to explain to each his role.
And with that, Head Governor Crikk would very much like to call proceedings to a close.
Head Governor Crikk asks Minutes-Keeper Maybury to read the minutes of the previous meeting.
Governor Youngshank reminds the Head Governor that the Board have not yet given the oath to the Founder.
Head Governor Crikk wonders if Governor Youngshank approves of a reading of the minutes at this point in proceedings.
Governor Youngshank does not voice an objection.
Minutes-Keeper Maybury reads the minutes of the previous meeting.:
Head Governor Crikk led the Board in the oath to the Founder. The minutes of the twelfth meeting of the Board were then read. The four boys selected by Master Gordon to be gifted to the Founder were confirmed by the Board without objection. The Committee of Three (Governors Youngshank, Veitch and Watson) sent to inspect the fortifications of the Hospital reported that repairs had been satisfactorily completed. Governor Youngshank suggested on behalf of the committee that Foreman More be commended in an official letter to be drafted by the Head Governor’s assistant. Governor Donne informed the Board that a letter had been received from the Foreman to which their attention might profitably be drawn. The letter was read to the Board, in which the Foreman identified a boy of the Hospital as a relative, the son of his brother, and requested that the boy be given into his care. Governor Donne suggested that the Board might reward the Foreman’s loyal service by acceding to his request. Head Governor Crikk questioned why the Foreman should want the child to avoid what was after all the great privilege of serving the glorious Founder. Head Governor Crikk questioned why Governor Donne should want the child to be denied the honour of the Founder’s attentions. The Head Governor reminded the Board that the greatness of this honour was one of the Board’s guiding principles. At Head Governor Crikk’s request the Foreman’s nephew and the boys to be gifted to the Founder were brought before the Board. Head Governor Crikk spoke to the Foreman’s nephew, asking him if he knew the other boys. Head Governor Crikk explained to the Foreman’s nephew at length the manner of the honour they were to receive. It was necessary for the boys to be controlled. Head Governor Crikk asked the Foreman’s nephew if he would like to be granted this honour. The boy’s answer was unintelligible. The Head Governor called for the Board to decide which of the four boys should be denied this privilege in order for the Foreman’s nephew to take their place. At Head Governor Crikk’s command each boy in turn begged to be allowed to serve the Founder. There was some discussion among the Board. Governor Youngshank suggested one of the boys, his name Dempster, as the least suitable for gifting on the basis of physique and health, and the choice was agreed (11–0 with Head Governor Crikk abstaining). A date was set for the next meeting of the board and Head Governor Crikk called proceedings to a close.
Head Governor Crikk thanks Minutes-Keeper Maybury.
Head Governor Crikk asks if any non-urgent business might be delayed until the next meeting of the Board. Governor Youngshank raises the issue of the persistently inadequate service of Master Gordon. While the whipping given the Master in view of his charges had previously seemed to improve his ability to control them, Governor Youngshank regrets to report that this control has again slipped, resulting in an increase in the number of absconding boys and a deal of time and money spent by Youngshank, Veitch and Watson in their retrieval.
Head Governor Youngshank calls for attention.
The Minutes from the previous meeting are read by Minutes-Keeper Youngshank.:
Head Governor Youngshank led the Governors in the oath to the Founder. The minutes of the sixteenth meeting of the Board were read. The Committee of Two in charge of the Governors’ relocation to the Hospital (Governors Watson and Blake) reported its successful completion. Head Governor Youngshank moved for the creation of a Committee of Two in charge of night patrols of the Hospital’s perimeter (to be comprised of Governors Watson and Blake). This was approved by the Board (1–0, with Governors Watson and Blake abstaining). Governor Watson reported that since the marching out, only three boys remained (Jenkins, suffering from tuberculosis; Gillett, diminished in strength by the attentions of the Founder; and Duncan, also tuberculosis) and that he had been unable to locate Master Gordon. Governor Watson moved that the Governors discuss plans to abandon the Hospital. There was an amendment by Head Governor Youngshank that the motion and Governor Watson were incompetent. Governor Watson made some derogatory remarks regarding the character of the Head Governor and of the Founder. Discussion followed and Governor Watson was expunged by Head Governor Youngshank. Head Governor Youngshank moved that his eyes and jaw be retained to serve as a message to the remaining members of the Board (Head Governor Youngshank and Governor Blake). This was agreed to without objection. Head Governor Youngshank read a letter to the Board signed by the disgraced Doctors Gall, Marr, Livingstone, Webster and Donald, who claimed the support of Doctors Hughes, Knotts, Bennet, Hardy, Eglistone, Findlater and Thom, as well as, regrettably, ex-Head Governor Crikk. In it the Founder, a visionary man, a prophet, the first man to unravel the secret of potentially unending longevity, was attacked as a man in possession of a pathological and deranged mind, the employment of the boys mischaracterised as “unpardonable abuse”, and the Hospital, a good and charitable foundation, maligned as “a frightful device for the exploitation of the common poor”. Head Governor Youngshank wondered if the Doctors might be sent the eyes of Governor Watson. Head Governor Youngshank wondered whether the Doctors had any children. The oath to the Founder was again given. Head Governor Youngshank moved that the Board (Governor Blake) should in future ensure that their voices were raised with the spiritual rapture of the most devout precentor during the giving of the oath if they did not wish to incur the displeasure of the benevolent Founder. Head Governor Youngshank called proceedings to a close.
Head Governor Youngshank regrets to announce that, since the gifting and exhaustion of the final remaining boy of the Hospital, the Founder’s health has suffered greatly. Additionally, with the substantially reduced capacity of the Board, its ability to serve the Founder in other ways has lessened. Fearing another, better prepared encounter with a parent or, indeed parents, of the ex-boys of the Hospital, Head Governor Youngshank doubts whether it will be possible for the Board to effectively defend the full length of the Hospital’s palisades, particularly as the Board can no longer remember the last time it slept, so caught up in serving the Founder has it been. The Board is uncertain whether it is better that it should wait until nightfall and enter the City in the hopes of finding a boy who might be useful to the Founder, by means of the necessary incisions and the false, but mysteriously productive, congress. Or to barricade the Hospital, block off the Founder’s chamber within the lead cupola and wait to repel all possible assault. A vote is taken but tied (0–0, with Head Governor Youngshank abstaining) and the Board decides to give again the oath to the Founder and hope that in His benevolence and wisdom the Founder might offer some sign as to what should be done in His name.
Head Governor Youngshank calls proceedings to a close.