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ONLINE MUSEUM: Richard 'Rastus' Dilley as guardian angel.

An extract from FA Confidential by David Davies

Little did I know the horrors lying in wait when Mum announced: "You'll be going to the Royal Masonic School next year."  The entry qualification to this cold place in Bushey, Hertfordshire, was as sad as it was simple: your father must have been a Mason and be either dead or bed-ridden.  The Masonic Brethren had sung Now the evening shadows closing as Dad's body was carried from St Pancras Church.  As the son of a Mason, I was eligible for Bushey.

The train ride from Euston was dispiriting enough.  Crammed into the carriage were boys from all over the country, most sharing the same heartache: we were fatherless.  We craved a touch of warmth, a consoling mentor.  Pastoral care was not on the curriculum at the Royal Masonic School.  On that soul-destroying first day in September 1957, I was ordered to put on a ghastly uniform, grey jacket and shorts.  Prison stripes would have been more appropriate.  A master attached a label to my jacket, denoting my name, and dispatched me to Junior House.  Used to the loving environment created by Mum, Auntie Tei and my sister Rosemary, entering the dormitory felt like stepping into a cell.  Twenty-five of us were shoehorned in, complete with school trunks and crates of misery.  Already without one parent, I would not see my beloved mother until Christmas, but for one solitary day's release for half-term.  My world turned upside down, my cherished routine ripped to pieces and replaced with an unbending timetable.  "Supper is at six," barked a master.  "Bed at seven-thirty."  What?!  Back home, I helped my mother re-stock the shelves until nine, listening to her chatting away.  Now, at 7.30, I was in bed, the only sounds being the sobs of distraught children.  I wanted to join them, releasing my tears, but I never wanted anyone to hear.  Only when every other boy had cried himself to sleep, did I let my own tears flow.  I felt desperately alone.

As I lay there, tears flowing, thoughts about my plight raced through my head.  How did I get here?  How did my parents get to London?  Mum came from a proud Protestant family in a 95-percent Roman Catholic village called Moycullen, not far from Galway City.  Having lost her parents at a young age, she came to London to live with one of her nine brothers.  My father's father came from Tregaron in Wales.  In the 1870s, not long after the FA was being formed, my grandfather walked to London, looking for work.  Also called David Davies, he found employment in the milk trade in Euston, toiling day and night to save the money to buy Woburn Dairy on Duke's Road.  This was a famous old store, once frequented by Charles Dickens, who habitually broke his morning walk for a glass of Woburn Dairy milk and even mentioned the building in The Old Curiosity Shop.  As the business grew, my grandfather became immersed in politics, being elected Mayor of St Pancras in 1911.  He was eventually knighted and a picture of Sir David Davies still hangs in Camden Town Hall.  A proud Conservative, my grandfather sat on the local council with such characters as George Bernard Shaw and a young Labour firebrand called Barbara Betts, who became Barbara Castle.  Debates were of the turbulent variety but Grandfather admired Barbara, and she him.  My father was inspired to enter politics, sitting on the London County Council.  John Davies dreamed of becoming an MP; he was even adopted as the Tories' prospective parliamentary candidate for the old Holborn and St Pancras seat for the 1950 general election.  Death intervened.  My much-loved grandfather passed away in early 1957, so I arrived at Bushey with my heart already badly damaged.  On that first evening at Bushey, all these thoughts and raw emotions were running through my mind.  Needing the toilet, I left the dorm.  The floor was cold beneath my bare feet, so I ran fast down the school corridor. As I returned to the dorm, a teacher came upstairs.

"Go and get your slippers," he barked.

"Yes, sir," I responded in the manner we'd been ordered to.  Bit odd, I thought.  Bit late.  I was almost back in bed.  Anyway, I hadn't even unpacked yet.  My slippers were still in my trunk.  I fished them out and walked back to the master.  "Give me one of the slippers," he growled.  I did as he commanded.  "Now bend over."  And this man whom I had never met before, who was supposed to be my guardian, solicitous about my welfare, beat me again and again.  Did I imagine he derived real pleasure from the act of brutalising a fatherless, helpless nine-year-old?  Did I imagine he smiled even in the gloom?  Even now, half a century on, I can feel the blows.  The pain was bad, the shock worse.  This was my first day at school, my first night away from home.  I didn't want to be in this bloody Royal Masonic School.  Then an adult comes along and hits me.  The callousness of it all still fills me with anger and disbelief.

His appetite for cruelty sated, the master said: "Go back to bed."  I was too stunned to cry.  What would my mother tell me?  "Be strong," she'd say.  She was tough.  Now I had to be.  That night, I vowed never to be defeated by the sadists or bullies at the Royal Masonic School or when I encountered them later in life, wherever that was to take me.  Whenever I hear people say cheerily that "schooldays were the happiest of my life", I shake my head.  They didn't go to the Royal Masonic School.  At Bushey, corporal punishment was inflicted on boys almost casually, even for trivial misdemeanours.  If I was caught running, when I should have been walking, the result could be pure grief.  "Davies.  Come here.  Bend over." Whack, whack, whack.  In the middle of one cricket match, a teacher used a bat on a boy.  A bat!  The boy's crime? Not paying enough attention in the field.  This teacher was also a vicar.  Boys were too scared to talk, fearing further sanction.  One bizarre master in the Junior School seemed to revel in it, not caring who knew.  He almost advertised his readiness to thrash boys in class.  Hanging from a corner of his blackboard was a half-broken hockey stick, a weapon he brandished with some venom.

In fairness, quite where I would have gone without the Masonic School I cannot imagine.  Fate smiled on me eventually.  A father figure appeared.  Coming under the guidance of Richard Dilley, one of the masters at Bushey who actually cared, had a profound influence.  No one shaped my development more.  This wonderful man saw an anguished boy heading for oblivion and pulled me back from the abyss.  The first act of Mr Dilley's rescue plan involved phoning Duke's Road.

"I'm worried about David," he told Mum.  "You'd better come up."  Mum sped up to discuss my state of mind.  Mr Dilley called me into his study.  For the first time, an adult listened to my angst.

"What's eating away at you?" he asked. "I feel hollow without a father," I told Mr Dilley.

"David, you think you are unlucky," replied my guardian angel.  "Just think of all those people far worse off than you.  Think of Africans starving.  Think of people in the war.  Far more terrible things happen to others."  How could I argue?  Important principles were instilled by Mr Dilley.  At last I possessed some rules of engagement for the great conflict called life.  "Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself" was central to Mr Dilley's code - and mine.  "Think before you act" was another tenet.  Mr Dilley gave me hope

David Davies is the former Chief Executive of the Football Association.  His description of Richard Dilley would seem to chime with the experiences of most of those who have mentioned Dilley on this website, but I'm afraid my memories are rather different.  He had it in for me in a big way because I got behind with homework and appeared to have no enthusiasm for Geography.  The change from Sam Cocks to Dilley brought no improvement at all as far as I was concerned.

SEE ALSO: pics of R Dilley in 1958 and 1961 & 2012