In this book the Gaffer is one of the main characters involved. He is also known as Mr Gardener, the superintendent of Dickies, a Doctor Barnado’s home. Leslie first met him when he was separated from his brother, Roy, because of the tragic death of his parents. His father drowned at sea and his mother died a short time later. Leslie was then transferred to the Doctor Barnado’s home in Kingston Upon Thames. Doctor Barnado was a kind and considerate man that created a home for homeless children that needed looking after in the 1900’s. After that a link of the homes were distributed across the country.
Doctor Barnado had obviously died before the Gaffer had come along. The first time when Leslie met the gaffer was when he and this man that had brought him to the home walked into the hallway of Dickies and saw this boy. “The man told the little boy to go fetch Mr Gardener the superintendent. ” At that moment Leslie had no idea what the Gaffer was or looked like. The way the Gaffer walked towards Leslie indicated that he was well disciplined and strict maybe because he had been in the army at one stage. He was always smartly dressed. Thin and grey with a slight stoop as the years went on.
Particularly on special occasions he would wear his green hairy suit. He would also wear it on Sundays as well. The Gaffer had a son and a wife. His son was in the army as a padre. He wasn’t just a priest but he would also give people advice. For his actions he was awarded the military cross. The gaffer received this news one day and was proud. He announced it to the whole school. Tears ran touchingly down his wife’s face as she put her arm through the Gaffer’s. The Gaffer and his wife, also known as matron, both lived in a red-bricked house round the back of Dickies.
His wife was a podgy Scottish woman. The Gaffer was biased against most nationalities. Americans, Australians Irish and Welsh. But there were two nationalities that he didn’t mind at all and they were the Scottish and the Ghurkas. The reason for this being was that his wife was Scottish, so it was all right to like them. His main racial discrimination was against the Welshmen. He thought “If anything awful happened upon a Taffy he would relate it with relish. He frequently insinuated that as a race the Welsh were anti – Churchill and anti – Tory, and therefore they were rotten right through.
This was bad for Leslie because he considered himself a Tory and he liked Churchill and worst of all he was Welsh. The Gaffer found out that Leslie was Welsh one day by asking him. “You’re a Welshman, aren’t you. ” Leslie nodded his head and was clumped for being Welsh. The Gaffer added Australians to his list of nationalities against which he was prejudiced. This was because an Australian sportsman called Brother Bill bought lots of new sports equipment for the boys and said that they didn’t have to pay for it. As well as just sports stuff, he bought himself a new watch and a radio set and other oddments.
Then he sent the bill after he had left Dickies expecting the Gaffer to pay for it. This made the Gaffer very angry. Americans was the other nationality that the Gaffer was biased against. Leslie had accepted a packet of chewing gum from an American soldier. “the Gaffer walked in, saw the gum, and pounced. He snapped the questions at me, as usual giving me no time to answer. ” He stopped my pocket money for a week and sent me to bed. ” This shows how strict he is about different nationalities. He gives out punishment for little things like that.
I’ve told you boys time and again,” he snorted, “that I won’t have you talking to men – and especially American soldiers. ” It seems weird that the Gaffer doesn’t like Americans because it seems likely that he was in the military so he would have come into contact with them when fighting in a war. Especially if they were allies with Great Britain. When Leslie first meets the Gaffer at Dickies he walks around the corner with military stride. This suggests he was in the army because that is how they are taught to march. He tended to push his shoulders back and taunt his backbone to make him look slightly taller and in charge.
In the selecting process of the band members the Gaffer lined all the boys up on benches as if he was a general giving them orders in the army. “But the Gaffer’s thin finger stabbed around, you, you, you, you, and you, you, you, you,” and “The gaffer, straight and proud like an old soldier, marched beside them with a stick. ” This really indicates that he had a brisk military manner. The Gaffer disembarked on the boys and they formed up on the platform of Norbiton Station just as if the Gaffer was giving important orders to them. “The Gaffer, cane under his arm,” meant that anyone out of line as they marched would get punished.
In connection with making the boys do as they were told, the Gaffer was a strong Conservative and often told the boys about Conservatives. “If the gaffer had one fault, and he had more than one, it was that he sometimes let his old-fashioned imperialism loose on us, like a broadside from a Victorian gunboat, and tried to influence our political thinking. ” This meant he tried but did not usually succeed to try and persuade the boys to think his way politically. “The Irish and the welsh were treacherous parasite races, hanging onto England because it suited their situation, but ready to swing the knife at any moment.
French, Dutch, Spaniards, and every other people, with the exception of the Ghurkas whom he admired, he regarded as coming a lap or two behind even the Welsh in the human race. ” He thought the British Empire was the best, that it saved the world. “Look at the red on the map and you’ll see how we English have saved the world with our Empire. ” He was intensely patriotic towards the British Empire. He admired Churchill and Eden because they both fought for the Empire. The Gaffer believed that he helped with the war effort as he stayed on as the superintendent at Dickies. Three of us he sent to collect his goats. I’ve never worked it out yet why he wanted the wretches.
Probably because he was intensely patriotic, he imagined that if they had kids (as if he didn’t have enough) he would be able to raise a goat herd and thus help the national war effort. ” The Gaffer became very stubborn. A prime example is when the Irish were in his home and could not let them be there because he didn’t like them at all. “Sometimes in January the Gaffer got the news that a great gang of Irish workmen had moved in and occupied his beloved Kingston home. He reacted angrily to this. “See what they’ve done! ” he cried, “See what happens when you turn your back! They send in the Irish. The Irish! ” ” The gaffer was pounding around the room like an old aged and angry wolf. ” showed how mad he became and as soon as possible he and the boys went back home to Dickies. When they arrived, the Gaffer said, “We’ve come back, and we are coming in to take over. ” The Gaffer just couldn’t stand the fact that the Irish were in his home when he wasn’t, not even doing any damage but he was just stubborn and couldn’t let this be.
The Irish men didn’t argue with him, nobody did, not even the boys, but if they tried he was often insensitive to the boys’ feelings. Leslie certainly didn’t argue with him especially when he didn’t get chosen for the band and the Gaffer said, “Right, you go and get changed. ” Leslie didn’t argue at all. He just went and did it. Leslie’s feelings were also hurt when he said, “Sir I want to be a writer. ” The Gaffer then said, “right son. Head office will fix that. And they’ll see that you’re a waiter in a good restaurant. ” After that Leslie was crushed and horrified. The Gaffer had no consideration at all.
The boys obeyed the instructions from the Gaffer because they feared him. But although this was how they felt, it didn’t get in the way of their affection for him. Leslie in particular thought of him with affection and of “some reverence because he was a good man in his narrow way. ” An example of the boys’ affection was when the gaffer received a telegram from his son to say that he had won the military cross. When they heard this they cheered madly and banged their mugs on the tables to show how wonderful it was. Once again Leslie in particular felt glad for both the Gaffer and Matron.
The Gaffer would speak harshly to any of the boys. On one particular occasion he spoke to Leslie about his broken arm. “It’s costing me a lot of money,” he lied “Two pounds every time they give you an X-ray. There’s a fine thing. It’ll take lot of your pocket money to pay that. ” Although he spoke and acted harshly he would never have liked to see the boys harmed. The incident where the bombs were dropping and they had to find shelter is an example. “The Gaffer, ancient and brave, used to come tearing across through the shrapnel and the hideous noises, his tin hat on the side of his head.
He would fall down the entrance to the shelter and then, peering into the gloom, make sure we were all accounted for. ” On his list of telling us what to do, the Gaffer was very moral and absolutely insisted there was no misbehaviour. He would not allow anybody to read the news of the world, for various reasons. “Anyone found smoking would be struck by lightning. ” A conversation between Bosky and the Gaffer confirmed that there was no swearing allowed at Dickies. Bosky said that the book he was reading was a bleedin’ good book. The Gaffer heard and asked Bosky where he had learnt that.
He replied “From the book. ” The Gaffer asked him to show him and Bosky panicked. Bosky made up a lame line and the Gaffer caught him full on the side of the ear and knocked his glasses somewhere around the back of his head. Love scenes that appeared in films were forbidden to be watched. The Gaffer didn’t approve of young boys watching love scenes. “and the hero was about to put the heroine down on a terrible bed of straw. Then the Gaffer, leaping up and waving his arms into the beam of light, and shouting Stop it! Cut it off! No more of this filth! ”
The Gaffer looked forward to his retirement away from ordering boys around and responsibility. “He had been eager for his retirement for years, but as it approached he grew silent and fidgety and no longer spoke of the hollyhocks he was going to nurture along his Cornish garden fence. The Gaffer gradually grew softer towards the end. Especially with the budgie incident when Spikey died. Sadly later on Matron died. “Matron suffered a stroke and when she was sufficiently well to be moved the Gaffer, as gentlemanly and loving to her as he had been his whole life through, took her away to the cottage by the sea in Cornwall.
There she died, and in no great time he followed her. ” So the Gaffer eventually died after quite a long but eventful life. Overall he was a good man. Most of the time not understanding but all right to be around. Despite his biased views to other nationalities he got on well with people. In the end Leslie and the other boys probably appreciated the discipline dished out by the Gaffer. As they could have turned out different as to what they are today.