Cowboy outfits and Cod Liver Oil

A group of young old scholars pictured together in black and white.

Old Scholar Paul Board shares a slice of life, in poetry and prose, from his brief sojourn at Spurgeons former Children’s Home in Birchington. 

”I grew up in the early sixties – I had two brothers and two sisters (and later on, another brother was born). For a few months, my elder brother Nick and I, aged 6 and 4 respectively, were placed in Birchington.

”In spite of our short stay, some of my memories are still vivid. It was strict but that gave you clear boundaries which provided some welcome stability in my life. The staff must have really cared – one time I was in the sick bay for a few days and was given a wooden garage with a moving lift and cars to play with, a real treat! On the downside, there was the regular dose of cod liver oil…

Recently after a health emergency on a business trip to Mongolia, I requested my old medical records. I was amazed that Spurgeons still had them, especially as I was only there a short time and Birchington was demolished long ago

”The doctor’s notes helped my neurologists treat my condition.

”I recall too the excitement of fire drills, where we had to go through little trap doors between bedrooms (or did I imagine that?) and the quandary of which toy to take with me.

”And I remember at Christmas Nick and I were able to choose a gift from a big pile (I think I chose a cowboy outfit and Nick a wind-up tin motorbike with rider).

”Later, when I was courting, I sent my future wife a poem about those far-off days:

A wintry morning in Birchington, Kent,

A little boy just five today, 

Tired and confused in a children’s home,

And his Mum was far away. 


His tears were dried by a big red trike, 

Given to him as a birthday treat.

Riding around, his cares were gone. 

They couldn’t pull him off the seat. 


Bedtime came and they took it away, 

The child cried himself to sleep.

”Another birthday tomorrow,” they said,

And he thought it was his to keep. 


That little boy is inside this man, 

And he’s scared to love one too much.

Scared he might lose your smile,

And the warmth of your gentle touch.


So forgive me if I’m ever cold. 

Forgive me if I cause you pain, 

If I’ve retreated into my safety shell, 

You’ll just have to crack me open again.

Despite my awful poetry, when I proposed to Angie in 1986 she accepted! We’re still happily married; I’m now retired and like many people, missing our kids and grandkids in this time of lockdown.


Spurgeons Old Scholars

Old Scholars are those supporters who spent some of their childhood living at Spurgeons Children’s Homes in Birchington and Reigate.
We encourage alumni to keep in touch with us and share their memories.

Read more about our heritage and Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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