Many years ago a boy could escape the poverty of life on a farm or within an inner city by becoming a cabin boy. A cabin boy’s job was to look after the officers and senior petty officers on a ship. The boy would have to be on call twenty four hours a day. Cabin boys could be a young as eight years old.
When you look at your son today it must be hard to imagine the feeling of the parents as they allowed their son to go off to see at a young age – perhaps never to be seen again.
With a good captain a cabin boy would live a reasonably comfortable life. If the captain was a rascal and a drunkard then the child’s life must have been really miserable at times.
We have all heard of stories of success (real or otherwise) where a cabin boy went on to become an admiral of the fleet. To achieve this great success the boy must have had certain characteristics:
Great determination and vision
A refusal to allow life to get him down
A strong sense of survival
The ability to keep out of trouble
Learning at an early age not to answer back or sulk
Learning to read and write and use a sextant and other navigational equipment
A love of the sea and water
Courage and fortitude
Being able to stand up to bullies
Luck and opportunity
The dream of being a winner
We hope all our young boys show all or most of these characteristics as they work towards their eleven plus examinations. All those years ago a boy must have need considerable drive to move from being a cabin boy to a midshipman. So when you discuss the eleven plus with your son you can easily draw on history to make the point that at certain times when you say: “Jump!”
Your child automatically answers: “Yes Mum, how high?”