School Dinners

Ronald Leedham: Oliver Twist

Ronald Leedham was born in 1929 in India. His family moved back to England in 1931after Ronald contracted Polio. Ronald spent some years in Hospital as a young child after contracting Diptheria. When he was six he returned home to Catford for a short while to live with his father, eventually ending up living in ‘homes for crippled children’ run by the Shaftesbury Society, until he was sixteen.

Here Ronald talks about asking his Headmaster for more food.

  • Ronald Leedham
  • Ronald Leedham


It came back to me how once I did what I call an Oliver Twist act because we weren’t getting enough to eat. We used to have a saucer, you know, an ordinary saucer with a dollop of jam in it for ten boys. And we had to spread it on two slices of bread each, that was our tea. And the staff table was a great big table as big as this room and all the silver on it and the flowers, and they had plates and plates of beautiful bread and butter and this, that and the other. And they elected me to go up and protest about it. I went up – and I didn’t know anything about Oliver Twist in those days. It all went silent, ‘You’ve got to go, Ron, you’ve got to go up,’ – no Lil, they called me, Lil Leedham was my name, Lil. ‘Come on Lil, you’ve got to go up there.’

So I can remember standing up with the saucer with this dollop of bloomin’ jam in it and walking up to the headmaster, ‘Yes, Lou, what do you want?’ - ‘cause he called me Lou for some reason or other, ‘Yes Lou, what do you want?’ and I said, ‘There’s not enough here for ten kids,’ I said. And all the boys went dead silent, looking at me. Oh dear, oh dear, it was funny. And whereas in Oliver Twist the boy gets sent back, you know, 'how dare you', he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, okay Lou, we’ll see what we can do, but there’s a war on, you know’. I said, ‘Yeah but look at what you’ve got on the table here,’ I said. There were plates of fruit. And they all looked a little bit sheepish, I do remember that, but nothing changed.

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