The Leas School,  Hoylake

Cold Baths

contributed by Adrian Stevenson

Cold baths seem to have been phased out at the end of the 1960s. Talking to non-Leasians, and to Old Leasians of younger years, it became clear that they did not understand the morning regimen of cold baths. Either they thought I was joking, or they could not imagine how the activity could be managed.

Michael Longson (The Leas 20t3-24t2) writes in his autobiography A Classical Youth (Anthony Blond, 1985):

It is not really fair to cite the cold baths as an example of austerity. They presumably did us some good, and they weren't particularly rigorous: you jumped in, you immersed yourself momentarily, and you clambered out again; that was all.

And here is my own account of the same process 40 years later.

Dormitory by dormitory, first thing in the morning we trooped to the bathrooms. As we approached, we could hear sounds of water gushing into the baths; not any welcome harbinger of a relaxing hot bath, but the dreaded cold tap only.

On arrival in the bathroom, we stripped off, and formed an orderly or disorderly queue for the bath. The front boy had to step in, sit down, lie back until his shoulders were under, then promptly leap out again. Then the next boy, etc.

A matron supervised the exercise, ticking off each boy on her list as he bathed. A well-disposed matron might possibly on the coldest of days have added a tiny amount of hot water, or might turn a blind eye to a failure to fully immerse. But matrons were not always well-disposed, and there was often a risk that Sister or a Headmaster might make an unexpected visit.

After this brisk awakening, we would towel off, and dash back to the dormitory for our warming day-clothes. And no doubt we welcomed our hot porridge at breakfast, lumps and all.

There might be a brief suspension of this water-sharing activity during the inevitable Easter-term epidemics. Or some sickness or condition might mean that an individual boy was temporarily "Off Cold Baths" (and "Off Swimming" in the summer). But all too soon it was back to harsh normality.

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