I GATHER that few boys these days have meaningful relationships with male mentors and father figures, men who can teach and inspire them.
Some boys grow up without having been taught by a male teacher or are taught by teachers who have no life or work experience outside of a classroom.
The men in their home lives may be mother’s nomadic paramours.
How times have changed. As a youngster I used to call around to see my mates.
‘He’s out, he is helping his dad.’
The lad’s father might be a builder or mechanic; a marine painter but the youngster was being moulded in manly ways.
Often heard; ‘My dad’s helping me with the Meccano set,’ or ‘I’m going fishing with my dad.’ My dad, self-taught in Gaelic, had fought in four conflicts by the time he reached his 40th birthday.
His passion was writing and he patiently taught me the art of written communication.
Today I practice what he preached. It is said that when you educate a man you educate an individual; educate a woman you educate a family. No one is going to argue with that but when you educate a man you educate all the little men.
At school I recall only female teacher; Miss Illingsworth; an absolute angel of a woman.
The men were not angels. Many had service backgrounds.
From them we learned discipline and respect; respect for women, your elders and your peers. They were lions teaching cubs how to get things right and stop fooling about.
An unorthodox stepfather taught my brother and me how to live off the land by fair means or foul.
From him we learned, often the hard way, that necessity is the mother of invention and self sufficiency a virtue.
My mates were members of boxing or ju-jitsu clubs; they played football.
Several were members of the Church Lads Brigade, Sea or Army Cadets; the Boy’s Brigade.
They were taught manly things and manly ways by real men. So far so good and then for me it was sea training school then sea-going career.
There it was a different kind of male mentoring; you learned that the price of indiscipline was more than a thick ear.
They were preparing us youngsters for life in which getting it right and wrong was the difference between life and death.
It is hard to imagine anyone better able to guide young men.
Not to be forgotten the men who had gone before us and left their lessons behind; the adventurers, the poets and the writers who had carved a path for us youngsters to follow.
I am not here to judge; I was taught lessons, which isn’t necessarily wisdom.
I just do wonder at times if we have made a rod to beat our own backs with when young men were abandoned to the gentle and fairer sex.