"The Boy From Barnardo's". Film starring Mickey Rooney.

Author: 
Various authors.
school: 
RCNS
Year: 
1938

The following are a series of letters that were written to the Bournemouth Evening Echo during the months of October and November 1987.

October 16, 1987,   Sir, recently in "Richmond's  50 years ago" you mentioned the Russell Cotes Nautical School which was run as a branch of the Doctor Barnardo's homes in Parkstone.

About 46 years ago, whilst serving with the middle east forces, I saw a film depicting this school and the wonderful contribution these boys made as they grew up in those dark days of World War 2 by their service to the merchant Navy and the Royal Navy.

The star of the film was I am pretty certain, Mickey Rooney, supported by among others I believe Herbert Munden. The film could have been entitled "The milk float" one of which figured quite a lot in the roads in Parkstone. As a link with my home town, I tried to recognise the roads but decided it was a studio location. I would like to know if the film was shown locally, whether any of the boys of the RCNS live locally and have recollections.

In the interschool football competition we used to play this school on their pitch where the four ways day centre is now situated in the 1920s.

It was quite by chance I saw this film. I was in a military hospital just outside of Cairo when we were invited by the matron to go, it was one of Shaftoe's cinemas and we had no idea of what the programme was.

It was quite a morale booster, but I've never come across anybody else who ever saw it. No doubt your excellent paper will find someone who did.  FD Holloway.


Sir,  in answer to FD Holloway about the Barnardo boys "Postbag October 16" , I was a cinema projectionist in London before the war and had pleasure in showing the film which was called "The boy from Barnardos". It starred Freddie Bartholomew.

The scene I always remember was the boys boarding a bus at Parkstone, Constitution Hill road.

Little did I know at the time that I would live within a few minutes walk from the home and I and my wife walked to it every two or three days. It is such a delightful walk.   I. Bayer.


November 16, 1987.  Sir,  as a film buff of 1930 movies may I put the record straight for those of your correspondents interested in the film about the Doctor Barnardos Russell Cotes Nautical School.

The title of this film was "The boy from Barnardo's", in America it was called "Lord Jeff", as apparently Barnardos meant little or nothing to the majority of filmgoers across the Atlantic.

Location shots were indeed taken at the school but none outside it. The whole school was in fact faithfully recreated in Hollywood, even down to the training mast which stood just inside the main entrance. It was remarkably well done.

They did slip up on one thing though which to my mind stood out like a sore thumb. The bus the boys were travelling on showed as its destination, Parkstone. Of course there when never any buses showing that destination. They were either Poole or Bournemouth via upper or lower Parkstone.

I am afraid Mickey Rooney never did come over here to make it or any of the other players. The real lead in the film was taken by Freddie Bartholomew and far from reflecting poorly on the school the film showed it in a remarkably fine light.

This is indicated by the "Picturegoer" centre spread of the film dated August 20, 1938, and I quote, "Freddie is sent to Barnardo's Russell Cotes Nautical School, under threat of removal to a reformatory. Rebellious at first, he gradually re-acts to the sympathy of his new guardians and comrades and the ideals of the place and turns up trumps in the end". Enough said?   K.J. Squires.


Sir,   Mr Holloway postbag October 16 asks if the film about the doctor Barnardos Russell Cotes Nautical School was shown locally.

My father worked at the RCNS from 1927 to 1946 and I recall him talking about the film being made. My memory is not crystal clear but I think the film was called something like "Dr Barnardo boy" or "The Barnardo boy". My father certainly saw it because I vividly recall him being very critical of one particular scene with the captain superintendent in his office because no RCNS boy would have even dreamt of acting in the lackadaisical and truculent manner portrayed by Mickey Rooney in the scene.

It is possible that my father may have seen the film at the school because they had a film show each Tuesday evening during the winter but he would more probably have seen it as a regular filmgoer at the old Regent cinema in Poole.

It is very unlikely that the boys would have been allowed to see the film because it was generally considered too Americanised and reflected poorly on the school. Some location filming was done at the RCNS with Mickey Rooney over several days but I don't know if any location shots were included of Parkstone outside of the school.

The school started with places for 114 boys which grew to 180 about 1938 and was usually full. The boys of the school were a familiar sight around Poole in their  nautical uniform, especially walking down Longfleet Road to Poolel on Saturday afternoons, which was the only time that they went out freely on their own.

The school trained boys for the merchant Navy only, boys for the Royal Navy went to Barnardo's Watts Naval Training School, I believe in Essex. The nautical school band (drum bugle and fife), was well-known in the district at various outdoor events, especially at parades during the war. Their gym team was equally popular and produced spectacular displays of agility and timing for boys about 10 to 14 years old, they went off to sea at 15 in those days.  J. W. Glazbrook.