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The offence of committing a nuisance
Enuresis, (from a Greek word meaning 'to make water'), bed wetting, occurs in all children. By the age of four, the central nervous system is sufficiently well developed for most children to be dry by day and, according to contemporary pathophysiology studies, a high percentage to be dry by night. The ability of children to control their urine gradually improves throughout childhood. Generally, girls achieve full bladder control by the age of seven, although some take longer. Some boys on the other hand have the problem of enuresis well into their ninth, tenth and eleventh year. A number of boys reported in the punishment register were as old as thirteen years of age.

Bed-wetting is not caused by drinking too much before going to bed; nor does it happen because of mental or behavioral problems such as laziness to get out of bed or a desire to draw attention to themselves. Boys who are unable to control their bladders have an added problem, particularly when the need to urinate arises during daylight hours. Lacking a strong sense of self-consciousness, many boys find a convenient place to urinate and often use a strong stream to express themselves. Throughout the history of the RMA, particularly in the registers of its male student population, a telling record is available, both of the boys themselves and the attitude of the staff of the institution.

Thanks to Peter Goble's examination of the punishment register for the early 1850s, an interesting record emerges of how the school authorities dealt with the problem of piddling. Although the subject is perfect for schoolboy wit, humor, laughter and mockery it was held with reason to be a serious matter. The school authorities lacking a modern understanding of enuresis (nocturnal or diurnal), the common term used to describe boys found urinating where they shouldn't was 'committing a nuisance' and was regarded as a chargeable offence.

From May 1952 to December 1854, a period of about two and a half years, 45 charges of 'committing a nuisance' were laid against boys of the Asylum. Those charges, considered offences, varied from wetting the bed – only to be expected – to urinating in the bath, the backyard, on a lavatory seat, in the band room, on the colonade steps, in the dining hall, under the garden window, by the garden tap, in a company dormitory, a stream directed at a Mr. Baxter at the pump (unfortunate for Mr. Baxter), in the 'Tailors colonade', at the Commandant's gate, in the (main building) vestibule and, for heaven's sake, in church. Some boys were charged with 'willfully committing an offence' as though other occasions might be deemed less than willful.  
Some boys were frequently in trouble, proof enough, one might conclude, that those charged were more in need of help and understanding than being cast in the black hole. In a little less than a year, Pte William Gale was seven times marched into the commandant's presence for wetting the bed. He was one of those children who involuntarily urinated at night and tried to conceal the evidence. Pte George Frederick Simpson was another persistent offender, again for wetting his bed, not choosing sundry places to relieve himself during daylight hours.

Boys at the RMA had various designations over the years. During the 1850s, they were designated Privates as in the regular Army. Among them, some boys were promoted to the ranks of corporals and sergeants, recognised as boy NCOs. Hence, we read in the register that Pte Gale or Pte Simpson, for example, were charged with the offences recorded.  

Punishments visited on the boys for the offence of committing a nuisance, which could have included defecation although this is not specified, were many and varied. The authorities made no attempt to treat the problem any other way than as curable by the administration of corporal punishment. Nor was there any consistency in the punishments awarded. Boys were frequently confined to the black hole as discussed elsewhere in these pages. The black hole punishment for urinating, however, was confined to 'willfully committing an offence in the bath.' Pte Ashfield was given two hours in the black hole and Pte Gale three hours. For his persistent offences, Pte Gale suffered the entire range of punishments awarded: 12 stripes or cuts, extra drill, additional work, time in the hot house, hours spent on 'the fender' and among the more bizarre penalties awarded, 'cross step jumping'. Exactly what cross step jumping involved is not known. Speculation is that is was a session of performing the triple step jump used in the highland sword dance.

Reference to 'the fender' is an interesting one, for it is thought to refer to the fender, a large fire guard protecting access to a bulls eye-type or pot-belly stove that for safety reasons was lockable. Fender punishment is therefore thought to have meant cleaning the fender with a wire brush and then black-leading it. Two hours or more of this punishment would be awarded, referred to 'the fender'.

The variety of punishments inflicted on those found guilty of willfully committing an offence was broad, inconsistent and arbitrary. There is no other conclusion to reach, but that punishments were entirely dependent on the whim of the commandant.

What then do the registers reveal of the members of staff who caught and charged these offenders? Very little, although two matters stand out. The majority of boys charged were tailors. One wonders if the fact boys sat cross-legged on a bench for long periods working at the tailoring trade had any effect on their lack of bladder control. The conclusion is that the staff member reporting offences was the sergeant tailor. The other interesting entry in the punishment register is name of Staff Surgeon Thomas G. Balfour, (see who reported boys in the band and elsewhere when he might have been more usefully employed attending to his medical duties. Dr Balfour's interest in music might explain his presence in the band room when boys happened to be up to no good.

One final observation of interest from Peter Goble's examination of the records concern the toilets in the dormitories. Each dormitory had one toilet, which the little bounders kept plugging up with paper. This could have had something to do with the type of paper supplied for use in the toilets. Even so, the frequent stopping up of the toilets is highly suspect.

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