Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Sunday Story: The Embarrassed Headmaster.

You'll be pleased to hear that this is the LAST of my school-day memoirs.

Above is an arial photo of my old prep' school (6 to 14). The school is now closed, but in it's hey-day was a pretty classic school of its type. Set amongst the beautiful Sussex weald, it even boasted a magnificent cricket pitch, that had been specially laid down for the visiting South African test teams.

These schools were found all over southern England and elsewhere, but especially in Surrey, Sussex, and Hampshire. The word 'Preparitory' meaning that pupils were 'prepared' for both the rigours of the dreaded 'Common Entrance' exam, that hopefully gave access to one's upper school, and also to the extremely tough life ahead, under the liberal use of canes by sadistic Flashman-style 'prefects'.

I was beaten rather a lot at The Abbey. School rules, as silly as they may seem to outsiders, were to be broken at peril, and beating was the normal punishment for even the slightest infringement. Whacker-in-chief was a Mr FRITH; joint owner of the school. He was also my classics teacher, and, I must say, a very good one.

At the age of about 24 I met up again with my old tormentor, by chance, whilst I was temporarily teaching at a Sussex Preparitory School (just before my leaving for France). The Abbey, by this time, had closed down, and FRITH had returned to being just an ordinary teacher (no different to me) at another prep' school. He had accompanied his school Cricket team to play against the one where I was teaching.

I spoke to him all too briefly, and couldn't help noticing that he was extremely uncomfortable in my presence. He looked as if he was expecting me to punch him on the nose at any moment, and he scampered away looking very sheepish. I suppose the moral to this tale is that one should never do things that one would be ashamed of in later life. Strangely, I felt rather sorry for poor old FRITH; his world had fallen apart, and the likes of me had finally become his equal. No wonder he scuttled off so quickly with his tail between his legs.
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  1. I agree, it makes you feel kind of sorry for the old guy. But he still shouldn't have been whacking at kids all the time!

  2. Beatings seemed to be the order of the day then. When I was in primary school we used to have a teacher called Mrs Savage (Savage by name and savage by nature) She had a foul temper and used to delight in battering the kids. I can remember when I was seven in this stupid craft lesson. We were supposed to be cutting out paper apples. I was so nervous mine looked for all the world as if it had been chewed. This merited another good old thump between the shoulder blades with her vicious bony old knuckles. I admire all these folks who do all this marvellous craft work but I think it put me off for life. How much potential has been crushed in similar situations almost before it's in bud!

  3. well I think its inhuman to send your children off to school at a young age and I'm sorry you had to be put through that! (though the school looks lovely) Well I had a couple mean teachers put nothing like you and Molly went through. I don't think ours were allowed to hit. My hats off to both of you for the caring people you've both become!

  4. Your childhood is so different, yet so similar to mine in many ways. I love your stories.


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