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 'Preparatory' 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. He was responsible for my later being awarded a Classics Scholarship, with a bursary worth a staggering 13 guineas a year!
At the age of about 24 I met up again with my old tormentor, by chance, whilst I myself was teaching at a Sussex Preparatory 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.
What a wonderful word is weald; even if I have only the vaguest idea of its meaning. Have you posted about the terrible FRITH on a previous occasion?ReplyDelete
I did; this is re-posted from about 2010. I've been rather busy, and have had little time for writing.Delete
This is a very good example of an Italian quote, ”in life, sooner or later, the wheel turns for everyone”ReplyDelete
Greetings Maria x
They certainly did for him. I actually felt rather sorry for him.Delete
What goes round comes round.ReplyDelete
Maybe I should have cut a small branch, and given him a good thrashing!Delete
I used to plot adulthood revenge on my school tormentors, but by the time I became an adult I couldn't be bothered. I still get very angry about it though, all these years later.ReplyDelete
I was never punished with the cane. The teachers used humiliation instead. Like you, as an adult, I fantasise about the pithy, Dorothy Parker-like come-backs I'd like to give.Delete
I didn't mind being caned too much. I supposed I became so used to it.Delete
Funnily, Jimmy Edwards used to come to The Abbey once a year, as his hunt (The old Surrey and Burstow) used to hold their first hunt of the year there. JE used to ride a huge cart-horse. He was a very popular figure with us boys.Delete
He, and Whacko of course, was the first person I thought of when I read the post. Good memories.Delete
When we were young, many of our teachers were bullies and I think they enjoyed the power they had over young children. As Andi said, humiliation was a key to breaking us down. Wounds aren’t always visible. I am glad you got to see what a little man he really was.ReplyDelete
I was quite surprised by his wanting to get away from me. I'd been looking forward to meeting him again, as, surprisingly, he'd always been something of a hero of mine. His teaching of Latin was superb, and I had hoped to thank him. I suppose his 'shame' got the better of him.Delete
At least he had the decency to look uncomfortableReplyDelete
That's one way of looking at it!Delete
Luckily this sort of thing no longer takes place in our schools as it is no longer legal. My son - unbeknown to us - was beaten mercilessly at prep school for talking after lights out. He ran away and we never sent him back.ReplyDelete
The 'rules' were mostly ridiculous. One could be whacked for the silliest infringement; luckily mostly not 'mercilessly'.Delete
Did you ever meet Nigel Molesworth there? Looks rather like St Custard's...For a classic prep' school experience you were lucky that the teachers weren't just your garden-variety sadists as Mr Frith was evidently a talented teacher as well.ReplyDelete
The only person you might know who was a friend at The Abbey was Michael Morpurgo, who wrote War Horse.Delete
Interesting to ponder the thoughts of such teachers and how they reconcile more enlightened times with their own behaviour in the past.ReplyDelete
I imagine this was his problem.Delete