Prospect, London, December 1996
Frederic Raphael's Monthly Notebook
THE DEMAND FOR the return of corporal punishment by the same politicians who affect to crave a classless Britain is more comic than any call for a "war" with Europe, but it fails to recognise that flogging makes little sense except as part of the apparatus of the social stratification which it enforced. Unless it is administered by a convincingly superior caste, armed with an overbearing code of behaviour, it becomes only the evidence of impotent alarm.
I do have personal experience of Charterhouse in the days when beating was a regular ritual. It was neither shameful to be beaten nor a symptom of merit to have escaped it. My friend Brian Bliss tells me how a fellow Old Etonian once "commiserated" with him for never having been formally flogged by the headmaster (the Reverend CA Alington).
At Charterhouse, as at Eton, most beatings were inflicted by hairier older boys on smoother younger ones, often for such crimes as "festivity", Carthusian slang for insolence or cheek. Anna Freud's notorious article "Somewhere a Child is Being Beaten" ought perhaps to have a British supplement: "Somewhere a Child is Being Beaten and I'm Very, Very Glad".
The ritual impact of hearing the sounds of a beating excited as much as it chastened the listening myrmidons. There was a certain sense of election, even stardom, in being selected for punishment; it obliged the victim not only, as Kenneth Clark put it in his Wykehamist autobiography, to "make an arse" but also to give an impression of "sporting" insouciance. It less repressed "festivity" than lent it a naughty glamour.
The bonding effect of bondage was integral to the machinery of class solidarity: when he was already famous, Freddie Ayer was put in his place by Quintin Hogg by being reminded of how he had been flogged by his lordship at Eton.
Since the lower classes were not honoured with the same implements of punishment (the cane was too good for them), the sound of their being beaten was quite distinct and their chastisement served other ends. The return of corporal punishment without the secret glamour of the regimental society which it sustained will do no more than inspire violence without loyalty and resentment without nostalgia.
[COLIN'S COMMENT: People educated at upper-class private schools often seem to entertain the most extraordinary ideas about the state education system. Raphael is, of course, wholly mistaken in his assertion that local state schools did not use the cane.]
Corpun file 11689
Sunday Post, Dundee, 1 December 1996
That's why they're queuing up for the belt
THE WORD Lochgelly still sends shivers down the spines of Scotland's over-30s.
They'll never forget it was in the little Fife town that all the dreaded leather straps -- tawses -- were produced.
Lochgelly belts were used in Scottish schools till the 1980s. But despite calls by politicians for a return to corporal punishment in schools, there's little chance of them returning.
But the company which made the belts used for six of the best is still going great guns.
These days their main line is saddles.
Margaret Dick recently took over the firm from her father John, the man who personally turned out thousands of Lochgellys.
Margaret found there's still a steady demand for the tawse, but these are half-sized replicas, selling as souvenirs.
With each there is a scroll and a history of the tawse.