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School CP - October 1891

Corpun file 25803 at

The Daily Telegraph, Napier, New Zealand, 16 October 1891, p.4

Flogging in English Schools.

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At Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester, and indeed at all the great schools of the same rank, where young England is taught little else but Latin and Greek verses, boating, cricket, and other out-door games, at a cost of £300 a year, corporal punishment is still in full force. Some use the birch, and others prefer the cane, and while in most of the colleges the culprit takes his punishment kneeling, there are quite a number where the offender is "horsed" by being mounted on the back of some big boy. In that position the victim is more helpless than in any other. At Eton the whipping block is one of the famous institutions of the place. It resembles the kind of block which we see portrayed in old prints as having been used in medieval times for decapitating prisoners and the number of famous men who have knelt before it is very great.

The present Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was birched while leaning against it no less than seven different times, the master who inflicted the castigation being still alive, hale and hearty at Oxford. On one memorable occasion the headmaster flogged the whole party of thirty candidates for confirmation, the paper with their names on it having been mistaken by him for the punishment bill, which is sent up to him every day. He would listen to no protests or remonstrances, but went conscientiously through the whole lot. Dukes and commoners, boys of fourteen and bearded youths of twenty, are all alike subjected to these birchings, which, according to schoolboy ethics, involves no dishonor. Indeed, they look back upon them much in the same light that a soldier does upon his past campaigns, and the lacerations of the skin are regarded in the light of glorious wounds. The boys are just as proud of them as the German university student is of the scars on his face left by his adversary's duelling sword.

I myself am unable to refrain from a certain feeling of satisfaction when I recall my score of sixteen floggings in the space of three years. This involved an expenditure of ninety-six pickled birches at half-a-crown apiece, all of which were religiously charged in the quarterly school bills sent to my parents as "extras." Each punishment consisted of twelve strokes on the bare flesh, a new birch being used for every two blows, received kneeling with one of the sixth form boys holding me down with his right hand pressed on the back of my neck. The birches were long, thin and tough, having been kept in brine for several months and the punishment they inflicted when wielded by our headmaster -- a gigantic divine over six feet high and powerful in proportion -- was quite enough to make one wince, every stroke lacerating the skin and drawing blood.

On one occasion, however, I received a particularly severe castigation without ever feeling it. I had been "sent up" for having acted as ringleader of a party of boys who had carried off a number of ducks from one of the college farms. A portion of the booty was concealed in a hamper which I had with me when I went to the head-master for my flogging. I left it outside his study door, with a small boy seated on top to prevent the birds from trying to get out, and so alarmed was I during the punishment lest they should commence to quack, and thus lead to their being impounded that I did not have time to think of the swishing blows that were descending in measured strokes upon my anatomy. The ducks, I should add, behaved admirably. They did not utter a sound, and after cooking them after a fashion on our study fire we disposed of them. I remember that we thought them very good.

On another occasion I was birched for having been caught by one of the masters, whom we believed to be away for the day, comfortably established, with another boy, in his library in front of a blazing fire, quaffing his favorite sherry and smoking his pipes. To make matters worse, we had rigged ourselves out in his surplices, university hoods, stoles, cassocks, and trencherboard caps. Our terror-stricken appearance when he suddenly opened the doer and entered the room must have been ludicrous is the extreme, for he burst into such a peal of laughter that we hoped for one moment that our offence would be pardoned on account of the excessive impudence displayed. We were disappointed, however, and suffered.

No boy ever refuses to submit to his flogging, for the alternative as a rule, involves private or public expulsion. Both are liable to affect a lad's position in after life, a public expulsion particularly so. -- English correspondent.

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