Friday, 7 September 2007

Crime and punishment

As far as I remember, the boys were about as law-abiding as you can expect boys to be, and I can't remember any particularly interesting crimes; perhaps you can?

The borderline between normal, harmless behaviour and misbehaviour is uncertain and fuzzy, it depends on the whim of the master. Even if the master is absolutely consistent and has a clear, sharp borderline in his own mind, boys are not telepathic and can't see exactly where it is. So we boys had to be a bit wary of masters in general, because we could never be quite sure what would set them off.

The common punishment for any non-trivial offence was the cane, administered by the headmaster (only). Boys were sent to the headmaster's study and would queue outside if necessary.

The cane was a punishment, not an assault. At least in my experience, he didn't put his full strength into it and didn't draw blood. The common sentence was one or two strokes, perhaps more for major offences.

I wasn't a troublesome boy and was caned rarely, about once a year as far as I remember. Some other boys were caned much more often.

Offences I remember being caned for:

  • Going to the lake by myself without permission (I didn't realize permission was required) and falling in (I was looking for tadpoles). Mr Cromie found me in my underwear beside the lake: I'd stretched out my clothes to dry.
  • Jabbing Gogs Wilson in the bottom with a fork, in the squarish dining room beside the kitchen; I was taking a minor revenge for something he'd done to me. I think it was Mr Cromie again who noticed.

There must have been lesser punishments used in the school but I find it difficult to remember them. In the earlier years, boys were sometimes required to stand in front of the class performing uncomfortable exercises, e.g. standing with arms outstretched for a long time. Some masters also had a knack of grasping the hair near the ear and twisting it painfully.

In retrospect, I think that caning children is probably neither necessary nor desirable, but I wouldn't claim to have suffered any serious harm from my small experience of it. There is a danger these days of giving children no discipline at all; but I don't claim to know the best way of bringing up children.

Jonathan Marler remembers...

... climbing down the fire escape with another boy, stealing weed killer from the shed and sugar from the kitchen, mixing them on a board and setting fire to them on the lake. I do not remember being caned for that, but I am sure I was. Being caned was a pretty regular occurrence for me. Another night, we stole sausages from the kitchen and cooked them on a scouting stove.

12 comments:

Julian Williams 1962 - 67 said...

Punishment was an important part of the school day in which all the school was expected to participate, we all needed it, especially dim or lazy pupils like me.

It happened everywhere; in the dormitories the prefects and matrons would slap us with slippers, in the classroom where we would be sent to stand outside the class, with our heads to the walls and with our arms outstretched carrying books in front of the class. We were made to write lines “I will not throw chalk at the blackboard” and kept in for detention.

Mr Cromie had a good technique asking questions whilst holding the lobe of one ear between two fingers, if he got the wrong answer he would pinch the pain was excruciating. But the real punishment happened after lunch in Mr Angus' study where there would be a daily queue of boys to be caned.

And we would do it to each other, throwing boys we did not like into beds of nettles or peeing on their beds when they were asleep.

Being dyslectic I could neither spell nor read, this was put down to indolence that needed to be corrected through punishment. So they would give me a card and after every lesson they would mark the card; A B C or D. If I got a D I was caned. So I got caned a lot.

Being a Christian school they did not cane the boys on Sundays
My memory is that one week I was caned everyday, and then on Sunday Mr Angus relaxed the rules and caned me to make up the full set.

I was a sensitive boy and I hated and feared the punishment, class time was a torment because I was always doing badly. I do not agree with the modern approach of being kind all the time. The punishment was not always fair but it was character forming and I am glad I did not have everything made easy. I had to fight to make my own identity away from the sports field and away from the classroom, dealing with the unfairness of life made me into a more resilient optimistic person able to face life as it really is, I do not regret the punishments I suffered at Stouts Hill.

Jonathan said...

I also dreaded the cane, out of proportion to the actual pain it caused, which was only temporary and moderate.

I could never completely trust or be friendly with masters who could sentence me to such punishment. My parents didn't go in for corporal punishment.

I'm sorry about the dyslexia. I was spared that. I read a lot, and writing and spelling came easily to me. Occasionally I had difficulty with pronunciation.

Peeing on other people's beds wasn't in my experience. I never did it, had it done to me, nor saw it happen. Customs vary, even from dormitory to dormitory within the same school.

Robert Mills said...

What about Blots, you guys. Having to collect the thin lined paper from your house master and write whatever with ne'er a slip?
Kingfishers - Bubs Flood
Otters - Crinks Cromie
Panthers - Pecker Woods
Wasps - Inky Quick

Alan Davis said...

As well as Mr Cromie's gym shoe, I remember Mr Coley(can't recall what he taught) on at least one occasion making the school scallywag James Leigh have a cold shower with everybody allowed to watch and laugh. Human rights snivellers would have a field day now!
There was another punishment known as 'Changes'. This meant changing from uniform to games kit and back for as many times as ordered. Could have been Mr Wachter's brainchild as it sounds like an army sort of thing.
Alan Davis

david said...

Punishment is an essential part of any good school and stouts hill was good at imposing them in a rather lenient way.

I can remember that the ultimate penalty was the cane ,but in my time there was also a system known as the "Naught for nothing Club. I never took this thing seriously,but essentially " it comprised of teachers giving pupils who stepped out of line anywhere in the school or made rude remarks ,"Conduct marks",and if a boy received more than twelve then he was in trouble ,probably fit to appear before the headmaster (the final arbiter of punishment) in his study.I always thought that conduct marks were a farse. As each tea time, a master had to enter names in a register,the master called out the boys names in alphabetical order,
and when a boy's named was called he was expected to call out how many marks he had been given by a teacher that day.Many times I didn't remember and said "none" when I probably had been given several.OH Well that is the nature of a boy,
this boy anyway.

David Mackinley-Woodhall

Jonathan said...

The conduct marks system sounds quite sensible apart from expecting boys to report their own! Of course the masters should have kept records; but I suppose they didn't want the extra paperwork. I think the system had died out by my time.

A similar system (omitting the farcical element) is now used in Spain for traffic offences.

John Morris said...

Blots were done on that funny paper weren't they with wide and narrow lines?
Blots were around when I was first at Stoutshill, but then phased out to be replaced by credits and debits. (Carrot and stick)
There was a large chart on the wall to the left of the Tuck Shop and all the boys names were on it by house.
Credits and debits were awarded for both good or bad work and for good/helpful or bad behaviour. At the end of the year the balance was added up and the house with the largest total got given a barbecue out by the Pool.
The other punishment that was always there was called "standing out" and was that standing facing the wall for a certain amount of time business. You were made to "stand out" at the point at which the punishment was handed out, which might be in the class room for being noisy so one stood by the blackboard, but if it was for running in the corridor then one had to stop right there and "stand out". One would often walk round the school and find boys in the oddest places facing a wall.
The big punishment was to be sent to "stand out" outside Crink's study. I remember that on two inconvenient occasions: once when sonething was going on and there was a continual stream of staff going by muttering about me having been naughty; the other was when I was a prefect which must have been stark staring daft. I had some how got on the wrong side of Mr Coley and felt I been sent there for nothing. I was sent away by Crinks as soon as he noticed that I was there. I think there was some form of arbitration to help Mr Coley and I work things out.
I was never caned.
My least favourite concept was collective punishment for a whole class when the offender didn't own up. Being on the receiving end of one such punishment from a prefect in my first week at Stouts Hill was too much for me and I went and complained to Boss Angus. His response was to send me away saying boys shouldn't sneak. My action was not well received by the prefect concerned and word spread, so that I was hissed and booed by the whole school in the queue at the next meal.
Ah well!

Richard Darell 1964 - 69 said...

Blots had to be written between the thin lines. I think if you got 12 blots then you were sent to the study for caning. I recall being sent to the study after my allocation was used up. My brother Robert keeps informing me how threadbare my trousers were due to amount of canings I received.

Anonymous said...

Davis your memory is utterly shite. Mr Coley taught English and coached the 1st XI Cricket Team as well as boring the arse of everyone at Assembly by his occassional readings.

James Leigh was a good bloke - voracious reader. I think things in later life did not work out for him, no doubt as a result of attending Stouts Hill.

Jonathan said...

Derek Hulme remembers:

"Mr Angus caned me for having boat fights in the lake. Pulling the reeds up by the roots from the lake all covered in mud and throwing them into the nearest boat full of occupants. Then trying to tip the boat over, so they fell into the lake.

This all happened when we got the boat undercover from the reeds, thinking that nobody could see us!!! It resulted in me having five of Mr Angus's best strokes of the cane."

[Quoted from e-mail message and slightly edited]

Timothy Reed said...

I remember being sent to Mr Angus to be caned for being cheeky in Mathematics - I can't remember what I was cheeky about, but it must have been good, because I can remember the other boys in the dormitory staring at my arse for an awful lot longer than was standard that night!

Jonathan said...

Hello Timothy, thanks for your contribution, sorry about the cheeky punishment. You seem to be missing from my list of ex-pupils, though I have Timothy Rees (1949-52). Do you remember your dates at the school?