Following the account of his first caning, CT now tells us about dormitory discipline.
At the boarding school I attended in the early seventies the rules after lights out were simple. Anything other than sleeping or going to the toilet was forbidden.
Dormitories contained about fifteen boys and were policed by one or two Dormitory Prefects. Their official tasks were to make sure the dormitory was kept tidy, to call the matron if a boy was sick and to ‘send out’ boys who did anything but breath after lights out.
They were not under any circumstances allowed to administer any form of corporal punishment but this is a story of how they regularly managed to do so with the complete, if grudging, agreement of the boy being punished, and for the most part got away with it.
The lights went out on the dot of 8.00 pm for year one boys. I and the boy in the bed next to me continued to discuss something – I don’t remember what. We knew we would get away with it because masters frowned on boys being ‘sent-out’ in the first thirty minutes after lights out expecting Prefects to quietly remind offenders to be quiet, and sure enough after about ten minutes a warning was dually issued. We kept quiet for a bit then resumed our whispered chat.
The upshot of which was at 9.05 pm we were both ‘sent-out’. This involved leaving the dormitory in your dressing gown and slippers and standing in the corridor facing the wall where you would wait until the Master on duty made his rounds (about once an hour), or if after 11.30 the prefect would report offenders the following morning.
At 9.30 the on duty master appeared, told us off, and recorded our names in the book he always carried, along with the date and misdeed. He then pointed out that he better not see us again for the next five days or else and sent us back to bed.
Prefects also kept their own unofficial records and saw it as a personal mission to find a reason to send you out again. Suffice it to say that I survived four days and again found myself standing in the corridor, this time with a boy that I had made a remark to on my way back from the toilet. The duty master made his rounds, consulted the punishment book and sent the other boy back to bed and me down to the boot lockers where I joined two other boys.
The boot locker room was about twenty-five foot square and contained six boot locker ‘blocks’. Each block was made up of two rows of six lockers arranged back to back. The locker blocks reached to about the height of a kitchen surface and had formica tops.
Sitting front and centre on the boot locker surface was the master’s size nine sandal. The master soon returned and dealt with each of us in turn. My moment arrived. I was asked to stand far enough away from the boot locker so that I could just grab the top as I bent over. Then there was a whack on my right cheek followed by a whack on my left cheek. Both stung and would leave a bruise. My name, date and punishment were recorded in the punishment book and I was reminded to keep my nose clean for the next ten days or else the headmaster would be ‘having-a-word-with-me’. Then I was sent back to bed.
I knew as I made my way back to the dormitory that my bottom was going to be very sore for the next ten days and it wasn’t just because of the slippering I had received. Nor would I be having a word with the headmaster. Oh no, the Prefects would have other ideas, I was now at the top of their wanted list. I had to avoid at all costs being sent out for ten days. To be sent out again would mean being on boot locker cleaning duty for a week and probably two strokes of the cane. The prefects knew this and would watch me like a hawk and try all kinds of tricks to catch me out.
Three nights later, about an hour after lights out, a prefect entered the dormitory full of excitement and began telling the other prefect how a third year had been caught breaking bounds coming back in through a window. They both walked up between the beds and disappeared into their rooms. Whispered conversations started. The boys were all told to be quiet but I was singled out and asked to stand at the end of my bed in my pyjamas. The whole dormitory was watching me expectantly; they all knew what was going to happen, as did I.
One prefect went and stood by the door to make sure the duty master wasn’t around then I was offered a choice, either be ‘sent-out’ and take the consequences or accept a slippering of four whacks from the prefect. Not fancying a guaranteed week’s worth of boot-locker cleaning and the possibility of ‘a chat’ with the headmaster, I chose the slippering and bent over in the middle of the dormitory and touched my toes.
The prefect retrieved the ‘best’ slipper from its owner – this having been established by the prefect at the beginning of term by the simple practice of picking each one up and tapping it on the palm of his own hand to see which had the most ‘tang’. He positioned himself two steps behind me, rocked back on his right foot, threw his weight forward on his left foot twisting as he did so, followed through with his right arm and landed a cracker of a shot on my right cheek. I let out a yelp. Another whack, a louder yelp. I was ‘repositioned’ for the other cheek. Two more cracking shots and two more yelps. Back to bed I went.
Having now been subject to two slipperings in four days, the following morning my bottom had very distinct large purple bruises on both cheeks. Of course my troubles were not over yet. The prefects generally tried for two or three slippering sessions. How many depended on who the duty master was and how often he did rounds. I could expect at least another before my ten day period was up and sure enough it happened on day eight. The stakes were raised again, this time the choice was six or get ‘sent-out’. So I accepted my six – three corkers on each cheek. That really hurt.
This form of punishment was a regular event for first, second and even third years. Every week at least one dormitory member would be ‘on the list’.
I felt quite lucky to only be singled out twice. One poor lad, on his first slippering from a prefect, two days after receiving two swats from a master, held his bottom with both hands and leapt a foot into the air with a look of complete anguish on his face. The prefect found this so funny he had trouble delivering the remaining strokes but with each one the lad repeated the same performance. Needless to say the prefects were absolutely merciless after that sort of reaction and ‘caught’ him every other day – four more times in eight days.
The story about the third year breaking bounds turned out to be complete fabrication invented to start boys talking so that there would be a reason to send someone out.
Hardly anyone ever chose to be ‘sent out’ given the choice and I imagine the school thought that the threat of locker cleaning and two strokes of the cane for repeat offenders worked really well.
From the prefects viewpoint this practice wasn’t without serious risk. A couple of years later a master walked in on two prefects administering this kind of punishment. They and the boy being punished were detailed to report to the headmaster in the morning where the prefects each received six strokes of the cane in the presence of the boy they had been punishing, had their prefect status publicly removed during morning assembly and had to write an apology to the boy on the receiving end.