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Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on Memories of the 50s : Painful Memories


For minor offences, prefects could award periods of detention. Behaviour and attitude was considered important, and any prefect not maintaining a healthy supply of detention material would soon have his appointment reviewed. As a motorist in later years I recognised the philosophy. An ex-prefect did not have a happy life.

Procedure required that details of the offence be entered into the prefect's notebook for subsequent acquiescence by a master, before endorsement into the detention book. My detention for walking in the street with hands in pockets was subsequently increased; I had declined to loan the prefect a pencil to record the offence, forcing him to borrow from a member of the public. Lists of confirmed detentions were publicly announced at morning assembly.

Serious misdemeanor was punished with the cane. Caning was only administered by the deputy headmaster, a large heavily built man who never taught a class, did not wear a gown, and occupied the role of senior civil servant. The effect of caning was psychological rather than painful.

Canings were announced as the final item at morning assembly with a suitably sonorous delivery: 'The following pupils will kindly attend my office at 11 o'clock this morning'. No mention of the cane, no mention of misdemeanor; but the whole school recognised the portent of such an invitation.

The miscreant then had to wait two hours before making his way to stand in the corridor, responding in traditional manner to the merry quips of passing fellow pupils. Eventually he would be called in and asked for an explanation, before being told how disappointing his behaviour had been, how he had brought dishonour to his House, and how all his life he would regret this blot on his record.

With great theatre, a cane would be selected from a small range, and the pupil asked to confirm which hand he used for writing. My claim of ambidexterity was not accepted. The caning itself, strokes across the palm of the hand, was almost an anticlimax. Like the dentist, it was never as bad as had been feared. An hour later the palm of the hand was completely unmarked.

Recidivists* preferred the cane to a lengthy period of detention .....I'm told.

Written by Smokey

* Someone who lapses into previous undesirable patterns of behavior