Our senior dormitory was at the top of the stairs and adjacent to the showers and a flat for the Assistant Housemaster. While they seemed a lot older to us, in reality these junior housemasters weren't long out of university and not much older than their charges.
I recall one such master called Brian Rattray who held an end of term party for some invited guests in his flat. Things must have got rather boisterous as some time after midnight the dorm door opened and a very smelly gorgonzola cheese was hurled down the walkway between the bunks.
The clamour of female voices could be heard emanating from the same party so clearly a good time was had by all.
Another staff member I remember was an Irishman called David Whaley. He was a very nice man with a pleasant lilt and a great singing voice.
He formed an Irish Folk group with two students, the Green brothers, and even featured on a folksinging LP record, Folk Concert Down Under, put out in the early 1970's by HMV.Bob McCaw remembers Dave as a real character, as do I.
Dave used to teach 6th Physics with in a temporary lab down in the Tech block. In those days there were lots of films staff could show students, and one day, after a late night in pursuit of his present wife, Dave fell asleep while the film was playing.
The students, soon aware of the potential of the situation, left the film room with hardly a sound.
Some time later Dave woke to the sound of the end of the reel flapping around as the projector was still working and all students had disappeared!
He recounted the story to Bob at the time as he was found wandering around trying to find his students.
It was a bashful Dave who had to confront his class next day – and they didn't want to see the film again.
Most NPBHS boarding old boys will remember the "Up" system, which Prefects used as punishments for minor misdemeanors committed by hostel boys. I had the unusual record of being the only Pridham Old Boy who returned to the hostel as its Senior Hostel Manager (1964-67) and I was expected to support my prefects in disciplinary matters. Prefects could give out Ups for such things as misbehavior in the dining room, locker room, talking after lights out (I think there was a 20 minute period and then a prefect on duty would go around the dorms warning that silence must now prevail). Ups would be handed out one at a time, and in exceptional cases, 2 at a time.
On Saturday mornings, at a House Meeting, the detention list would be read out with punishments allocated. These would be making prefects beds or cleaning their shoes, polishing brass door handles, cleaning the "duckboards" in the shower rooms, sweeping out the locker room etc. If a boy received 5 or more Ups in a week, the offender was referred to the Senior Housemaster.
Tradition was that 2 strokes of the cane was mandatory. I had suffered such treatment as a boy, from Charlie Brenstrum, a man who wielded a fearsome cane regularly in the classroom, and I quickly learnt it was best to stay on the right side of him. Later Arthur Lucas succeeded Charles. He was a man I quickly came to admire and I modeled my own approach to running a hostel on him. Arthur had had a successful military career in WW2 and Old Boys will remember his military bearing as he strode out around the school. Arthur loved his "boys', but treated them firmly but fairly. He minimised the use of the cane, never giving more than two strokes, and only when he felt the 'crime' - smoking, deserved it. He took a great interest in the activities of all boys in the House, regularly seen on the sidelines in the weekends and handing out words of encouragement.
This was the model I tried to follow, which brings me back to House Prefects and Ups. It soon became apparent to me that my prefects were not even handed. Some could keep discipline through the strength of their own personalities. They handed out few Ups, and only in 1's. The weaker ones often reverted to Double Ups, and quickly filled the quota for a boy within a week. I always asked the culprit who had given them the detentions and what for, and it became apparent, some boys were suffering at the hands of a couple of prefects for trivial reasons. I did not like this, as fundamentally, I was opposed to corporal punishment, but saw that it did have a role as a deterrent.
I decided to try a non-corporal punishment approached and announced to the House that there would be a trial period when the cane would not be used, and an alternative introduced - cold showers before bed. I supervised this and the offenders had to stand for one minute in freezing water. To start with there was a dramatic decrease in those getting 5 Ups, so I handed the supervision to the Prefects. Shortly after I received a delegation of prefects and senior serial offenders. The request was that cold showers in winter was getting to them and they would far prefer the cane! So I compromised and caning was back, but only one stroke for 5 Ups, two for more.
During my time on the staff at NPBHS I became very friendly with the late great John ("JJ") Stewart. He had a favourite technique, which was to mildly humiliate the offender in front of the group. He would order the offender to step forward, take off a sandal or shoe and use this to administer a light whack on the bottom. The lesson to me was use your personality, and replace the physical pain of the cane with mild humiliation on a level that can do no harm, yet still inflict a lesson to the offender.
My favourite story of this form of punishment occurred one evening when I was master on duty in what is now Pridham Hall. Boarders used the hall classrooms to do their “prep” or homework. Each room was supervised by a house prefect. Ups would be given out to maintain order, but serious offenders could be sent to the Master on Duty.
On this night a small teary-eyed third former came into the common room. I was reading a golfing magazine at the time. The conversation went like this.
"Who sent you, Jones?"
"’Grump’ sent me, sir"
"Pete Smith was sitting behind me and jabbed me in my bottom with a compass and I yelled out loud"
"’Grump’ was it?" (Poor prefect, poor control)
"You know that I have to cane you if a prefect sends you here?"
"Well, I've just come in from golf, so would you like a full driver or pitching iron?
"If you don't mind, sir, I'd prefer the putter!!"
After that it was "take off one sandal, bend over". Two taps on the bottom.
"Make sure you tell ‘Grump’ you got two strokes"
"Too right and thank you sir.”
Jones and I always cheerily acknowledged each other whenever we met in the grounds. He was a great kid. He wasn't a Pridham boy so I never knew what eventually happened to him.
Contribution: Bob McCaw
Pridham House Boarder - 1962 to 1966