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