Calling all prefects who beat mercilessly

I would like to ask this – I know there are a few ex prefects on here so I’d love their input. I’m pretty sure I’m correct in saying this, that a beating from a prefect (certainly from a public school environment), was generally the severest? The next down perhaps would be the housemaster and then the headmaster. I’m guessing the master would be in there somewhere also, but no-one would be as severe as a prefect, let alone a head prefect?

The beating I received many years ago was from the head prefect from Westminster School who attended between around 1949 to 1959 or so. His head prefect years would have been the latter part of the 50s, I’m guessing. I never really thought about it much until years later – that the reason it was so excruciatingly painful was because of who he was and the role a head prefect like himself played. It was just like the scene in ‘If’ the film, I thought.

Please can any prefects elaborate on here about the severity of beatings et cetera? Certainly the head prefect would have other boys appointed to support him and enforce discipline similarly within the house also?

I’m also guessing the person I knew also had a ‘fag’ and probably beat him whenever their the toilet seat wasn’t warmed up properly…. He never did tell me, but I suspect he did, as I’m guessing even in in the 1950s, this was still occurring. (The episode of Tales of the Unexpected: Galloping Foxley, comes to mind).

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There must have been very few caning prefects originally and the chances of encountering an authentic one here is remote especially given that more than half a century has passed since the practice fell into disrepute.

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Given that I’m still around  at 78½, and from a family not noted for its longevity, I suspect that there may be a reasonable number of caning prefects extant, even though they may not be members of this Forum.

The prefects at my school did not abandon the cane until a few years after I left in the summer of 1960, so some of my school contemporaries more academically or sportingly endowed than me who stayed on into the third year sixth form with a view to Oxbridge and made prefect would have wielded the cane, as would a couple or so years behind them.  And mine was certainly not the only HMC school where caning by the prefects continued on into the 1960s.

Alas I am not the clubbable type, so I eschewed the Old Boys and cannot report on the reception given to those who caned their school fellows.  I suspect though that no great rancour would be involved.  Although the juvenile Another_Lurker was fearful the first time he observed the cane impressively laid on the table behind which the worthies of the prefects’ court were deployed it would have been most unusual for it to be awarded as a penalty for a first offence.

Those who were caned would have been for the most part repeat offenders who had been warned of and knew the likely outcome but nonetheless continued to break whatever rule eventually earned them that penalty.  The attitude in later life would I think be very much that the prefects were an occupational hazard of of schoolboy life and if you couldn’t do the time you shouldn’t have done the crime.  No recriminations on either side.

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I attended a caning high school with 400 boys for 5 years so would have overlapped with 2000 boys, most rather tenuously as forms rarely mixed.  Prefects routinely reported boys for canings but did not cane themselves. I have no reliable statistics but would guess there were hundreds of canings every school year.

I have never attended a reunion and have had just one internet contact with one boy now deceased. I am aware of one contemporary with a public presence on the internet whose claim to fame is/was as a caned prefect.

Sixth form canings were rare as class sizes were small and all boys were willingly at school. “A” received six-of-the-best, from the French master if I recall correctly. Offence and circumstances unknown.  He remained a prefect.  I always felt, and still do, punishments should not be inflicted secretly or without the reason being known.

I have never detected or suspected anyone from my school on this forum. Indeed there have been only a small number of my countrymen.

There may well be hundreds of living former caning prefects still living but very few have reported on their experiences anywhere to my knowledge. I would be very surprised if one was to post here. The climate is such that few teachers or prefects who caned boys in the past are likely to come forward and admit it.

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I currently have close contacts with two of the people who were at my secondary school for at least part of the time I was there.  I am also aware of various others who are now or who were in public life (sadly I have not attained the eminence the establishment rather expected of its pupils ?).  However none of those I know of, including one who subsequently held most of the great offices of state other than Prime Minister, was a caning prefect as far as I recall.  I would agree with you that the chance of a caning prefect turning up here is quite small though I remain convinced that there are some of them from various schools still out there.

As regards a caning (or at least SCP dispensing) schoolmaster or schoolmistress, I think the chances of one on the books are much higher.  Indeed I have never been able to quite decide for certain whether a current and fairly frequent contributor admits to that status.

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I was a prefect in 1962 and was acquainted with people who were prefects at other schools. As far as I am aware most  schools did not permot official corporal punishment by prefects.   The 2 exceptions ,in my limited sphere of knowledge was my own seat of learning ,Coopers Companys school for boys and Emanual School.  Both  establishments boasted high academic acheivements and, being over subscribed,   a selection process for would be pupils even after they had passed the 11 plus. .They were located  in East and West London respectively. I am sure there were some others.

In my school prefects were,during my time,not  allowed to cane but could apply the slipper at “tribunials”   until around 1959  when the priviledge was revoked .  So I and many others did not have this power when we took up office.  At Emanuel I understand the Head Boy was allowed to cane . A contemporary who. in 1958 aged 14 received 6 crackers from the young man who currently held that offce reported an excruciating painful experience which brought tears to his eyes.

Thought not strictly  relevant the Head and a pupil of Emanuel appear in this 1973 vid in a discussion re the effectiveness of SCP.


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At the grammar school I attended (now in LB Brent, then in the Metropolitan Borough of Willesden) prefects certainly used the slipper until the early sixties, though again the practice had died out by the time I reached that exalted level in (I think) the end of 1965. I’ve recounted an occasion in 1961-62 when a boy in the first year came back to class bawling his head off after getting six of the best.

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I had the privilege as a 6th form grammar school pupil in the early 1960s of playing rugby at Eton which incidentally we won. I was met off the coach by a boy of similar age who accompanied me to his study and asked if I would like a bath after the match. I readily agreed at which point to my amazement he shouted something and about 10 younger boys rushed to his study the last of which was instructed to run a bath for me at the end of the match.
On the wall was a pair of decorative canes which caught my attention. I quizzed him about the use of the cane and he quite  nonchalantly told me he had the authority to cane boys for a variety of misdemeanors. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
After I had finished and got changed  back into school uniform I was again amazed to be offered a beer in the tap room which he kindly bought for me. It was a world of which I had no experience and it left a lasting impression on me.