Latin at Prep School
I really hated Latin at prep-school. I found it hard to learn the interminable lists of verbs and their conjugations and very much like Winston Churchill, as portrayed in the film ‘Young Winston’, I could not see the point of many of the ‘cases’. (O Table… I mean who would address a table?) That said, I struggled on as I knew not to do so was simply courting disaster.
We had a text book for first year latin and we were issued with these at our very first lesson. The title and details of which have remained with me till this day. I attach, (I hope it reproduces, if not then I’ll send this story as a PDF. for anyone who’d like it complete). The cover Reads” Latin for Today by Mason Gray and Thornton Jenkins.” I hated messrs Gray and Jenkins & Co for heaping such tortures as the exercises in that volume on my and my fellow sufferers. The vocab tests on Friday mornings nearly always ended with a slippering for those who got less then 17/20 and I was usually in the 12-15 range and so got the appropriate whacks on my bottom with the class plimsoll.
One such day, half way through the term, the master was doing the rounds of our form as we were completing a class exercise from the backboard and he happened to glance at my closed text book on my desk. I was laboriously writing my answers in my exercise book to the test set on the blackboard, and did not see anything amiss. He grabbed my text book for a closer look and then holding it up for the rest of the class to see loudly told us to stop writing and hold up their text books. He then said that I and two others should report to him before lunch in his room (he was deputy Head) before lunch. Our crime? What was it that caused the three of us to have to report to him for? We were now realising that it was going to be rather more than a mere telling off or congratulating us on our wit and artistry. Oh, no, he has a severer aim in mind as we were all to soon to find out.
All three of us had redesigned the cover of our text books in a way that I am sure has occurred to many a boy before us and if the dreaded thing is still in existence for many after us too. The title just lent itself to a textual modification of the sort so loved by boys of old (and probably new as well). We had simply with the aid of pen and ink changed the title from Latin to Eatin… something much more amenable to the schoolboy mind and body, than Latin prose and grammar. The deputy head, however, had other ideas. Damaging school property was a heinous offence, which he intended to stamp out with a short sharp lesson to our behinds before lunch. Something we would remember for a while and something he hoped the rest of the class would mark and learn from. The marks, of course, would soon be appearing on our bottoms, as we were fast beginning to realise. The rest of the lesson dragged by in awful silence for the three of us miscreants and many a wicked smile of anticipation of our forthcoming executions were grinned about the room from our safe form-mates. The bell rang for end of class and he collected up our exercise books and left the room. That was the end of morning school so the three of us in question made our way rather slowly to his room and one of us, not me I know that, knocked and we were summonsed inside.
After the statutory lecture about damaging school property and that our parents would be charged for replacing the books we were told we were getting four strokes of the cane each.. The deputy head pulled out a school chair form the wall and placing it in the middle of his room facing the desk he indicated to the first of us ( I was in the middle) to go and bend over the back and hold onto the seat of the chair. This he did and his trousered bottom was tightened with the bending nicely. The deputy Head raised his blazer up and folded it back and then after picking up his cane from the desk and lining it up with my form-mates behind brought it down swiftly with a whoosh thwack across the middle of his bottom. His knees buckle a bit and his bottom wriggles and I heard a distinct gasp and sudden intake of breath. The Deputy head lined up the cane again and gave two more strokes in quick succession and then after the boy had regained position as he’d gasped loudly and wriggled a lot with knees buckling and straightening two or three times. The last stroke was a low one. It whistled down frighteningly and swiped right across his sit spot. He yelped ever so loudly and backed about over the chair. After a few seconds had elapsed and he’d calmed somewhat the deputy head told him to get up and stand with us. He awkwardly got up. He was very red faced and teary and sort of hobbled across next to me and at the same time the deputy head indicated to me to take his place over the chair. I fearfully moved forward and adopted the same position, waist bent right over the top of the chair, arms resting on the seat, gripping the front of the seat and with my head down, I waited.
The deputy Head raised my blazer off my bottom and folded it back to above my waist band giving my shorts a quick tug to tighten them over my bottom. Then I guess he did much the same as before, I felt the cane lined up across the middle of my bottom and then a second or two later I heard a swushing noise, followed by the crack of it landing and then the intense pain spread across both cheeks of my bum. I know my knees buckled and I almost pulled the chair backwards. I regained position head swimming and as soon as I had settled the second stroke followed as fiercely, a little higher then the first. I repeated the movements as before and added an anguished gurgling sound, the third stroke followed as soon as I was still and then the final one again the moment I stopped wriggling over the chair. The one on my sit spot evoked an sort of guttural wail. Then it was over. I was told to stand and go back in line. I, like my form mate before, sorta hobbled to my place, bottom stinging and tears falling. The last boy took his position. I was not very aware during his preparations but as soon as that cane landed on his upturned bottom, I was riveted to the view. He buckled up and down, as I and the first boy had done, but stayed down gripping the front of the chair seat tightly. He gasped and wriggled his way through the four strokes and like us took his position back in line as the deputy head put the chair back against the study wall, and the cane away. He then made the entries in the book checking each of our names as he did so. We were then sent on our way to join the others in the dining room queue. We made a quick stop in the ‘bogs’ to wash hands and faces and commiserate with each other about how bad the pain was. The others in our form were full of questions on how many strokes? How was it done? How bad it was? Could they see the marks? We three allowed a select few to see our bared bottoms in the changing room before first period. We certainly had matching sets of four parallel tramlines across both our bottom cheeks for at least the next ten days as far as I can remember.