PRAISE FOR PERFECT PREFECTS
Unfortunately, I was put in Venning, which was a luxurious building only about a year old.
My Venning contemporaries and I were envied by classmates housed in the main building, who had to put up with squalid basement baths and toilets, whereas we basked in gleaming new baths, showers and changing rooms.
But boys in other houses were wrong to envy us. Despite our modern surroundings, all of us in the 1965 Venning intake would have given anything not to be in Venning. We spent our first year paralysed in fear. Due to one or two chilling individuals, we were bullied more cruelly than boys in other houses.
But, looking back in the last year or so, I have realised that we were lucky in one way. We had wonderful prefects.
In those days prefects’ duties included administering corporal punishment to 13 and 14-year-olds with a hairbrush. A prefect would order the miscreant to bend over before delivering typically two or three strokes with the approximately nine-inch brush.
It was a difficult role for a prefect of any sensitivity, administering what these days would be considered criminal assault. Many OHs of that period thoroughly approve of Allhallows 1960s discipline but most concede that prefects tended to abuse their power, by beating boys for trumped-up reasons. OH author Sir John Lister-Kaye, head of school in 1964, has described the abuse he suffered as a junior: “Catching us juniors talking after lights-out was more about asserting power and providing sport for newly-appointed house prefects than it was a justified corrective.”
Our three Venning prefects in 1965-66 were not like that. They beat us only when rules required, and they did it as a duty, with distaste.
My research suggests that the three must have found it particularly unpleasant to beat their fellow students.
For example, the oldest prefect was really too old to be at school. He was 19 for most of his year as prefect. He had not joined Allhallows until he was 15 which suggests that, although he was expected to beat boys, he had joined the school too late to have ever been beaten by a boy himself. If true, what a difficult situation!
The next oldest also had not joined the school until age 15 and had to beat me and my contemporaries, despite probably never having been beaten by a pupil himself.
The youngest of the three was also in an uncomfortable position, being little older than his charges. He was appointed prefect aged just 16 years and five months.
All three prefects seemed studious types and my research, using the book Allhallows School Register and Record, shows that none of them were very sporty.
Thanks guys! All three of you were fair and decent but I didn’t appreciate that at the time.