James Hadfield-Hyde

Boarding School

"The following morning I was introduced to my first harsh lesson in boarding school discipline. I was put into Piggy Pugh’s dorm. He was fat, ugly with a sadistic streak and looked incredibly like Billy Bunter. He was also the school Head boy. Having never slept in a room with seven other people before I found the stuffiness and overbearing smell of sweaty socks and feet intolerable. I remember getting out of bed, heading over to the huge cast iron framed Gothic window in a vain attempt to open it. From beneath the sheets of the bed nearest to the window came Pugh’s aristocratic voice, “ and what the bloody hell do you think you’re doing, new boy ?” No sooner had he spoken when in walked a member of staff, a Nun, whose name escapes me. “This new boy went to open the window without permission” said Pugh. The Nun then proceeded to slap me about the head and face, I remember my ear was red and throbbing. No act in the dormitory was permitted without the permission of the Dorm Prefect. Prefects had the power to administer discipline in the form of punishment by beating with a slipper, with a maximum sentence of six of the best. For even the smallest of misdemeanours you could find yourself being called over accompanied by your own slipper. Crying at night of homesickness and disturbing other boys’ sleep was usually two strokes. A badly made bed or unfolded clothes, four strokes. Answering the Prefect back or refusing an order, definitely six strokes.

Later that day, I was down in the locker room with a few other new boys when a group of older ones came in. One of them grabbed me by the neck and put his knee in my back, forcing me to the ground where he then proceeded to twist my already sore ear. This was great sport to the bigger boys and they all laughed and cheered. When he eventually let me go I jumped up, pulled at his Eton collar, the stud popped and his bow tie flew across the room. I then bit him on the wrist and kicked him several times on the shin. I think he was so utterly shocked at my ferocious retaliatory action he retreated, ‘allegretto.’ I had expected him and his chums to give me the beating of my life but they all shuffled off muttering things like “aggressive little bastard.” I was from Celtic stock and no toffee-nosed chinless wonder was going to get the better of me, no matter how big he was. At that moment I had won the admiration of my peers and the respect of my elders; I had won my spurs !

That one piece of action was to set a precedent for things to come. It guaranteed that I would never be singled out to be a Fag. Fagging was a longstanding tradition throughout the entire English public school system. Junior boys were chosen to be the personal butler/manservant/slave to the Prefects and some of the older boys. If you were picked, like any slave, there is no escape. On occasion, as in ancient Rome, you could win your freedom. Scoring all the goals at a junior interschool match might do it. You were usually only a Fag for a year or so because by the time the older boys were eligible to have their own Fags they left not long afterwards. Then everyone moved up and there were a whole new fresh bunch of unsuspecting rookies billeted in."

 

Extract from 'Lust, For Life'