Tag Archives: School punishment

Scrap Book Project – The Dunsmore School Annual Show and a Very Short Career in Acting

Dunsmore School Henry V

Every year at Dunsmore (now Ashlawn) School in Rugby there was a school production which ran for several nights and parents and family used to come along to watch.

As far as I can remember for several years while I was in the lower forms this would be in the form of a variety show and boys and staff would put on a performance for two hours or so of sketches and musical interludes.  These shows were organised directed and choreographed by the school music teacher Mick Self.

Mick Self was an odious man, a Welsh bully who would have been more at home in the forward line of his local rugby football club punching members of the opposition, gouging their eyes or biting their ears off than being a school teacher.  In the 1960s  bullying and punishment were all part of the curriculum at Dunsmore; you expected to get a slippering of your bare backside at gym now and again, a blackboard rubber in the back of the head if you didn’t pay attention in class, detention for no good reason at all except the teacher just didn’t like you or six strokes of the cane for even the most trivial misdemeanour but Self took bullying to an even higher level.

All of this seemed quite normal, after all this was Rugby and we had all read ‘Tom Brown’s School days” and at Dunsmore even the older boys, the Prefects, were allowed to hand out punishments without any sort of vetting for this level of behaviour enforcement responsibility.

I used to dread music lessons.  Self never taught us a single thing.  He had absolutely no teaching skills whatsoever.  If you could already play an instrument like my friends Rod Bull and Tony Gibbard then you would be fine and you were guaranteed a spot in the annual show but there was zero chance of anyone else ever getting an opportunity to learn anything useful.

The man was a psychopath.   I remember one time that he made us sit in the school hall for a double lesson (an hour and a half) absolutely still with our arms folded with a warning that if we moved a muscle then we would be punished.  He was an obnoxious evil man.  Another time in another lesson he told us to write a four page essay about Beethoven and that we couldn’t go home until it was finished.  I mean how can you write a four page essay about Beethoven without any sort of warning?   My response to this unreasonable challenge was to drag up what little knowledge I had about the German composer and then write it down using huge letters and to drag each word out across the page as far as I possibly could.  As it turned out I needn’t have gone to the trouble because he didn’t bother to read them anyway so I could have written about anything I liked just to fill up the pages.

David Howe

Anyway, one year, 1969 I think, Self was preparing as usual for the end of term Christmas show when there was an announcement that this year we would do something different and the English teacher David Howe (above) would be producing a Shakespeare play – Henry V.  Henry V was on the ‘o’ level English Literature syllabus that year so we were all fairly familiar with it.  Self was livid but I imagine there had been some staff room intrigue because even the other teachers didn’t like him, the decision was made and casting began.

I auditioned but was not successful in securing a speaking part but was compensated with not one, but two roles as an extra.  My first part was rather important as I was the servant who carried on the casket of tennis balls that is presented to King Henry by the French Ambassador in Act 1 Scene 2 and then I had to make a hasty costume change to become one of the English army, first at the siege of Harfleur in Act 3 scene 1 and then at the battle of Agincourt in Act 4 scene 1.

The play was performed four times that week and on the final night on Saturday Mick Self turned up in a drunken rage and stomped through the corridors looking for trouble.  I think he would have murdered David Howe if he had found him but luckily for David he didn’t.

A few weeks later Mick Self just seemed to mysteriously evaporate. It turned out that as well as being a bully he was up to all sorts of no good and although nothing was said, no announcements were made everyone knew that he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The failure to get a part in the play was a bit of a personal setback for me and I never auditioned for a part in the school play or any other sort of play ever again but I have to admit that this was no great loss to the theatrical profession.

Henry V

Scrap Book Project – School Sports (2)

When we returned to school in January 1966 we all changed and trooped out as normal but today there was a surprise because Morris called all the first years together and amazed us with the question, ‘right, hands up all the boys who want to play soccer?’ (it works best if you can do this with a thick Welsh accent and say the word ‘soccer’ with a distinct sneer of disapproval for such a pansy game); of course a forest of arms went up into the air and he looked scornfully at us all and said, ‘right, all the boys who want to play soccer, go and stand over there’ and he dispatched us contemptuously to the touch line.

There was real exhilaration and anticipation about this development because at least it seemed certain that we would be playing our preferred choice of Association Football.  This excitement started to wither away however as we were kept waiting on the touch line while Morris spent half an hour or so with the rugby boys as he prepared them for the afternoon’s sport.  This was completely deliberate of course because it was cold and wet and we just stood around getting damp and miserable.  It was obviously a well rehearsed routine that he would stage every year and I bet all of the other teachers knew about it and were probably watching from the staff room window and pissing themselves laughing.

Such was the sporting culture at Dunsmore that if you could play well on the rugby field any sort of academic frailties would be overlooked.  I remember David Pointon who was a complete dimwit but quite good at rugby, athletics and cricket and he was given several second chances to pass his exams and he failed every time.

Along with bullying, favouritism was rife at Dunsmore School.

Finally the rugby match got under way and Morris, who was a dreadful teacher bully, strutted over to us with an evil leer on his face and things were about to go from bad to worse. ‘Right’, he said, he always started a sentence that way ‘all you boys who want to play soccer (pause for effect) ‘you’re going on a cross country run…’

Bullies like Wynn Morris would never be allowed to teach children these days, he was an obnoxious beast, not worthy of the position he held at the school.

 And so in full rugby kit and football boots we were sent for a couple of laps of the field and then through a succession of farmer’s muddy fields, along the Grand Union canal tow path and back to school along the Kilsby Road. I had never been on a cross country run before and found the going quite tough at first but gradually I started to pull ahead of most of the others and I started to enjoy it.

I finished in the top six and decided that cross country was a whole lot better than getting roughed up on the rugby field and the following week elected to do it by choice.  This meant different kit of course more appropriate to running and a pair of suitable running shoes and no doubt my parents were delighted by another trip to J M Squires and the additional expense.

It was worth it however because finally I had found something (apart from Religious Education that is) that I was actually good at and fairly soon I was in the under 13 school team and every weekend representing Dunsmore in inter school races.  Actually we had a brilliant team and in 1968/9 the under 15 we had an exceptional season and the school magazine for that year reported:

Cross Country Team

‘The U15 team yet again had a very successful season winning the Town Championships, the Newbold Road Relay and as usual all their league matches, thus once again retaining the League Shield.’

I was so good at cross country running that I even went on with a couple of the other boys to represent Rugby Town in County and District events and the best thing about that was that I never had to play rugby football ever again.

In addition to sports afternoon every week we had a couple of sessions of Physical Education (P.E.) in the school gym.  In addition to Wyn Morris the sports masters were David (Molly) Sugden and Taffy Thomas (Welsh, of course) who used to put us through our paces doing sit-ups, press-ups and climbing the wall bars, a lot of which would surely contravene health and safety regulations these days.

What would almost certainly contravene all regulations these days was the punishment regime regularly handed out. I think it was about toughening us up but Wynn Morris in particular used to enjoy spanking boys with a slipper.  This was much worse than the cane because you couldn’t take double underpants precautions in advance.  In fact you couldn’t take any sort of underpants precautions at all because we weren’t allowed to wear them under our gym shorts and we had to do P.E. with our undercarriage flapping about and unprotected.

Punishment could be for anything really, mostly trivial stuff like not getting changed fast enough, having untidy kit or looking at the master in a funny way.  Once selected for a slapping all the other boys were sent off to the gym to warm up and the victim had to stay behind.  Morris would fetch the worn white plimsol that he would use for these occasions say ‘bend over’ and then whip down our shorts and apply two or three slaps to the exposed bare buttocks. Nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong about this it was just an accepted part of the Dunsmore sports routine.

 

1968/9 Dunsmore u15 Cross Country, the team manager and history master Mr Phillips on the left and the headmaster Frank Hodgson standing next to me on the far right.

School Sports – Cross Country Running

When we returned to school in January 1966 we all changed and trooped out as normal but today there was a surprise because Morris called all the first years together and amazed us with the question, ‘right, hands up all the boys who want to play soccer?’ (it works best if you can do this with a thick Welsh accent and say the word ‘soccer’ with a distinct sneer of disapproval for such a pansy game); of course a forest of arms went up into the air and he looked scornfully at us all and said, ‘right, all the boys who want to play soccer, go and stand over there’ and he dispatched us contemptuously to the touch line.

There was real exhilaration and anticipation about this development because at least it seemed certain that we would be playing our preferred choice of Association Football.  This excitement started to wither away however as we were kept waiting on the touch line while Morris spent half an hour or so with the rugby boys as he prepared them for the afternoon’s sport.  This was completely deliberate of course because it was cold and wet and we just stood around getting damp and miserable.  It was obviously a well rehearsed routine that he would stage every year and I bet all of the other teachers knew about it and were probably watching from the staff room window and pissing themselves laughing.

Finally the rugby match got under way and Morris strutted over to us with an evil leer on his face and things were about to go from bad to worse. ‘Right’, he said, he always started a sentence that way ‘all you boys who want to play soccer (pause for effect) ‘you’re going on a cross country run…’

 And so in full rugby kit and football boots we were sent for a couple of laps of the field and then through a succession of farmer’s muddy fields, along the Grand Union canal tow path and back to school along the Kilsby Road. I had never been on a cross country run before and found the going quite tough at first but gradually I started to pull ahead of most of the others and I started to enjoy it.  I finished in the top six and decided that cross country was a whole lot better than getting roughed up on the rugby field and the following week elected to do it by choice.  This meant different kit of course more appropriate to running and a pair of suitable running shoes and no doubt my parents were delighted by another trip to J M Squires and the additional expense.

It was worth it however because finally I had found something (apart from Religious Education that is) that I was actually good at and fairly soon I was in the under 13 school team and every weekend representing Dunsmore in inter school races.  Actually we had a brilliant team and in 1968/9 the under 15 we had an exceptional season and the school magazine for that year reported:

‘The U15 team yet again had a very successful season winning the Town Championships, the Newbold Road Relay and as usual all their league matches, thus once again retaining the League Shield.’

I was so good at cross country running that I even went on with a couple of the other boys to represent Rugby Town in County and District events and the best thing about that was that I never had to play rugby football ever again.

In addition to sports afternoon every week we had a couple of sessions of Physical education (P.E.) in the school gym.  In addition to Wyn Morris the sports masters were David (Molly) Sugden and Taffy Thomas who used to put us through our paces doing sit-ups, press-ups and climbing the wall bars, a lot of which would surely contravene health and safety regulations these days.

What would almost certainly contravene all regulations these days was the punishment regime regularly handed out. I think it was about toughening us up but Wynn Morris in particular used to enjoy spanking boys with a slipper.  This was much worse than the cane because you couldn’t take double underpants precautions in advance.  In fact you couldn’t take any sort of underpants precautions at all because we weren’t allowed to wear them under our gym shorts and we had to do P.E. with our tackle flapping about and unprotected.

Punishment could be for anything really, mostly trivial stuff like not getting changed fast enough, having untidy kit or looking at the master in a funny way.  Once selected for a slapping all the other boys were sent off to the gym to warm up and the victim had to stay behind.  Morris would fetch the worn white plimsol that he would use for these occasions say ‘bend over’ and then whip down our shorts and apply two or three slaps to our exposed bare buttocks. Nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong about this it was just an accepted part of the Dunsmore sports routine.