There’s so much being reported in the news these days about public privileged schooling .
(In the UK private fee-paying schools are called Public schools and schools for the public are called State schools, work that out of you can!)
I imagine that one line of thought must be “if you were lucky enough to go to one of these establishments, you should just shut up and stop moaning..”
In reality, I’d say that 90% of my schooling was great.
I have never been exceptionally academic, but was able to get though most things at a adequate level.
The jokers who called themselves “Career advisors” to help you find your next step after school, were only too happy to suggest that I join the Army – I’m a lover not a fighter! (I think I’d have done quite well however..)
I had the opportunity to study English at two or three “Red Brick Universities” but that seemed a bit “dead end” to me during the 80’s – when unemployment was high, and everybody had an English degree, and no jobs..

I took to Computers, then Broking and returned to computers..
This story is NOT about my CV, but more about my school life and how it shaped me..

My parents, in the mid-seventies looked around the Scottish Borders, and didn’t like the look of the local schools. (My father was a product of the public school system himself..)
I think he held his standards high, and couldn’t find an easy match in our area.
It’s for this reason that my parents, banded together with about six other local families and hired a teacher to teach us, the way that they approved of..
Our Teacher Ruth Brodie was from a particular college of teachers (who’s name now escapes me..)
that was seen to produce forward thinking teachers..

I suspect she was quite a coup for the Scottish Borders!
She did however hold rather strong religious beliefs.
I had never been brought up with any religious beliefs, my father was an atheist at best, my mother a lapsed catholic. My Grandmother who looked after me lots, used to take me to church, but I never felt indoctrinated .. I was just there to keep her company.
When I got a little bit older, my mother decided that I should take my first communion, so I did have to attend Sunday school for a while.
In the 70’s, everything was very cool and swinging, so it wasn’t exactly a brimstone and fire education..

My teacher however, took a slightly stronger view.
I’m not sure that she particularly approved of Catholics, or my friend who was Jewish..
I think she was from a strict protestant background, she deeply believed that children should learn bible tracts (no doubt to save their little souls…)
I seem to remember a trip to visit her home town – somewhere on the Scotland England border, by the sea, and maybe a look round a severe, sparse, worship hall.. Perhaps her father was a Minister..

I don’t think I was particularly good at applying myself to the task of learning the Bible.
(Maybe just generally not good at doing homework..)

I think Ruth Brodie was a fairly patient and kind person, but on occasion I and several of my colleagues over the years incurred her wrath.
At the beginning of each term, we’d take a bag of personal items to school with us, and put them in a locker. A pair of gym shoes, a pair of gym shorts, a gym vest, a hair brush (I had a lot of hair in the 70’s!) a bible.. and a few other sundry items..
My grandmother saw to it that I took HER “Mason and Pearson” huge pink hairbrush with me..
She wanted only the best for me.
Unfortunately, this was also the biggest weapon that Miss Brodie could find, it had a long handle and a stiff large back about the size of a child’s palm.
On the occasions when I’d not been able to recite one passage or another, then I’d be smacked on the hand for my stupidity or laziness..
It’s fascinating to think now how little interest I had in the task, and how important it was to her.
I see that as a religious zealot, she believed that this would save my poor little soul, not thinking about my poor little red throbbing hand and the deep humiliation that young Jeremy might suffer..

Let’s skip forward to St Mary’s school in Melrose.
My parents had looked at the school and decided against it at first, but when a new headmaster arrived, they heard there was an upturn.
They decided to send me there from about the years of nine to twelve, prior to going to big school.

The new headmaster, Mr Burns was an interesting man.
He was a family man, and his children and wife came with him, to his new post.
This is a good sign, having a family, this tends to mean that the teacher isn’t a crazed sex-pest for young boys. It doesn’t however mean that they are not peculiar.
I witnessed many Latin lessons (has anybody ever met a Latin teacher who wasn’t some sort of odd character?) where Mr Burns would stare at a problem on the blackboard, deep in thought.
Picture a hot summer’s day, him in his black teacher’s gown, staring thoughtfully at the blackboard.
I sat in the front row, to the far right side (nearest the door, to stay cool, and exit hastily for lunch or break!) I was almost level with him, I was easily able to observe him absent-mindedly slipping the chalk and his right hand down his waistband, and presumably between his buttocks..
Was he powdering his anus with chalk!? He certainly seems to be rotating it in his hand!
God forbid that you got that bit of chalk thrown at you, as often happened, who knows where it had been, under the cover of his gown!
He wasn’t the issue, but just one of the oddities…

Chump Murry – Who knows where he got the nickname from, but it suggested “gorilla,” and that’s how he looked.
He was a cruel, brooding man, in the vestiges of civility – a nice tweed jacket.
I was unlucky enough to have landed in his Maths class, where all my friends were, but unfortunately, they were much better at Maths than I.
I fell fowl of Chump in many different ways, that still remain a mystery to me.
I think the first problem was that he didn’t like me or my family, he saw me as a little posh boy who needed punishing for the circumstances of his birth..
I seemed to get beaten for bad homework, for speaking out of turn, and possibly just for existing..
He scared the living hell out of me.
His favourite trick was to tell you to go to the changing rooms, pick a gym shoe, and bring it back to be beaten with..
(Of course in the changing rooms, there would be a bevvy of sea lawyers who would all have an opinion of which shoe would be best to limit the damage, which trousers to wear.. etc.. making the whole event even more terrifying..)

Chump had a few rivals, Mr Laney who was as old as Methuselah and twice as sadistic and Mr Gumley, the science teacher who had a special set of tools to beat you with, peculiar to only a science teacher (like a massive wooden compass for drawing circles on the blackboard – it was like being beaten with a cricket bat.)
I suffered rough justice at the hands of them too..
My Mum and Dad’s friend “Skipper” – or Group Commander Gray to us children, was much more lenient, he only used to throw wooden blackboard dusters at our heads when we were dozing, or deftly aimed bits of chalk that really stung when they hit you..

Let’s not forget that my dad was paying for all of this too!
(My sister recently asked me if I ever told my father about this? I said I never had.. there was always the question “what had you been doing to deserve this treatment?” that I never wanted to have to answer, and also that it was so widespread that it just seemed normal.

It was about this time, that I awoke one school morning, and was unable to straighten my head!
It was weird and alarming! I could only look along the line of my left shoulder, and couldn’t turn my head to the front!
My mother took me to see the local doctor- unfortunately Dr Frame didn’t have a great reputation in our family, but needs must.
He took one look at me and said, “No problem – It’s only a mild muscle spasm”
With that, he wrapped his arm round my head, and twisted it violently to the front.
I think I blacked out through the pain, and the sound of tearing muscles..
I spent the next three days in bed on VALIUM! – as a ten year old boy – stoned out of my tree on VALIUM!! – Great work, Dr Frame..

I look back on that episode, and I think that I was trying to avoid further beatings from Chump Murray, anytime I could take of school was a bonus to me.
The stress of being disciplined at school really upset me deeply.
I’ve always been good at hiding things, and not caring.
I think outwardly, I just got on with life, but deep inside I really hated that period of school..

Eventually, I moved class and out of the clutches of that sadist Chump Murray. Who in god’s name enjoys thrashing children on their hands and bottoms with rubber gym shoes? It seems he took great relish in it..

I moved to my senior school, Fettes in Edinburgh.
This was utterly terrifying too.
Suddenly you are in a huge populace of boys. You are twelve years old, and there are common criminals of eighteen left to look after you, and extort your money and rations from you.
Sorry, I made it sound a bit like prison – it was!
The older inmates were always working grifts.
You had to learn how the system worked, or fall fowl of them.
We still had “fagging” when I first joined school. This meant that (although your parents were paying a horrific sum of money to the school) that you were put into Indentured servitude to a Prefect.
These were boys in their last year, who had been promoted by the prison governor – sorry the house master, to the highest rank a boy could have.

You were given duties by them. Monday, shine my shoes, Tuesday make me toast for breakfast and bring it to my room.. that could be a bit hairy I’m told.. there were some older boys who liked a young boy to come to their room early in the morning – fortunately not something that I was bothered with. Wednesday – well, you get the idea.
It was apparently about making us better people.. I’m still not sure what the actual reasoning was behind that.
I think it finished a few years after my year of servitude.
It has to be said, some older boys were, frankly, embarrassed, and pretty decent about it.
I think the year I arrived, beating of children by Prefects was abolished.
I think that eighteen year old boys who were strong and driven by a heady cocktail of power, hormones and revenge would have been a licences to kill a young child.. so this was stopped. (No doubt after some poor child somewhere was nearly whipped to death by some Flashman inspired bully..)
The teachers however liked to continue the long line of sadism.

I think I’d smartened up quite a bit by then, and by and large avoided most beatings.
I think my housemaster Mr Philp beat me several times..
Most of them were exceptionally fair..
I think both of them involved me, a large quantity of alcohol, a girl, some vomit and some serious tardiness..
How do you convince a sixteen year old boy that he needs to attend school, and not a pub?
It’s difficult! (I held no anger towards him – I could already see that I was wild and wayward – in a really nice way – but not really cut out for their rules..!)

Mr Chenevix-Trench –
My Headmaster was a refugee from the devilish Burmah Railway during the war, where he’s been severely mistreated by the Japanese. He’d run Eton for many years, but had had to resign from that, and carried the weight of that failure with him to his death.
His reputation for severe beatings came with him.
I think he’d mellowed a little by the time I was old enough to fall fowl of him.
If you were in the jurisdiction of your housemaster, when you offended, then it would be his pleasure to punish you.
If it was something more general, like say, the afterparty of the school play, then that would be more the Headmaster’s purview.
There’s a theme of alcohol reverberating through this story, that I carried with me until my fifties, when it seems I had finally quenched my thirst!
After two school plays, I was found drunk with the cast of much older boys and girls, bottles of vodka and cans of beer and undeniably three sheets to the wind!
I think it was pretty fair to lash my bottom for that!

Let me tell you about Anthony Chenevix-Trench.
Several stories have been written about his sadism.
To me he was a charming and erudite sadist.

On the occasions of my beating, he civilly explained to me why it was a good idea to try to turn my head from loose women, alcohol and galivanting.
I was invited to drop my trousers (not underpants..) and bend over the arm of his couch.
He lashed me so hard, that the couch moved across the room steadily with each stroke of his cane. (Four I think on both occasions..)
After this astonishingly painful event (imagine searing pain shooting down your legs and up your back, to be replaced with a horrific, sickening, burning sensation that lasted for hours and hours..) The Headmaster would say to you  – “OK my dear,” (as in “dear boy” – a rather upper class styling, rather than any odd sexual inuendo..)… “would you like to punch me or shake my hand?”
As a member of the 1st 15 Rugby squad and a member of the front row of the scrum, I always thought that rather a brave thing to ask me. He was a frail old man by then, I assume that with one punch I could probably have killed him..
Everybody always opted to shake him by the hand and thank him for the beating!!
Rather sick when you think about it!
I was at that stage almost fully grown, so I was able to take a beating like that on the chin, and turn it round to become a cult hero.
There was a loo, quite near the headmasters office, where “the Beaten,” would stand and admire each-others scars, and as a slightly younger boy, I was tacitly admitted into a fellowship of the Damned, with the other bad boys..!
It was worth it, and I feel that I really deserved it!

The crucial difference was my age.
If you are beating small children, it’s horrifying and sadistic; as a late teen, you were much more able to deal with the sadistic bastards who claimed to be offering a righteous path and justice.
At the same time people were punching you on the rugby field, and in pubs..
It just seemed like the rough path of life.. Somebody broke my nose, because they didn’t like my accent.. I wasn’t above the simple pleasures of thuggery on the rugby filed either, myself..
But beating young children I’ll never understand.

Whilst on retreat in China, I yet again became aware of the pain in my neck.
I had to start asking the question – why does this pain STILL plague me?
What’s the basis of this pain?
In deep meditation, the answer came to me, in a collage of pain and sadism..
Ruth Broadie thrashing my hand with that huge hairbrush, me trying to pull my hand away, and having it gripped and thrashed.
Chump Murray and his colleagues beating my bottom and hands.. making me really NOT want to attend school any further..

The casual sadism continued, but I learned to deal with it.
However, It would seem that I still bear the scars to this day.
My mother and Father were against smacking me as a child.
I think I remember ONE incident where my mother asked my father to smack me – once..
I think he hated himself for that, and my mother two..
I seem to remember a photo of me looking very red-faced and upset.. I don’t think the discipline was very strong, and I think that my upset must have carried on for a long time, finally amusing them!
They obviously thought it rather funny that I was acting up for such a while, that eventually they took a snap of me, still red faced and angry..
All I know is that they never did that again..

I feel sure that many of my readers have suffered a version of the same at home or at school.

It feels important to tell you that it’s taken me fifty years to find the power that this sadism has had over me. I still feel the physicality of those wounds even now.
I’m practicing Ho’oponopono – the Hawaiian forgiveness prayer (you can find it on Youtube and all over the internet) to help me heal the wounds..
I realise that loving myself is a big part of that practice, so I’m figuring out that all those teachers who made me wrong, need to be forgiven too..

They were just doing the best they could with the tools they had..
Times were different..
Emotions however were not… they are just as easily damaged, and just as easily leave scars.
Think twice, think three times, and then decide not to raise a hand to anyone ever, lest you create damage that lasts a lifetime..

Haola – (Chinese for “everything is good already!”)

xx Jeremy

Published by Jeremy

Jeremy is a Qigong student of over 30 years, and a Qigong Teacher of over 20 years. Jeremy offers online classes, and One to one sessions on Zoom. Jeremy offers physical classes and therapies in Bath, UK

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