My old school St Paul’s has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, namely a succession of teachers who were “at it” with the boys. I have always thought that one of the reasons people went into teaching was their attraction for young boys and the sinister, complicit way a teacher tainted by improper sexual activity would move from school to school after a scandal was totally unacceptable. At least it’s now in the open.
When I look back over my schooling there were inevitably such “incidents”, but the one character we always talk about in any reunion was the sadistic headmaster of our prep school. A Yorkshireman, he wore heavy worsted suits, rocked on his heels and beat the boys. it was a Stasi-like ordeal as you could wait for hours outside the white panelling of his office till you were reduced to a blubbing wreck then, ushered in, a cane was produced with a flourish and applied severely to the hand. At my 60th birthday where two friends of mine were present from that school he was still recalled and not fondly. Also at the school was a kindly Latin master who slipped his hand down the back of your shorts. He would now be named and shamed and charged, but he is not recalled with the kind of visceral hatred that caused one pupil – later a consumer electronic millionaire at 28 – to admit to me that, when he read the headmaster died, he consumed a whole bottle of champagne to celebrate his passing.
The saddest element of this sorry business for me was that my dear tutor at St Paul’s , a man of enormous kindness and the most popular teacher there, was recently convicted with a suspended sentence for possessing paedophile photos . Had I know I would, as many of his pupils did, have rushed to his support. I judge a man by his qualities, not his sexual proclivities, and this teacher was one of the best.