‘He definitely needed to beat some boys – it was a very urgent matter’

Julian Clary speaks out about his experience of corporal punishment at the hands (and via the cricket bat) of a teacher

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3 September 1990

He beat me with a cricket bat and I was terribly shocked by it: I hadn’t been beaten before, as I was quite well behaved. It was the worst pain I have had inflicted on me deliberately by somebody. What he thought he was achieving I don’t know…

I was 12. I was very fond of this monk. He used to make me laugh all the time and I would look forward to his classes because we had this sort of banter going.

We had swimming on Wednesday, and I forgot my swimming things one day, as did three other boys. So when everyone went off in the coach to go to the swimming pool, we just sat in the classroom, reading and hoping no one would find us. But he did. He swept in in his black robes, all red in the face – beetroot-red he was – and looking for blood.

“What are you all doing here?”

“We’ve forgotten our swimming things,” we said. I mean, that was punishment enough. I quite liked swimming, and we’d just forgotten them – human error.

But, nevertheless, he said: “Go to my room.” He was now very red in the face: he definitely needed to beat some boys – it was a very urgent matter, it seemed to me.

We had to wait in the corridor outside his office. The office was all leather furniture and musty smells, and you heard the clinking of bottles in the filing cabinet. You had to lean over his armchair, and our jackets had a little flap at the back, and he lifted the flap up so it didn’t soften the blow at all. I was the fourth one, or the last one. Everyone said he beat me much harder than anyone else.

And so this vicious attack with the cricket bat was carried out, and I felt terribly shocked by the pain, that this nice man whom I had liked very much was doing this terrible thing to me. I wanted to retaliate in some way but I couldn’t. I thought: the only thing I can do is not laugh at his jokes… we’ll no longer be friends. I never spoke to him again.

I used to stare out of the window during his classes, and he would try ever so hard to get back to the way things were, but I never would. He even apologised to me after a week or two. He said: “I can see that I have upset you. I’m sorry; can’t we start again?” But I wouldn’t speak to him, and I never did speak to him.

I never mentioned this to my parents. I didn’t tell them anything that went on at school. I had a scholarship – they would never have been able to send me there, they couldn’t afford it – and I was constantly being told how lucky I was and it seemed churlish to say that I hated it…

A few years ago someone from our class died, and I went to a funeral service which was held at the school, and he was there. And he said “hello” to me – and I still couldn’t speak to him…

If it was anyone else, I would forgive the person. It’s terribly important that you should forgive people. But I find I can’t forgive him, even now… 

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