A little light Eskimo baiting did us nothing but good

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The Independent Online
Methinks she doth protest too much! My somewhat catty colleague, Miss (Mssss!) Ann Wilson penned a characteristically contrary column in these pages last week in which she suggested that the traditional English public school was in some ways "racist" (dread accusation!).

"Pull the other one, Ann!" I wanted to scream, "It has the proverbial bells on!" Ann's experience at Rugby in the Sixties was greatly at odds with my own experience at Rugby in the Forties. As my Who's Who entry makes quite clear, I spent most of my school days at Basters Academy for Young Gentlemen, and I continue to rejoice in my position as an Old Basterd. But English and languages were thought of as sissy at Basters, which specialised in the more manly pursuits of mathematics and blood sports, so my parents (woolly liberals, alas) had me sent on day release to Rugby, where one or two of the more effeminate schoolmasters were believed to have a smattering of Shakespeare up their sleeves.

Ah, memories, memories! I look back on the time I spent at Rugby as one of innocent joy. Every morning, I would knock on the door of the Headmaster's office. After a couple of minutes in which I would listen to keys being turned and doors unbolted, I would be met by the Head Matron, a retired Sergeant-Major who had been forced to change sex after being dealt a particularly rotten hand in a game of forfeits at some point in the mid-1930s. The Head Matron would then strip-search me, forcing my buttocks apart with a pair of household pliers on the off-chance of discovering a spanner, a jemmy, a packet of Capstan or a half-bottle of Teacher's. If none were found, she would bid me forward with a gentle pat of her fully-licensed cattle prod.

Oh, balmy days of innocence and hope! I would then make my way to the Junior Gymnasium, where a small selection of Eskimos would be chained to the climbing bars. Lesser public schools dealt in the bullying of Jews, Blacks, Indians and what-have-you, but at Rugby this outdated practice was always considered wishy-washy and absurdly generalised. For this reason, a dozen Eskimos would be hired each year for the young gentlemen of the school to taunt and poke at our own discretion.

"Esky! Esky! Get back to your igloo, Esky!" we would chant while the poor Eskimos writhed and squirmed. Every now and then, one of us would have a word with the Headmaster about borrowing the school Polar Bear costume, and, fully dressed up, we would then enter the gym making Polar Bear noises - only to frighten the young Eskys out of their proverbial wits! No doubt the "caring" professions (!!!!) would now accuse us of "racism" or even "bullying". What nonsense! To my certain knowledge, not a single Eskimo ever complained (although they were gagged during daylight hours, one of them could easily have lifted an unchained toe in protest) and in many ways they enjoyed the full run of the school, save in those areas - chapel, dormitories, open spaces, classrooms, dining- halls - covered by the very neat and straightforward "Noli Esquimare" notices.

Card-carrying left-wingers such as Ann Wilson love nothing more than to wring their hands over modish worries such as "racism", "sexual abuse" and "bullying in the classroom". But I have practised each and every one of them and I can honestly say they never did me any harm. No doubt Ann also sees fit to fuss her silly little head over the so-called barbarities of the fagging system. Yet I spent three years as a fag at Basters Academy ("Come on, the Basters! Baste up, baste up, and baste the ball!"), working for a succession of fagmasters (Dr Brian Mawhinney, Michael Winner, Derry Irvine) who were to gain great distinction in later life, and I found it immensely character-forming.

Winner, for instance, would often produce a sawn-off shotgun to back up his demands for a slice of lightly buttered toast with a smattering of Gentleman's Relish. And as the years have gone by, I have come to realise that, contrary to all the received liberal "wisdom"(!), armed force can be an effective and appropriate accompaniment to any halfway- reasonable demand on our time.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Ann! And let me add this. By betraying the public school spirit in your column, you have revealed yourself as nothing more than a worthless little squit. You're a worthless little squit, Ann! What are you Ann? Yes - a worthless little squit! Go on, say it, Ann - SAY IT!