The Headmaster, while I was at Repton struck me as being a rather shoddy bandy-legged little fellow with a big bald head and lots of energy, but not much charm. Mind you, I never did know him well because in all those months and years, I was at the school, I doubt whether he addressed more than six sentences to me altogether. So perhaps it was wrong of me to form a judgement like that. What is so interesting about this Headmaster is that he became famous person later on. At the end of my third year, he was suddenly appointed Bishop of Chester and off he went to live in a palace by the River Dee. I remember at the time trying to puzzle out how on earth a person could suddenly leap from being a school master to becoming a Bishop all in one jump but there were bigger puzzles to come.
From Chester, he was soon promoted again to become Bishop of London, and from there, after not all that many years, he bounced up the ladder once more to get the top job of them all, Archbishop of Canterbury! And not long after that it was he himself who had the task of crowning our present Queen in Westerminster Abbey with half of the world watching him on television. Well, well, well. And this was the man who used to deliver the most vicious beatings to the boys under his care!
By now I am sure you will be wondering why I lay so much emphasis upon school beatings in these pages. The answer is that I cannot help it. All through my school life I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys, and sometimes quite severely. I couldn't get over it. I never have got over it. It would, of course, be unfair to suggest that all masters were constantly beating the daylights out of all boys in those days. They weren't. Only a few did so, but that was quite enough to leave a lasting impression of horror upon me. It left another more physical impression upon me as well. Even today, whenever I have to sit for any length of time on a hard bench or chair I begin to feel my heart beating along the old lines that the cane made on my bottom some sixty-five years ago.
There is nothing wrong with a few quick sharp tickles on the rump. They probably do a naughty boy a lot of good. But this Headmaster were talking about wasn't just tickling you when he took out his cane to deliver a flogging. He never flogged me, thank goodness, but I was given a vivid description of one of these ceremonies by my best friend at Repton, whose name was Michael.
Michael was ordered to take down his trousers and kneel on the Headmaster's sofa, with the top half of his body hanging over one bend of the sofa. The great man then gave him one terrific crack. After that, there was a pause. The cane was put down and the Headmaster began filling his pipe from a tin of tobacco. He also started to lecture the kneeling boy about sin and wrongdoing. Soon, the cane was picked up again and a second tremendous crack was administered upon the trembling buttocks. Then the pipe-filling business and the lecture went on for maybe another thirty seconds. Then came the third crack of the cane. Then the instrument of torture was put once more upon the table and a box of matches was produced. A match was struck and applied to the pipe.
The pipe failed to light properly. A forth strike was delivered, with the lecture continuing. This slow and fearsome process went on until ten terrible strokes hat been delivered, and all the time, over the pipe-lighting and the match-striking, the lecture on evil and wrongdoing and sinning and misdeeds and malpractice went on without a stop. It even wet on as the strokes were being administered. At the end of this all, a basing, a sponge and a small clean towel were produced by the Headmaster, and the victim was told to wash away the blood before pulling up his trousers.
Do you wonder then that this man's behaviour used to puzzle me tremendously? He was an ordinary clergyman at that time as well as being Headmaster, and I would sit in the dim light of the school chapel and listen to him preaching about the Lamb of God and about Mercy and Forgiveness an all the rest of it and my young mind would become totally confused. I knew very well that only the night before this preacher had shown neither Forgiveness nor Mercy in flogging some small boy who had broken the rules.
So what was it all about? I used to ask myself
Did they preach one thing and practise another, these men of God?
And if someone had told me at the time that this flogging clergyman, was one day to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, I would never have believed it. It was all this, I think, that made me begin to have doubts about religion and even about God. If this person, I kept telling myself, was one of God's chosen salesmen on earth, then there must be something very wrong about the whole business. (Roald Dahl, Boy – tales of childhood)
Da ich das nicht alles übersetzen will und ich keine deutsche Ausgabe habe, eine kurze Zusammenfassung: Dahl beschreibt eine von vielen Prügelstrafen in englischen Internatschulen, die bis in die jüngere Zeit hinein offenbar an der Tagesordnung waren, durch den Rektor der Schule, den späteren Erzbischof of Canterbury. Dahl schließt mit den Worten:
Können Sie sich vorstellen, daß das Verhalten dieses Mannes mich ungemein verwirrte? Er war ein einfacher Kleriker, der zu dieser Zeit gleichzeitig Schulvorsteher war. Ich pflegte im dämmrigen Licht der Schulkapelle zu sitzen und ihm zuzuhören, wenn er über das Lamm Gottes, über Gnade und Vergebung und so weiter und so fort predigte, und mein kindliches Gemüt verwirrte sich darüber ganz und gar. Ich wußte sehr gut, daß der Prediger erst am Vorabend weder Vergebung noch Gnade gezeigt hatte, als er kleine Jungen verprügelte, die gegen die Regeln verstoßen hatten.Es verdeutlicht, wieso die derzeit oft zu hörende Erklärung, Prügelstrafen wären seinerzeit (Dahl spricht von den dreißiger Jahren) als Erziehungsmittel eben an der Tagesordnung gewesen, eine unglückliche ist. Körperstrafen durch Kleriker oder Personen des gottgeweihten Lebens verletzen nicht nur die Menschenwürde, übrigens auch die des Strafenden, und können in schweren Fällen eine Seele für immer schädigen – sie lassen die Kinder an Christus und an seiner Kirche irre werden.
Worum ging es dann eigentlich, fragte ich mich?
Predigten sie das eine und taten das andere, diese Gottesmänner?
Und wenn mir jemand zu dieser Zeit erzählt hätte, daß dieser prügelnde Kleriker eines Tages Erzbischof von Canterbury werden würde, hätte ich das nie geglaubt. Es war dies, glaube ich, was mir Zweifel über die Religion und sogar über Gott selbst einflößte. Wenn dieser Mensch, so sagte ich mir, einer von Gottes auserwählten Vertretern Gottes auf Erden war, mußte an der ganzen Sache etwas schrecklich Unrechtes sein.