fagging-the-shirburnian-lent-1960In Summer term 1958 an article about fagging written by the 14 year-old Tim Heald (Lyon House 1957-1962) appeared in The Shirburnian.  Tim later recalled that he had been commissioned by Stanley Johnson (then editor of The Shirburnian)  to write an attack on fagging for the School magazine, adding that fagging at Sherborne was abolished soon afterwards and he had had “a healthy respect for the power of the pen ever since.”

This is the article that sparked Tim Heald’s successful career as a journalist and writer:


There is a knock on the door.  A familiar figure enters.  The Dayroom rises as a man. As the familiar figure bawls “Fag”, he is instantly besieged by a dozen rushing boys.  He selects one of the besiegers and tells him in imperious tones to clean out a dirty saucepan.

Our House Rules say that fagging is authorised so that:

  1. Prefects may have more time to carry out their duties.
  2. Additional help may be provided for the cleaning and care of the house, for the common benefit.
  3. Because the salutary effect upon Juniors of learning to carry out orders promptly is of importance in itself.
  4. A prefect should never call upon a fag to do something which he could do himself, if he has the time.

The first rule is just in principal, but it is difficult to see what duties the prefects are carrying out when the fags clean their shoes in the morning.  The second rule is very sensible and there is nothing at all to be said against it.  The third rule would have more meaning if the Juniors did in fact carry out the orders promptly and efficiently.  However this is entirely the fault of the fags.  The last rule is being broken with ever increasing frequency, as is born out by the fact that in our house the average amount of fag chits last term was in the region of sixteen per week, whereas this term it is over thirty.

One point is, however, more important than any criticism of these rules.  This is that, whilst the prefects are the most important people in the house, they are not the only people.  While they are working or using their time profitably a few pour souls are vainly waiting for the fag-bell.  These people are behind the average and if they do not improve they will be beaten.  They have not been idle; they spend their time attempting to work and, when the fag-bell rings, others, who are waiting at the door, get there first.  This is shameful for not only are they prevented from working by the incessant din of the fag-bell, but, if they do not wait by the door the whole time, they will be beaten for “Idle fagging”.

The only argument left to those who favour fagging in its present form is that people have done it for years so why should they stop now?  It is simple to answer this: they were foolish to have done it for so many years and they should have stood up for such rights as they had.  After all the fags pay as much to come here as the prefects; they pay to learn, they must have time to learn.

T.V. [Timothy Villiers Heald]
The Shirburnian, Summer 1958