Fantasy teachers

6th July 2001 at 01:00
Famous for caning Billy Bunter and his classmates, Horace Henry Samuel Quelch is the beastly form master in Frank Richards' Greyfriars stories.

Yaroo! Here we go again chaps, another staffroom sadomasochist.

Actually, even Bunter described Quelch as "a beast, but a fair beast".

But didn't he beat his pupils?

Oh yes, Quelch dates from before the First World War. Schools in those days had a sliding scale - 100 lines for inattention in class, six on the palm for minor misdemeanors, caning for breaking bounds and flogging for major offences like throwing a tomato at your form master.

But I thought Dickens put a stop to all this glorification of violence in Nicholas Nickleby?

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but not the cane. In the Greyfriars stories, Quelch is seen wielding it with all the elan of Obi Wan unsheathing his light sabre. Only villains fell foul of that devastating swish. Frank Richards clearly admired Mr Quelch. The whole class falls silent the moment he enters a room. Everyone pays attention - and SATs results are excellent.

But come on, secretly he's a perv, has to be?

No, the only thing Quelch gets up to late at night is writing his "History of Greyfriars School"- a monumental task to which he devotes his life. To him the midnight oil is for burning, not for rubbing all over your body.

At weekends? Surely he goes up to London to be dominated by bondage queens?

Not at all. On Saturdays and Sundays, Mr Quelch swaps his mortar board and spats for tweeds and a deerstalker. Harry Wharton and Co often see him pounding along the cliff tops of Kent on 20-mile hikes with Mr Hacker, the acid-tempered master of the lower fourth, or on bird-watching expeditions with Mr Prout.

Bit of a voyeur then?

No, no - you've got it all wrong. Teachers of Quelch's generation couldn't afford to think about sex. At the beginning of their careers they were far too poorly paid to marry and any kind of dalliance outside marriage would have meant the sack. The only woman in Quelch's life was Mrs Mimble who ran the Tuck Shop.

Is that a misprint?

No. Times were different then. Britain was building an Empire. Young men had to be trained to live without their families so they could be posted to Afghanistan or Tobago. Quelch was a role model of self-sufficiency and self-control. Only once did he ever end a sentence with the preposition, and that was under great duress.

So, he just teaches, writes history and goes for walks?

Yes Now that is perverted...

Adrian Mourby

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