5th December 1893

Victoria College headmaster tried for beating boy

George Stanley Farnell, headmaster of Victoria College, found himself in the dock accused of beating a boy in his care. The boy was 17-year-old Wybert Godfray, and the case had been brought by his father, George, who claimed that Farnell had “allowed himself to violently strike” his son.

In the words of a report in Guernsey’s The Star on 2 December, “this young man had been forced to kneel on the ground and while his body was resting on a chair, his coat was thrown over his shoulder and then the said Farnell administered seven to ten blows with great violence with a malacca cane, on the back, and that one of those blows must have touched the vertebral column, for he felt a violent shock running along the vertebral column to the cerebellum. Mr Godfray handed [Centenier A J Le Quesne] a certificate from Dr Alfred Chs Godfray certifying to the existence of several contusions on the body of the said pupil.”

The caning came about after Wybert had copied the answer to a maths question from the back of a text book.

A broken promise

The boy’s father had obtained a promise from the previous headmaster that his son would never be subjected to corporal punishment. Nonetheless, the College Committee voted two thirds in favour of Farnell’s actions and the States Committee was presented with a petition for the retention of corporal punishment. This had come about after a ballot in which 118 pupils had voted for its retention and just four against. Several boys were called to testify in court and stated under oath that Wybert had not complained about the caning at the time.

After several days’ adjournment, the judge ruled that the punishment had been unduly severe and, on 5 December, the headmaster was reprimanded by the court, but no punishment was imposed on him.


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