The pilot episode of Ripping Yarns, the series of splendid adventures set in the early 1900s created by Terry Jones and Michael Palin. "Tomkinson's Schooldays" was first aired on 7th January 1976, and featured Palin as Tomkinson and as the headmaster.

I had been at Graybridge for two weeks... and the dour, forbidding place had produced such misery in my soul and fear in my heart as I had never known in my whole life... Everything about the place seemed designed to crush the soul and break down any reserve of pride I ever had...

England, 1912. Tomkinson is a pupil at Graybridge, the worst kind of public school ever, out in the wilds, full of cruelty and strange customs. Boys get nailed to the walls, chained to the rugby pitch, and need permission to walk or breathe from fiercely sadistic older boys. Worst of all is Grayson, the school bully, an elegant and handsome young man whose endless privileges include smoking, drinking, naked Filipino women, and kicking boys in the head.

Tomkinson desperately appeals to his mummy to get him out of this sadistic place. She however is very busy with the large number of naked men constantly leaping out at her and hiding in her shrubberies, and assures Tomkinson he is much better off at school. She invokes the memory of his poor dear sainted father, who is off exploring Antarctica somewhere.

Only one master, Mr Ellis, is enthusiastic about the tortures inflicted as sports, and about the school song, which nobody knows properly. One day Tomkinson, playing in a match, grabs the ball and runs. He scores a goal and keeps running. Eventually he is brought down by the school leopard, and yet again carted off in a stretcher to the hospital wing. His next effort at escape is in the model boat club. His model is a 14 000 ton icebreaker, full size. Mr Ellis is annoyed and tells him if it's full size it's not a model, it's an icebreaker, and he's a very silly boy and should melt it down.

The chaplain is endlessly digging sewers and tunnels. The school bully calls Tomkinson into his luxury suite and tells him he shouldn't be interfering with escape matters, since the chaplain is in the bully's pay. The chaplain is going to be rewarded with an archbishopric. The sad thing is he thinks it's going to be York or Canterbury... whereas the one the bully has in his gift is the bitterly cold Soligorsk in the Ukraine. Then the bully gets a message: the chaplain has made a slight error in digging, so the annoyed bully decides to cover it up by feeding the unsuspecting Tomkinson with huge amounts of cigarettes, alcohol, and silky semi-naked Filipina women sticking tongues in his ear, and in this condition Tomkinson staggered up the escape tunnel into its exit in the headmaster's study, breaking 127 school rules.

Finally Tomkinson is put to the ultimate torture: the hopping race, which no boy from Graybridge had ever survived. As he was on the point of death, he was approached by Grayson with a sniff of a certain interesting substance, and perked up, and became the first ever Graybridge winner. He was welcomed back as the new school bully (Grayson having taken up an offer of a place at Eton), and had the moral dilemma of how to reform the system.

He violently hits the little boy who congratulates him.

Ripping Yarns -- The Testing of Eric Olthwaite >

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