Everyone remembers their first caning at school. I certainly do but I also remember the first time I got the full six strokes. I attended a grammar school in the 1960s and the cane was well used. Each pupil was part of one of four houses and each house had one teacher as Head of House. It was this person who dealt with day-to-day canings, although serious infractions meant a visit to the Headmaster and a guaranteed six strokes. On day one at the school, I was delighted to be put in Spencer House (actual name changed). The reason for this was that the Head of House was an elderly teacher called Mr Ryan (actual name changed). He was known throughout the school as the most lenient of the four heads of house and very rarely used more than two or three strokes of the cane. He preferred to talk to pupils rather than use the stick. During my time I was sent to him a few times but was only caned twice.
The first occasion was for being rude to a teacher for which I received two strokes of the cane as a first offender. This was in the second year at the age of thirteen. The second time was for receiving three detentions in a term in my fourth year. I received three strokes from him, one for each detention and the promise of four if I got another detention that term. Luckily, it was near the end of term so I dodged that one.
But disaster struck in the October of my last year there. Mr Ryan was taken ill and his deputy, Mrs Crook (actual name changed), took over his duties including caning. She was renowned for her discipline and was a very fit PE teacher. Interestingly, she was now the only female teacher authorised to cane as all the other senior teachers were male.
I managed to avoid a visit to her, more by good luck, until the last day before February half- term. I was rather boisterous that day as the holiday was coming and it showed. I got warned by the teachers in the morning lessons to behave but escaped anything further. But the first lesson after lunch the teacher kept on telling me off for being loud and disrupting the lesson. I kept on and was finally given a report slip and sent to the office. I sneaked a look on the way and it listed the reason as impertinent and disruptive behaviour. I feared the worst, which was soon confirmed by the secretary. She looked at the slip and told me to report to Mrs Crook at the end of the day in the gym. My heart sank as I knew what was coming.
The bell for the end of the day rang and I made my way to the gym. Mrs Crook was not there so I joined another boy and girl outside. Mrs Crook arrived some minutes later dressed in her PE kit of polo type shirt and tennis type skirt armed with our report slips. She ushered us inside the gym and asked me and the other boy if we had our PE shorts. We both replied yes, so we were sent to change into them. The practice at our school was that nothing was worn under the shorts. We soon returned to see the girl just departing with tears streaming down her face.
Mrs Crook then called the other boy forward and told him he was to receive six strokes of the cane and told him to bend over a small vaulting horse. When he was in position she pulled his shirt out of the way and expertly delivered the six strokes. He stayed in place and avoided crying out loud. I stood watching in absolute fear as the cane swished down. It was much more forceful than my previous canings and I noticed that the cane was longer than I remembered. Finally the boy was told to go and get dressed.
Then it was my turn. There was no lecture or discussion. I was ordered to bend over the horse and soon felt my shirt being tucked up. I felt very vulnerable over the horse with just thin cotton shorts as she told me I was to receive six strokes. The first stroke was such a shock. It was much harder than my previous canings and I let out a quiet gasp. The remaining five strokes followed at a steady pace before I was told to stand. I was dismissed and sent to get changed. The other boy was still there so we compared our stripes. We both had six raised red lines nicely spaced apart. I got dressed and walked home. It was a painful walk home and mum had already found out from my sister about the punishment.
Luckily mum never added extra, but she did make a comment when she saw my stripes during bath time that evening.
I would like to say it was my only trip to Mrs Crook but it wasn’t. I got two more visits before Mr Ryan returned near the end of summer term. Six strokes on both occasions on my thin white shorts. Only one visit to Mr Ryan but that was just for a discussion about my behaviour.