In grammar school I managed to avoid the cane until my third year. I was 14 years old when I first visited the headmistress. It was in 1966 and the headmistress was Mrs Moody. She was a fearsome looking lady, big build, in her late 40’s with brown hair in a bun and always wore a black skirt, white blouse and chunky heeled shoes. Only two staff were allowed to administer the cane, Mrs Moody and her deputy, Mr Harding. However Mr Harding only caned pupils if Mrs Moody was absent. Some offences carried an instant caning but usually canings were collected for reaching a certain number of demerit marks. When a pupil was naughty a form was completed and the pupil sent to the school secretary, Mrs Green. She was a friendly lady and always smiling. The form would be given to her and she would check your record. If you had not reached the dreaded total she would send you back to class. However, if you had reached the total or the offence was an instant caning, you got told to wait outside Mrs Moody’s office.

On the day in question I was argumentative and rather abrupt to Miss James, our history teacher. She had sent me to the secretary with a form citing impertinence. It was the second term and I had already visited the office with forms several times so I suspected I might be near the mark. I walked along the corridor and rang the bell at the reception window. Mrs Green answered the window. She took the form and disappeared. A short while later she returned with my record card. She started writing on it and then told me the news I had dreaded. I was told that Mrs Moody had deemed impertinence as an automatic caning offence and I was told to wait outside Mrs Moody’s office.

Mrs Green told me that Mrs Moody was already dealing with one pupil and she would call me when she was ready. I walked round to Mrs Moody’s office and waited outside. I could hear Mrs Moody’s raised voice before it went quiet. Then I heard the sound of the cane swishing and heard a boy yelping out loud. I heard four strokes. My stomach churned and my knees felt shaky. I was waiting for several minutes before the door opened and a first year boy staggered out rubbing his bottom.

Shortly after Mrs Moody opened her door and told me to enter. The office was large and sparsely furnished. I noticed that a chair was placed in the middle of the room. Mrs Moody walked to her desk and asked me what I had done to be reported to her. She looked at my record card. Then she started the lecture.

I was told that being insolent and rude to a teacher left her with no option but the cane. I started shaking with fear and trepidation. Then she walked over to the cupboard and opened it. I saw a row of crook handled canes on hooks inside. She selected one of the medium sized ones, about 3 feet long and as thick as my little finger. She took out a book as well. She marched back to her desk and started writing in the book.

Finally she picked up the cane and I was told to remove my blazer. I was ordered to bend over the back of a chair in the middle of the office. Mrs Moody made me stand with my feet apart and adjusted my posture until she was happy with how I was bent over. Then she stood by my left hand side. I was warned not to stand up or move or extra strokes would follow. Then I felt the cane touch my bottom. I tensed and waited for the pain I was sure would follow. Then I felt a tap before I heard the swish as it came down. It hit my bottom very hard but I did not feel anything immediately. Then the pain started and it felt like a hot line burning on my bottom. Mrs Moody repeated the action four more times and I was yelping well. Tears were rolling down my face. Then I got the final stroke. I felt the tapping before I heard the swish. Then it came down on the base of my bottom, the hardest stroke by far. I arched my back and only just remembered not to stand.

Mrs Moody then walked away and told me to stand up and get dressed. I carefully stood up before being asked to sign the punishment book. I was warned that any future canings would be more severe before I was dismissed. I staggered out and grasped my bum, rubbing it hard. My visit to Mrs Moody confirmed what I had been told by my friends. She was truly a fearsome lady and I did not wish a repeat visit. However, hard as I tried to behave, I did get two more canings from her. And each one was worse than the previous and all three still live in my memory today.