I attended a boys’ grammar school in the late fifties/early sixties. Discipline was strict as was generally the case in those days. The slipper, or plimsoll, was in frequent use in the classroom to maintain order, or for poor work, failure to do homework properly, or failure to answer class questions. We had a house system, even though it was a day school, mainly for competitions and games. Housemasters could cane us, as well of course as the Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster. My first two caning experiences were at the hands of my Housemaster. The first, I have already described in a post on this site, when I received four strokes across a pair of very thin summer pyjama trousers for breaking a farmer’s gate on a field trip. My third caning, at the age of fourteen, was by the Headmaster.

The Headmaster caned boys after assembly on Monday mornings, which meant you had at least the weekend to ‘look forward’ to it. At the end of assembly, he would announce the names of the miscreants, their offence, and the number of strokes to be awarded, almost always 6. The offences ranged from smoking, cheating, fighting, vandalism, lateness, etc. I was pleased that I was able to avoid the offence of lewd behaviour, which usually brought a smirk from the boys who were not due to be caned that Monday.

After your first visit to the Headmaster’s study, you knew to get as early in the queue as you could, even if it meant pushing boys out of the way. You could hear everything that was going on inside from the lecture to the cane landing all six times on a boy’s backside with sound effects in response. You really didn’t want to listen to boys being thrashed when you had to follow them. Unfortunately, for my first caning, I was not quick enough, so just became more and more scared as I listened to the punishments inside.

My turn came, and I went in. First came the lecture, which was always delivered in a quiet voice, no shouting, no anger whatsoever, but a calm, “I regret, therefore, I have no choice but to punish you in a manner which you will remember for a very long time.

“You will remove your blazer and put it on the back of the chair. You will then bend over the table. You will hold still for each stroke. If you attempt to stand up before it is finished you will get an extra stroke. If you attempt to cover your bottom with your hands, you will get an extra stroke.”

Following instructions, I removed my blazer; I must admit I was really shaking by this time, I was so scared. Our Headmaster had a reputation. I bent over the table, as I heard him collect a cane from the rack where there were about six in total, of different lengths and thicknesses. From that position, you could never see which one was going to do the damage until it had done it. He came up behind me, possibly to check I hadn’t overdone the underwear. I had chosen my thickest underpants that morning, but decided against wearing two pairs, having heard a rumour that one boy had actually tried three pairs for protection, only to have to take them all off and endure a penalty two strokes.

I passed muster, but then felt the Headmaster pull my shirt out of my trousers. “Stick your bottom well out, W!”

The strokes were applied very hard. There was a pause of about fifteen seconds between each stroke as the sting built into a fire before the next one arrived. I stayed down, but despite my best intentions, emitted a number of groans and squeaks, and I must confess I had tears in my eyes at the end. I could not believe how much my bottom was hurting as I fumbled, trying to tuck my shirt back in and put my blazer back on. It was completely unbearable, but like all schoolboys before me, I survived it. On my way out, the Headmaster warned me against having to return again to his study. I heeded it at the time, but unfortunately forgot; not the thrashing but the warning.

Sitting for the rest of the day was extremely painful as he had delivered at least two strokes quite deliberately to my lower buttocks. It was actually uncomfortable for three days, and the marks lasted easily two weeks.

He was right; I did remember it for a long time. For the next two weeks, I was a model pupil, and a model son as well because I didn’t feel my rear could cope with a slippering either in class or at home. But then the marks went, and life went on.