In the early 1950s, I attended an all-boys school in New Zealand. Many of the masters had returned from overseas after serving in World War Two and these men were determined to prepare my generation for the next global conflict. So, the cane was widely used to instil discipline.

The movie ‘Julius Caesar’ came to our local cinema and it was decided that all boys in Forms 3 and 4 would attend a matinee. 150 boys joined regular patrons at the cinema. There was some talking between boys, and a few giggles, but no unruly behaviour took place.

Unfortunately, a distinguished Old Boy was one of the adult patrons. He complained to the rector (headmaster) about our noise and disrespect. The result was every boy who attended the screening would be caned “for letting down the school”.

Cane in hand, each master waited in empty classrooms along with the Head Boy who also had caning privileges. Boys formed lines in the quadrangle and were led to the next available caner. Those of us waiting could hear the crack of the cane on tightly stretched school shorts. Each lad received four strokes. The caned boys had to walk past us as they exited the building, their faces reflecting the hurt that had just been inflicted on their bottoms.

All too soon, a prefect escorted me inside the building and into a classroom. Waiting, cane in hand, was the Head Boy. Away from school I knew him as Jim, a neighbour’s son. He was 19, Captain of the rugby XV, and a very fit young man indeed. Our relationship had always been cordial as he was very keen on my older sister.

“Bend over!” he barked, and I grabbed my shins. He inflicted four hard cuts which lit a forest fire in my 13-year-old backside. Thinking it was all over, I started to get up. That was wrong of me. Boys were expected to remain in position until allowed to get up. I was told in no uncertain terms to get down again. The prefect who had escorted me into the classroom came over and held me by the shoulders. I still remember his smelly crotch being just inches from my face.

The Head Boy then inflicted another two hard strokes to my poor bottom, which felt like it was ready to explode with pain. Each fresh stroke of the rattan brought tears to my eyes.

Then the prefect released me and the Head Boy told me to “Get up and get out!” I did not need to be told twice.

Later at home, I checked my bottom in the bathroom mirror. There were six raised weals and technicolor bruising of the surrounding flesh. It took three weeks before the marks completely disappeared.

I next saw Jim at the weekend. He was his usual friendly self and made no mention of having caned me. I was pleased about that because, if he’d known, my stepdad would have used his thick heavy work-belt to leather my bare backside long and hard for getting into trouble at school.

GS