I attended an all-boys prep school on the south coast of England at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s. The application of discipline was a bit haphazard, I believe due to the Headmaster, a scholarly individual, disliking disciplining pupils and somewhat leaving this to the rest of the masters.
One master used a large wooden spoon which made a tremendous whacking sound, whilst others used an array of instruments from long rulers to plimsolls. We had one Australian master who would just rap your knuckles with his. The latter was particularly painful, but used sparingly, and as he doubled-up taking us for rugby & cricket, he was a firm favourite amongst the boys.
I had been slippered once, but only two whacks, smacked with a ruler by a female teacher, and had my knuckles rapped, but on the whole had little experience of corporal punishment. My first serious experience came in the second year I was at the school, when I was 10.
We had one English teacher, Mr A, who made a big show of being ex-public school, took great delight in humiliating boys when they made mistakes and was roundly disliked by most of the school. He was tall, quite athletic, short fair hair with a trimmed brown beard, and probably in his late 20s or early 30s. He occasionally took us for rugby or cricket, although it was considerably less enjoyable when he did.
Our playing fields were a short distance from the school and we would jog there and back, which only took about 10 minutes. On the way, there was a large house with one of the best conker trees in the area. We had often stopped to throw sticks at the tree to bring them down. I believe some sticks had gone astray and damaged some flower beds. In morning assembly, the Headmaster ordered us not to throw any further sticks, due to the damage, but mentioned that the elderly gentleman who lived there, had kindly volunteered to bring round any conkers that had fallen to share out. He had an old connection to the school.
A couple of days had passed and we hadn’t seen the promised conkers, and on jogging past the garden, noticed some large conkers on the trees. Coming back from rugby, it was decided to climb trees nearby, then use a long and thick bamboo pole we found in the garden to knock the conkers down. What could go wrong!
I was one of three in the tree when the old gentleman appeared from nowhere in the garden. Everyone scattered, but I couldn’t get down from the tree quickly enough. The old gentleman managed to catch me. I could probably have escaped his grasp, but felt I would just get a ticking off. However, I almost froze when Mr A appeared.
He found out what had happened, tweaked my ear, which was very painful, and then told me we would run back to school together. Mr A could run much faster than me due to his height, and kept shouting at me to keep up. I effectively sprinted the whole journey and was absolutely exhausted by the time we reached the school. He gave me a filthy look and just left me at the entrance to the changing rooms. I assumed that was my punishment.
The next morning at assembly, the Headmaster again stressed that under no circumstances could we enter anyone’s gardens on our jog to the playing fields. Our class then had a double English lesson with Mr A. It was only at the end, as I was leaving for the break, he lightly grabbed my arm and told me to wait for him outside the staff room immediately after the break, and not to be late.
I was convinced I was to be further punished, but had no idea how. I assumed I might be slippered, so was quite concerned. When the bell sounded, I went and stood outside the staff room. Teachers, one by one, slowly emerged and headed to their next class. After some time, Mr A appeared and told me to follow him inside. The room was quite smoky with a strong smell of stale coffee. There were a number of old armchairs in two rows at each end of the room, with a very long table strewn with books and papers in the middle.
Mr A exploded, telling me that I had disgraced the school and effectively had stolen from the old gentleman’s garden. He said he knew others were involved, but he was only able to catch me, and therefore was going to set an example and I was to be caned.
I thought I had misheard him, but he then walked to a tall wooden cabinet, opened the door and returned holding a cane. My blood absolutely froze. I had never seen a cane before, didn’t even realise the school had one, and was amazed at its colour and how flexible it was in his hands as he bent it almost in two.
Mr A said: “Your behaviour has warranted a serious thrashing, and therefore I am going to cane you six times across your bottom.”
I was too stunned to respond. I wanted to run but knew there was no way out, apart from hoping Mr A would take pity on me. He pulled out one armchair and then told me to take off my shoes, drop my shorts, step out of them and fold them on the table.
Then he very quietly almost sneered: “Move over to the chair, take your underpants down and bend over the arm of that chair,” which he pointed to with the end of the cane.
I moved forward, pulled my pants down and bent over the arm of the chair. Mr A pushed my shoulders down with his spare hand, pulled my shirt up to almost my shoulder blades and then said: “Stick your bottom out so I can cane you thoroughly as you deserve.”
I kept saying over and over in my mind: ‘I am going to be caned, I am going to be caned.’
I still couldn’t quite believe it, but had an incredibly strange feeling of abject fear mixed with excitement. My bottom could feel the cold air of the room, and I had a horrible sense of my bare bottom being very exposed, but in a totally helpless position.
I could see Mr A move a couple of steps backwards, then he said: “Now prepare yourself and hold still,” and then raised the cane high in the air. He again said in a calm but clear voice: “Bottom out.”
I stuck my bottom out as best I could and then Mr A took a big step forward and the cane made a whistling sound before cracking in to my bottom. The pain was a combination of a deep thud plus an almighty sting. It was far worse than I imagined, and I let out a yelp of pain. I was trying desperately not to cry, but wondered how I would cope getting through the remaining strokes.
At that point I heard the staff room door open, and in walked my French teacher. She stopped in her tracks, quizzically looking at Mr A.
He coolly said: “I am giving Cooke a whacking in respect of the issues the Headmaster raised at assembly. I can take him out in to the hall and continue to cane him there, if you wish.”
Mrs O’S said: “No, don’t let me disturb you,” but she stayed in the room.
I was now doubly disturbed and acutely embarrassed that Mrs O’S could see my bottom, and I was ashamed that she was going to witness me being caned. Mrs O’S was actually one of the few teachers I would describe as being normal. She was an extremely good teacher and I enjoyed being rather good in her class, and one of the better French pupils. I knew she had a younger son at the nearby state school, as I sometimes saw her with him and a younger daughter in town, so guessed she was in her mid-thirties. She was quite petite, attractive, with shoulder-length reddish-brown hair and always impeccably dressed. She was very feminine in quite a male dominated environment.
Mrs O’S then took a seat at the end of the row of armchairs where I was being caned. Mr A was now in his element, and took another stride back before bellowing: “Cooke, get that bottom up and sticking out so I can cane you properly.”
I again pushed my bottom out and the second stroke lashed against my bottom. The shock of the pain caused me to move slightly, without getting up, only for Mr A to shout: “Keep your position and don’t move.”
I was now trying not to cry as I was intensely aware Mrs O’S was watching my bottom being thrashed.
Stroke three was harder than the first two and I cried out. My eyes were now watering and I couldn’t stop them. Stroke four had me crying, and I was desperately holding onto the armchair, oblivious to anything else around me, apart from the searing pain in my bottom.
The fifth stroke was low and hit the top of my legs, and took me completely by surprise.
There was a big pause whilst Mr A announced: “Now, last one. Let this be a lesson to you, Cooke.”
With that, he literally ran two paces forward and lashed the hardest of all across the previous strokes. I cried out in pain, and then slumped in the chair in absolute agony, but almost ecstatic that it was all over.
After about 30 seconds, Mr A softly said: “Get up, Cooke, and sort yourself out.”
I gingerly pulled myself up from the armchair, and turned around to look for my pants and shorts through my tears. I caught Mrs O’S’s glance. Her eyes were wide open and she moved her gaze from my bottom to my bare genitals.
Mr A’s face was bright red and he looked demented. I was rubbing my bottom because it was so sore and hot. Mrs O’S was watching my every step and gazed at my bottom, or my genitals when I was facing her, but she was completely silent. After another lecture from Mr A, I was told to go to Matron and get cleaned up, which I did before returning to class.
Everyone knew I had been punished by Mr A, but when I told them I had been caned with six of the best, then showed them the damage in the toilets, I immediately became a bit of a class hero. The stripes went from red to purple, black, brown and finally yellow and took well over a week to finally disappear. We had group baths after rugby and hence again I was a bit of a celebrity for a week, showing my caning stripes.
I wasn’t caned again at prep school (was later although) but did return for a school 50th Anniversary event. Despite the above, I had really enjoyed my years at the prep school and was keen to catch up with some old friends who moved on to other senior schools. Mr A didn’t attend, although I held no grudges against him, but Mrs O’S was there. After telling her how much I enjoyed her classes, which was true, a small group formed and we started reminiscing about some of the teachers that hadn’t appeared at the reunion.
Mr M’s name came up, more for the pranks that were played on him, but also his use of the wooden spoon, and trying to avoid it. Someone mentioned Mr A and in no time stories of canings emerged. I mentioned the six I had taken from him on behalf of most of our class who were involved in the conker fiasco.
Mrs O’S stunned me by saying: “Yes, I remember that quite clearly.”
I laughed nervously, but wanted to quiz her privately. It was difficult to try and separate her from everyone else as she was a popular teacher. However, I managed to intercept her as she was leaving. I told her the incident had played on my mind in recent years, which was not strictly true, and mentioned that I could recall how closely she watched the entire punishment. She looked a little sheepish, but I assured her I was only curious.
Mrs O’S admitted it was the first and only time she had witnessed a pupil being caned so close up and in such a manner, therefore it had stuck in her mind. She was indifferent as to whether it was deserved or not, but just assumed it was. I asked her why she had looked at me so closely. She laughed, not sure if due to nerves or the wine, but said that when she was a schoolgirl, boys would be caned frequently at her school. They would never see it, but could often hear the caning if the boy was taken to the next class room to be caned.
I asked if the whole caning episode had excited her. She was quite curt, saying it hadn’t, although when she was at a grammar school, she and her friends got goosebumps when a boy was taken out, and then they heard him being caned, which she was ashamed to admit they enjoyed. I was unable to steer this any further, much as I would have liked to. I have had many dreams of being caned by Mrs O’S, but unfortunately was never able to deliver in to reality.