During the late 1960s and early 1970s, canings and slipperings were all part of the school experience. I had witnessed class canings and slipperings during lessons. Normally it was one or two strokes on the hand or bottom, these punishments were carried out by all sorts of teachers. But for serious offences you would be given a blue slip, and you would be sent to the head of year for punishment. There it would be a caning, normally 4 or 6 strokes, depending on what the offence was. For offences, such as lying, cheating, fighting or other really serious offences, you were given a red/pink form. This meant you were to be caned by the deputy headmaster or headmistress. These forms had two times on them. 9:15 or 4:15. This meant you had to go to the Deputies office at that time.
When you were 14, you left the Middle School and went to go to the Senior School. They had the same form of punishments, the same blue and red/pink slips, but the teachers were not allowed to cane in class, it was just the head of years and the deputy heads.
In the fourth year, the head of year was a Mr B and a Mrs P, although Mr B disappeared after Christmas and was replaced by a Mr V. I was caned twice in the fourth year, both times by Mrs P. Not only was she the head of year, but also taught Maths as well as preparing the school and county for Swimming.
From the first moment I saw her, I was just fascinated. There was nothing remarkable about her, she had short black hair, beady eyes, long thin nose, medium height and 9 times out of 10, always wore a trouser suit; normally yellow or brown.
My first caning from Mrs P came after a maths lesson. I was in the maths class, not paying attention as usual, just watching her walking around the classroom and, at that age, I just wanted to get as much time looking at her as I could. She must have picked up on this over several weeks as one November afternoon, still focusing on her every move, she came up to me and asked me to stay behind after the lesson had finished. I was good at maths, getting high scores, so I thought it must have been about the Swimming she wanted to talk about.
When all the other pupils had left the class, she closed the door and walked up to me.
“I have noticed lately that you do not seem to be as focused on maths as the other class members,” she said. “Have you any reason for this?” she enquired.
“No, Miss,” I replied. “I thought I was doing ok?”
Of course, I could not say the real reason.
“Well, that is not how I see it at all,” her voice getting more severe. “I have noticed that your mind seems to be elsewhere. You don’t seem to be concentrating at all. Why is that?”
I answered immediately with, “No, I am fine. I put the same amount of effort into your classes, Miss, as all the others.”
She listened to what I had said and with that she folded her arms and replied, “Well, I disagree, and I think we have to do something to motivate you and improve your concentration.”
With that, she produced a blue slip, her eyes narrowed, and she said ominously, “I will have to see what I can do to resolve the situation. See me at 4.00 sharp.”
She turned round and left the room. All I could do was watch her leave, mouth open.
At 4.00, I climbed the stairs to her office, knocked on the door and waited for the reply. No reply was forthcoming. I knew this was the game they played, to make you wait. After about 30 seconds or so, I knocked again. Again nothing. I was just about to knock again, when she opened the door. Her face was very stern.
“Alright, I heard you knocking. You are not the most important thing in this school,” she said. “Now, in you go.”
Her office was just the same as most teachers’ offices; untidy, books and papers everywhere. She told me to stand in front of her desk. Whereupon, she sat behind it and carried on working.
After about 10 minutes or so, she looked up.
“Right,” she said. “We need to do something about your concentration levels as I am not satisfied with your work.”
She rose from her chair and walked over to a cupboard that was behind me. I heard the lock open and heard her take out what was obviously a cane. She then walked round to face me.
The cane was different to the ones they used in Middle School, being longer and thicker.
“You will notice this cane is longer and more suited to older pupils,” she said. “I am sure that in about 5 minutes time you will agree with me.”
Then she moved a pile of papers and books off her desk and told me to bend over. I walked forward and bent over the desk.
“No,” she said in a calm voice. “Bend over the corner, with one leg on either side.”
I did as I was told as the sharp corner of the desk cut into me at the front. She then lifted up my blazer and tapped my bottom with the evil looking cane.
“The standard of your work is slipping,” she said as the first stroke smashed into my bottom.
She was right; that cane certainly made me think.
There was the familiar sound of the swish, crack, and the cane hit my bottom again. I moved to readjust my position, as the corner off the desk was hurting as she delivered each stroke; it was pushing me forward onto the sharp corner.
“Don’t move! Legs straight and bottom out,” she said as the next stroke of the cane was whipped into my bottom.
This was a real caning, unlike the ones in the middle school. This was hurting.
Stroke number 4 hit my bottom, right where the previous three strokes had landed. She was bunching the caning into a very small area so it would give maximum affect. My bottom was on fire; this was by far the worse caning that I had had, even worse than Mr C in the middle school. She really knew how to cane as each stroke was given with full force.
I wondered how much longer this was going to go on for as my bottom was on fire. I didn’t have to wait long as a voice behind me said, “Right, stay there and wait until I tell you, you can move.”
I heard the cupboard open up behind me and the cane being put away. She was then writing in the punishment book as I was still laying across her desk. All I wanted to do was get up and rub my bottom.
After a while, she then tapped me on the back and said, “Right, get up, make yourself presentable. I hope this has been a wake-up call. I want to see you motivated. I want to see you alert in my class. If not, you will be back in here again.”
I nodded as she told me to leave. Going forward, I still was fascinated by her, even more so after that caning.
My second caning from Mrs P came after a swimming gala.
Mrs P was very keen on swimming. I was pretty good at most sports and at my middle school she was invited to the local inter-house swimming gala. I had won 4 or 5 races and she came over to speak to me. She was looking forward to me joining the senior school and said that I would be a very useful addition to the squad. She also encouraged me to join the local swimming club where she was a member of the committee.
I duly joined the club and went training a couple of nights a week. When I joined the senior school, she then introduced me to the rest of the school squad, some of which I already knew from the local swimming club.
In March/April time there were the normal county and inter-county swimming trials. I had a reasonable chance of winning something so, to get extra practice in, Mrs P took me swimming a couple of times during lunchtime for a bit of extra practice. These were the sessions I enjoyed the most as it meant that I would be with her. My fascination for her had not been dampened since the caning, but she never mentioned it. She had a green Hillman Minx estate car and we would meet up in the car park at lunchtime, where she would take me to the local baths. As I swam, she would walk up and down shouting instructions to me. With her help, I won a couple of events at the county trials and was selected to represent the county at the inter-county trials.
The event drew near and more training was put in. I was given white slips for permission to be out of school and carried on practicing, sometimes without her being present. A couple of days before the event, I was walking back to school and I hadn’t had anything to eat, so I went into a local chippy to get a bag of chips. I paid for them and walked back to school eating them. At school, you were only allowed to get school meals at lunchtime, not any food from outside caterers, but as I was out of school with a white slip, it did not cross my mind. As I entered the school, I saw Mrs P by her car, exchanged pleasantries and went on my way.
Nothing more was said until after the trials. Mrs P took the squad to the event in the school minibus and at the trials I came second in one race and fourth in another, which I thought was pretty good. As we were getting back into the bus to go back to the school, Mrs P called me over.
“Well done for the effort you put in,” she said. “I thought you were a bit unlucky in the front crawl, but second is a good result. By the way, the other day I think it was last Tuesday, did you go to the local baths for practice?”
I nodded, “Yes, miss.”
“I see,” she replied in a rather strange tone. “You didn’t go anywhere else, did you?”
“No, miss, to the baths and back to school as per usual. Was there a problem?”
“No, nothing at all. It can wait.” She smiled. I had no idea what was coming.
Back at the school, she parked the bus and we all disembarked, full of high spirits. As we were getting ready to go home, Mrs P came up to me and said, “Have you got a moment? Could you help me carry these things up to my office?”
“Sure, no problem,” I replied, and I followed her upstairs carrying the pieces of equipment she wanted.
She opened the office door and I followed her in. She then turned towards me and, in a fierce voice, said, “You have lied to me. You have betrayed my trust.”
I looked at her and replied, “I am sorry. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Her voice got louder. “I asked you, no more than 30 minutes ago, whether you went swimming at lunch time and you said, yes. I then asked you if you went anywhere else and you said, no.”
Totally confused, I said, “That is what I did.”
“Stop lying to me, boy. I trusted you. I have given you every kind of support and you are still lying to me. I will ask you for the final time, did you go anywhere else?”
I didn’t know what to say. I just looked at her as if to say I haven’t got a clue what you are talking about.
With that, she exploded. “You were seen going into the chip shop. You know that eating outside school at lunchtime is forbidden and you are still lying to me. This is not acceptable.”
I tried to stammer a reply, but she was in full flow.
“For persistent lying and being out of bounds, I am going to have to cane you again. I have trusted you and, after the last caning, I thought that you would have learnt your lesson, but it seems to me that you need another caning. Well this time I will give eight strokes. You know what to do.”
She began to clear a space on her desk.
“Get over the desk now, and be quick about it.”
Still in a state of shock, I walked to the corner of her desk. As I was going towards the desk, she opened the cupboard at the back of the room and took out a cane.
“Take off your blazer,” she said as I was starting to lower myself down onto the desk.
She walked past me with a cane in her hand. I took off my blazer and resumed my position.
“Right over,” she said as her hand pushed my head roughly over the desk. “I am very hurt and disappointed in you. I trusted you and you have betrayed my trust. This caning will teach you not to lie to me in future. I am very upset. I thought we had a good relationship. It will take a long time for you to build up that trust again.”
I leant over the desk and prepared myself for the onslaught. I remembered the last caning from her as the corner of the desk kept cutting into my leg whilst she delivered the strokes, so it was very difficult not to move.
“Right, ready or not,” and with that, there were a couple of footsteps, then a loud swish as the cane hit my backside.
She was not joking; she was really applying full force to this caning. I lurched forward a bit.
The next stroke really hurt and I tried to focus on the glass cabinet in front of me. In the glass reflection, I could see her taking 2 or 3 steps backwards, then she walked forward, pulled her arm right back and brought the cane down on my backside. I let out a bit of a cry. She let fly with another hard stroke. My bottom was in agony, but I didn’t want to move or make her in a worse temper than she already was. There was another swish and a crack as the cane was landed again with gusto. Another stroke landed and the pain was unbelievable. I honestly didn’t know how much more punishment I could take.
The last stroke was delivered in silence as I saw her reflection move further back into her office. She seemed to walk very quickly, her arm right back. I am not sure how many steps she took, but the last one was by far the worst. The stroke pushed me forward, but I was determined not to move.
After the last stroke was delivered, she told me to keep still. After she wrote the details in the book, she got up and went round to her cupboard to put away the book and the cane.
After what seemed an age, she instructed me to get up off the desk, where she carried on for about 5 minutes all about trust and deception. All I wanted to do was get out of there. The fascination about her was still in my mind, even after that terrible caning. She told me to get out, so I put my blazer on gingerly. As I left, she said that she would be watching me very closely in the future.
I left the room and out of sight, gripped my bottom, I could just about walk and dived into the toilet to see the mass of marks across my bottom.