Hand or bottom which is worse?

It’s often felt by some that punishment on the hand is a lesser option and somehow less painful than on the bottom. I’m not so sure.

Up to a time just before my 11th birthday I attended a junior school in an urban district which was under the control of the county education authority. As I was to discover, that school was fairly relaxed. There was corporal punishment, but it was for serious stuff like bullying, fighting, not usually just for talking. It took the form of the plimsoll or the bat. The bat was either a table tennis bat or stoolball bat usually wielded with serious intent by the Deputy Head, Mr E. It was similar to the wooden paddle still in use in many US states today. He took a full swing and the resulting crack echoed round the school hall where punishments were given. Naughty pupils were never punished publicly, but were taken into the school hall from the classroom. In the exact words of Chris, a 10 to 11 year old classmate, it “murders your arse”.

Part way through that final junior year we moved a few miles down the road to an adjacent large town. This was a unitary borough and had its own education committee and schools system. This was much rougher and a fair amount stricter. They used the tawse primarily, and primarily gave it to the hand. I wasn’t very aware of any of this except perhaps vaguely.

I was to become directly aware soon enough. After a few weeks I crossed a line I was unaware even existed. We were told by the form teacher to line up in the playground prior to filing back into the classroom in an orderly line. This we did, but a few of us carried on talking, unaware that this was an offence. We were quickly ordered aside by the form teacher Mrs W.

We were ordered into the classroom separately; 4 or 5 of us. Then in horror I saw Mrs W appear with a thick heavy leather strap and order the others to stick each hand out alternately. This they did, whereupon Mrs W brought the tawse down with considerable might upon the outstretched palm, resulting in a yelp of pain from the unwilling recipient, much shaking of the hand and attempts to squeeze out the pain by shoving it under the armpits.

My turn came all too quickly and Mrs W brought the leather strap down on my hands. It was agony! Like the others, I shook my hands and squeezed them under my armpits. All to no avail. My hands hurt so much they were almost numb. The palm was red and swollen and my fingers swelled up like little sausages. I couldn’t write or grip anything tightly for an hour or two. There was very little writing in the lesson that followed, thank goodness. The function gradually returned during the afternoon though the soreness remained.

So, I’m not so sure hand is better. Some might feel it is slightly less humiliating than being strapped or caned on the bum, but on the other hand it is as, if not more, painful. Also, no one is allowed to wear gloves when being strapped or caned on the hands. Caning on the bottom is normally over trousers or skirt (knickers in some schools), but at least one item of clothing is normally there to give some minimal protection. There is also the question of affecting your ability to use your hands properly for some time after, so in summary I’m far from sure hand is the easier option. It would be interesting to know what others think.