I returned to my primary school the September after I was caned (Primary School Caning) to start my final year there. It was going to be an important year because later that year I was due to take the 11plus, the exam that would determine whether I went to a grammar school or a secondary modern (as they were called). Painfully for me, the year got off to a bad start when a couple of months into term I once again bent over in the school hall whilst the headmistress planted 6 lines of fire accurately and neatly across my upturned bottom with her “flexible friend”.
During the summer break the school had taken delivery of a supply of solid fuel for the boilers and this was piled up in a corner of our playground. It was, for rather obvious reasons, strictly off limits. Initially that was no problem as believe me there is nothing less interesting than a pile of coal or coke other than perhaps a party political broadcast. That situation gradually changed as the school caretaker started using the fuel. Normally I would have expected the coal/coke to have been taken from the heap in such a way that the heap gradually diminished in overall size, but he did not. For some reason best known to him, the caretaker took the fuel from one or two places only which gradually resulted in openings appearing in the heap. At first the openings resembled short dead end valleys, then they got longer and ultimately metamorphosed into paths through the heap so that you could walk through the middle of the heap. Fascinating situation for a 10 year old boy with an active imagination, namely yours truly.
The paths kept calling to me and I tried hard to resist their siren calls but, in the end, I succumbed and went for a stroll. I came out the other end straight into the arms (metaphorically speaking) of the headmistress who was less than amused. She marched me back into the school building, watched as I removed my coat and then told me to stand in the hall by the doors to the corridor, in exactly the same place as I had stood the previous term. She then went off down the corridor and I knew she had gone to fetch the cane which, strangely enough, did not particularly worry me. A minute later I heard her voice asking a male teacher for his cane and I knew that I had been correct in my assumption that I was going to be caned again.
The headmistress returned with the cane and, holding it in her hand, proceeded to lecture me about school rules and why certain areas were off-limits. I just stood there going “Yes, Miss”; “No, Miss” at appropriate intervals wishing she would get on with it for I absolutely hated being lectured. Eventually we arrived at my “engage brain in gear before opening mouth” moment when the headmistress asked me if I had seen the 3 boys she had caned the previous term. I said that I had and then, for some unknown reason, added that I had been one of them. Silence! In that silence I heard the bells for the end of break and knew that once again I was going to be caned in public. She glared at me and then told me since the previous caning had not worked she would make sure this one did.
I was ordered away from the wall and the doors to the corridor. I was then ordered to turn round and face the far end of the hall so that my back and hence my bottom would be in full view of the other children as they filed through the hall back to their classes. I then heard the words that every schoolchild of my era dreaded:
“Bend over, touch your toes and do not move or get up until I tell you”
I bent over and got a close-up view of the wooden blocks of the school hall floor once more. As I waited in that rather uncomfortable, humiliating and unstable position I heard the shuffling of the children’s shoes as they crossed the hall and the faint murmur of the traffic in the road outside. The next thing I knew was that the cane had bitten into me for the first time in that session, igniting its usual fiery line across my bottom and sending a wave of pain through me. I had scarcely started to take into the fact that my caning had started before the 2nd one arrived, then the 3rd. After the 4th stroke, I assumed she was going to stop. Wrong again! Strokes 5 and 6 followed in fairly rapid order. I was then ordered to stand up and return to my class which I did where I apologised to the teacher for being late and told her and therefore the rest of the class what had happened, as if they did not know already. My bottom was throbbing and extremely painful yet I had to sit on a hard wooden seat for the rest of the morning trying very hard not to move to much as each movement was agonising.
The pain subsided after a while and was replaced by a rather strange feeling in my bottom. I was also bruised and carried the ridged marks of the cane for over a week which I could feel every time I sat down or touched my bottom for any reason.
Strange at may seem the worst part of the whole affair was not being caned in public nor the pain, but the fact that I was alone. The first time I was caned there were two other boys caned with me and somehow their presence gave me psychological support even though they said nothing before or afterwards. Even watching them being caned first did not worry me unduly.
Did I resent being caned? No. It was my fault. I broke the rules and paid the penalty, painful though that was. I much preferred being caned than given detention or lines which are just a mind-numbing waste of time. At least the caning is over fairly quickly and apart from some short term physical damage to my bottom it did no lasting harm. Was it child abuse, perhaps by today’s standards but then no as it was the normal approved method of disciplining a child and it was carried out under strict rules. There were as we have all seen far worse cases of what I consider to be child abuse, not to mention the way some children were disciplined at home, methods that did not always involve C.P.