My dubious claim to fame is that I might well be the last school girl in England to be legally caned.
I was born into a strictly Catholic family in Nottingham in March 1981. My family has Spanish blood in its ancestry, as evidenced by my maiden name which was Martinez. I was christened Lucy and inherited black hair with dark colouring, presumably from my father’s side of the family. I have two older brothers who also have olive skin colour and we were all regarded as tall, strong children whilst we were growing up. I have always loved sports and have always kept myself in good shape. It’s not for me to say but I think I was generally thought of as a pretty and attractive girl during my early years with no shortage of male attention!
When I was 13 my parents sent me to a traditional fee-paying girls Catholic day school in Nottingham with about 500 pupils. Academic standards were good and there was a high emphasis on sport, particularly team games. Every year that I was at the school I was in the hockey team for my year and I also represented the school and my county at tennis. Discipline was very strict and even though corporal punishment didn’t exist in the vast majority of schools in the 1990s my school did retain this as a sanction during my time there.
Physical punishments could only be administered by the headmistress and in my time that was generally restricted to infrequent slipperings of particularly troublesome juniors. We were occasionally reminded that it was possible for students to be caned but I was not aware of this taking place in the time that I was there.
My disciplinary record, though, was excellent. At home I was always well behaved and my parents very rarely had to tell me off. At school I was popular with the teaching staff and never got close to being sent to the headmistress for disciplinary reasons. In fact I was appointed to the position of head girl in my final year at the school. This meant that I had a room of my own within the school building and I worked very closely with the head, Miss Jones. Miss Jones had only been appointed to the position a year earlier. She was in her early forties and had been Deputy Head at another independent Catholic school elsewhere in England before coming to us. She and I got on fantastically well and formed a great team in that final year.
My view is that everyone should have a friend who is somewhat opposite in character to themselves. I had two. They were called Kate and Emma and they were high spirited risk takers but great fun to be with. They were always up to something and sometimes I had to make a conscious effort to not get involved with some of their schemes. That last year at school was particularly tough. I was trying to keep up with playing sport, trying to ensure that my A Level results were good enough to get me into a top university and, meantime, trying to make a success of being Head Girl. I think I was managing this balancing act quite well and eventually our final exams were behind us and we could all relax a little.
There were two clear weeks after exams before term ended. The weather was glorious and we were enjoying spending time with our friends and not having to do any more academic work. I was lucky having a room of my own and Kate, Emma and I would often spend time together chatting and drinking coffee in there. However it was on such a day when I made a fundamental error of judgment which would involve all three of us in dire consequences. I knew that Kate and Emma occasionally smoked pot out of school but as far as I knew they had never brought any drugs onto school property. One afternoon, though, they decided to share a joint in my study while the three of us were chatting. I suppose I reasoned that I was not taking part, and in all of that year I could count on one hand the number of times that a member of staff had knocked on my door.
Next thing there was a knock on the door. The window was open anyway and there was a mad scramble to get rid of the joint. I knew in my bones that we were in real trouble and when I opened the door I was face to face with Mrs Cranshaw, who was head of sixth form. I hoped that I could deal with her inquiry without inviting her in but I think she must have sensed there was something going on. She pushed past me and discovered Kate and Emma plus the unmistakable sweet smell of the drugs. We were ordered immediately to follow here to Miss Jones’ office. We were left in the secretaries’ office which adjoined the headmistress’s office while the matter was discussed between Miss Jones and Mrs Cranshaw.
After a few minutes Mrs Cranshaw departed without comment and the three of us were called in to the head’s study. She went through us like a dose of salts and made a particular point of telling me that she was very disappointed with my behaviour. She concluded by telling us that the school rules left her no room to manoeuvre and that were all expelled forthwith. Emma made a valiant effort to defend me by saying that I had not actually taken any of the drugs and that, on that basis, I should be exempt from any expulsion. Miss Jones pointed out that it was not possible to positively tell who had been taking the drugs as we were all in the room at the same time. I pleaded that Emma was correct that I took no active part and finally Miss Jones requested that we all leave and that I alone should come back to see her in half an hour.
We all left and went back up to my room. The other two seemed quite unperturbed by the turn of events and reasoned that going home a week earlier than planned had few consequences for them. That said they could see that I was upset, although couldn’t fathom a way to help me any more than they had. I just felt that I had massively let myself, my parents and the school down with a horrible lapse of judgment. My unblemished school record was potentially going to be wrecked by being expelled in my last school week. Kate and Emma departed to gather up their possessions and I returned to see Miss Jones.
When I got in I sensed that she was almost in tears and I could certainly feel my eyes welling up. I apologised again and even offered to go to my doctor so that he could do a blood test to prove that I had not been smoking the pot. Miss Jones said she fully understood my role in the matter but the fact of the matter was that I had knowingly let something happen in my room that was absolutely forbidden both by law and by the school rules. She said she had thought about it and suggested that I stay at home tomorrow, which was a Friday, and report to her at 10.00am on Monday morning. This would give her a chance to discuss the matter with the head of the school governors and see if there was some route through the awful mess I had got myself in.
Of course I had to tell my parents about what had happened, although they were remarkably supportive. I spent an uncomfortable three days at home and returned to school on the Monday following. I went to see Miss Jones as requested and was pleased to see her a little more composed than she had appeared the previous Thursday. She said she had made a bit of progress with the Head of Governors and here was the deal. I could either accept the original decision and depart the school with immediate effect or I could submit myself to be physically punished in the form of six strokes of the cane on my bottom. She said that corporal punishment had been banned in state schools since 1987 but that parliament had only decided to ban it in private schools in England the previous year and that the ban came into effect the year we were in (which was 1999). She confirmed the governors were still firmly in favour of corporal punishment although she had not resorted to it much during her time at the school, due to the impending legislation.
I was a bit stunned. I hadn’t seen that one coming. I was desperate to retain my unblemished school record but I had not been punished in this way before and I found the prospect quite terrifying. I asked Miss Jones who would carry out the caning and when. She confirmed that it would be her, which I pretty much knew anyway, and that if I did go down this route that she would need written confirmation back from the Head of Governors, so this would leave Wednesday afternoon as the likely time.
I made up my mind there and then. I would accept the caning. Miss Jones nodded without comment and asked me to report to her study at 2.00pm on the Wednesday unless she sent me a message to the contrary. She also reminded me that pupils were required to attend appointments for physical punishments in their full gym kit.
Another couple of uncomfortable days followed. There was no gossip that I came across about my predicament and I only confided in a couple of close friends. I got no pleasure from being able to relax in the hot weather and, strangely, Wednesday afternoon couldn’t come quickly enough for me. After lunch that day I went straight up to my room to prepare myself. I stripped off and looked at myself in the full length mirror. Not a bad figure, I thought. I then turned round to look at my bottom; smooth, soft and completely unblemished.
Gym kit consisted of a white polo shirt, short dark blue (almost black) pleated skirt, white cotton knickers, white short socks and trainers. No jewellery.
I had brought with me that day a brand new pair of white panties that I put on first. In the mirror they looked very bright against my skin. I put on the rest of my kit and finally I tied back my hair in a tight bun. This was normal for me when I was playing sport and often people had commented that they thought that I was prettier with my hair up. However on this occasion I was more mindful of the fact that I was likely to be bending over shortly and long hair in the way was not going to be a help.
I was fortunate that both my room and the Head’s study were both on the second floor of the school and relatively close together. It was not unusual for somebody to see me in my sports kit but I dreaded the thought of bumping into someone who might then guess where I was heading. I saw nobody until I entered the passage that led past the door into the staff room that in turn was next door to Miss Jones’ office. As I passed, the young physics teacher, Mr Aitchison, came out of the staff room but gave me nothing more than a brief nod. The next door along led into the school secretaries’ office, which was like an anti-chamber before the head’s office.
I knocked on the door. I could feel that my hands were clammy and, although it was a hot day, I felt strangely chilly. I heard Mrs Smith, the senior secretary, call me in. I entered. She was sat behind her desk and Miss Beattie, the newer secretary, was sat on the other side of the room. I liked Mrs Smith. She gave me a kindly smile and beckoned me to sit on the chair by the door into Mrs Jones’s study. Miss Beattie must have only been a couple of years older than me and she did not look up from her work. At that stage I had no idea whether the two secretaries knew what was about to happen to me. Mrs Smith phoned through to Miss Jones to tell her that I was waiting and the next moment the door into the head’s study opened and Miss Jones ushered me in.
The room was very familiar to me. There were two sash windows on the far wall which opened onto the school courtyard. The lower windows were open as it was an extremely hot day but the curtains were motionless signifying a total lack of even a breeze. The head’s dark mahogany desk was in front of the window. It was reasonably clear of papers, with a high backed chair behind it and one of those oscillating fans at the far end. It was switched on producing a low hum and some intermittent air movement. There was an old traditional fire place on the wall backing onto the secretaries’ office with two easy chairs on either side, and a brown leather Chesterfield style sofa in the middle facing the hearth. The only other feature of note was the door on the side wall which gave direct access into the staff room next door.
Miss Jones invited me to sit in one of the easy chairs and she sat in the other. We had often sat like that over the past few months discussing what was happening in the school and making plans to ensure that everything ran smoothly. I thought that she looked a little nervous but she was quite impressive in her dark grey two piece suit with hair tied back in much the same style as mine.
“Lucy, this is not going to be easy for you or me,” she started. “I have assured the Governors that you will be dealt with in exactly the same way as I would deal with any other pupil under similar circumstances. I will help you all I can and explain what I am doing as we go along but the process must be by the book. I am sorry. This will be a painful experience in terms of both the caning and your wounded pride. However you have chosen this form of punishment and you have got yourself into this position by making a serious error of judgment. This is not a situation that I have created and for the sake of my career I need to be able to demonstrate that I have followed the Head of Governor’s instructions precisely.”
There was a brief pause and then I spoke. “OK Miss, I understand all of that and I would like to say again just how sorry I am that I have put you in this position. I am grateful to you for believing my side of the story and arranging this alternative punishment. I’m not looking forward to it but in my mind it will bring the matter to a conclusion today which will be a big relief.”
“Thank you for that,” she replied.
Another pause and the only sound was the hum of the fan.
“I think I’m ready to get on with it,” I said.
“OK,” said Miss Jones. “The first thing you need to do is to go through to Mrs Smith and ask her for the Punishment Book and the school cane.”
She could see my face was colouring up with the potential embarrassment of going through and asking that question. It would be in front of Miss Beattie and then there would be absolutely no doubt those two ladies would know my fate.
“I’m sorry, Lucy, but that is the normal procedure. The pupil receiving the punishment has to collect the implement and the book themselves and I’ve already told you that I cannot afford to be seen to be acting differently because it is you.”
Without saying anything I got up and went next door to ask for the book and the cane. There was no change of expression on Mrs Smith’s face when I made the request but I did notice Miss Beattie’s head pop up. Mrs Smith handed me the Punishment book from her desk drawer and then turned to open the cupboard behind her. She reached up onto the top shelf and brought down a long light brown cane. It looked quite new and not dissimilar to a garden cane, given that it had little rings around it at regular intervals. It was very smooth to the touch, straight except for the crook handle at one end, and maybe a little thinner than a standard garden cane. It was probably just under three feet in length and when I had it in my hand it could sense that there was a bit of flexibility in it. Without further eye contact I returned to Miss Jones’ study.
“Thank you Lucy. Please put them on my desk.”
I did as requested and stood in the middle of the room waiting for Miss Jones to make to next move.
“Right, Lucy, I want you now to remove your knickers.”
Well if she could see my dismay at having to collect the Punishment Book and cane, she could certainly see my distress following this request. I didn’t know where to look or what to do.
“I should maybe have explained,” she said. “My last school was also a Catholic establishment and the normal punishment was a slippering, which was either administered over the skirt plus panties or sometimes the girl would have to raise her skirt and the punishment would be given over the panties only. We used a gym shoe and the punishments could be pretty severe. However it was almost impossible to do any damage to the girl other than give her a red and sore bottom.
“The cane is very different. I need to see the effect it is having on your bottom as the punishment progresses. We do not want any serious damage; that is not the objective. Do you understand? Keeping your thin cotton panties on is not going to reduce the pain from the cane. I can see why you would feel more comfortable keeping them on but we are two females together and I have seen plenty of girls’ naked bottoms in my time so it’s nothing special for me. It’s for your own good.”
“OK Miss I understand.”
I reached under my skirt and slid my knickers down my legs and then stepped out of them. I put them on the end of Miss Jones’ desk. I remember thinking how the bright white panties contrasted to the dark wood as they lay there. Miss Jones was right. They wouldn’t help me avoid the pain from the cane but somehow having them on had made me feel a bit more secure.
“Now I think we are ready to get started,” said Miss Jones. “I’m happy to give you the choice as to what position you want to be in. With the juniors I have often got them to simply touch their toes. They usually just get a couple of gentle slaps with the gym shoe but if this feels better for you then it is an option. If I think that there is a danger the girl might reach round with her hand part way through the punishment to protect her bottom then I get them to stand behind a straight back chair, bend over the back of it and grip the sides of the seat. With older girls I have sometimes got them to bend over the end of my desk although the desk surface is, of course, hard and there is little give to help absorb the impact of the punishment. It has the advantage though that your head is not lowered which you might find preferable. Or finally you could go over the back of the Chesterfield if you think this would give you the most comfortable position. It’s up to you.”
Well that wasn’t a difficult decision. Anything to do with hard chairs and desks didn’t sound good and I wasn’t sure that I could hold my position if I simply touched my toes. Also, in this position I could imagine the skin on my bottom being pulled tight and I didn’t have a lot of flesh on my bottom to start with.
“I’ll bend over the back of the sofa, please Miss.”
“That’s fine,” she said. “But please could you use the end nearest the door? I’m right handed and I’ll need to get alongside the arm so that I have the best position from which to apply the cane. Please go ahead and get into position in your own time.”
I moved over to the sofa and stood close to it facing the wall. I then bent forward until the weight of my hips was on the back of the sofa and my elbows were resting on the leather cushion below. I held my legs together and my feet were still on the floor. I could really smell the leather as my nose was almost touching the cushion and I could feel my gym skirt riding up the back of my legs, probably exposing the lowest part of my bottom. I knew that the ordeal proper was about to begin.
I had forgotten about the purpose of removing my knickers though.
“Lucy, do you want me to raise the back of your skirt or do you want to do it yourself?”
“Sorry, Miss. I’ll do it.” I said. I reached back and gripped the lower hem and peeled the rear of my skirt up so that the fabric was then lying flat up my back. This was me now feeling totally vulnerable. I hoped that nobody would come into the room unannounced and I could also now feel the draught of the fan on the desk on my bare skin when it was pointing in my direction. I felt totally exposed and defenceless. I lay there for a few moments waiting for the next development.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Miss Jones removing her jacket and rolling up the sleeves of her white blouse. She had quite an athletic build and I concluded that what was about to happen would be warm work for her on a hot summer’s day and that she would need freedom of movement with her arm. I then heard a tiny scratching noise and concluded that Miss Jones was picking up the cane from her desk.
“OK, Lucy, here we go.” She said. “I am going to give you six strokes of the cane as we have discussed and agreed. You must remain in this position throughout your punishment and you must not reach round with your hands unless I give you permission. At the end of your punishment I will tell you when you can stand up and I will then require you to sign the Punishment Book. Please widen your stance slightly so that your feet are about two or three inches apart.”
I moved my feet slightly and actually this did feel like a more natural and stable position to be in.
“Are you ready, Lucy?”
“Your bottom is quite small, Lucy. I will try to land the six strokes so that no two overlap as this would undoubtedly make the experience more painful for you. However I cannot guarantee that I’ll manage this but I’ll do my best. Do you have any further questions?”
“Then I will start,” said Miss Jones.
I could feel the cane gently tapping in the middle of my bottom. When it lost contact I braced myself for the first cane stroke. I could hear a whistle of air and then it landed. There was a sharp crack and my bottom exploded in pain. I told myself beforehand that I would not cry and I would not shout out, however bad the pain was. However it was a massive job to contain my emotions and I had another five to come! I could see Miss Jones coming round to inspect the effect of the first cane stroke and then she took up her position again.
However, I suddenly had this thought about some girls possibly being in the school yard and hearing my caning taking place through the open windows.
“Excuse me, Miss, but would it be possible to close the windows?” I asked without explaining why.
I think Miss Jones could see the reason and without saying anything she moved over to the windows and brought them down closed with a bit of a crash. Strangely I also remember that she turned the fan off for some reason. The room was now totally silent and I don’t suppose it made much difference but it felt like I didn’t even have the noise from the fan to drown out the sound of the caning.
Tap, tap again on my bottom and then the second cane stroke landed, higher up this time on the less fleshy part of my bottom, but still intensely painful. Nothing was being said by anyone at this stage and I was wondering what the atmosphere must have been like in the room next door containing Mrs Smith and Miss Beattie. Were they listening in or would the door be well enough sound-proofed to spare me that humiliation?
Actually the third one wasn’t too bad; low down this time almost onto the top of my legs. I lay there for a few moments thinking that I’d had one high stroke and one low one and presumably Miss Jones would try to fit the other ones in between. However the forth stroke did not come soon after and I heard Miss Jones’ voice break the tension.
“That’s half way through now, Lucy. You are doing really well. Do you want to get up for a few moments to rub your bottom and ease the pain?”
It’s funny how a small kindness at the right time can make all the difference. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, so I got up off the sofa and stood erect again. Naturally my skirt fell down to cover my bottom and I had to put my hands up inside to massage the affected area. This definitely helped and I was able to regain a bit of strength to endure the second half of the punishment. I could feel little ridges where the cane had bitten into my skin but the rubbing was certainly beneficial.
“OK, I’m ready to get it over with,” I said. “If that is alright with you.”
“No problem, Lucy. Please go back over the sofa and adopt the same position with feet slightly apart and your skirt raised.”
This I did and it wasn’t long before the fourth cane stroke landed close to the middle of my bottom again. This felt like the hardest one yet and it seemed like there was a massive crack that could be heard several rooms away. It was absolutely at my limit for not crying out and I could feel the tears running down my cheeks. By this stage I was breathing very heavily and I think Miss Jones sensed my distress as she left quite a gap until I could feel the cane once again tapping on my bottom.
Just then there was another unexpected turn of events. There was a gentle knock on the door that connected the head’s study to the adjacent staff room. My head turned in panic thinking that someone might enter the room without being called in and see me in this highly embarrassing position.
“Wait there,” said Miss Jones in a quiet whisper.
She went over to the door to the staff room. I hadn’t taken much notice of it before but I could now see that there was a sizable gap of at least an inch on the underside and I couldn’t help thinking that the entire staff room was probably tuned into the sound of the cane landing on my bottom.
“Who is it?” Said Miss Jones.
“It’s John Aitchison. Are you free for a quick word?”
“I’m tied up at the moment, John. Nip round and wait in the secretaries’ office and I’ll be with you in about ten minutes.”
“Sorry about that,” she said as she came back across seemingly oblivious to my thoughts on who might be listening and who might see me in a distressed state. “We’ve done four, so only two to go, Lucy. You are doing well. The next one will be lower and not as hard as the last one but the sixth stroke will be the hardest of them all. As I said before this is the way it has to be as I can’t show you any favouritism.”
I’m not sure that knowing what was coming in that level of detail was a help. As predicted, the fifth stroke was extremely painful but not the worst so far. Then I only had one to go but I knew that this was not going to be pleasant. It would also be quite noisy and I had visions of Mr Aitchison now sitting waiting with the secretaries to see Miss Jones. There was no way that he would not know precisely what was going on. I could feel the tapping on my bottom again.
“Last one, Lucy,” said Miss Jones.
This time there was a massive crack as the cane landed on my bottom. I couldn’t help it. I let out an almighty scream. It would be heard in the staff room, the secretaries’ office, down the corridor and almost certainly through the closed windows and into the courtyard below. I was now sobbing uncontrollably and made no effort to move.
“I’m really, really sorry,” said Miss Jones. “But the punishment had to be done correctly and in full for my own protection.”
I could here her voice trembling. She moved round to have a better look at my bottom and then she spoke again. “You can get up now and replace your knickers. While you do that and regain your composure, I will fill out the punishment book that I will then need to get you to sign.”
“Thank you, Miss,” was all I could manage.
I lifted myself off the back of the sofa. I gave my poor bottom another rub and I could feel all the cane marks sitting up in ridges. After a few moments I walked stiffly across to Miss Jones’ desk and retrieved my knickers. I pulled them up carefully to ensure the elasticated waist band did not scrape up my sore behind. Miss Jones was sat behind her desk and by that time she had completed the entry in the Punishment Book. She swivelled round and pushed it across the desk towards me.
The book was clearly quite old. It was leather bound and was like an old fashioned ledger in that it was wider than it was tall. There were some pristine unused pages at the back but there must have been at least fifty pages at the front that were well thumbed. The current page was almost full with maybe around twenty entries and there was only one spare line on the page below mine which presumably would now never be used due to the change in the law. All entries that I could see were in the previous head’s handwriting except for mine and the one above it. Clearly I couldn’t read the other entries in too much detail although I did notice Kate’s name featuring once but no sign of an entry for Emma, which was a bit surprising.
The first two columns were for date and time. Next it was the pupil’s name and then a column for the nature of the offence. This column’s entries were very varied as you would expect and Miss Jones had simply written ‘inappropriate behaviour’ in my box. This, I thought, was another small kindness shown by her to me. Next there was the teacher’s name who had delivered the punishment and then the column after that was simply headed ‘implement’. Every entry said ‘gym shoe’ except mine which said ‘cane’. The number of strokes was next. This was quite varied with two being the lowest number and six being the highest. Before the column for the pupil’s signature was a column entitled ‘comments’. Often this was left blank but occasionally there would be something like ‘child crying’ or ‘needed restraining’. Miss Jones had not written anything in this column for the one slippering that she had administered during her two years but in mine she had written ‘Six cane marks visible. Some bruising’.
I couldn’t verify that this was accurate as there was no mirror in Miss Jones’ study but I was past caring by this stage. I signed the book, closed it and handed it back to Miss Jones.
“That was tough for both of us but well done and let that be a lesson to you to never lower your guard and always try to make good judgments in life. Your eyes are still a little red but you seem to be recovering well. Please return the Punishment Book and cane to Mrs Smith on your way out and, if I don’t get the chance to say it again before you leave, thank you for your help this year. I’m satisfied this was a momentary aberration and we have closed the matter today. Your name is in the Punishment Book but this episode will not appear on your school record and you can count on me for a good reference anytime you need it.”
She held out her hand. We shook, I thanked her and we said our good byes.
However I still had to face handing back the cane and the book to Mrs Smith, presumably in front of Miss Beattie and Mr Aitchison. This was every bit as embarrassing as I had anticipated and I know that I flushed bright red when the expected audience were in attendance. I didn’t linger and fled straight back to my room. The first thing I did was remove my knickers and skirt and inspect the damage in the mirror. Miss Jones was correct. Six very clear cane marks. She certainly knew what she was doing as that punishment was on the limit of what was bearable and the cane marks were evenly spread as she had said she would try to do.
I went home straight after I had changed back into my normal gear.
The following day school broke up at lunchtime after a brief final assembly, given that the main prize giving ceremony had been held in the previous week. I saw Mr Aitchison once on the Thursday but he very decently did not catch my eye and I was saved that added embarrassment. As you can imagine, my boyfriend was keen to inspect my bottom that weekend but I flatly refused to allow him access for a couple weeks and by then the cane marks had faded to a bit of faint dark bruising.
I sometimes wonder what actually happened to that Punishment Book and how, inevitably, if anyone picked it up to read, how they would be drawn to my entry being the last one. Also, whenever I see (or even smell!) a brown leather Chesterfield sofa I can’t help avoid visualising me bent over the back of it with no underwear in place and my skirt fully raised. Strangely, though, I am left thinking that corporal punishment in schools is maybe no bad thing. Had it not been available to me at that time I can’t think of any other sanction available to the school that would have had the same impact on me. I would probably have been expelled and I know that would have upset me for far longer than a sore bottom did. For others, too, over the years it was perhaps a swift way to conclude an issue and allow everyone to move on.