In the late 1960s I began my secondary schooling as a first form boy at an all-boys school, thanks to my Aunt June whose husband had attended the school. My father was sick and I was sent to live with my Aunt and Uncle for my secondary schooling.
Unlike my primary schooling, the school had a formal discipline code and parents and guardians were informed that school corporal punishment in the form of the cane, administered by the Headmaster and form masters, was administered for breaches of school rules.
General classroom misbehaviour would also result in corporal punishment with a slipper. I was slippered about sixteen times for small misdemeanours such as squeaking my chair and being half a minute or so late to a class. Bending over a desk or chair in front of all your classmates was an interesting experience.
There were also detentions, usually given as well as corporal punishment, and, for severe breaches of school policies, suspensions with probation or the ultimate punishment, expulsion.
School uniform was a pale yellow shirt with a yellow and navy-blue striped tie, a navy-blue v-neck jumper, grey short trousers dubbed bum huggers because the leg was relatively short and a little tight at the hem and the seat was rather baggy. Boys from first to fourth form had to wear them, a grey blazer and grey knee socks with black leather shoes which had to be polished.
School assembly for the lower forms was on a Tuesday morning where our Headmaster would deliver the school messages and other school masters would also deliver messages. Assembly was taken very seriously and misbehaviour or interruption was sternly punished.
I was two weeks into the second term when I made my first visit to my Form Master for whispering to my friend Charlie. Another boy sitting beside me pointed to the side of the assembly hall and I saw one of the English schoolmasters beckoning me with his finger. My Form Master was addressing the assembly and watched me as I emerged from the row of seated boys and was made to stand facing the wall with my hands on my head.
My Form Master towered over me at the conclusion of assembly; he wore a brown, green and grey tweed jacket and light grey trousers.
“Report to my study at the end of lessons, boy,” he ordered sternly.
“Y-yes S-S-Sir,” I stammered nervously.
I had butterflies for the remainder of the afternoon, which was not helped by two classmates earning themselves a slippering during consecutive lessons. Watching the boys bending over a chair and desk (when you bent over your shorts would stretch across your bottom and the leg would rise up-hence the term bum huggers) as our schoolmaster whacked them as hard as he could, reminded me that I would be likely receiving corporal punishment at the day’s end.
My face was red as I entered the building where my Form Master’s study was situated and it was a lonely walk up to the second floor. It always amazed me how quickly a school could empty of its pupils at the end of a school day. As I approached the study I saw a taller chubby boy with thick ginger hair standing outside the study with his hands on his head and nose to the wall; he wore the grey school trousers. I knocked on the door and Mr McWilliams gave me permission to enter and ordered me to stand next to the boy in the same position and to not make a sound or lower my hands or I would be making a second visit to his study the following morning.
The minutes passed and I heard footsteps approach the study door. Mr McWilliams appeared and snapped: “Into my study, Gates.”
The boy standing next to me lowered his hands and entered the study. Mr McWilliams scolded him for not saying “Yes Sir” and said that he would cane Gates for insolence as well. There was a minute or two of silence and then I heard our Form Master speaking sternly to the boy I had felt a bit of a kinship with.
“Assume the position, Gates,” I heard Mr McWilliams command. There was silence for about a minute and I heard a couple of swishes of the cane. A loud crack sounded out, four or five second passed and a sharper THWACK! sounded out. THWACK! the cracking of the cane sent shivers down my spine and sounded much louder than the two times I had been caned in primary school. I heard evenly paced four more cracks sound out, two of which were followed by cries of pain. There was about five minutes of silence before another two cracks sounded out and louder cries of pain. Gates emerged red faced and in quite a bit of pain. I blushed as well, knowing that my time was coming.
I waited about ten minutes during which time my arms were burning from being on my head and my hair was damp from my sweating palms.
“Come in, boy,” ordered my form master.
I entered the study which smelt faintly of pipe tobacco. Mr McWilliams sat at his desk and removed his glasses. He was tall and thin with greying thick brown hair which was starting to bald and hazel eyes. A three foot long crook handled cane lay across his desk and I assumed that it was the cane he had whacked Gates with.
I was given a stern dressing down which consisted of my being disrespectful to the school masters and the other boys as well as being rude and that misbehaviour during assembly was a serious offence and that I would be severely punished for my actions. I was close to tears as he gave me the dressing down. I stood looking at my school shoes.
“Your punishment will be six strokes of the cane,” he announced sternly. I think my heart skipped a beat at the announcement of my punishment. “Bend over, Thomas,” he ordered, using my name for the first time
I replied with the obligatory “Yes Sir” and bent over. I felt the leg of my short trousers ride up; when they rode up they were almost like wearing a second pair of underpants. I could see Mr McWilliams stand up, pick up his cane and walk over to my left where he opened a twin door cupboard. He flexed his cane and swished it down three times before placing it back in the cupboard and selecting a second cane. He faced me and repeated the procedure of flexing and swishing the cane down, the cane sounded horrible as it thinly sliced the air. I wanted desperately to go to the toilet and my stomach was churning. He put the second cane back and selected the third cane and again flexed it and swished it down three times.
He walked behind me and stood on my left. He told me to keep facing forward as he placed the cane across my bottom lightly to take his aim.
“Bend over tighter and touch your toes,” he said sternly.
“Y-Yes S-S-Sir,” I stammered, even more nervous and scared. I stood bent over and felt the cane press again, followed by two light taps.
Swish, Thwack! As with my two previous canings, the pain was not immediate but a very hot line of pain formed after a second or two. I could feel Mr McWilliams lightly touch my bottom with his cane, tap twice, and Swish. THWACK! I yelped in pain and jumped up to rub my bottom, tears swelled and I was told to bend over and touch my toes. Three or four seconds passed and I felt the cane press against me, two taps, Swish, THWACK! I cried out in pain and started rubbing my bottom vigorously.
“I think you had better bend over my desk,” he said matter of factly.
I muffled a “Yes sir” and nervously shuffled over to the desk and bent across it. When a schoolmaster had you bend over his desk to administer your punishment it was harder to jump up and rub your bottom or to move your bottom forward with the cane which would earn you an additional stroke or two and I think made your punishment more painful.
My bottom jutted out over the edge of the desk and I felt the cane press again, two light taps followed by the swish and loud thwack. I reached back and was told to move my hands and that I had two strokes to come. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as the cane struck my bottom just above where my bottom met my thighs. I gave my loudest yelp and felt the cane press lightly against my stinging bottom.
Swish, THWACK!! I managed to not yelp as I had on the previous strokes but had tears in my eyes. It had been the most painful caning I had received as a schoolboy. Comically, if I had have put my bottom in cold water I think that steam would have rose up from the water. The pain was bitingly sharp and I could feel that I had a welt or two across my bottom.
I remained bent over the desk, not daring to move as Mr McWilliams placed his cane back in the cupboard and gave me permission to stand up but I was not allowed to rub my bottom. My shorts remained bunched up. Mr McWilliams said that he hoped I had learnt my lesson from my punishment and that if I repeated my behaviour he would give me six strokes of the cane over my underpants and a week of after school detention coupled with 200 lines each detention. I replied with a “Yes Sir”.
He took out a long brown leather covered book with a suede spine and opened it right toward the back with about two pages remaining and recorded the date, name, form, offence and ‘Cane 6 strokes’ in the book and I noticed Gates’ name before mine listed twice with ‘Cane 6 strokes’ and ‘Cane 2 strokes’. After he had recorded my punishment in the punishment book, which would be given to the office and added to my school record, he sent me to kneel with my hands on my head on a hard wood chair.
I don’t know why I was doing it but Mr McWilliams didn’t like my moving my body from side to side and told me not to move. I must have done it and my hands slipped from my head but I heard an order to stand up and bend over the chair. I gulped and nervously obeyed his instruction. I looked behind me and was told to look forward. I heard a drawer open and Mr McWilliams approached me and stood on my left.
“Shorts down!” He barked. I must have looked like a scared dog as I fumbled with my shorts and managed to get them down. I stood bent over, underpants covering my bottom. I felt a sharp and loud explosion of pain as he whacked my bottom with a school slipper. I yelped and covered my bottom. I was ordered to move my hands and another whack was delivered. I jerked my hips forward.
“Get your bottom bent over,” he snapped. I did as instructed. “You can have another one for insolence after these ones.” My bottom was now a hot searing mess of cane strokes and slipper whacks. Whack!
“Get that bottom out!” Whack! “Right, another one for insolence.” Whack! “Bend right over, at once!” Whack! Whack! Whack! ”Now you can have three more for insolence.” He whacked me another three times in rapid succession. I grabbed my bottom and was told to bend over again.
Whack! Whack! Whack! My bottom was so sore I don’t remember feeling the last couple of whacks.
After my slippering I had to stay bent over the chair with my short trousers at my ankles for another twenty minutes or so before I was dismissed.
Looking back, I deserved to be caned for my behaviour during assembly but I think that getting six strokes was excessive as the marks and what turned out to be one welt lasted for nearly a week.
I felt genuine fear during my slippering as my form master was very angry compared to when he had given me the cane. Like most boys, I was slippered more than I was caned and I was slippered about sixteen times during my education there and I went three days in a row where I was slippered in class, but it was my canings that I tend to remember more fondly despite how painful they were.