I was fortunate enough to be able to take part in a good many outward-bound trips during my time at school. I attended an all-girls school with, basically, a great and caring atmosphere designed for good learning, but strict discipline when required.
It was the summer of 1965 and a number of us went on a school trip to observe and study a beautiful mountain area in Wales. Whilst there were full group events, most of the time we were given assignments to study aspects of the countryside and the local geology and history. I was appointed leader of a group of six girls, ages ranging from 13 to 15, having had an induction in group leadership, and its responsibilities.
We set off early that particular morning as the forecast was for a warm day and we wanted to get the more demanding hill climbs done before it got too hot. As our route was to take us past a large fresh-water lake, we were given strict instructions not to go swimming in it because the water was cold, it shelved away very sharply and there were currents from the feed river that could take us by surprise.
We managed to get our assignments done in good time, thanks to fine teamwork. I had a good group of girls and we had done consistently well on every day of the trip. We had a three mile walk to get back to base, an old hotel which they were in the process of converting into something more modern, but the school struck a deal for its use during the summer months.
As we passed by the end of the lake, which looked absolutely gorgeous, we couldn’t help but notice a group of presumably local lads jumping in and swimming in the water, making a huge splash and noise about it. We were so envious of the fact that they were able to do it. They called us over and asked us to join them but that was out of the question, especially as they didn’t seem to have a lot in the way of swimwear, and neither did we, as it turned out.
So, we waved to them in passing, then continued on our way reluctantly. I wasn’t so much bothered by not joining the boys, I just really wanted to get into that cool water. It was now 3.00 pm, getting on for the hottest part of the day, and it was so enticing. I almost ached for its cooling qualities. It turned out the rest of the group felt the same way as we talked about nothing else for the next half mile along the side of this wonderful cool blue water.
A bit further on, we came upon a cluster of trees, about fifty yards from the road, offering a bit of shade and a chance to sit down for a while. We still had plenty of time, not needing to get back until 5.30.
“I really fancy a swim,” I said.
The others thought it would be nice, but didn’t particularly want to disobey instructions, or more precisely, did not want to get caught, and risk whatever that meant.
“What if we get caught?” one girl asked.
“No reason why we should. Mrs W and the other teachers are well over the far side of these hills with the other groups. We’re a good hour ahead because we started early.”
“Yes, but if one of them came looking for us?”
“It’s unlikely, but I admit we would be in trouble. We’d probably all get the slipper,” I answered. “So, it’s your choice. I’m not going to try to persuade you, but I’m pretty sure I’m going in, just for a few minutes.”
I thought the chances of being caught were pretty slim, especially as the bank sloped away from the road and there were clumps of trees where we could hide if necessary.
“I haven’t got a swimming costume,” said Diana.
“Nor me,” came a reply.
I had one in my rucksack, but wouldn’t use it if the other girls hadn’t got theirs. One girl suggested we went in in our underwear, but that wouldn’t work because if we kept it on it would show wet through our clothes, and if we took it off, we would have to find somewhere to dry it when we got back, and that would be a bit obvious. The discussion went on and I was rather losing the will. I just wanted to be in the water, even if it was just me. I really needed to cool off.
“For God’s sake,” I exclaimed. “We’re all girls together. There’s no one else around, just take it all off. You don’t have to come in if you are worried about it or you don’t want to, but I really fancy getting cool.”
The lure of the cool water was just too great, so I stripped off and ran into the water. The others followed, and we all laughed at the sheer naughtiness of it. They were precious moments, and we didn’t think we would have to pay for them if we didn’t linger too long.
After about ten minutes, I was thinking we needed to get out. I noticed a car coming along the road. It stopped on a bend maybe four hundred yards away and I realised that the bank down was less steep at that point and there was a very good chance the driver had a direct view of us. Then I saw that it was a familiar colour, in fact a familiar car, in fact Mrs W’s car. The vehicle started to move again but only for the short distance from the bend to the rough ground where we had left the road to descend the bank towards the trees, where our clothes now were, and the lake where we were. There was nothing we could do, we were caught. The water suddenly became cooler as I got the goose-bumps I always got when I was in trouble at school.
“What on earth are you doing? Come out, all of you!” Mrs W was angry. “Form a line, Jennifer last. If you think it was a good idea to take all your clothes off for all and sundry to see, I see no reason why all and sundry shouldn’t see you getting your bare bottoms smacked like naughty children. One at a time, move forward, bend over, hold your knees and get up when I tell you to. Then you will go and stand under the trees as you are, and wait for the others.”
Mrs W then proceeded to smack each of the other girls six times, three on each buttock, to the accompaniment of yelps, cries, and groans as the athletic strength and agility of a games mistress brought her large hand down hard on the soft wet flesh. The production line delivered thirty smacks in no time at all as each girl bent over in turn, before walking their reddening bottoms to the shade of the trees where they turned and obediently formed a line.
When it came to my turn, she stopped the production line.
“Well, Jennifer, I assume this was your idea? As group leader you either suggested it, or you were in a position to stop it. Which was it?”
Of course, I had no choice but to confess, hoping I might be able to deflect some of the blame and therefore some of the punishment from my group, then maybe they would not be quite so mad at me.
“Yes, Miss, it was my idea. We were getting dangerously hot and it seemed like a good idea to cool down.”
“And don’t you care that that you haven’t a stitch on?”
“We hadn’t got costumes, Miss.”
“Who took their clothes off first?”
“I did, Miss.”
“I know the boys at the end would probably not have seen you, they are too far away, but there are two boats over there, one of them at least is occupied and I have seen the glint of a camera or binoculars while I’ve been standing here. And then there are the two fishermen just around the crag, within just a few yards of us. They would have had a right eyeful of you all cavorting naked. You didn’t even know they were there, did you?”
“No, Miss, we had no idea.”
“Would you have stripped if you’d known?”
“Of course not, Miss.”
“No ‘of course’ about it, if you choose to behave like this.”
“Can you give me a reason why, given that you are supposed to be the responsible group leader, and given that you instigated this behaviour in yourself and the other girls, you shouldn’t get a double dose of what they just got?”
“No, Miss.” I replied disconsolately.
“You will turn around and bend over with your hands on your knees, move your legs apart slightly, and stick your bottom well out.”
Mrs W came to my side and held me firmly by the waist with her left hand, most likely to anchor me for the onslaught to come. She then smacked me really hard a dozen times, six on each cheek. I had forgotten how much a hand spanking stings on a wet bottom. It had been many years since I had been dragged out of the bath for flooding the bathroom floor.
And there I was, 15, naked and having my bottom smacked by hand like a small child. What could have been worse? The sting was so sharp that I issued a childlike yelp. Though I prided myself on being able to take a spanking, her large hand on my wet skin came as a complete shock.
After the twelve, she told me to get up. She let me hold my bottom, which certainly needed attention.
“Unfortunately, I don’t carry my slipper in the car. On a field trip like this, I don’t expect to have to use it. This is definitely a first. If I’d had it, you would have been over the arm of that bench for six of the very best, young lady. Do you understand?”
I was then despatched to join my colleagues, still rubbing my bum for all it was worth. We were told to get dressed quickly, while Mrs W collected some bottles of water for us from the car. Whilst we were putting our clothes back on, I happened to glance down the road and I was shocked to see the boys from the other end of the lake standing where Mrs W’s car first pulled in and where she spotted us in the water. I was filled with absolute horror that not only might they have seen us standing there under the trees but they may have witnessed her spanking me. I was not sure if that once beautiful day could get any worse. I soon found out.
“Right girls, we have dealt with the first part, your unauthorised strip show. The school allows you to wear your own clothes on these expeditions, it does not allow you to wear no clothes with eyes everywhere. You should be ashamed of yourselves! We have dealt with that transgression. The slipper is actually in my hotel room and you will meet me there at 8.30 this evening. Angela, Catherine, Christine, Rebecca, Diana, as you went along with this flagrant disobedience after a clear warning this morning about not swimming in the lake, you will each receive three strokes. Jennifer, I hold you responsible for the disobedience, by your own admission. You didn’t force the others to go in but you lead the way. Would you agree?”
“Yes Miss, I am sorry.”
“Therefore, you will receive a minimum of six, and it will be recorded in the punishment book which you will have to sign at the beginning of next term. Do you understand?”
“Yes Miss, but does it have to be the punishment book?”
“Yes, Jennifer, it does. It was gross disobedience, potentially endangering yourself and your group, and that warrants at least six, and that means the book. I have to follow the rules, even if you think you don’t. And a suggestion, Jennifer, if you were planning any further public displays of that pretty little backside of yours in the next week or so, I should seriously consider cancelling!”
More sarcastic than funny, she was making her intentions clear. Fear gripped me as it always did when I knew I had a school spanking to come. This sounded as if it could be one of the most difficult. I actually felt like crying, but there would be a time for that later. For now, with the stomach cramps and the blame and recrimination that I was soon to face, I just had to try and hold it together.
“Now, there is one more piece of business we need to deal with. Given the trouble Jennifer has got you into, you may want to change group leader. I’m going to give you a minute now to decide and then we’ll have a show of hands.”
They all looked at each other for a few seconds, and Angela, the youngest, as ever, told Mrs W they were ready.
“Put your hands up if you would prefer someone else to take over from Jennifer.”
The hands stayed down, and my tears came. I didn’t push them into the water, but I didn’t deserve their loyalty either. Maybe they thought I had been and was going to be punished enough.
“I’m glad, because you’re the best group by far. I would not have wanted to change it. So, with the help of my slipper tonight, if you could get your group leader to behave herself, then you can continue being our best group. I’ll see you at 8.30.”
Mrs W returned to her car and drove off. Meanwhile the boys had passed us and turned off 200 yards down the road, so we made a start. After a brief but full silence, I started to apologise for getting them into trouble, but they were good enough to explain that they all had free choices, and even though my going into the water gave them the bit of courage they needed, they agreed that no one else made them do it. All of them, apart from the youngest, Angela, had had the slipper, although Catherine just had it at home, not at school. Angela admitted that she just went over her father’s knee but fairly frequently. The other three had all had two or three swats in class. Even though I brought up the average after my bad, or unlucky, patch from 14 to 15, we weren’t exactly hardened criminals. I managed to convince them that they would all survive the experience, that I had survived several. and would just be a bit sore afterwards. I had to admit that it was me Mrs W was gunning for, and the others agreed.
I was surprised at how forgiving they were, but apparently it helped when they saw how Mrs W laid into me, and the fact that I was due another mauling that evening. There was a discussion about what the punishment book was, and as I was the only one with entries in it, I thought it might be helpful if I told them as we were walking along, or at least broke the silence.
It was kept in the school secretary’s office and she was responsible for recording the name, the offence, the implement, the number of strokes, and where it was applied. I was never quite sure why that last column was needed as it seemed fairly obvious where the slipper would be applied, until one day the secretary wasn’t there when I happened to be in the office waiting to speak with the headmistress. I turned the book back to the early entries, from many years before. Seemingly, before the slipper, or plimsoll, was invented, entries included both the strap and the cane applied to the pupil’s hands. Then one day, about the time the current headmistress arrived, strap, cane, and hands disappeared, and slipper and buttocks replaced them. It could have been a bit more genteel but the secretary at the time was very formal with her parts of the body, and besides, ‘buttocks’ was soon replaced by ditto in the column, and simply renewed at the top of the next page.
As a rule, only the headmistress, or later the deputy headmistress could give six or more strokes as a formal punishment. This was waived for school trips, or when the headmistress was away from school, or in an exceptional case where a girl needed six, urgently. The entry was then made, retrospectively, with an explanation as to why the circumstances were exceptional, as when my best friend and Lab partner, Cathy nearly blew up the Chemistry Lab, and we both ended skirts up over Mr H’s desk, plus a detention to clean up the mess.
There was also the rule that for girls under 16, the punishment details were copied onto a slip which was taken home and needed to be signed by the parents and returned within two days. This, of course, allowed the parents to review the child’s behaviour and take any supplementary or supportive action they deemed necessary.
“Will you have to take the slip home next term?” asked one of the girls. I wished she hadn’t.
“Yes, well, I won’t be sixteen until next year, so I will have to get it signed.”
“What will your parents do?”
“You can probably guess.”
Well, it gave them another chance to feel sorry for me.
It just kept getting hotter and hotter that day and by the time we got back, we were all desperate for a shower. We were very lucky because we had been allocated one of the old luxury suites which could accommodate six bunk beds and enough room for all our stuff and plenty. The big advantage was the huge shower which at a time like that could accommodate all six hot and very sweaty girls. It was glorious. It was something to do to pass the time, take our minds off things, and make the long wait shorter. We were all dreading what was coming, and anything to take our minds off it was welcome. We could also compare notes, and they could make jokes about my ‘pretty little backside’. That lived on forever in my group, until someone realised that Mrs Walton said that to all the girls, especially the ones who were about to receive or had just received her disciplinary guidance. Rebecca still had a slight hue of pink, my fair skin marked very easily and retained a residue of the teacher’s finger prints. The others were all clear, but very much for the next three and a half hours only. I seriously expected my rear to be all the colours of the rainbow by 9 o’clock.
Supper at 7 o’clock was an ordeal really. We none of us felt like eating much. I had the slipper quite a few times at school but I just couldn’t get used to waiting for it, especially if it was from someone who had never properly punished me before. Her bare hand had been bad enough. Mrs W had something of a reputation apparently but then so had Miss R whom I had to present myself for three times. There was a brief discussion about what we should wear. I said that we would be getting it over our knickers, so whatever else we were wearing would either come off or come down.
By 8.25, we were lined up in the corridor, outside Mrs W’s room. There was nothing more to say. We were all scared, fear gripped my stomach. Some of the other girls walked past, giggling, including a couple from my actual school class. “Well, you should know what to do by now, Jenny. Make sure you stick it well out!” was the gist of their comments.
I remembered seeing five girls the previous year lined up in the corridor. It was obvious what they were there for. I think they had been caught smoking, and while it was amusing at the time, I also remembered them trying to sit down on the hard benches in the dining room for breakfast the next morning. Fear gripped me again.
At just before 8.30, another teacher came down the corridor.
“Sorry to disappoint you, girls, but Mrs W has had to go home. She’s just heard that her husband has been taken to hospital so she probably won’t be coming back.”
“Will he be alright?” I asked, not knowing the husband or the reason for him being in hospital. I’m not sure whether my generosity in asking the question was because of relief or genuine sympathy.
“We don’t know, but thank you for asking, Jenny. What Mrs W did say is that she will see you next term in school.”
Well, that was inevitable, I suppose; deferred sentence. No point in dwelling on that, so we had a few hours spare, not having to lie on our stomachs in our bunk beds.
“Let’s go to the fair,” I said. There was a summer fair in the town which we were reckoning on visiting if we had time. I put on my nice tight jeans, which I would not have been wearing if things had gone to plan.
Naturally, we were all relieved to have avoided the slipper for the time being.
The fair was fun, we could relax, and bond some more. Given the difference in our ages, it worked very well, and I was so grateful that they had not turned against me. I bought them all soft drinks, lemon juice and baps to make up for our lack of supper. It was the least I could do. Of course, I had to put up with more jibes about my pretty little backside when we got undressed for bed, but I managed to score a direct hit on Rebecca with my pillow for starting it all off again. Crime and punishment.
At the start of the next term, I wondered whether to go to see Mrs W, but she was on part-time for a while until her husband fully recovered, so it was very difficult catching her. I decided to wait until I was called, and the other girls agreed to do the same. The call never came, so I stopped worrying about it.
I enrolled in her outward-bound activity the following Easter, as did the other members of the group. Whilst I wanted to go because I always enjoyed them, and I had never been to Scotland, I also wanted to make sure the punishment book wasn’t still hanging over my head. We were just leaving her classroom, when she called me back.
“A lucky escape, I think, wasn’t it?” she said with a suppressed grin.
Mrs W’s expression then changed.
“You wouldn’t know, but two children died in that lake a few years before. That’s why I told you explicitly not to go in. That’s why I was so cross with you. You deserved the spanking for stripping off, and you certainly deserved the good hiding I was going to give you that evening. It’s far too late to do it now. Many months have passed, although I am very tempted when I think about the danger you were all in. So don’t ever disobey me again, do you understand, Jenny?”
“Yes, I understand, Miss.”
“Thank you for the good wishes for my husband who is much better now, and thank you for the card, it was very kind and thoughtful of you. You are great girls, kind, thoughtful, and intelligent people, and then you go and spoil it. So stupid!”
“Anyway, I shall have my large slipper with me in Edinburgh, and I will have no qualms about applying it to your pretty little backside if needed,” she concluded with a full grin. She got up at that point and put her arm around me to underline that it was all over, and to guide me out of the room, as she was leaving herself.
Even without the hiding, Mrs W knew I had learned my lesson, and from that point we got on extremely well, through several school trips, and when she took over responsibility for the school hockey team. Without a doubt, her concern had been genuine and for good reason. And without a doubt I deserved what she had planned for me, especially as I was leader and acted irresponsibly. Naturally I am glad I avoided it, although we did have all the stress of the wait.