This memory relates to my later school career.
I very seldom earned a school detention, so it was unfortunate that I should get two in the same week, because that meant an automatic summons to the headmaster for a caning. I don’t even remember clearly what the detentions were for, but I certainly do remember the consequences.
As expected, the summons came during the lesson immediately before morning break on the Friday. I was to report to the head’s office as soon as the class was dismissed. I didn’t want to hurry, but knew it would be very unwise to keep Mr Pelsall waiting. Usually, if I passed his door at this time on a Friday, there would be a small queue of unhappy boys waiting their turn for the ‘whack’. This time, I was the only candidate which meant I would have to knock and wait rather than being called in when the previous boy came out.
Nervously, I tapped on the door. A voice bade me enter.
“Ah, Lee! You know why you’re here, don’t you?”
“Well, say it!”
“Getting two detentions this week, Sir.”
“Exactly. Nothing to be proud of, is it? Well, you know what to expect. I’d have thought being given the first detention on Tuesday would bring you to your senses, but no, you had to keep on clowning your way through lessons until Mr Carstairs gave you another detention yesterday. I’m sorry, but if the thought of a detention doesn’t bother you, you obviously need a rather stronger deterrent. I’m going to cane you.”
What could I say? “Yes, Sir,” wasn’t very original, but it was all I could think of.
“You will receive two strokes. Understand me, Lee, this caning is for continuing with your misbehaviour, not for whatever it was that earned you the detentions. You still have to serve both of them; one after school today and the other next Friday.”
I was only too well aware of that. I hadn’t told my parents and I hadn’t yet worked out a good reason for being late home from school. That meant there was every prospect of a further spanking at home. My mother was the spanker in our house and, when she took my trousers down, she’d see my cane marks which would spark even more trouble. But Mr Pelsall was still speaking.
“However, if you prefer, you can take an extra two strokes and the detentions will both be cancelled. Two strokes and two detentions, or four strokes and a clean slate. Those are the only alternatives. Which is it to be?”
I was all set to jump at the chance. I’d had two strokes once before. Four couldn’t be that much worse. He must have read my mind.
“Be warned, Lee, I intend to cane you severely, and the pain will get progressively worse. Four strokes will be considerably worse than two. I’m sorry, but it’s the only way you’ll learn what we expect of boys at this school.”
It was still worth a bit of extra pain to avoid two detentions and a good hiding from Mum. I chose the four.
Mr Pelsall opened his desk drawer and produced the ‘black book’, the official record of all canings administered in the school. He wrote some basic details. Then he went over to his cupboard and produced the dreaded cane. It was about 3/8” thick and about 36” long, with the traditional crooked handle; not like the straight and quite stiff cane at my previous school.
“If I were in your shoes, and I did sometimes find myself in your position when I was a lad, I’d want to get this over with as quickly as possible. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?”
I nodded meekly. Mr Pelsall had caned me before, so I knew the procedure but I still waited for instructions. I suppose I was hoping he’d change his mind and let me off. No such luck.
He pointed with his cane at the chair in the corner. “Take your jacket off. Then place your hands flat on the seat of the chair. And keep still until I tell you to get up. This will hurt, but it will be quite safe as long as you keep your hands out of the way.”
I did as I was told and bent over for my punishment. In truth, I found the preparations quite exciting. Some headmasters would tap your bottom with the cane, getting the position and aim right before laying on the first stroke. Mr Fulwood, the headmaster at my old school, used to do that, and the sensation was actually quite pleasant. But Mr Pelsall was justly famous for his precise aim; no preliminary taps needed.
I heard the cane swish through the air. I felt the impact. A fraction of a second later, came the pain. Not just the impact of cane against my bum, but the excruciating pain as capillaries seeped into the surrounding muscle, later to turn black, blue and yellow as the bruising developed. He waited. The pain was terrifying, but he wasn’t going to deliver the next stroke until the first had made itself felt to the very utmost. Then the second. He was right; it was worse that the first. Much worse. And the third was even worse still. Gritting my teeth didn’t work any more. I let out a groan of agony, trying desperately not to scream out loud. An even longer wait, and then the fourth and final stroke. Mr Pelsall never used that school cliché ‘four of the best’, but there’s no doubt he’d put extra effort into the last fiendish whack. I did scream aloud. Very loud. And I was crying. There’s no shame in that; it’s OK to cry during and after a caning. It’s boys who cry before the caning who are teased mercilessly for being wimps and cowards.
After what seemed like an eternity, he told me to get up and put my jacket back on. I then had to stand with my hands on my head while he finished the entry in the black book. My God, how I wanted to rub my blazing, bruised buttocks!
At home, I followed the life cycle of my cane-marks in my bedroom mirror. They took days to disappear completely but there was one small consolation; at least my mother hadn’t seen them.
That wasn’t the last time I was caned at that school but, oddly enough, I never received another detention in the whole of my time there.
That caning hurt, but it didn’t totally cure my behaviour. As soon as I left the headmaster, I went straight to find a lad called Alan Bloxwich. We weren’t close friends but we always got on OK, and I wasn’t looking for sympathy.
What mattered was his contacts. He had a sister at the nearby girls’ grammar school. We all knew how lots of the girls liked to look at boys’ cane marks. The girls were never given any sort of corporal punishment, not officially, anyway, but gym mistresses? None of us boys would let the girls see our marks for nothing. So I needed Alan to be my negotiating agent and set up ‘viewings’ at prices ranging from ciggies and sweets to lifted skirts and views of their knickers. He, of course, would expect a share of the proceeds, which was usual. I’d done the same for other lads, and equally got a share.