The school my mother sent me to was one of the few to continue using corporal punishment right up to the complete ban by the UK government in the late 80s.
Most of the other girls at school were boarders. I was not, however, because we lived quite nearby and although my mother had the style of ‘to the manor born’, she didn’t have the money that generally goes with it.
Aged 16, I was caught with a number of other girls smoking a joint behind the chapel. We were paraded to the headmistress’s office and told that our parents would be consulted. It was their choice if we should be suspended or caned. Most of us were to get three strokes on the hand, except Luisa, the girl who had provided the pot. She would get five on the hand and two on her bum.
When I got home, I could hear my mother talking on the phone. I sneaked close and heard her say that suspension was not an option. Then she listened while the alternative was laid before her. “It is out of the question!” she said sharply. I thought I was saved – Mum wouldn’t let me be caned, I would be suspended and the nightmare would be over.
Then Mum continued: “She is a very talented violinist. Caning her hand could have serious consequences… Fine, fine, as you see fit – so long as you leave her hands alone.”
She hung up and noticed me standing there. “Hullo,” she said, a sort of smirk on her face, “I suppose you know you’re going to be whipped tomorrow?” The next day we found out that only Luisa’s parents had opted for suspension. The rest of us had an appointment first thing in the morning in the headmistress’s office.
She used a stiff cane about 2ft long to cane the hands of the others. They all gritted their teeth and gave little cries. Afterwards, they stood aside, massaging the wounded limb and biting their lips. One of two shed a few lonely tears, but none really cried.
Then it was my turn. The headmistress, clearly angry that my mother had not given in to her wishes, said: “Your mother has given very specific instructions regarding your punishment.
“She says that because of your musical aspirations your hands are sacrosanct and may not be touched. She agreed therefore that you be caned on the bottom. Do you understand?” “Yes, Miss.” “Good. You may bend over right here, then.” “Yes, Miss.”
I walked to the spot she indicated for me and bent all the way over. I put my hands on my shins just above my socks. She flipped up my skirt. “Miss!” I said, shocked. “Your mother told me to do as I see fit, which is what I am doing. These other girls were caned on their bare flesh – I hope you don’t imagine that because you play the violin, you will get any less?” “No, Miss.”
My skirt went back up. Then she put one finger under the elastic of each leg of my knickers, and pulled them up until they were wedged tight in the crack of my bum. Even then, despite being small-breasted and pretty skinny, I had ‘Rubenesque’ buttocks, so there was a lot of my bum to whip!
Then came the worst surprise. The cane she was going to use on me was super thin, and at least 3ft long. She flexed it so the ends nearly touched. When caning the others, she had raised her hand to her shoulder. My friends told me afterwards that she raised her whole arm over her head when I got mine.
The long cane whistled loudly when she swung it. The first cut was unbearably painful, like nothing else I can think of. I yelled and gave a little jump. “You would be wise not to stand up like that –it obliges me to start again from the beginning,” the headmistress said, putting a hand on my neck to force me back down.
I gripped my calves. The second cut, which she called the first because I had stood up, was even more painful than the first. The tip of the cane wrapped part way around my bum and left a sharp sting on my hip. I banged my fists against my legs and yelled ‘oh, oh, oh’, over and over.
I tucked my fingers under the straps of my shoes. It was a good idea that I did, because I could barely stay still after the third cut. I shook my legs and bum around as if I could shake out the pain, and I yelled and cried. The last one whistled frightfully loudly, and then made a cracking noise when it hit me. I screamed – really screamed – from the pain. I was sobbing and it was hard to breathe.
Finally, she told me I could get up. I pulled my knickers out of my bum and stood there crying. There was a lecture and then we all left. I went straight to the toilet, where I stood on a loo bowl and studied my bum in the mirror. Juliet, one of the others to be punished, came with me. “Oh, Jesus,” she whispered when she saw. “I knew she was hitting you hard, but…”
The welts were long and high, and from one spot there was a little blood. Sitting was painful for days and the bruises didn’t go for almost two weeks. My mother asked me when I got home if I had been ‘well beaten’. I said that I supposed I had been. She replied: “If you are always this quiet after the cane, I should get one for home.”
She never did, but she did allow the headmistress the freedom to cane me when she ‘saw fit’, which meant three more times over the next two years. I never once stood up, though, which is what I know she was trying to make me do. She always talked excitedly about that rule when she started, and each whipping was longer than the last – I am sure because she hoped that I would break down and she would get to give me twice as many strokes.