As a boy in secondary school, I went in fear of the tawse, which was administered with enthusiasm by the deputy head. I should add that this was a school in Walsall, in the West Midlands of the UK, not a Scottish school.
At the time, I was under the impression that only boys got the tawse. However, one day, I discovered that girls also had a reason to fear the leather.
I was sent by my English teacher to the office to get a ream of paper. The office was opposite the senior mistress’s room. As I stood waiting for the secretary, I heard an incredible scream from behind the senior mistress’s door. I went up as close to the door as I dared and heard a crack, followed by another loud scream.
In all, I heard eight cracks and screams. Just as I was finally given the paper, a girl came out of the opposite room. She had tears rolling down her face. I went up to her and realised she was a friend of my sister, who was a year older than me.
The girl showed me her hands, which were bright red. She told me she had been given three on each hand and three on her bottom. One stroke had missed her hand and caught her wrist. She said it hurt like hell. I could plainly see the individual marks of each tail of the tawse.
Then, she lifted her skirt a bit and I could see where one stroke had come down just at the top of her legs. Again, the three individual marks were clear.
The girl said she had been given the tawse four times for repeated lateness in just one term and that one of her friends had been given four on each hand and four on her bottom.
She also said that she knew of two girls who had wet themselves in the room as soon as the senior mistress had taken her tawse out of the desk drawer.