This is one of the many memories I have of growing up in a normal Catholic family in Ireland in the early 1990s. Neither my own bum, nor that of my older sister, were exactly strangers to the large jam-making wooden spoon our mother kept in the kitchen, and reserved for our bottoms when we were naughty girls.
The spoon was used pretty often – around each month on either myself, my sister or both of us. Mother would not stand for any messing. One warning was all we got – then it was over her knee and that evil thing landing on our poor bums.
Report card time, which happened twice a year, was not an event I looked forward to. I was never the most gifted girl in school – I was in all the middle sets and my average grades were Bs with the odd A- if I really tried – but normally more like B or B+ if I was lucky.
My sister was totally different – school work came easily to her. She could coast her way through it and still get an A+. So report card time was never a bad night for her – she called it ‘popcorn night’, as she loved to watch me go over our mother’s knee and see that evil spoon land time and time again on my poor unprotected bottom.
Mother set certain rules regarding school. We had to go every day and try our hardest – no grade Cs or below, and that went for report card time too.
Our class teacher gave us a grade from A to D for attainment and a second grade of 1 to 4 for our actual effort. I always tried my best but I would always end up with at least one C, which meant a sore bottom.
One report card I remember distinctly was extremely bad – I managed to get a D4 (the worst mark you could get) in maths. I hated maths back then – and still do – and at the time we had Mr Walsh as our teacher.
He was very ‘old school’ and even though corporal punishment had been banned by this time, he would still chuck board rubbers over your head or bang on your desk. I was struggling with both him as a teacher and the work he was setting, and I would find myself in trouble most lessons. Needless to say, this state of affairs was subsequently reflected in my report card.
We were given our report cards in a large sealed envelope, so you never knew how good or bad things were until you got home and your parents opened the envelope. This time around, I had no idea I had been assigned a D4. I thought I would get a C somewhere at worst, although that still meant a smacked bum.
As I walked home with some of my friends, we all had a worried look on our faces. We were all pretty much in the same boat and knew our respective mothers would soon be warming our backsides.
I left my friends after giving them each a hug and went indoors to find my sister sat at the kitchen table, beaming with success. Mother asked how my day was while holding out her hand, waiting for my report card to land in it. As she looked at my card, I saw her expression change and she looked straight at me.
“Lucy Clare Bottomly, what is the meaning of this?”
Like most children, I knew I was in deep trouble when my full name was used, but I still had no idea how bad it was.
“I know you and maths don’t go together but a D, little miss, is no laughing matter!”
A D! My mouth dropped, I was so shocked. As Mother continued to scold me, I was lost in thought. I just couldn’t believe how bad a grade I’d got. I snapped out of it when I heard her tell me to bring the jam spoon to the living room.
I slowly obeyed and grabbed the spoon while my sister, now giggling, followed Mother into the living room. I joined them and was summoned to stand in front of my Mother while she continued the scolding becfore helping me over her lap. To give you some idea of my size at the time, my hands touched the floor while the tips of my toes just about touched the carpet on the other side.
The tears where already flowing but my mother told me ‘water works’ wouldn’t save me. As she carried on telling me off, she lifted my skirt up over my back then yanked down my knickers to leave my little bum bare in the cool air.
Without any warning she brought the spoon down on my bottom cheeks. I let out a loud squeal and that was the start of two minutes which felt like a lifetime, as the spoon roamed between my bum and my thighs and back again. It hurt so much that initially I didn’t even notice when it was over. I lay there sobbing away, my bum and thighs a dark shade of red.
I was helped up and led by my elbow to the corner. When Mother punished us like this, we could be in that corner for up to an hour after our smacking. I don’t really know how long I was in the corner this time but after an age I was allowed out, told to pick up my knickers (which I had kicked off during the smacking) and prompted to ‘sort yourself out’ before dinner.
After the meal, I was to be sent to bed. When that finally happened, it was actually a relief to be back in my room – even if I had been put to bed at 7pm like a baby.
This was the one and only time I got a grade D – but it was not the only smacked bum I got for my report card.