When our girls Una and Ciara were growing up, I was the primary disciplinarian. A basic punishment was a bare bottom over-the-knee hand spanking, which was later enhanced with a spatula.
The spatula was made of plastic and was quite light and stingy, although neither of the girls would have described it as light when it was reddening their bums! It was never used for cooking and was known as ‘mum’s naughty spoon’. Common phrases in our house were ‘do you want the naughty spoon?’, ‘Una, you’ll be getting the naughty spoon when we get home’ or ‘Ciara, go and fetch me the naughty spoon right now’. The spoon was kept in the kitchen drawer, and for that reason quite a lot of Una and Ciara’s spankings happened in the kitchen.
As Una’s 11th birthday approached, my husband and I had a discussion about introducing a new discipline implement. It was mainly to mark the fact she would soon be going to ‘big school’ and would therefore be earning a ‘big girl spanking’ when she misbehaved. Also, there was a feeling amongst us that perhaps Mum’s naughty spoon wasn’t quite the deterrent it had once been!
Without very much discussion, we settled on what is known in Ireland as a sally rod. This is essentially a switch. While the switch is often thought of as an American method of disciplining children, it is also a traditional Irish method of chastisement. The Irish for willow is ‘saileach’, which is anglicised to ‘sally’, so any sort of thin, whippy stick is known as a sally rod.
I had been on the receiving end of a such an implement myself while growing up and I knew very well that it would be a suitable ‘big girl punishment’ with a much sharper bite than the naughty spoon.
Some families would keep a sally rod in the house for repeated use but ideally, a fresh rod should be cut each time for maximum whippiness. Luckily (or unluckily from our girls’ point of view), our garden slopes down towards a stream and there is abundance of fast-growing willow.
It was about three weeks after Una’s birthday that she was introduced to the sally rod. There was a repeated failure to tidy her room, followed by some backchat. I nodded to my husband, who set off down the garden with a pair of secateurs.
By the time he came back, Una was already bare bottomed across my lap, being soundly hand spanked and doubtless expecting a dose of the naughty spoon to follow.
Instead, I told her that she would be getting the sally rod which her dad was leaving on the kitchen table. She was swiftly over that table for a sharp dozen strokes – the first of many times that would happen over the coming years.