When I was a schoolgirl, corporal punishment was quite normal for naughty girls. At home, it would be a spanking by hand, or sometimes the strap on the bottom from Mum. At school, perhaps the ruler across the back of the legs or, more likely, the cane on the hand.
When I was about 10 or 11, I was always being caught talking in class – an immediately punishable offence. My teacher Mrs Pearson would call me out to the front and give me two or three rather ineffectual strokes strokes of the cane.
This caused only a mild tingle and did not deter me from repeating the offence in the future. I don’t think Mrs Pearson liked giving the cane, and always blushed deep red when doing so.
On one occasion, in the middle of a lesson, I was having a conversation with my friend in the next desk. Mrs Pearson called us both out to the front. For some reason she did not have her cane with her and she sent me to borrow one from her husband, who was also a teacher at the school.
Knocking on his classroom door, I went in and politely passed on his wife’s request. Everyone was careful to behave well in his presence, as his canings were as vicious as his wife’s were mild. “Is it for you?,” he inquired, handing me his cane. “Yes sir,” I replied quietly, “Thank you, sir.”
On the way back to my classroom, I examined the cane. Although my hands had often been on the receiving end, this was the first time that I had actually held one.
It was just over 2ft long, very thin and very pliable. It did not seem capable of hurting very much and I marched confidently back to my class and handed it to Mrs Pearson.
My friend was still waiting by the teacher’s desk, not looking very concerned as she knew from experience that she had little to worry about.
Mrs Pearson did not waste any time. “I’ll start with you,” she said to me, “hold out your hand.” I held my right hand out, palm up, fingers together.
Mrs Pearson adjusted my arm to the height that she required and ran the cane across my palm and fingers to ensure that my hand was stretched flat and tight.
I watched as she gave two or three aiming taps and then lifted the cane high. Suddenly it flashed down and bit into my palm, just where the fingers joined.
This was much, much harder than she had ever caned before. An awful stinging sensation burned into my hand and I snatched it away into my left armpit to try to relieve the sting.
“Put your hand back out at once and keep it still until I tell you to move it, unless you want some extra,” snapped Mrs Pearson. I could hardly believe that this was the same person as our usual form teacher.
A second stroke cut into my hand and I could not help crying out, although I was trying hard to be brave in front of my classmates. A third stroke brought a louder shout from me and tears were welling up in my eyes and threatening to overflow.
However, I was congratulating myself on having survived the punishment and awaited permission to lower my hand and return to my seat.
To my amazement, I then heard Mrs Pearson say: “Now the other hand.” I couldn’t believe my ears. She never gave more than three and this punishment had already been ten times worse.
“Come along – I shalln’t tell you again. It’s time you were cured of being naughty in my class,” she remarked sharply. My left hand shot out, as I finally surrendered.
The first stroke on that hand slashed down harder, if possible, than before. Again, a shout escaped from my lips and tears started to trickle down my cheeks. The next cut of the cane seemed to slice right through my hand.
My pride was demolished. I no longer cared what the rest of the class thought. With tears streaming down my face, I was sobbing: “Please, miss, no more. I’ll be a good girl. Please, miss.”
Mrs Pearson, no longer the soft touch we had thought her, ignored my pleas and whipped down a third and final stroke.
It was only the terror of getting an extra stroke that gave me the strength to keep my hand held straight out in front of me until she finally told me to return to my seat.
I did so, alternately blowing on my hands and clutching them under my arms in a vain attempt to alleviate the awful stinging. Tears were pouring down and I was sobbing bitterly.
The rest of the class sat in shocked silence, apart from my friend, who was already weeping in anticipation of the imminent repeat of the punishment which she was now about to receive. I was too preoccupied with my own troubles to pay much attention to my friend’s ordeal, but I know that it was a noisy affair and seemed to last for ages.
I arrived home that afternoon still blowing on my hands and with tear streaks lining my cheeks. “What have you been up to?” enquired my mother. I held out my hands to show the three deep red lines across each of them and complained bitterly at my teacher’s ‘cruelty’.
But the only response from my mother was: “Well, you shouldn’t have been naughty. Now get washed and sit down for your tea.”
The discipline seemed to work, because from then onwards I was cured of talking in class and avoided any further canings, although at home the ruler or strap still visited my bottom from time to time.