A life-changing incident is remembered years later when two old friends meet.
By Katherine Jones
The early evening air was misty, damp and cold as I made my way, wrapped in my new winter coat, through the central London pre-Christmas throng.
The question of why Kelly Harmon had agreed to meet up with me was turning over in my mind as I approached the pub we had established as our place of rendezvous and made my way down the stairs into the basement bar.
The incident involving Kelly in 1984 was burned into my memory. What I saw that day had excited but unsettled me in equal measure. It was the first time that I had understood I had an interest in corporal punishment and probably always would have.
Now, 30 years later, I was going to meet up with Kelly again and I planned to talk to her about how this incident had affected both her life and mine. Also, as a very long shot, if the meeting went really well, I might be able to get her agreement to let me write up her experience and publish an article about it.
I had not been fully open with Kelly about my intentions after I had tracked her down on Facebook but I was still surprised that she seemed happy to meet up and talk. We set a date and venue for when I was in London on business.
9th December 1984 was going to be a big day for my school and for me. I was 18 years old and a cornerstone of the School Hockey First Team. For the only time in the School’s history we had qualified for the semi-finals of the County Challenge Cup and we had travelled to play the other independent Girls school in our town on their home turf.
The rivalry between the schools had been built up over the years and we knew that this would be a tough game. Our Head Teacher, Mrs Christie, took a real interest in the hockey teams and gave us a rousing speech about hard but fair play while we were still on the school bus. Our coach, Mrs Fairbairn, then spoke passionately to us as we waited in the changing rooms and we were all very much “in the zone” ready for the start of the match.
However, Kelly was the captain and the player we relied on. Although a day pupil in the midst of the majority of girls like me who were boarders, she had won a place in the County Schools Team and was also our natural leader. She had inspired the victories which took us to the semi-finals and it was to her that we looked now for inspiration to cross this hurdle and get our school into its first ever final.
It was this same Kelly who came through the door of the basement bar. Although now 48 years old she remained clearly recognizable with her tall athletic figure, clear blue eyes and short bobbed golden-brown hair.
We hugged spontaneously despite the 30 years of absence and I bought large glasses of wine to set the conversation underway. I quickly caught up with Kelly’s life after school. Three years at university in Scotland were followed by a very senior career in accountancy in London. My innocent question about her sports interest brought forward the revelation that Kelly had never played hockey again after 9th December 1984. The door was now open and Kelly began to talk about that day and its impact on her life.
I remember the incident as clearly as if it were yesterday. The game was less than a minute old. I gained possession of the ball for our school for the first time in the match and inevitably looked to pass it to Kelly. However I did not give a good or accurate pass and Kelly, moving down the right side of the pitch was immediately challenged by the opposing left back.
As Kelly now described, the left back gained control of the ball and played it to safety. However she then turned towards Kelly and spat in her face. I didn’t see that happen at the time but did see Kelly raise her stick and begin reigning blows on her opponent in an intense, vicious and angry attack.
The game stopped and all the players and coaches ran in shock and horror towards the incident. Kelly was pulled away and when the referee had finally managed to compose all the players she turned to Kelly, pointed to the changing rooms and told her that she was sent off.
Kelly, now quite calm, dropped her head and made her way slowly to the touchline to a chorus of whistles and cat calls from the assembled crowd, almost exclusively from the home school. Inevitably, depleted in numbers, in a state of shock and without our star player, we lost the game 4 – nil.
I do remember the scene in the changing room after we had made our way off the pitch at the end of the game. Kelly was sat, already changed and gently sobbing, as we entered. Before anyone could speak, Mrs Christie the Head Teacher, burst in and looking angrily at Kelly said that she was embarrassed by her outrageous behaviour and that the good name of the school had been damaged by today’s incident. As she turned to leave the changing room she stated that Kelly should expect to be punished severely and she would see her at 8am in the morning.
My life changed at 11am the following day. We had been instructed to attend a specially convened full school assembly and we all now filled into the main hall. No one had seen Kelly since we arrived back at school on the bus the previous evening. She had sat alone and said nothing during the journey home and had been quickly whisked away by her mother when the bus arrived back at school.
On the stage before us was a quite familiar sight. Resting on a rectangular shaped table was a short rattan cane. To all who now assembled in the School Hall this meant only one thing which was that we had been brought together to witness a caning.
Mrs Christie swept up the isle between the rows of seats, ascended to the platform and began to speak. I eventually spotted Kelly sat on the front row next to Mrs Fairbairn. She was red-faced and sunk deep into her chair. The atmosphere in the room was electric as everyone had heard about yesterday’s events and had no doubts as to what fate now awaited the School’s former sporting heroine.
I only remember some of Mrs Christie’s words as she spoke passionately to the whole school assembled in the Hall. Disgrace, shameful, unprovoked were some I have retained but I do have the words “will receive six strokes of the cane on her bare buttocks” etched into my brain.
I was initially almost numb with anxiety then began to realise that I was also excited and despite my friendship with Kelly I really wanted to see this caning happen. My life changed at that moment as an obsession had been triggered which would stay with me for the rest of my life.
I asked Kelly to describe her feelings as the scene unfolded.
“I had told Christie that the girl had spat at me and I just lost it with her, but she didn’t seem to want to believe me. I knew she was going to cane me as soon as I saw her in the changing rooms and, if anything, she was more wound up the following morning.
There was nothing I could do. I got up from my seat and made my way with my head up as much as possible to the caning table. Mrs Fairbairn, who was clearly upset and trembling, managed to tell me to take off my trousers, bend over and then reach out to grip the far edge of the table. I had put very sensible dark blue knickers on under my black trousers but they didn’t stay in place long as the Head came across and pulled them down quite unceremoniously. So there I was with my bare bottom facing the whole school.”
”I remember,” I said, thinking back to the beautiful tight buttocks on display that morning. “I also remember that you began to cry.” I added as Kelly again had tears in her eyes as she described the next stages of her complete humiliation.
“I could see that the Head had the cane in her hand as she moved across to the right of me. She took a couple of practice swishes then lined the cane up, touching my bottom. Suddenly she pulled her arm back and I heard this crack. I felt the cane land but the pain took a few seconds to bite, and oh boy did it bite!”
“The noise was awful,” I said, not that helpfully, but Kelly continued to describe her ordeal.
“The second stroke was in the same place as the first and made me scream out but I was determined to stay bent and resist touching my bottom. The third stroke was low down, cutting in to the crease of my butt, and the fourth was so hard I did spring up and grab my bum to try and stop the pain. Mrs Fairbairn came over and pushed me gently back into place and I think her kindness stopped the Head from giving me an extra stroke. I settled back and took the fifth shot sucking in my breath and biting on my lip.”
I thought back to my reactions as Kelly’s bare bottom, now covered with five red stripes, awaited the final blow. Many of my school mates were enjoying the scene and revelling in Kelly’s complete humiliation. I, too, was riveted, but also hot and aroused as I waited for the final stroke. It cracked through the air, forcing Kelly up off the table again, her hands reaching down to stem the fire in her bottom.
It was now over and within seconds the assembly was dismissed as Kelly was allowed to dress herself very tentatively and was led away to the medical room by Mrs Fairbairn. We never saw her again. She left the school and completed her “A” Levels at the sixth form unit of the local comprehensive. She was banned from hockey for the rest of the season and never played again.
The impact of the caning that day on me has been clear. I have since had a lifelong interest in all things corporal punishment which I can trace back to before Kelly’s humiliation but I know that it was fully cemented by the events of that day.
In the course of our conversation it became clear that Kelly, too, was very affected by what happened to her on the 9th and 10th December 1984. Her parents, who had initially wanted her to accept her punishment, saw the impact of the caning and were happy then to move her to the local Sixth Form.
At University, Kelly began to realise she had developed an interest in corporal punishment and started to read some of the literature available at the time. In her final year, to help to raise her income, Kelly had agreed to do some modelling for a group of lecturers and local friends interested in corporal punishment.
As a very sensible accountant in London, the interest apparently lay largely dormant as she married and busied herself with bringing up three children and having a very senior career with a major accountancy firm.
However, very recently, Kelly had seen my stories and articles as she began to reactivate her old interest and looked on the web at sites dealing with the corporal punishment of women. She had guessed that I was probably the friend she had known all those years ago and that possibly her humiliation had played a role in developing my interest in caning. As a result she was intrigued to meet up and discuss old times.
We hugged again as we left the warmth of the basement bar to make our separate ways through the cold and foggy November air. I was pleased that I had met an old friend who would become a part of my life again and had gained her permission to tell her story of all those years ago.
© Katherine Jones 2014