A girl describes her caning. Based on a real experience.
By Beverley Harris
In 1977, aged eighteen, I was in the last year at my grammar school on the south coast. Having received just two slipperings throughout my school life, it was very unlike me to get into trouble of any kind. When I did, though, I made a real job of it.
At the time, I was going out with a boy called George. He was known in the neighbourhood as something of a bad apple and my parents had banned me from having anything to do with him. That just made him all the more attractive.
One night, I was out with George and he was taking me for a ride round the estate on the back of a motor cycle. It was a really awful old thing, very rusty and dirty, but it was quite exciting for all that. Neither of us noticed the police car behind us.
George didn’t have a driving licence. I did, but it was only a provisional licence. Neither of us wore helmets. The motor cycle was stolen, it wasn’t taxed or Mot’d, it didn’t have insurance. We weren’t showing ‘L’ plates. The list was endless. We were both taken to the police station, but thankfully they didn’t call my parents even though I was charged with a number of offences. George was in even worse trouble.
When I finally did get home, it was well past midnight and my parents were in bed asleep. I woke my older brother and told him all that had happened. He reckoned it was better to keep our parents in the dark until we knew more about what action the police were going to take.
I was obviously very worried especially when a friend at school pointed out a conviction might affect my chances of getting into university. After school I went to the police station and spoke to the policeman that had stopped us. He told me I was going to be charged with several offences and that a court summons would arrive in about a week’s time.
If I was worried before, I was frantic when I left the police station and went straight round to where my brother worked. He was just leaving as I got there and being met by his girlfriend, but they both took me to a nearby coffee shop. It was Sammi, the girlfriend, who put the idea into my head when she told me about several boys at her old school who’d found themselves in a similar predicament.
The last time I was slippered at school, it was done by Mr Evans who was my Mathematics teacher when I’d been more concerned with speaking to my mates than paying attention to his lesson. It had only been two whacks, but he didn’t hold back and they both hurt. He was now my Economics teacher and I’d always got on well with him, so he seemed a good person to speak to.
As soon as the four o’clock bell rang the following day, I shot round to Mr Evans’ classroom before he left for the day. As it happened, he was still sitting at his desk in the empty classroom marking some books. Approaching him was easy, telling him the full story was a lot harder. I think he must have realised how upset I was because he very soon stopped working on the books and gave me his full attention. He, too, mentioned a conviction could well make it hard to get the university place I wanted. Certainly, he saw things from my point of view and was supportive rather than disapproving.
“I can see how this has affected you, Beverley, and obviously I’ll do anything I can to help. I’ll gladly give you a good school reference and hopefully that will encourage the magistrates to go easy on you.”
“I was wondering, sir.” This was the tricky bit.
It seemed much easier when I was planning it all out beforehand. Now it was much more difficult to get the words out. I decided just to spit it out.
“Is there any possibility I could be caned, sir?”
“You mean in place of the prosecution?
“Yes, it has happened before, Beverley. I can think of at least three occasions at this school where such arrangements have been made. It has always been boys who were involved, but I can’t see why something similar couldn’t be arranged for a girl. I think I need to warn you things like this are regarded as serious, so your caning would very likely mean something more than a couple of strokes. You have to be thinking about certainly four, six or even eight strokes.”
“Yes, sir. I understand that.” I hadn’t really considered the number of strokes at that stage, just the method. I’d just envisaged there would be a number of strokes, but hadn’t pinned it down any further. That was for others to decide. “How do I go about getting it arranged, sir?”
“Someone from the school, which could mean me, will contact the police officer dealing with the case and speak to him about it. I presume both the police and the owner of the motor cycle will have to agree, but provided they do there shouldn’t be a problem. Obviously the headmaster will need to be informed too, but I can’t imagine he would have any objections. Do you want me to see if I can sort something out?”
Of course I agreed and we left it that I would see him late the following afternoon to see how things stood. Talking to Mr Evans hadn’t at that point solved anything, but I felt considerable relief simply by speaking to someone in authority. Why did I choose Mr Evans? I think because he’d slippered me it was easier to talk to him about corporal punishment. I got on quite well with most of my teachers but it would have been very difficult to speak to any that I knew didn’t favour that method of discipline. I’d never actually met the headmaster on a one to one basis, so he always seemed remote and aloof as well as being a rather sombre, unapproachable man.
My last two periods the following afternoon were meant for private study in the library, but I decided to call by Mr Evans’ classroom on the off-chance he also was free. The feeling of relief I got after speaking to Mr Evans had disappeared as the day wore on and it was with quite some trepidation that I approached his classroom. As it happened, he was free and I found him sitting in his classroom speaking to a boy from his form. I waited outside in the corridor for them to finish, but Mr Evans saw me and soon sent the boy on his way.
“Beverley, come and sit down.” Mr Evans directed me to sit at a desk in the front row and came round and sat on the edge of his desk facing me. “Well, you have your wish. Everyone concerned is quite happy for you to be dealt with in school.”
I nodded, but didn’t immediately speak. Half of me felt relief that the ordeal of prosecution seemed to have passed, but then I began to worry about just what I had let myself in for. Eventually I found my voice. “That means I won’t be prosecuted?” I just needed it to be confirmed.
I puffed my cheeks out and sighed like I’d never sighed before. I let my shoulders drop and nodded some more with the relief. Inevitably, with my mind beginning to concentrate on my actual fate, I had to ask: “What happens now?”
“I’ve arranged with the headmaster to have the use of his office, Beverley. I’ll take you along there and administer your punishment. The headmaster has requested that you be given six strokes.”
“Right, sir.” That sounded better than I was expecting. “When can we do that? After school, presumably?”
“No, I’ll take you along there now. The headmaster has gone out for the afternoon.”
“Now, sir?” I panicked. I was expecting time to prepare myself. Time to get used to the idea I was in for a painful lesson. Time to steel myself, and perhaps time for the school to close and become deserted. I didn’t want anyone around to see or hear anything.
“That’s correct, Beverley. Shall we go?”
Mr Evans stood up, which meant I had to too. My legs felt like jelly and I stumbled my way to the door. It wasn’t that unusual for a girl and a teacher to walk along the corridor together but I felt everyone we met was looking at us and knew where we were going and for what reason. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure they didn’t unless the way I walked unhappily in front with Mr Evans following gave them some clue.
I stopped at the door to the headmaster’s office and allowed Mr Evans to open the door and look inside. The idea of me bursting into the office and finding the headmaster hadn’t yet left was too horrific to even contemplate. The office was empty though and Mr Evans touched my shoulder and pushed me gently inside.
I’d never been inside the headmaster’s office before. It was actually much more modern than I was expecting with a modern light wood desk and matching bookcase, cupboards and chairs. A note had been left in the centre of the otherwise cleared desk and Mr Evans picked it up and read it carefully.
When he’d finished reading, Mr Evans screwed the note up and threw it into the waste bin. He opened one of the top drawers and picked out a small bunch of keys which he carried across to a tall cupboard on the far side of the room. No prizes for guessing what was in the cupboard!
The cupboard was like a wardrobe with a metal rail running from side to side and there was a black teacher’s cloak, an overcoat and some other garment hanging from it on coat hangers. Then to one side, I saw several canes also suspended from this metal rail. They seemed to vary in length by only a few inches and one or two were thicker than the others. Mr Evans seemed to choose one of the longer and thicker ones.
I remember thinking it was a bit insensitive putting the cane down on the desk in front of me when Mr Evans came and sat down in the headmaster’s chair. He pulled a fairly thick exercise book from the same drawer that had contained the keys, opened it and searched his pocket for a pen. Each page was divided into columns. I couldn’t make out what was written but I could see one of the columns contained just numbers. I watched my entry being written, and the number six being entered in the number column.
When the paperwork was completed, Mr Evans replaced the book in the drawer and got up. He totally ignored me standing there as he went back towards the cupboard and picked up an office type chair with upholstered seat and back and came and placed it right in front of me.
“You’d better slip your blazer off, Beverley.” He said as he fiddled with the chair, presumably to get it in just the right position.
“Right, sir.” I flipped the blazer off my shoulders and pulled each arm out in turn. I looked around for somewhere to hang the blazer and saw there were two vacant hooks on the back of the door.
Our school uniform comprised olive green blazer and trousers or skirt for the girls. Boys wore grey trousers. Then pale yellow blouses for the girls and white shirts for the boys. Ties were olive green and pale yellow stripes, equal width for the rest of the school but with just narrow green stripes for the sixth form.
Having hung my blazer on the back of the door, I was left in olive green trousers and pale yellow blouse. Mr Evans was beckoning me to stand at the back of the chair. I wandered across and allowed myself to be shunted into place about a foot behind the chair by Mr Evans taking me by my shoulders.
Once he was satisfied both me and the chair were just so, Mr Evans took the cane off the desk and I prepared for the worst.
“Okay, now I want you to bend over the chair and get your face down as close as you can to the seat. You can either rest your elbows on the seat of the chair or grip the edge, whichever you find most comfortable.”
Comfortable? That seemed a strange word to use just when he was preparing to cane me. I leaned over and shuffled my feet forward a bit so I could reach down easily.
“No, keep your feet back, please.”
I shuffled my feet back again and continued leaning over until my face was practically touching the seat of the chair. I found it easiest to support myself with my elbows on the padded upholstery. In this position it felt like my bottom was really sticking out and my trousers felt very tightly stretched across my bottom. Obviously what Mr Evans wanted.
“I’m now going to dispense your six strokes, Beverley. Keep good and still and we’ll get this over with as soon as we can.”
I felt my muscles tighten as I tried to lock myself into this position. At that point, it didn’t matter to me whether this took five minutes or all evening. All I wanted was to be able to take my punishment without fuss, bravely and without making a complete idiot of myself. That actually was my major concern.
The cane was now tapping my bottom. Mr Evans was lining up the first stroke. At this point I was really worried about how much it would hurt and whether I would be able to take it properly. I found out very quickly when the cane suddenly whipped down with a brief swish and snapped across my bottom. The initial sting was excruciating, but it very rapidly settled down to a constant duller pain across both buttocks.
The cane whooshed briefly again and the whole episode was repeated with perhaps the residual pain a little more intense now. I remember being grateful I’d been able to take the strokes without much more than a slight grunt. Unfortunately, the third stroke brought an even more intense initial sting which made me cry out and left my bottom feeling really very sore. There was only a quarter of an inch between the strokes and I guess that’s the reason.
Perhaps because of my yelp, Mr Evans brought the cane down across the lower curves of my bottom and I’m not sure that really helped. The initial sting might have been a touch less but the throbbing was just as intense. The fifth stroke landed at almost the same spot, low down, and the cane seemed to wrap around my right hip. I couldn’t help yelling out.
I’d been counting each stroke and knew I had just one more to take. Mr Evans seemed to take longer to decide where to strike me next, and I even began to wonder whether he was going to let me off the final whack, or perhaps if I’d miscounted. Then that deadly whoosh of air told me otherwise and the cane whipped across my bottom, right in the centre where the first strokes had landed.
I just shot up and clasped both hands to my buttocks. The stinging was just so extreme, like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It did soon calm down but even then my poor bottom was really throbbing and very, very sore. I looked around, and Mr Evans was already back at the cupboard putting the cane back. When he turned round, I was hopping from one foot to the other and rubbing my bottom for all I was worth.
“I’m sorry, Beverley. It had to be done.”
“Yes, sir.” I acknowledged breathlessly. “I know.”
It took me four or five minutes to recover to the point Mr Evans felt he could send me on my way. I was allowed to go home straight away. The following day, Mr Evans treated me perfectly normally and never referred to the matter ever again. I sort of wish he had. I certainly didn’t feel ashamed I’d been caned and told several of my friends about it, but not my parents.