An unfortunate accident leads a young lady to make a difficult decision
by Julie Baker
My name is Julie Baker and I was born in Edinburgh in March 1956 and subsequently brought up in the same city. My father is Scottish and was a well known GP in Edinburgh before he retired. My mother is Swedish and came to the UK in the 1950s to train to be a nurse. I was an only child and I benefited from a solidly middle class upbringing and the stability provided by two loving parents. From the age of 12 my parents sent me to a private day school for girls in Edinburgh. I was not academic but I excelled at sports, representing the school in netball, hockey and badminton. I was very rarely in any kind of trouble at home or school and by the time I was 16 had not experienced any kind of physical punishment.
One gift that I inherited from my mother was her Swedish good looks. My hair was, and still is, the colour of bleached straw and my skin is pale but with a nice warm tone. I am tall and most people have tended to regard me as beautiful in a kind of ‘windswept beach’ type of way. When I was 16 I was in great shape with long slim shapely legs, a lean rounded bottom and firm breasts all topped off with what others tell me is a pretty face.
Later, in my early 20s, I did some modelling, mainly fashion shoots but also a bit of nude work. I have always been proud of my body and not at all embarrassed for others to see me with no clothes on.
When I had completed my standard grades at school I had to decide with my parents whether I should stay on at school or look for something else. Although I enjoyed the sport I was finding the academic work difficult and not to my liking. My father suggested that there might be some merit in finding a job that would enable me to live away from home to build my independence and also so that I could acquire some life skills such as working with other people and learning to run a household. He had an old school friend, who subsequently became a lord, who had an estate in Perthshire. We agreed that he should write to him to see if he could offer me a job in his household.
At this stage I must inform you that I am going to change the names of all of the characters who come into this story from now onwards to protect their identity. To the best of my knowledge they are all still alive.
It therefore came about that in August 1972 I was dropped off by my parents at Clathy Castle to start work as a House Maid for Lord and Lady Clathy. I had my own room at the top of the castle and my duties were varied bringing me into contact with a wide variety of people both domestic and also the numerous guests who would visit the castle throughout the year.
We had to wear uniform at all times that we were working. White, tight fitting blouses in the winter months with heavy duty dark woolen tartan skirts on our lower half. These were incredibly prickly against the skin, so all the female staff wore long knickers underneath to help this situation. In the summer we had thin cotton dresses to wear. In extremely hot weather I would sometimes wear nothing under the cotton dress. This once caused a bit of an incident, but more of that some other time.
Life settled into a very pleasant routine. Although I was not well paid I was living independently, enjoying the company of those around me and learning skills that I have found useful for the rest of my life. Then in early December 1975 something happened to upset this idyllic life and put me in a position that I couldn’t possibly have foreseen.
One of my duties was to clean the library in the castle once each week. This was not my favourite job as the library was seldom used, was dark and was also one of the coldest rooms in the house. This week also saw the first of the winter storms with high winds, plummeting temperatures and driving rain or sleet.
I tried to complete this task with all possible speed but on this particular morning I managed to catch a plate, which was on a stand on top of the desk, with the corner of my duster. It flicked off the stand and proceeded to drop onto the wooden floor and neatly break into three pieces. I was horrified and my first thought was to try to conceal my error. I got a brown envelope out of the desk drawer, put the pieces of plate and the stand into it and secreted it above the books on the top shelf. This will buy me a bit of time I thought.
However, the next morning all of the domestic staff were called to a meeting and the Head Housekeeper, Mrs Briggs, informed us that a valuable plate was missing out of the library and that she wanted to know if any of us knew anything about it. If no information was forthcoming then it might be necessary to search all of our rooms. I immediately said that I might be able to help and the rest of the staff were sent off to do their normal duties. I explained what had happened and Mrs Briggs said that I would need to do my explaining to Lord Clathy in the library at 12 noon that day.
The morning passed very slowly and I presented myself to Lord Clathy at the appointed hour. He listened to my story and asked me to retrieve the envelope, which I duly did. He inspected the damage and informed me that in perfect condition the plate was probably worth a thousand pounds but repaired in might only be worth eight hundred pounds. He acknowledged that my work at the castle was excellent and there was clearly no attempt by me to steal the item.
However he pointed out that I had been less than honest and that he viewed the incident quite seriously. He then gave me three choices:
To leave my employment that day and return to my parents in Edinburgh. He would not be able to give me a reference.
I could pay for the damage out of my wages at five pounds per week over the next 2 years.
Or I could accept a caning.
He asked that I go back to see him in the library at two o’clock that afternoon with my decision.
Well, none of these options seemed to be very attractive, but I had made an error and I accepted that I needed to be punished. One option was immediately discounted in my mind. I was not about to return home to my parents in disgrace with no job. The payments had an obvious attraction in that it wasn’t going to involve getting a sore bottom. However five pounds per week was a lot out of my income, given that I only got just over twenty pounds per week after I had paid for my board and lodging.
It was on this basis that I decided that taking the caning was maybe the quickest and easiest solution. By the end of that day the whole episode would be behind me.
So I presented myself back in the library at two o’clock and this was when the next unexpected turn of events happened. Lord Clathy accepted my choice without comment but then gave me a further three choices.
I could receive 12 strokes of his heavy reformatory dragon cane on my bottom but fully clothed as I stood before him at that moment.
Or I could receive 8 strokes from his senior dragon came with my skirt lifted but my underwear still in place.
Finally I could choose to take the thinnest and lightest junior dragon cane. He would administer 4 strokes only but this would be on my bare bottom with no protection.
He asked me to return at 4.00pm to the library to declare my choice and receive my punishment. His only other request was that if I opted for the 4 stokes of the junior cane that I remove my underwear prior to entering the library.
These were a much more difficult set of choices, and I decided that I needed to consult with Mrs Brown who was the head cook and a kind of mother figure to me in the castle. I would have to say that the thought of baring my bottom in front of Lord Clathy was not particularly an issue for me but getting the cane on it certainly was!
Mrs Brown had seen this situation on odd occasions in the past and recommended the shorter experience with the lighter cane. For me, the middle option was not attractive as my cotton pants would afford little protection. Mrs Brown said that she had seen some serious bruising from the reformatory cane even through two layers of clothing. The junior cane was known to be very stingy leaving bright red stripes but these would soon heal up. She also offered to see me after my caning and apply some soothing cream to my bottom.
Time passed very slowly in the run up to four o’clock. At a quarter to, I began to get myself ready for the ordeal ahead. I gave myself a good wash, brushed my long blonde hair and removed my underwear. I then left the room to walk the five minutes to the library. I had a similar feeling to when I didn’t have any underwear beneath my summer dress but this time I could feel the coarseness of the woollen material rubbing against my bare skin as I walked along.
I knocked on the library door at just before four and I heard Lord Clathy’s voice inviting me in. He had cleared the end of his desk nearest the window and laid out on the desk were three canes of varying size.
To this day, I can remember his soft Scottish voice. He asked me if I had decided on the number of strokes and I informed him that I would like to accept four.
“OK, Julie, I want you to bend over the end of the desk with your legs together and your upper body resting on the surface of the desk. I want you then to raise the back of your skirt and place it flat up your back so that your bottom is entirely clear of it. I then want you to reach out with your arms and grip the sides of the desk with your hands. I want you to remain in this position until your punishment is complete and I tell you that you can go. I’m now going to return the two canes not required to my cupboard.”
I assumed that the cupboard was in the library so I immediately started to get into position. By the time I had lowered myself onto the desk I realised that he had actually left the room. Nevertheless I raised my skirt as instructed and stretched out my arms. I felt horribly exposed which I suppose was the desired affect.
At this point I realised that I was in for an entirely new experience for me and alsothat I had got myself ready for the caning far too early! Still no sign of Lord Clathy.
This time gave me the opportunity to reflect on the many contrasts in that room. The rain lashing onto the windows compared to the calm within. Lord Clathy’s part in this drama and his social standing compared to mine. I caught a glimpse of the outline of my bottom in the late afternoon light when I looked round to check for the return of Lord Clathy, almost luminous white and the only object in the room that wasn’t shrouded in semi darkness. Also my warm body against the cold unyielding surface of that old mahogany desk. Finally my head on the desk was adjacent to the cane which was waiting to be put to use shortly. The hard cane contrasting to my unblemished lovely soft bottom that had never had to experience corporal punishment until today.
Then I heard him return and the scraping sound as he picked up the cane. I also heard the swish of the cane cutting through the air as he took a couple of practice strokes. I had managed to get a closer look at the junior cane while Lord Clathy had been out of the room; no good news here!
It was about 3 feet long, with a traditional crooked handle and it looked worryingly thin.
“Are you ready Julie? Four strokes of this cane on your bottom and then the matter is closed.”
I didn’t think that this question needed an answer, so I lay still waiting for the first stroke. I could feel Lord Clathy tapping the cane on my bare skin and then it lay still across my bottom. It was when it lifted away that I realised the ordeal was about to start in earnest.
I was massively under prepared for that first stroke. The cane cut into my soft skin and it felt like my entire bottom was on fire. How could it hurt that much?
Four didn’t sound like many compared to the possible twelve but it was hard to see how I could take another three.
I’m not sure whether it was a kindness or not but he allowed me about 20 seconds to recover between each blow. The second and third strokes were maybe not as bad as the first because I then knew what was coming. However, I had heard that the final stroke in a caning is generally delivered harder than the previous ones. Lord Clathy didn’t disappoint. The fourth stroke was unbelievable painful and it was all I could do to remain in position and not massage my incredibly sore bottom.
However it was over. Lord Clathy invited me to stand up, adjust my skirt and leave the library. I was conscious that my face was tear-streaked despite not having cried out at any time during my caning. I managed to walk to the door with some dignity but as soon as I was in the passage way I started to run as fast as I could down to see Mrs Brown; running from the scene of so much pain but also running as if somehow I could leave the pain in my bottom behind me. This time the rubbing of the course skirt material on my bare bottom was even more uncomfortable.
Mrs Brown was fortunately alone in the kitchen as she gave me a reassuring hug. She then suggested for the second time in a few minutes that I lie across a table and raise my skirt for her to inspect the damage. She was impressed; four livid red stripes across my creamy white bottom, evenly spaced with about half an inch gap between each. She applied some soothing cream, gave me another hug and sent me on my way.
I worked for a further year at the castle and had no more disciplinary problems. Nothing more was said about that day and I concluded that I had made the right choices for me.
As I mentioned before, I went on to do modelling work for a few years and then met my future husband who was, and still is, a professional photographer. I now live in the south of England with my husband and three children. I have not told them this story and to the best of my knowledge the only people until now who have any knowledge of my extraordinary experience that day will be the surviving members of the castle inhabitants from that time.
© Julie Baker 2014