A girl has to change school where a different regime applies
By Gillian Howard
My name is Gaynor Travis and in 1967, when I was 17 years old, I had just started my upper 6th studies at a strict Catholic all girls grammar school. I had always been a model pupil, never having been in trouble, but I then was in a car driven by my boyfriend’s brother and it was involved in a traffic accident. I was in a coma for 7 weeks but was unfit to return to school till Easter.
I remembered nothing till I came to after the coma and was told what had happened. The driver of the other vehicle had suffered fatal injuries. About a week after I came around, I was moved out of intensive care and mum came to see me looking very upset. She told me that after the accident It was touch and go if I would survive and then on the third day they arrived to be told I had lost the baby I was expecting. I was in total shock as I did not know I was pregnant, or if I did could not remember it.
After my shoulder and ribs healed I went to my Aunt’s in Cumbria to recuperate till Easter. When I returned, Mum and Dad had made an appointment to see the headmistress about returning to school as I would have missed most of my A level studies. The meeting did not last long as we were told in no uncertain terms that I was to be expelled from the school as they do not condone teenage pregnancies. Dad, who was not religious, let her know his feelings and stormed out. He said if we can’t find a suitable state school then I would go private.
Daniel, who had been my boyfriend, had been told he was not welcome and I had not seen or heard from him during my recovery. I never saw him again.
Mum told me in May that they had found a mixed Grammar school that would accept me into the upper sixth in September. I was to visit the school the first week after half term to meet my new classmates. We had a meeting with the Headmaster and were told that my reports were excellent and the reasons for my expulsion would never be discussed unless I wished to talk to the teacher who dealt with personal issues. He then explained the school was very strict and that corporal punishment was used as and when, and often in class by all the teachers. Both boys and girls could and would feel the cane if need be.
I was then taken to the lower sixth common room and introduced to the pupils who would be my class mates next term. They all welcomed me and 2 girls made a point of speaking and asking how I was as they had been told I had been involved in an accident. I did notice that school uniform was worn but that some of the girls wore trousers. I was told it was optional but that most preferred to wear the skirts or a dress.
September soon arrived and I attended for my first week in a skirt which was very tight fitting, like the popular pencil skirt. We had to wear a yellow leotard for gym and yellow sports skirt for games with a red shirt and knickers.
On the Thursday of my first week we, had a double gym lesson at the end of the day, so I had brought my new leotard with me. Our last lesson before lunch was maths with Mr Symmonds who, in my previous lesson, had seemed rather pleasant but I was told was also very strict and used his cane as much as anybody. He had been asking members of class questions and I had already got 2 wrong, but he excused me as it was 12 months since I had had Maths lessons.
There seemed to be more getting questions wrong than right today and he said he needed to start reminding the class about paying attention as we were all making stupid mistakes. He wrote 6 problems on the board and asked us all to calculate the answers in our books while he walked around checking.
After a while, he told everyone to put their pens down and said that all of us were now getting correct answers but one was still rushing the answers and making simple mistakes.
“It is time to remind you all of the consequences of carelessness!” He said.
He went to his cupboard and took a 3’0” cane off the top shelf. This was the first one I had ever seen and it had a crook handle and was very flexible as he swished it through the air.
He picked up the blackboard duster and rubbed it along the cane before saying: “Right, one of you is now going to have 4 white stripes across their bottom and I hope this will make the rest of you concentrate more.”
I was looking around and could see the trepidation on everyone’s face.
“Gaynor Travis, out here now.”
I looked up at him and then it struck me it was me that was to be caned. I had never even been shouted at before but now in my first week I was to be caned.
“You will now have a close view of what happens. John Wright, out here now.”
John stood and came out to face Mr Symmonds, who said to him: “Remove your blazer and touch your toes. Show Gaynor what happens when you are caned.”
I looked on in horror as Mr Symmonds brought the cane down with such force it almost knocked John forward. After each stroke he applied more chalk dust to the cane so that when he had given the 4 strokes there were 4 parallel lines across John’s bottom.
He rubbed more chalk onto his cane before saying: “Get up, put your blazer on and return to your seat. You saw what happens, Gaynor, so take your blazer off, touch your toes and do not move.”
I was almost in tears as I did as I was told, and bent over. I felt my skirt tighten and was petrified till the first stroke landed in a line of fire. As I attempted to jump up I felt a strong hand in my back. Three more strokes followed at regular intervals and I was in floods of tears as I was told to stand, put my blazer on and return to my place.
I nearly jumped up as the welts on my bottom touched the hard wooden seat.
As the bell for lunch rang, I slowly made my way to the cloakroom and could see everybody pointing at me. Then I remembered I must have 4 chalk lines across my bottom. I went to rub them off but the pain was too much. I slowly traced the welts across my bottom but was not going to try to take my skirt off to examine them. I could do that during the afternoon in gym.
Juliet came over to me and asked if I would like her to get the chalk marks off without too much rubbing, so we went to the washroom and she took a small flannel out of her bag, wet it and gingerly wiped the marks till they were no longer visible.
I thanked her and we went to lunch.
It was painful to sit on the benches but got easier as we went to Physics, our only lesson apart from gym in the afternoon. I noticed that John still had the stripe marks across his trousers and it seemed to make him very popular.
As we changed for gym, I saw the 4 angry lines across my bum and traced my fingers over them. There were several comments that I would soon get used to it as everybody got the cane in class, and it wouldn’t be the first time. All the class had got it. I put my leotard on and the strong elastic around the legs caused me to wince with every step till I got used to it. I got several comments off the boys about the lines showing either side of my leotard.
I went home and mum knew something was wrong, so I showed her the marks. All she said was: “You knew it could and probably would happen but at least you have got the first time over with.”
Yes, there were more to follow!
© Gillian Howard 2016