A holiday on the Isle of Man goes wrong
By Julie Baker
My name is Jillian Scott and I was born in Liverpool in March 1956. I am an only child and I was brought up in a happy middle class household in Bootle. I was academically able and attended a well respected mixed grammar school in Liverpool from the age of 11 onwards. I stayed on to take A levels in Geography, History and English which enabled me to eventually read Geography at Sheffield University. I also loved sport representing my school at both netball and hockey. My school days were happy and I was blessed with many good friends and a busy social life. In those days I was tall and slim with, in my later school days, a steady stream of boys wanting to take me out. What I want to share with you is something that happened to me shortly after I had taken my A level exams. I am not proud of it but I now realise it was a chain of events that couldn’t happen today and I also acknowledge that there are a number of people who have an interest in matters concerning corporal punishment. This is evident from the popularity of certain books and films on this subject and on this basis I am sure that there will be some interest in the details of my experience.
In my last term at school I had started to go out with a boy called John. He was in my English class, was good looking and he made me laugh. A winning combination! We decided that we wanted to go away on a short holiday after our A level exams to celebrate and generally let out hair down. We thought about a package holiday to Spain but in reality neither of us could really afford it, given our parents weren’t keen and they would have insisted on us having separate rooms. Different times in the 1970s! In the end we hit upon the plan that we would go to the Isle of Man for three nights and John would bring along his best friend, Dave. We booked into a traditional B&B in Douglas with John and Dave sharing a twin room and me in a single. This kept the cost down and I think that our parents, although we were all over 18, still liked the idea of us being a little bit in the care of an old fashioned landlady.
Dave was an interesting character; fiercely intelligent but a risk taker which often got him into trouble both in and out of school. He went on to read maths at Oxford and has subsequently had a successful career in banking, but back in those days he seemed to be somewhat directionless. Probably he was bored as he was always looking for something to make his life more exciting and he was certainly different from those around him. Like John, though, he was terrifically entertaining company.
So on the Monday after we had finished our exams we caught the Isle of Man ferry from Liverpool Docks at 10.00am. It took almost three hours to get to the harbour at Douglas and it was past 1.30pm by the time we were knocking on the door of our B&B. Mrs Jones was the name of our landlady and she couldn’t have been more welcoming. We were shown to our rooms on the second floor and she told us that we had to be back in the house no later than 11.00pm each evening. Any later, or if we disturbed her other guests, then she would put us straight back onto the ferry to Liverpool, but otherwise she hoped that we would have a great time on the island.
We unpacked our bags and went back down onto the front to buy sandwiches for lunch. It was a gloriously sunny day and we found a lovely grassy bank to sit on with a view out to sea. The boys washed down their sandwiches with a can of beer each and I had a bottle of my favourite Tizer drink. We couldn’t have been happier. We chatted about this and that and decided that we would come back down to the sea front again after we had eaten our tea at the B&B. We had booked a meal each evening that was served by Mrs Jones at 6.00pm. We were therefore back down on the front just before 7.00pm.
The boys wanted to go straight to the pub. This was fine with me. We sat round a table in the cheapest looking establishment with the boys drinking pints of lager and lime and me drinking my favourite at the time which was port and lemon. There was a pool table and darts, and it wasn’t long before we were getting well in with the locals. It was a great night but it eventually became clear that we had completely lost track of how much we had all had to drink. Last orders was called at 10.30pm and we decided to have one more round ‘for the road’. We had to down them in the 10 minutes drinking up time and then we hit the fresh air. We had 20 minutes to make Mrs Jones’ deadline.
We had to walk along past some shops on the way back to the B&B and the boys were speculating in a jokey way what would happen if they smashed one of the plate glass windows. What sort of noise would it make? Would it break easily? Would it set off an alarm? Light hearted banter at this stage but suddenly John spotted a half brick in the gutter and tossed it to Dave. He was only teasing when he said: “Dare you to find out,” to Dave, but this was a fatal error. Dave never shied away from a challenge and the alcohol had done its job of distorting everyone’s judgment. Dave tossed the brick at the nearest window and predictably the glass smashed.
We all immediately grasped the enormity of the situation and took off in the direction of the B&B. Five minutes later we were back inside the building and went straight to our rooms. We were pretty confident that we hadn’t been followed and after a few minutes recovery time I began to get ready for bed. I was horrified and upset about what John had done but there wasn’t much that I could have done to prevent it and it looked as though we had got away without being caught.
Then there was a knock on the door. A clearly upset Mrs Jones informed me that there were two police constables downstairs who wanted to talk to us about an incident that took place earlier that evening. I was still dressed and waited on the landing while she got the two boys. John and Dave looked distinctly ashen faced when they appeared and as we descended the stairs Dave turned to us both and hissed: “Deny everything,” to us.
Well this is precisely what we did. We weren’t under arrest but the policemen made it clear we had to accompany them to the police station for questioning. They took the three of us into an interview room and explained that a window had been smashed on the front and that someone else who had been leaving the pub had seen two males and a female fleeing the scene of the crime. They hadn’t followed the miscreants but had recollected the three of us being in the pub and telling him that we were staying with Mrs Jones. Even I could see this was circumstantial evidence only and we stuck to our stories.
However, these were experienced police officers and they must have known we were lying. Shortly after midnight they told us they would be holding us in the cells overnight to see if they could find any evidence against us. In reality, they simply wanted to separate us and question us individually. We were no match for these professionals. By the time my turn came I was very tired and distressed. They told me the boys had confessed and I was simply making it worse for myself by continuing to tell lies. I had never been in trouble with the police before and it wasn’t long before I was pouring out the whole story. To this day, I don’t know whether it was me who broke first or one of the boys, but in reality we were easy prey.
By 2.00am we were back in our cells having been told that we would be up in front of the magistrate in the morning. I hardly slept a wink and we were given a basic breakfast at 7.30am. We were taken in a police van to the magistrates building on the edge of town for a 9.00am start. There were a couple of other matters to be dealt with and the three of us were stood in front of the magistrate just before ten. We were asked to confirm our full names, dates of birth and our permanent addresses. The senior policeman then read out our full statement that we had all signed. This was a completely full and truthful statement about the events of the previous evening.
The magistrate did not look friendly. We was a thin man who looked as though he was in his mid 60s and clearly did not like English hooligans, as he saw us, coming and causing havoc on his island. I was very apprehensive about what he might hand down as a punishment.
”Jillian Scott,” he said eventually. “I’ll deal with you first. You do not appear to have much of a role, if any, in the breaking of the glass window in the shop. However, by your own admission you had drunk a considerable quantity of alcohol and I consider your behaviour to be that of someone who was drunk and disorderly. For this offence I am fining you a total of £5. You have 28 days to make payment to this court.”
Relief washed all over me at this news. Thank goodness! The fine was both deserved and affordable. I thanked him and turned to take my seat but unfortunately he hadn’t finished.
”Miss Scott, where do you think you are going? I have not told you that you can stand down yet. You will stand there until I tell you that you can sit down. I have not yet addressed the more serious issues of leaving the scene of a crime, wasting police time and attempting to pervert the course of justice by lying to a police officer. These are much more grave issues in my mind. A short custodial sentence would normally be given under these circumstances but in view of your age and non residence on this island I’m prepared to sentence you to a birching instead. I will ask the duty police sergeant to give you eight strokes of the birch as soon as this session is concluded. You will also deposit the sum of £1 to pay for your birching rod as there is no justification for the people of Douglas to pay this cost. Miss Scott you may now stand down.”
I was absolutely dumbfounded. I had never been smacked as a child by my parents and I had gone through my entire school career never having been slippered by the headmistress. And now I was about to get my bottom birched in the most horrendous circumstances. My head was spinning and I could feel tears running down my cheeks. I barely heard what was said to John and Dave. They were also fined £5 each for being drunk but they also had to pay for the cost of repairing the window. £15 for John and £25 for Dave. They were awarded 12 stokes of the birch each and ordered to pay the same £1 in costs.
We were soon back in the police van heading back to the station. Even Dave looked subdued and we said nothing to each other. We were put back into our separate cells and left to await developments. After 15 minutes a women police officer came in to see me. She was carrying a dark grey gown and introduced herself to me.
“I’m WPC Belinda Green and I’m here to look after you until you are released. I suggest you call me ‘miss’. Would you like me to call you Jillian, Jill or Miss Scott?”
”Jill please, miss,” I replied. She seemed friendly and I was so relieved that I had been assigned someone to help me through this ordeal.
”I’ll tell you what is going on now and what is going to happen to you shortly,” she continued. “First thing I would say is that it is quite unusual to see a girl being birched here. I suspect this was all to do with the fact that you don’t live here and also that the magistrate wanted to be seen to be treating you and your male friends all equally. Anyway, we are where we are.
“The duty Sergeant is called Sergeant Pringle and he is dealing with your two friends at the moment. He will come along to collect you in a few minutes, but meantime I will need to get you ready and explain the procedure.
“Right Jill, first of all I will have to ask you to take off all your clothes and put on this gown. I don’t know whether you are aware, but the birch is always applied to a person’s bare bottom. This form of corporal punishment is not effective over even a thin layer of clothing.”
I had seen this coming, but confirmation of this ultimate embarrassment did come as a blow. I still had my favourite red party dress on from the night before, along with short white socks and black shoes. I had been so pleased with my looks when I left the B&B after tea the previous day, but it all seemed so inappropriate in this setting. I took my shoes and socks off and then lifted my dress up over my head. I was soon stood in front of the police constable in just my bra and panties. I lowered my panties and stepped out of them, placing them with my other clothes on the bed.
“Do I need to remove my bra?” I asked. I couldn’t see why this was necessary.
“Yes, Jill. The regulations are that you should only wear the police gown.”
I undid my bra and I was soon facing Miss Green completely naked.
“Turn around, Jill, and let me have a look at your bottom.”
This I did.
“This might seem like a funny thing to say,” She continued. “But you are actually quite lucky. Although you are slim, your bottom has a reasonable amount of flesh on it. I’ve seen a few young people birched and the ones who really seem to suffer are the ones who are positively thin with nothing to absorb the impact of the birch. Trust me, you must be brave and I’m sure you will be fine. Now here is the gown. Please put it on.”
I gratefully covered my body with that gown despite it being made of particularly coarse cotton and also being a couple of sizes too big.
”I’ll now explain what happens when we go into the birching room,” continued Miss Green. “Before we leave here, I’ll fasten two little leather cuffs to your wrists. Each one has a metal clip on it. To receive your punishment, you will need to bend over the birching table. This is a wooden piece of apparatus that will have been adjusted to accommodate your hip height. You will stand in front of the table and lay your upper body on the surface. You will then need to extend your arms forward and I will secure your wrists using the clips and two wooden eyelets set into the far side of the table. I will then raise the back of your gown so that it is well clear of your bottom.
“Sergeant Pringle will give you your eight strokes with the birch and you will then be required to sign as confirmation that you have completed your sentence. I will be with you the whole time to look after you and act as the punishment witness. When it is all over, I’ll bring you back in here, you can get dressed and you will be free to go once you have paid your £1. Have you got a £1 note, Jill, and do you have any questions?”
I just wanted this horrendous thing to be done and behind me. The whole process sounded awful and I really didn’t want to ask any questions as it was only going to make the prospect worse.
”No, Miss, no questions from me. Thanks for explaining and, yes, I do have £1 for the cost afterwards.”
Miss Green then fastened the restraining cuffs onto my wrists. They were tightly fastened and I was in no doubt that they were going to be needed so there would be no chance of me protecting my bottom with my hands from the pain of the birch.
There then followed a few minutes of silence before there was a knock on the door and in walked a very burly police sargent. He looked about 50 and not very friendly.
”This is Sergeant Pringle,” said Miss Green. “Are you ready for us?”
He nodded without saying anything and headed back down the passage way with us following. He turned left at the end and descended a flight of stairs into the basement of the police station. He went forward a few yards and turned left into a room which must have been about 12 foot square with no windows. Sergeant Pringle closed the door after all three of us were in the room.
I was pleased that Miss Green had prepared me for what I was seeing. The birching table was placed in the middle of the space and there was a small desk and chair to the right of the door. There were a couple of upright chairs with their backs to the left hand wall. The floor was painted red and the walls and ceiling were painted cream. There were a few papers on the surface of the desk and one birching rod. There were two further rods on the floor by the desk and I concluded that these must have been used on John and Dave.
”Now, Miss Scot, the magistrate has sentenced you to receive eight birch strokes for your part in yesterday’s events. Has WPC Green explained to you what is about to happen to you?”
”Yes Sergeant Pringle,” I replied in what I hoped was a reasonably strong voice.
”OK, constable, get her ready.”
Nothing can prepare someone for what happened over the next ten minutes. Every bit of it was terrible and almost the worst part was the ritual of getting me ready. Miss Green ushered me over to the birching table and asked me to bend over it. She then took my wrists and clipped them into position on the far side of the table. My head was facing the far wall and my bottom was pointed towards the door. I then felt Miss Green raise the back of my gown and I was conscious of fresh air playing over the skin of my now exposed bare bottom. She placed the lower folds of the gown up my back and I sensed that the lower part of my back was not covered also. I really don’t know whether Sergeant Pringle was watching at this stage, but I was very uncomfortable being partly naked in front of this middle aged man. The thought did cross my mind that he might quite enjoy the sight of a shapely girl’s eighteen year old naked bottom.
Then nothing happened for what seemed like ages. The two police officers were talking in low tones at the desk, and shuffling paperwork while I was left totally exposed on the birching table. I raised my head to look over my right shoulder to see what the police officers were doing, so I did witness the moment Sergeant Pringle got up from his chair, picked up the unused rod and make his way over to me.
This is it, I thought.
“Miss Scott, you are about to receive eight birch strokes to your bottom as ordered. Are you ready?”
“Yes, Sergeant,” I replied.
I would have to say that the birch rod itself looked like a collection of long twigs bound together and it was hard to see how this could be any worse than, for example, a cane which is obviously designed to inflict pain. Appearances are totally deceptive, though, and it is impossible to put into words the intensity of pain that a properly applied birching inflicts.
By the third stroke, I was in floods of tears, and by the fifth I was completely broken and crying out with the pain of each stroke. Even though I knew it was futile, I was pulling to try to release my wrists from the cuffs in an effort to try to at least slow up the proceedings. Sergeant Pringle was only allowing me about 10 seconds to recover from each stroke, so the whole ordeal must have been over in less than one and a half minutes. How I got through the last two strokes I will never know. I will never forget the sound the birch made as it whistled through the air.
Then it was over. Miss Green kindly stroked my hair in an attempt to comfort me as she released my wrists. As soon as they were free, both hands went round to massage my poor bottom and I could feel my previously smooth bottom was now in a bit of a mess. I stood up and let the gown fall down to recover some dignity. The two police officers left me there for a couple of minutes while I regained my composure.
With a shaky hand, I then signed the form to confirm that I had taken my punishment and Miss Green escorted me back to my cell.
“OK, you can get dressed again, Jill. He was a bit harder on you than I expected but you took it well enough.”
”Thanks, Miss. I never ever want to go through that again!” I said, managing a weak smile. I took off the gown so I was once again standing naked in that cell. Before I put my underwear back on I did look over my shoulder to assess the damage to my bottom, a mass of red flesh as expected, and I knew that sitting for the next week was going to be a painful experience. I very gingerly replaced my panties, but very soon I was paying my £1 at the front desk and rejoining my two friends on the pavement outside.
We had all had a very traumatic experience. When we returned to the B&B, all of our possessions were waiting for us in the hallway. Mrs Jones left us in no two minds that we were a total disgrace to ourselves, our families, our school and her establishment. She was right and we were told to go and never to return.
We caught the ferry back to Liverpool just after lunch and were all home late afternoon. I don’t know what the boys told their parents, but I gave mine an edited version of what happened only leaving out the bit about the birching. I couldn’t stomach the shame of having to tell them about that. To the best of my knowledge, the whole story has never come out. I went off to Sheffield the following September and I have hardly seen or heard from John or Dave since that day. There was clearly no future for John and me after that episode and I met a super guy at university who I went on to marry. I became a teacher eventually and now have two lovely children. I could never tell them about what happened to me on my post exams holiday to the Isle of Man but my husband knows the story and, occasionally, we have managed to have some fun re-creating the events from that day.