When a girl with an exemplary record falls from grace, it comes as quite a shock
By Gillian Howard
My name is Mary Brownlow and I was a pupil at Queens School for Girls in the Late 1960’s when all types of punishment were allowed and used. I arrived at the school after passing my 11+ exams.
On our first day we were shown into the large assembly hall and seated on the front four rows; 120 new pupils all wondering what this large school held for us in the next five or seven years, depending which exams we took. We were all talking and getting to know our new classmates when there was a loud noise followed by a shout of: “SILENCE IMMEDIATELY!”
You could hear a pin drop as the Headmaster strode purposefully down the hall and onto the stage, his gown flowing behind him. Once on stage he told us all to sit and proceeded to introduce himself and several teachers who had followed him onto the stage. He welcomed us all to the school and said that when we enter the assembly hall silence must be kept at all times; anybody breaking that rule would be punished.
He explained the discipline procedure at the school and explained that everybody from first year girls up to upper 6th form girls were liable to the same discipline. We were told that the punishment used at this school varied from a smack to the legs for minor offences up to caning for serious or repeat offences. Detentions were used on a regular basis and three detentions a term meant an automatic caning. Also each month all pupils would be given an effort rating and all those who received an unsatisfactory rating would be called to the front of assembly on the first Friday of every month. They would receive three hard smacks to each leg and placed on report for the next month.
Any poor performances in class would result with a visit to the Headmaster and a caning. Also all teachers could use the slipper or smacking in class and all those who visited the Headmaster for the slipper or cane would only have the protection of their knickers. We were also told that uniform had to be worn at all times and in the past inspections had taken place but were very rare now.
Our uniform was a Bottle green blazer and skirt, a light green shirt, green and grey striped tie, white knee socks and bottle green knickers, and also a green beret which had to be worn outside school. We were then assigned our form teachers and dispersed to our classes.
The first few weeks were all about getting to know each other and friendships were being formed. The lessons, I found, were very interesting and I was doing very well and was already getting a reputation as a bit of a swot. I continued in this vein over the first five years and got very good O level results and went into the 6th form to study Chemistry, Physics and Maths.
Over this time I had had always received very good effort ratings, but every month girls were called out and smacked before being sent to wait outside the Head’s office. They were then given a card to carry round to every lesson for the next month.
I had never had to be disciplined either in class or by the Headmaster nor had any detentions, and was very proud of my achievement as not many had achieved this. All my friends had received the slipper in class and several detentions where the slipper was used for even the smallest indiscretion.
Several had been caned and the marks left had looked very sore.
The only time I had come anywhere near being punished had been a few weeks before the end of our last term in 5th year. All our exams were finished and I was in the English classroom having a joke with Amanda, my best friend. We had just sat down and were getting ready for the lesson when the Headmaster walked in as he had heard the noise. Four girls were out of their seats laughing and he brought them out to the front, made them bend over and lifted their skirts before giving each six strokes of his slipper. The force and the noise really frightened me, as I knew if he asked who else had been making a noise I would also be bending over.
He then told a girl called Julie to go and wait outside his office as she was not wearing regulation knickers and she would be caned. This would be her first caning two weeks before she left school. She returned about ten minutes later in tears and had difficulty sitting.
I continued through Lower 6th and did very well, and again avoided any form of punishment. Even though less were punished, it did go on. As with our effort ratings, I was surprised in the February to only receive an average rating and was told by my form teacher that my standards had slipped. Even though I was performing better than some who had received a good rating, it was not good for me.
When I got home I told Mum and she was very angry to hear that my work was slipping and warned me that I had better improve by the following month. In class there was still an average of about one a month who received the slipper and several detentions given out but I still avoided any of these through the entire year.
We moved into the Upper sixth and work in class became more and more intense and interesting. Just after half term, towards the end of October, I was in Chemistry and was busy carrying out an experiment. I was really engrossed in what I was doing when I received a small tap on the shoulder from Miss Greenough, our teacher, asking what I was doing as she had told everybody to stop their experiments and to tidy everything away.
I apologised, telling her that as I was so engrossed I had not heard her, and she walked back to her desk while I cleared things away. As soon as I had finished I looked up and could see her writing in a folder. Then she got up and walked over to me, handed me a slip of paper and told me that in future I should always pay attention. Tomorrow evening, while in detention, I should think about this.
I then realised she had given me my first detention slip. She also told me to buck up my work as I had become more inattentive, in her opinion.
I got home and told mum I would be late home tomorrow as I was in detention. Thursday was detention day. She asked why, and she warned me to work better or she would be grounding me at weekends.
The following day dragged slowly and all those not in my close group of friends kept saying I should be very good, otherwise my bottom would be warmed, and then they started laughing. I realised then that there was a real possibility of me getting the slipper, if what my friends had told me was correct.
I was getting more and more nervous as the day went on and it was soon 4.00 pm and I was standing outside the detention room, like all the others, with hands on head and facing the wall. Mrs Groves arrived and ushered us all into the classroom and told us to stand at a desk till told to sit.
We were then told to sit and were given our task. We were warned not to stop working until told to do so or we would have a sore bottom. I was one of only four upper 6th and three lower 6th girls. The rest were from the 3rd and 4th years with two first year girls.
After about fifteen minutes, a 3rd year girl was called out and she walked to the front, was told to face away from class and touch her toes. Her skirt was then lifted and she was given four hard smacks with the slipper. The noise made me sneak a look up but I quickly returned to my task as she returned to her seat. I heard her grimace as she sat down.
Soon after, three more girls were called out and the same procedure was followed. This time I made certain not to sneak a look. As they stood up after their punishment, Mrs Groves told the upper sixth girl to take a note to the headmaster as she had not been wearing regulation knickers and would be caned.
She returned five minutes later in floods of tears and, as she sat opposite me, I glanced over to see a red stained face. Before I could carry on with my work I heard Mrs Groves shout: “Mary Brownlow! Out here now! If you are so interested in a girl being caned perhaps you should visit the Headmaster.”
I apologised and said that I was shocked how upset she was.
Mrs Groves said: “Bend over now!”
I did as I was told and waited for my skirt to be raised, but nothing happened and I was told to stand. She handed me a slip of paper and told me to go straight to the Headmaster. As I had bent down away from class, she thought I was being insolent. I tried to argue but was told to go.
I walked out to the corridor and went along to the secretary’s office, knocked and entered. I gave her my note and she got up, looked through the files on her desk, picked one up and knocked on the head’s door and went in. She returned almost immediately without the file and told me to go straight in and to shut the door behind me.
As I entered the office I could see the headmaster sat behind his large desk reading the file that Mrs Groves had taken in. He then looked up at me and put the file down, picked up a large red leather book from the side of his desk and opened it. He then asked for my name and form and wrote them into his book. He continued to write while looking at the note I had given him.
He then said: “Brownlow, you have been put into detention for not paying attention. Twice you have looked up when a girl has been punished. You thought the first occasion hadn’t been noticed, but it had. Then you bend over the wrong way when told to do so. Again, it appears you were not paying attention, because you had seen other girls punished in detention, so knew what was required.
“I think you need a sharp shock to bring you back to your senses. You are to receive four strokes of the cane. Remove your blazer and skirt.”
As I was removing my blazer he placed a high back chair in the centre of his office. I slowly removed my skirt and saw him go to the cupboard at the side of the door and remove a three foot cane with a curved handle as thick as my middle finger.
I was told to bend over the chair and to hold onto the front legs. I felt my knickers tighten over my bottom and then felt the cane against my bottom, tapping a few times before it moved. I tensed as I waited and it was not long before I heard a swoosh and a bang before a line of fire ignited across the middle of my bottom.
I let out a muffled yelp before another swoosh and another line of fire which was quickly followed by a third. I let out a scream this time and waited for my final stroke, holding onto the legs for dear life. I heard another swoosh and bang, then the pain seemed to intensify as the stroke landed. I was told to get dressed and return to the detention room.
I looked at my watch as I slowly returned and realised I had only been away six minutes. I entered and Mrs Groves said: “Well, have you got a sore bottom now? How many did you get?”
I replied: “Yes. I am very sore and I received four strokes of the cane. I am sorry for not doing my work.”
She said: “I had suggested six with the slipper but he must have decided you needed caning. Good! As for not doing your work, you can finish that next week in detention. Now, stand at the front facing the wall with your hands on your head.”
Detention soon finished and I was given another slip for next week.
As I walked home slowly, I could feel the elastic in my knickers rubbing against the welts on my bottom, making every step painful. I entered through the kitchen door as mum was just putting the kettle on.
As soon as she saw me, she said: “It looks like you have had the slipper!”
I said that I had been caned and she was visibly shocked. She asked me to bend over the table and then she lifted my skirt and pulled my knickers down.
“Well yes, you have had a good caning and you must have deserved it.”
I then told her I was in detention the following Thursday for not finishing my task. She grounded me for the next two weeks.
As I walked to school the following morning, word had already spread that I had been caned. Several girls in my class thought it very funny that I had at last been punished, and by the cane.
As we sat at the back of assembly, I was sat in the middle of the row so that it would not be noticeable if I twitched with the pain in my bottom. As assembly drew to its close, the Headmaster got up and started to go through the effort ratings for October. By the time he had got to the end of the fifth year, there were no girls on stage. Then the Headmaster said the only three girls on report this month were all from the Upper Sixth.
As he read out the three names, I realised mine was one of them. I got up and moved along the line, getting friendly pats to the bottom on the way. I stood on stage facing away from the school as the deputy head lifted the skirts. She came behind me and said: “Brownlow, it looks like you are wearing bottle green knickers, but nylon not regulation cotton, so you will also be caned after assembly.”
I stood there in complete shock as the headmaster started to walk along the line giving three hard smacks to the back of each thigh. He was soon behind me and I felt the first of the smacks which almost knocked me forward. After all six, I had three large hand prints on each thigh. He then said that, as I was to be caned, I should leave the hall now with my skirt still tucked in. The rest could follow once I had gone.
As the Headmaster arrived outside his office, we were all stood hands on head. He called us all into his office and explained the rules of being on report, namely we would be watched closely by our teachers and any small point could lead to us receiving the slipper or being sent to him for the slipper or cane. He then gave us all our report cards and dismissed the other three girls.
I was then told to bend down and touch my toes and not move. He then asked his secretary to bring in my punishment file.
He then went to his cupboard and selected the same cane he had used yesterday. I felt the cane rest against my very sore bottom before swoosh, bang. I let out an almighty scream. Another followed almost immediately.
I was then told to stand and then dismissed.
As I got to my classroom, I realised I had a double free period so spent the time in the wash room trying to ease the pain and answering all the questions from my close circle of friends. The rest of the day went incident free and as I returned home and told mum what had happened she said that dad would deal with me when he came home for the weekend. He worked away a lot, and she said: “Don’t expect any leniency!”
I knew what she meant because my brother got the belt if he got caned at school.