I wonder how many readers recall the metre (or yard, in my day) stick, a rarely used implement of CP, but memorable all the same.
By Joanna Jones
In Scotland it is commonly said that the only allowed form of corporal punishment was the belt. The belt, or tawse, was further only allowed to be administered to the hands.
And officially, for publicly funded schools at least, during the post-war years until the ban in the eighties this was certainly true.
However, there were certain teachers who made their unofficial exceptions, which could in all likelihood get them into trouble. However, as far as one could see no one ever complained about them, as long as he or she did not go too over the top.
For example I remember my teacher in a younger stage of primary school (before age eight, let’s say) pulling disobedient boys, or girls, over her lap and giving them a spanking with her hand, sometimes even on the child’s underwear. I also remember being highly embarrassed on the one occasion it happened to me, the only time I got ‘hit’ at primary school.
At secondary school there were of course stories (and cases I witnessed) of chalk and even the odd duster flying around, but virtually all teachers who used corporal punishment stuck to the “approved method”, blistering hands with their trusty pieces of leather.
However, at my school there was an exception, A Mr McMaster, who did belt occasionally, but as often or not would instead use a metre stick to the behind.
In some ways it was quite funny, a bit of entertainment, though less so for the victim, I would guess. The boy or boys concerned would be ordered to come to the front of the class to be told off and then Mr McMaster would get his metre stick from next to the board.
A great play would then be made of him chalking an ‘X’ at one end of the stick before he whacked it down hard on the boy’s trouser clad backside. As often as not it was a single blow, but on occasion he could give two or rarely even three, though usually if he was annoyed enough to give three he would be looking to get his belt out and do things ‘properly’.
This would all be done in front of the class. After all there was no real tradition of privacy for a punishment north of the border; the best one could say was it was optional (on the teacher’s part).
Most boys took the metre stick punishment pretty well, with at most a grunt, gasp or yelp and a rub of their backside before making their way back to their seat, and to both the teacher and to us it was viewed as a ‘minor’ punishment in comparison to receiving the belt.
You will note I always said boys above. No-one ever heard of Mr McMaster taking his stick to a girl.
Looking at it now, I suspect there was good reason for this, given it was a non-sanctioned form of punishment, he would be no doubt in warm water if a complaint was made; water that would be that much hotter still if a girl was involved. Further, the chances of a girl, or more likely her parents, complaining would be much higher than that of a boy. Most boys were not going to say anything to their parents if they could avoid it anyway.
On the occasion girls (or combinations of both sexes) were involved, he usually went for punishment exercises for all, though on one occasion in my class he belted a couple of female classmates who went way over the top. Even though it was a single stroke, both were pretty upset afterwards.
Anyway, throughout my years at the school there was always some debate as to whether Mr McMaster would ever ‘metre stick’ a girl. The consensus was no, but there were always rumours that a dozen years ago he’d done so-and-so’s big sister’s friend’s big sister. Most of us treated those claims with a healthy dose of salt!
In line with what I think was typical for most Scottish secondary schools of the time, I suspect no matter how ‘good’ or lucky a boy was, few if any got through our school without getting the belt at least once. However, for girls it was a bit different and there was a fair chance of getting through “unscathed”; I was always pretty well behaved, and thus never experienced much punishment, and no (secondary) school corporal punishment at all, though there was, if I am honest, some good fortune attached to that too.
My good fortune somehow ran out one afternoon in my sixth year though.
Unlike the younger pupils, fifth and sixth years (of secondary school) were allowed to remain in the school at intervals. We tended to congregate in the library, canteen, common room, et cetera. On the day in question I ended up with a group of six boys, one of whom was my boyfriend. We were up in the corridor near the common room when a couple of the boys started fooling about. David, my boyfriend, said afterward that they all tended to lark about a little anyway but on the day in question there was perhaps an element of showing off with me around.
Whatever the case they were throwing a sports bag from one to another as the unlucky one (me!) tried to retrieve it.
Suddenly there was a crash and gasp.
John running backwards had crashed into Mr McMaster, just coming out of his classroom, who had stumbled to the floor. It took him a brief minute to pick himself up having been well winded.
“All of you come here, into my classroom!” He demanded angrily.
We all filed in and stood in a cluster round his desk. As it happened, I was last in the group (having finally retrieved my bag from the boy who had it).
To say he was not best pleased was an understatement. A long, irate lecture followed during which he went on about care in the corridors and behaving like sixth years, not silly second years.
We all tried to look suitably apologetic and made equally suitable murmurs of apology as he did so.
Finally he said: “Right boys, I think since you want to behave like silly second years I will give you a reminder as if you all were ones.”
It was at that point I realised my female presence had probably gone unnoticed. To be fair I was at the back and my five foot three frame was probably rather hidden behind the boys, three of whom were around six feet tall.
This was confirmed as he grabbed his metre stick and a piece of chalk, and started marking his ‘X’ on one end.
None of the boys decided to argue about the punishment and John, the first boy pointed to, stepped forward, flipped the tail of his blazer up and dutifully bent over and grabbed his ankles.
He received a hitherto unheard of four whacks (with a comment that he was going to take our physical rather than mental maturity into account.) John took the first three silently, but gave a small grunt on the last. Afterwards there were clear ‘X’ marks on the right aide of his backside as a result. He gave his bottom a bit of a rub as he stood, smudging them slightly.
Mr McMaster gave us all the briefest of glances as he called: “Next!”
I was now in rather a nervous quandary. I, of course, had no real desire to have my bum whacked, but there was the fact that the alternatives might be even less appealing, or if he let me off I would be an example of how unfair the system was regarding equality. I might even be accused of cowardice and my name would be mud amongst my sixth year peers. That is my reasoning anyway; perhaps if I am honest there was a small mischievous element that wanted to see what he would do.
As he gave the next boy, Gordon, three whacks (John’s fourth was for being the one who actually collided with him) I determined to steel myself up to take the same.
Gordon took the first two quietly with a small gasp on the third. He too gave his rear end a rueful rub as he stood.
“Right, next!” Called the teacher, barely looking up from his effort to reapply the cross to the stick.
David started to go forward, but on impulse I decided it was better for me to go before he actually noticed he had a girl in his midst. After all having made my choice, I did not want him to take it out of my hands. I was sure if I was last he would notice and give me no option but some less desirable alternative.
Thus I grabbed David’s arm to stop him and rather quickly marched out and, before being asked, bent over, flipped my blazer tail up and grabbed my ankles.
I found my straight skirt tightening and rising slightly at the back from its normal length of just above the knee.
There was a long pause, a very long pause. According to the boys later, he stood stock still staring in shock halfway through his chalking of the stick.
“Catriona, isn’t it? Stand up.” He eventually said.
Very reluctantly I did as he asked.
My stomach lurched as I watched him go to his top desk drawer and was not surprised as he pulled out his belt.
“I am going to give you one of the belt instead. Hand out!”
There was no way I wanted even one of the belt, indeed this was the main reason I had decided to take the metre stick. As I said before, there was something psychologically worse about that as it was the ‘formal punishment’. Furthermore, more importantly, my parents had a rule of belt at school, belt (to bottom in their case) at home. While I could risk them not finding out, the consequences if they then ever did were pretty awful. My big brother, who was not the best behaved of lads, had on a couple occasions ‘forgotten’ to admit his punishment and was eventually found out. It was probably the harshest strapping my parents have ever given. During that strapping he’d been forced to admit to the two other times he had forgotten, and in addition to that thrashing he got the (more normal dose of the) strap again on the following two weekends for that. To my knowledge on the two occasions afterward he did not take the risk.
It was, however, only a belting that had to be admitted to in our house. Thus, like a punishment exercise, telling off or whatever, getting the metre stick was not something I was obliged to mention. That said though, I am sure they never even knew that it actually existed!
“I would prefer the metre stick sir.” I replied.
He looked surprised and even worried now, but he stuck to his guns. “I don’t recall giving you that option, Miss Findlay. Put your hand out now.”
“But you indicated we were all going to be punished the same, and it is not fair on either me or them if you change that just because I am a girl, sir!” I replied strongly.
Then before he could respond I continued. “You have said before that we girls should not feel we have less opportunity in our lives than the boys. I ask in the name of equality that you please treat me in the same way as regards my punishment, sir.”
With that I defiantly bent back over, flipping up the tail of my blazer again, and waited.
There was another long pause, no doubt as he regretted not having checked our group and fished out his belt initially. However, eventually I heard him say grimly: “Very well, Catriona Findlay, but then do not expect me to go easy on you because of you sex, and I am going to give you an extra one for your rather too forthright attitude. I suspect after, you will wish you’d taken the one of the belt!”
That extra one was a bit unfair, I thought, but I had made my bed and therefore now had to lie in it.
With his pronouncement there was a brief tap and then the metre stick whooshed down onto my bottom.
I gasped. It stung quite a bit more, in fact quite a lot more, than I expected.
There was a long pause as he redid the cross then a second whoosh.
I bit my lip as it thumped in but managed to keep quiet. That second blow was even sharper.
On the third it was very definitely painful as I kept my teeth clenched, but started to breathe deeply; it was certainly, stroke for stroke, more painful than I recall my mother’s strappings, and she always worked with a bare behind. However, I was determined to take this as bravely as the boys!
Just my ‘unfair’ penalty stroke to go.
“Legs straight, Miss Findlay!” He ordered.
My friends told me later he obviously wanted to put that last blow low on my bum and even with a fairly tight skirt the garment was clearly hanging slightly away from the target.
I complied, feeling the muscles stretch in my legs, and a small increment in the pain of my very sore bottom as the fabric stretched more tightly over it. Soon, after his requisite pause to re-chalk, he whooshed down the last one extra hard.
That one was really painful and I could not prevent a loud gasp of “Aaaah!” escaping my lips as I stood and, like the others, gave my bottom a rub. David told me later I was quite flushed as I did so.
To be honest, I was just relieved I’d taken it without breaking down.
The rest of the boys getting it was a bit of a blur, given my rather confused emotional state, and my own stinging rear to distract me. I don’t remember much of his dismissal statement either.
However, I do remember being something of a minor celebrity for that afternoon and much of the next day as the shocking news went round the school that McMaster had used his stick on a girl! The funny thing was, some did not actually believe it due to the lack of chalk on the seat of my skirt, and thought the boys were winding them up. Apparently Mr McMaster, perhaps hoping to keep things quiet (a forlorn hope), while dutifully chalking his stick each time, had in my case whacked me using the reverse side!
David was nicely impressed too, though he did say he was sure Mr McMaster knew the final two blows he gave me were below the line of my fairly high cut knickers that were apparently rather visible through the fabric of my skirt. Something he said was quite ‘distracting’ as he waited for his turn!
The marks of that stick did indeed go below my knicker-line, but they subsided from painful to sore and then a funny sort of ache in my bottom after couple of hours. However, most of the redness disappeared within a day or two. A mark that bruised a bit more, from the edge of the stick on the last and lowest blow he had given me, took a bit longer but I could not even see that after four or five days.
Of course I felt no need to tell my parents, but should have realised that, given the ‘newsworthiness’ of the incident, one kid would eventually gossip to an adult and that would mean they would, and indeed did, find out.
It was about a week later my mother out of the blue said: “Catriona, there’s a funny rumour going round that you were whacked at school?”
I am sure my mum recognised the hesitation, and possibly a guilty look as I replied: “No, I have not been belted. I promise you I have never had the belt at school.”
She gave me one of those piercing looks before she said: “The rumour was more about some sort of spanking to your bottom. Catriona?”
At that I had no option but to reluctantly and very nervously tell her everything.
“So,” she said at the end. “You got out of getting the belt by persuading Mr McMaster to cane your bottom with a metre stick?”
“Yes,” I replied rather desperately. “But only because that is what the boys were getting!”
She then said rather coolly: “Take your skirt off and pull your knickers to your knees!”
“Please mum.” I begged.
“Now, Catriona.” She replied flatly.
I felt sick as my mother’s strappings were never easy. However, I also knew that to argue would make it worse. Reluctantly, I undid my skirt and pushed the nylon knickers down my thighs; then, at a nod of her head in that direction, resignedly bent over the kitchen table to await the inevitable.
As I quaked waiting, she first took her time to examine my backside, from which I knew there was now, a week later, pretty well nothing to look at as far as the results of the punishment went. There might still have been a hint of a bruise on the crease of my bottom as she did touch the skin there as if to look more closely.
Then eventually she said: “I never told you this, but when your brother was belted for the first time he was quite upset and we let him off since he’d been honest enough to tell us and given how apologetic he was.”
“In your case you don’t seem too upset about your whacking, nor did you tell us.”
I was about to claim there was no family requirement to let them know if it was not the belt and my brother may well have got the stick and never mentioned it, but my mother continued before I could speak. “I think you were a bit unlucky and you’ve managed to go nearly all the way through your school career without being punished so, like him, I will let you off this time. However, if you do get the belt in your last two months at school, then you should know you will now be back in your current pose and get the same as your brother usually got. You can pull your pants up and put your skirt back on.”
It is difficult to describe the relief I felt as I stood up from that pose, essentially unpunished. I say ‘essentially’ as she gave my bare bottom a sharp slap with her hand just as I stood. However, despite the mild sting on my right buttock cheek, I could not help but smile as I quickly dressed (before she changed her mind!) and I meekly agreed with her.
Back at school there were a couple of the boys who thought Mr McMaster might have his eye on me, given my attitude towards him, but it seemed to be over as far as he was concerned and I indeed went through my last few weeks before the exams belt free.
© Joanna Jones 2013