A hockey victory celebration goes too far.
By Wendy A
I was recently persuaded to attend an old school reunion by one of my former fellow pupils, Susan. It was some 20 years since I had left Fordham School. I had some fond and not so fond memories of my time there which lasted 2 years as a 6th form A level student. The School was essentially a boys boarding school but had opened up the 6th form to girls a couple of years before I took up residence.
The girls were housed separately from the boys and we kept much to ourselves initially. Most of that years’ intake had previously been at all girls’ schools and it took us a while to adjust. Our fellow male 6th formers had become used to the presence of girls and we were made to feel welcome even if we were the subject of whispers amongst the boys who we soon realised enjoyed visually undressing us.
The School had strict dress regulations, except on Sunday afternoons and in our houses when 6th formers could wear casual clothes. There were many rules, some of which were rather petty but others understandable. Alcohol and cigarettes were banned and leaving the school grounds was only permitted with teacher approval, even for 6th formers. Punishments were traditional, boys were caned or belted, whereas girls were slippered; all punishments were on the bottom. This difference had been the subject of some taunting by the boys who felt that similar offences should receive the same punishment regardless of the sex of the offender. It was however clearly understood that there was no written rule against the caning of girls; it just never seemed to happen even when boys and girls were guilty of the same offence.
I am sure that you now have a clear picture of life generally in the School. We ignored to a large extent the younger boys and there was a friendly atmosphere amongst the seniors. 6th form boys and girls mixed freely, we had a communal 6th form common room and enjoyed mixed sports activities with the exception of rugby. One of my fonder memories was mixed hockey, mainly because I had always been good at the game and was always picked for the first team.
Apart from the odd slippering by the Housemistress I managed to keep out of trouble and achieved good academic results. In my first term I had been picked for the 1st hockey team and regularly played in the mixed events, this despite being a year younger than most of my team-mates.
It was hockey that was to be my downfall. I had enjoyed playing in matches against other schools, both girls only and mixed. There were regular matches during the autumn and winter terms. One event stood out in the calendar, a mixed event against 10 other schools near the end of the winter term. This competition had started with only a handful of teams but had gained in popularity; there was now an Inter-Schools Cup for the winners. Fordham had never won the Cup but had in the last couple of years ended up in the top 2 or 3.
As the event approached there was an increasing frenzy of activity. There was practise every day except Sunday and matches against neighbouring schools. There was severe competition to be picked for the team, 7 boys and 7 girls. Each team had to have at least 5 girls in the first half and then 6 after half time. Those not playing could be called upon as substitutes if required although it was unusual for anyone on the team not to play for part of the match.
A few days before the Cup competition the side was named by the two hockey coaches, Mr Swan and Miss James. I was delighted to see my name on the sheet; there were a few tears from those that had not been picked.
The competition was to be held at the local Grammar school almost adjacent to our own. As changing facilities were limited it was agreed that our team would use our own changing rooms and then walk the few hundred yards to the Grammar school pitches. By the time we were changed the atmosphere was fully charged, I had butterflies in my stomach and a fear that I might make a mistake.
We set out for the Grammar school pitches with our coaches, voices were raised in excitement and we were told to calm down by our teachers. As we approached the playing field a loud cheer went up from our supporters. There seemed to be thousands in the crowd, all waving school scarves and shouting. Finally when all the teams had arrived we were called to one side. The order of play was announced. The teams were split into two groups and each team would play the other four on a round robin basis. The two best teams in each group would then proceed to the second phase of three matches.
We were drawn in a group with two of the reputably better teams; it was going to be tough to reach the final round. Each match was 30 minutes long, 15 minutes for each half. We won our first two matches easily, the third was a one-all draw and the fourth went to the wire. With only minutes left to play I received a ball from the wing, dribbled past a couple of players and whacked the ball into the net, the cheers were deafening.
The second phase was much tougher. We narrowly won the first match 2:1, drew 1:1 in the second and surprisingly won the third 3:0. Taking account of the other matches we were declared the winners. We could not restrain ourselves; there was kissing and hugging which was soon curtailed by our headmaster. We lined up to shake hands with the Heads of schools and were presented with the Cup.
Once the crowd had calmed down and doing a quick round to thank the other teams we headed back to our changing rooms. There was a lot of back and bottom slapping as we had been abandoned by our teachers. The boys headed for their changing room and the girls filed into ours, I was holding the Cup and held it up high on entering and the others cheered.
I am not sure who suddenly produced two bottles of champagne, but then a chant started for us to raid the boys’ changing room. Like myself, a couple of the other girls seemed reluctant to invade the boys changing room but we were swayed by the majority and off we went with the Cup and champagne in hand.
We burst into their changing room. Shouts went out like: “Come on in girls.” Most of the boys had already stripped and a couple of them were already in a huge bath in one corner. One of the boys grabbed a bottle of champagne, opened it and poured some into the cup. It was passed round and replenished.
As more boys got into the bath, a chant went out for us to join them. It was huge and could probably take 20 people at once. Some of the older girls quickly took off their shirts and skirts. Boots and socks followed, bras and knickers were the last to be discarded as cheers from the boys rang out. Reluctant as I was to strip off, there was not really any choice as the chant turned to: “Get ‘em off.”
Within a couple of minutes we were all naked in the bath. The champagne was passed round and the second bottle was opened. Hands were over active and exploring forbidden areas. Girls screamed and giggled, the boys started singing rude rugby songs.
The noise was coming to a crescendo when there was a booming voice: “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?”
It was Mr Swan with Miss James at his side. Suddenly there was silence and hands withdrew, girls covered their breasts.
Mr Swan’s next command was: “Everyone out of the bath.”
Slowly we all stood up, covering out intimate areas as best we could. A couple of the girls giggled as we noticed that most of the boys had become excited. Mr Swan told the boys to go back to where their clothes hung. Miss James told us girls to pick up our clothes and return to our changing room. This at least gave us some cover. Back in our changing room she told us to dry, get dressed and wait for further instructions.
She returned after about 10 minutes, by which time most of us had put our uniforms back on. Miss James hurried the stragglers and she told us to follow her. We had only taken a few steps when a column of boys came along the corridor lead by Mr Swan. The two columns continued their way in silence. I noticed that Mr Swan was holding the two empty champagne bottles and the Cup.
We realised after a short while that we were headed for the Headmaster’s study. On reaching it we were told to line up facing the wall, boys one side and girls the other. The teachers then went into the Head’s study and closed the door. There were muted whispers mainly enquiring what would happen to us.
It seemed like more than an hour that we were left staring at the wall. We all jumped as the Head’s door opened and Miss Swan ushered us in. We stood in a semi-circle round the Head’s desk with our heads bowed; Mr Swan and Miss James sat either side of it.
The Head cleared his throat and looked directly at the 14 pupils in front of him. In return he received only the odd fleeting glance before eyes were diverted back to the carpet.
“I have never in all my years as a teacher been confronted by behaviour like that you engaged in this afternoon. I could have overlooked a little horseplay after your victory but you went so far over the top that I am almost left speechless. I have not yet decided what punishment to impose on you but rest assured that whatever is decided it will be far from pleasant and could impact on the remainder of your education and future.
“I have asked Mr Swan and Miss James to interview each of you individually in order to establish the lead up to the situation they found in the boys changing room. Those of you that are prefects are to be immediately suspended from that position. For the rest of you all 6th form privileges are removed. I will consider this matter further once I have received the report of Mr Swan and Miss James. I suggest that you have your dinner and make yourselves available for interview when called.”
At that we filed out of the Head’s study and headed for the refectory.
Over the next couple of hours we were all called to the library to be interrogated. For my part I said very little other than I had followed the crowd. No, I didn’t know who had brought the champagne and was not sure who had initially suggested that we raid the boys changing room. I was clearly not believed but thankfully I was not pushed to give the answers that they most certainly wanted.
News of our high jinks had already spread amongst our peers and we were bombarded with questions for details of what happened and what was going to happen to us. When answering my friends I tried to give as little detail as possible, as far as punishment was concerned I was totally in the dark.
At just before lights out a prefect came with the message that the hockey team would have a meeting with Head after lunch on the following Monday. We would have to wait more than 24 hours without having any idea of what lay in store for us.
The Sunday was miserable; we had to wear school uniform all day. I did have occasion to chat to some of the older girls in the team. They, like me, had no idea of what the Head would decide. All I could glean was that if just boys had been involved they would be in for a very severe caning and probably on their bare bottoms. This news made me shudder and feel very vulnerable. I hardly slept that night.
Monday was marginally better. At least there were lessons as a distraction although I could not concentrate and was reprimanded several times. Had I not been under sentence I would probably have been slippered. At least my best friends, including Susan, sympathised and supported me.
I ate little for lunch and after made my way to the Head’s study. Several team-mates were already there and slowly the others drifted along. This time the Head did not keep us waiting long and we were ushered in by Miss James. We formed a semi-circle and no doubt all hoped a huge hole would open up in the floor to swallow us all up.
Again the Head cleared his throat. “Since you were here on Saturday evening I have consulted with several senior members of staff as well as some of the Governors. I have also been in contact with most of your parents.
“My main problem has been the involvement of you girls. Had such behaviour occurred before girls were admitted then I would have resorted to severe corporal punishment. You girls were not only involved but in many ways instigated the events after the hockey match. It is clear that some of you girls were reluctant participants and only one of you was responsible for the introduction of champagne. I consider that all you boys were equally responsible for what transpired and none of you had held back.
“As you are no doubt aware, no girl has been caned since girls were first admitted three years ago. On the other hand there is no rule that girls may not be caned and you and your parents were made fully aware that corporal punishment was a sanction available to me and other staff members.
“My initial reaction was to expel the lot of you. That would have had a very negative impact on your education and potential future. I then considered suspension. This would have been fully justified but may not have been reasonable if applied to those of you that showed some reluctance to raid the boys’ changing room. Also, many of you will be taking A levels next term; suspension could well impact negatively on you and adversely affect your results.
“I have in particular taken account of conversations I have had with the parents of most of you girls. All were very shocked by what you had done, in particular that you are all seniors and should not require permanent supervision like little children. You know what is right and wrong and can understand the rules of this school, in fact any school. The parents of some of you boys were disgusted that you had encouraged the girls to strip and join you in the bath.
“To conclude, the general consensus is that you should all be caned. I have decided not to attribute a higher penalty to what could be described as the ringleaders. I could make a wrong choice and that would weigh on me for a long time. I could, and perhaps should, differentiate the penalty for boys and girls. However it appears to me the blame lies to a greater extent with some of you girls than the boys. You will each receive 8 strokes of the cane on your bare bottoms.”
There was a faint sound as breath was drawn in. Although the boys had fully expected such a punishment the girls had at worst expected the slipper. I felt my whole body tremble.
The Head continued. “You will return here after dinner this evening at 7pm for your punishment. If any of you wish to speak to me or Miss James before then we shall both be available. Right, go back to your classes.”
We filed out, all in shock, particularly the girls most of whom made their way to the toilets. All of us were shocked and wondered how we would cope with such a caning. Could we survive 8 strokes each, who would cane us, would it be the Head? Would he see our bare bottoms? Would we be held down or restrained? Not wishing further sanctions we headed for our classes. News travelled fast and our peers could not resist asking questions. It was difficult to put on a brave face and several tears rolled down my cheeks.
After dinner, at which I ate almost nothing, we headed off in small groups and converged at the Head’s study door. On the dot of 7 we were ushered in and lined up as before. Apart from the Head, Mr Swan and Miss James, Miss Fellows, the junior games mistress, was also present.
The Head explained that we girls would be dealt with first. Miss James would cane us assisted by Miss Fellows as required. We were to be called in individually in alphabetical order; a quick calculation meant I would be third. We would be caned while bending over the Head’s desk. We were then told to line up in the corridor, girls on one side and boys on the other.
Within a minute Miss Fellows appeared and called the first girl in. After another couple of minutes we heard the craaack followed by a scream. The screams continued with each stroke and we could hear her pleading for Miss James to stop. The girl was back out inside 5 minutes, tears streamed down her face and she was rubbing her bottom vigorously. She was clearly finding breathing difficult and snivelled. The next girl was called in and similar sounds reached us in the corridor.
She exited in a similar state and then it was my turn. I went in and Miss Fellows closed the door. Miss James was standing next to the desk. The Head and Mr Swan were standing behind it. Miss James told me to lower my knickers, bend over the desk and lift my skirt. My mind was in a whirl as I slowly, very slowly, followed her instructions.
I found it most uncomfortable to lie across the desk. Tears had started to roll down my cheeks and added to those already on the desk. All I could think of was my exposed bottom in view of Miss James and Miss Fellows. I was told to grip the far side of the desk and to remain in that position until told to stand up, if not Miss Fellows would hold me down until I had received all 8 strokes.
I was determined not to scream like the previous girls but as the first stroke hit I let out a loud scream and moved to get up. In an instant Miss Fellows had placed her hand on my back to push me down; Mr Swan took hold of my wrists. As further strokes landed I realised that I could no longer move. I continued to scream till the last stroke when I was released. Miss Fellows helped me to my feet and told me to pull up my knickers. It was horrendous having to bend down again to retrieve my knickers which by then were round my ankles. On reaching my bottom I could feel the ridges left by the cane and fresh fire engulfed my bottom.
Miss Fellows handed me several paper tissues, I wiped my eyes and blew my nose. Miss James, now with the cane in her left hand held out her right hand; I wondered what I was supposed to do, I shook it and also shook the hands of the others. It felt very strange under the circumstances. I also wondered if I should say something. I opened my mouth and a very squeaky: “Sorry,” came out. Miss fellows took me by the arm, opened the door and I was back out with my fellow culprits.
The other four girls followed in turn, none managed not to scream out and all were tearful when they returned to the corridor.
The boys followed, they made less noise but grunts could be heard as the cane struck their bottoms. Most had at least a few tears on their cheeks when they exited.
Once we had all been punished we were called back in. The lecture was brief and ended with a warning that any similar behaviour would result in expulsion. Miss Fellows lead us girls out of the study and in line we headed for the dormitories. Fortunately the corridors were mostly empty as it was prep time. On reaching the dormitories Miss Fellows told us to get ready for bed and handed out several small pots of cream.
There was only one other culprit in my dorm. After we had lain face down on our beds for some minutes she suggested that we get changed into our nightshirts before anyone else came to bed. I was shocked at the sight of her bottom, the lines of the cane could clearly be seen and the whole area was a kaleidoscope of red, black and blue. We applied the cream to each others’ bottoms, despite the renewed pain, the cream did have a cooling effect. After a quick visit to the bathroom we tucked ourselves into bed and lay face down.
Our dorm-mates did not disturb us when they came to bed but next day in the showers we were accorded no modesty at all as our bottoms were the centre of attraction.
When I saw my parents at the Easter break I was pleased that there was no mention of my caning. It was not until a few days later that my Mother mentioned that she had been caned twice when she was at school, knew how I felt and the subject was closed.
I stayed on at Fordham for a further year and never again felt the indignity of the cane or even the slipper. To my surprise I was made a prefect from the start of the autumn term. We lost the mixed hockey Cup the following year which was probably a blessing.
It was strange being back at school for the reunion and the memory of my caning came flooding back particularly as some of the others attending had participated in the raid on the boys’ changing room.
© Wendy A 2015