The Pastor’s Daughter

Problems arise when a girl’s upbringing is at odds with her classmates

By Richard Marks

Ruth Barnes was 18 years old and in the Upper Sixth of Greenbank Girls’ Grammar School. She was shortly to take A Levels in History, Geography and English Literature.

Her father was the pastor of the local Evangelical Church and had strict standards of dress and conduct for his wife and daughter to accord with his interpretation of the teaching of his Church. They had to wear their hair long, could not wear make-up, drink alcohol, watch television and had to dress modestly with below knee skirts and tops with high necklines.

Ruth’s sheltered home life meant she did not easily mix with the other girls in her year groups throughout her time at Greenbank, and she had few close friends. She never felt able to invite anyone to her home. She was quick to learn and seldom in trouble at school, which gave her the reputation of the class swot/goody goody and made her seem aloof.

In January 1980, the school updated the uniform to allow shorter skirts and for six form girls to wear black trousers. Ruth could never wear trousers, and her father was against skirts being knee length or above so by April she was the only girl in the entire sixth form to remain wearing the older style calf length pleated skirts. This made her stand out even more from the others.

At the start of the summer term, the A Level History group were tasked to help with an archaeological dig at the site of a former abbey which had recently been unearthed in the next county. This involved an overnight stay in a nearby village hall. Sleeping bags would be provided by the School. Girls were told to wear an old top and jeans for the dig and bring a change of clothing for the evening.

Ruth immediately felt uncomfortable but thought that she might be able to opt out, until it was announced the trip would be part of the assessment for the history course. She had a quiet word about her concerns with her tutor, Miss Phillips.

“I’m not allowed to wear trousers or jeans, so I haven’t any, Miss. Perhaps I could do some logging of artefacts or some other paperwork instead.”

“No, you must take part in the dig. It will count as part of your overall assessment. I will see if you can borrow some jeans from another girl and there are spare shirts in the lost property box that will be suitable. I’ll take some home and wash them,” replied Miss Phillips.

“But please Miss, my father has forbidden me to wear trousers or jeans. It’s in the scriptures.”

“Don’t worry, he won’t see you,” responded Miss Phillips with a determination not to give in.

Sally Edwards was the girl nearest in size to Ruth and she agreed to loan her a pair of jeans. On the morning of departure, Sally handed her a carrier bag and Ruth disappeared into the gym changing rooms. She emerged a few minutes later wearing jeans for the first time in her life. The rest of the girls made remarks, and Ruth looked somewhat embarrassed, but tried to ignore them and got into the minibus.

During the dig, there were constant remarks from a couple of girls such as: “Don’t get your fingers dirty, Ruth,” and: “Mind your nails.”

Sally tried to stop the teasing but she overheard one say: “We will have some fun with her tonight!”

The group uncovered a section of wall which had been buried for a few centuries and found a few pieces of pottery which were washed and catalogued before an evening meal was cooked in the village hall kitchen. After the meal, the girls relaxed in the hall, read some magazines and listened to music on a portable radio. It was music which Ruth was totally unfamiliar with as pop music was banned at home as being unsuitable material likely to lead you astray’.

Coca Cola and orange squash was served. Ruth chose orange squash and started to read a book.

“What are you reading?” Asked Sarah Cornish, one of the girls who had been teasing her.

“The Life and Times of Queen Victoria,” Ruth replied.

“The Life and Times of Queen Victoria,” sneered several girls in unison. “Get a life!”

Ruth left her chair to visit the toilets. Sarah got a small bottle out of her holdall and passed it to Alice Hill, who poured some into Ruth’s glass.

“Shush!” They whispered to the rest.

Ruth came back and drank her ‘squash’ and went to pour herself another glass. She stumbled slightly returning to her seat.

“Steady,” called out Sarah. “Looks like you’re drunk.”

Sniggers came from around the hall, which Ruth ignored, and she sat down, picked up her book and had a few more sips of squash. A few minutes later, Alice caused a diversion by drawing attention to an MG sports car which came into the car park. All of the girls went to the window and Sarah took the opportunity to top up Ruth’s glass again.

About 20 minutes later, Ruth had finished her second drink and suddenly shot up and staggered to the toilets. The other girls could hear her being violently sick and eventually she staggered back into the hall and slumped back in her chair. She claimed that the room was spinning and that she had a splitting headache.

Sarah and Alice started to laugh at her, which made her uncharacteristically aggressive. Her reply was however interrupted by another stagger towards the toilets. She fell in through the door and emerged a few minutes later in a very sorry state with her hair falling over her face and splashes of water down her front.

Sally helped Ruth back to her chair and whispered that Sarah and Alice had spiked her orange squash. Ruth suddenly exploded and attacked Sarah, pulling at her hair and using language that nobody thought she had in her vocabulary. Alice tried to pull her off, and Ruth caught her with a left hook which sent her flying backwards, scattering the chairs.

The other girls separated Ruth and Sarah who looked shocked at Ruth’s outburst. Miss Phillips tried to calm Ruth down and gave her some water.

“I will have to report this unsavoury incident to the Headmistress when we return tomorrow, and no doubt there will be serious consequences,” she warned.

Ruth eventually calmed down but didn’t really sleep that night due to her splitting headache and the occasional need to run to the toilets.

During the following afternoon, the group returned to Greenbank and it was not long before Ruth was summoned to the Headmistress’s office. Ruth truthfully told her what had happened and how years of pent up anger about her sheltered life had been released by whatever the two girls had spiked her orange squash with. She apologised for her own behaviour and bad language which was completely out of character and she now regretted it.

Ruth went back to class and a few minutes later a note was passed to Miss Phillips requesting Sarah Cornish and Alice Hill to attend the Head’s office immediately. The pair looked pale and worried as they left the room.

Mrs Horner, the headmistress, had a stern expression on her face as the two girls entered her office. They knew why they were there. Mrs Horner asked them for an explanation of their dangerous prank and the subsequent consequences which brought the good name of the school into disrepute. Sarah said they meant no real harm but they just wanted to see if Ruth would liven up a bit if she had some alcohol. She apologised and so did Alice.

Mrs Horner said she would have to explain the situation to Ruth’s parents, a meeting she was not looking forward to. The two girls started to look at their feet. In the meantime, she felt that she had no alternative but to punish them, even though they were senior girls in the Upper Sixth who should know much better and act like adults. The girls now looked very worried.

“Sarah, it would appear that it was you who took the alcohol on the trip, even though you knew it was strictly forbidden. You will receive six strokes of the cane. Alice, you aided Sarah and should have known better. You will receive three strokes of the cane.

“Alice, stay here. Sarah, wait outside.”

Sarah left the room and Alice watched as Mrs Horner took a three feet long cane with a crook handle from a cupboard and waved it in the air.

“Right, Miss Hill, have you been caned before?”

“No, Miss.”

“Then it will be a new experience for you. Bend over and rest your hands on the seat of that chair.”

Alice slowly moved towards the chair and bent over. Her long blond hair fell over her face and she felt Mrs Horner tap the cane on the seat of her black trousers.

SWISH! WHACK!

There was a slight pause and Alice gave a cry of pain.

SWISH! WHACK!

Alice started to sob and then:

SWISH! WHACK! The final stroke landed.

“Right, get up and send Miss Cornish in as you go back to class.” Mrs Horner ordered and Alice staggered out with tears running down her cheeks and rubbing her sore bottom.

Sarah entered the room looking terrified. Mrs Horner was brandishing her cane, which didn’t help, and she used it to point to the chair.

“Bend over and rest your hands on the seat of that chair.”

Sarah did as she was told and felt her trousers tighten around her bottom as she lowered herself down.

Mrs Horner knew Sarah was the ring leader of the unfortunate episode, so decided to give her something to remember. Sarah was taller than Alice with sorter dark brown hair. Her bottom was ideally positioned for her caning and Mrs Horner tapped the cane across the middle. She felt Sarah flinch.

SWISH! THWACK!

SWISH! THWACK!

Two quick hard strokes made Sarah gasp, but the third and fourth strokes, slightly lower on her bottom, made her cry out. The fifth stroke was on her sit spot and brought her to tears, but the sixth was a cross stroke which made her shoot up and dance around rubbing her bottom.

“I hope that you have learnt your lesson. You may go back to your class.”

Sarah was unable to reply but staggered out of the room. Alice was waiting for her in the corridor, her eyes still red from crying.

“Shall we go to the toilets to recover? She really gave you some good ones.”

Sarah nodded and started to walk towards the toilets.

Mrs Horner then asked her secretary to fetch Ruth again. A note was passed into Ruth’s tutorial group and Mr Baxter, who was in charge of a talk on William Shakespeare, read it and announced: “Ruth Barnes, please report to Mrs Horner immediately.”

An ‘Oooh!’ sound echoed around the room as Ruth got up to leave.

Ruth tapped on the Head’s door.

“Come!” Commanded Mrs Horner.

Ruth entered the room.

“Ah, Ruth.” Mrs Horner exclaimed. “I’ve just caned Sarah Cornish and Alice Hill for their part in that unsavoury incident yesterday. They owned up for their part and no doubt they have been teasing you for some time. Am I right?”

“Yes Miss, it is because they think I am different by the way I have to dress and because I don’t listen to pop music or read glossy magazines like the other girls.”

“Do you know why you exploded totally out of character in the way you did?”

“I think it was the alcohol that made me feel really strange and sick. It sort of enabled me to release all my frustrations in one go.”

“I thought it might me something like that. I had to inform your parents about the incident and they have agreed to come in to see me at 4.15 this afternoon. Your father sounded shocked when I phoned him.”

“Yes, Miss.” Ruth looked worried.

“Now then, there is the matter of the assault on the other girls and that awful language that Miss Phillips told me about. I don’t think we can let that go unpunished, even in these unusual circumstances, do you?”

“No, Miss.” Ruth bit her lip.

“I am afraid I am going to have to cane you. One stroke for the assault and one for the bad language should be sufficient as you have never been in trouble before.”

Ruth looked surprised and didn’t say anything.

“We will get it over with. Go over to that chair, bend over and place your hands on the seat.”

Ruth bent over and her long hair fell sideways to the left. Mrs Horner folded her long pleated skirt over her back to expose her bottle green knickers. She decided to give her medium strokes to leave a mark but not to inflict too much pain. She tapped the centre of Ruth’s bottom with the cane and:

SWISH! THWACK! The first stroke landed across her knickers.

Ruth let out a slight sound and:

SWISH! THWACK! The second and final stroke quickly landed an inch below the first one. Mrs Horner noticed that two red marks were quickly forming on the exposed flesh.

“You may get up now, Ruth. I am sorry I had to cane you, but it was only fair that you received some punishment.”

“Yes, Miss.” Ruth was not crying but had a red face and gave her bottom a gentle rub.

“You may go.”

Ruth went straight back to her class and found the bell for afternoon break had just gone. Several girls were gathered around Sarah and Alice who were describing what had happened to them.

They stopped talking when Ruth walked in and someone said: “You got Sarah and Alice caned,” in a sneering tone.

“Actually, I have been caned as well!” Ruth replied, which produced a gasp of astonishment from the others.

“Can we see the damage?” Sally asked, and Ruth pulled up the back of her skirt to show the two red marks.

“She is one of us now,” said one of the others with an air of sympathy.

At 4.15 pm, Mr and Mrs Barnes arrived for their appointment with Mrs Horner. Mrs Horner noticed that Mrs Barnes was dressed in a long skirt and had very long brown hair with flecks of grey. Mr Barnes had short hair, rimless glasses and wore a dark suit and tie.

Mrs Horner asked Mr and Mrs Barnes to take a seat and offered them a cup of tea. She told them the incident in the village hall had been dealt with by the school and the matter was now closed.

“What I am more concerned about, though, is how Ruth is suffering emotionally by certain standards of dress and restrictions on what she can and cannot do. It sets her apart from the other girls, which has resulted in a certain amount of teasing and she finds it difficult to make friends. Anger has built up in her which unfortunately was suddenly released in the incident. I am concerned that if her frustrations are allowed to build up again, some harm may result to her.”

Mr Barnes became defensive and told her that his daughter was raised in accordance with the teachings of his Church and he only wanted to protect her from being led astray.

Mrs Horner interjected that Ruth was the only girl in the Upper Sixth wearing pleated skirts and this made her so conspicuous from the rest of the girls, and the length of her hair was always causing her problems.

“Perhaps you would at least allow her to trim her hair to a reasonable length and possibly wear trousers for the rest of the term.”

Mr Barnes stormed: “Deuteronomy 22.5 states that, ‘A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God’ How dare you tell me…”

Mrs Barnes jumped in. “Bernard, that is enough. How dare you shout at Mrs Horner in that way when she was only trying to help Ruth. I have had enough of your rules as well. I want to live in 1980 not 1930! Next week, I am going to get my hair cut to shoulder length and tinted to cover up my grey hairs and I am going into Underwoods in the High Street to buy myself a pair of women’s slacks to wear around the house. I will also arrange for Ruth’s hair to be cut and buy her some trousers for school.”

Mr Barnes was left speechless at his wife’s outburst, but Mrs Barnes looked pleased at being able to stand up to her husband at last and give vent to her own feelings.

On the following Monday, Ruth entered the school gates with professionally styled shoulder length hair and wearing black trousers.

The End

© Richard Marks 2017