The next part of the ‘Swishing Sixties’ series
By Dick Templemeads
It was 3rd August 2012 and Jessica Richardson had just witnessed Great Britain’s exit in the quarter final of the Ladies’ Football in the Olympic Games.
Jessica had viewed the Ladies’ football in a state of mixed emotion. Disappointed that the host nation had just fallen short of the medal positions, she also experienced a sense of pleasure and regret in equal measure.
Pleasure, that over the last few years Ladies’ football, cricket and rugby, had started receiving the recognition which they deserved, being taken seriously as competitive and entertaining events. Regret, that she had not been born forty years later, for in her time Jessica had excelled at football, winning 35 England caps.
But at that stage the girls had had to pay their own way, received little or no media coverage and made great sacrifices to represent their country. Now they had professional contracts, were regularly screened live on Sky Sports, whilst Faye White and Hope Powell had even been awarded MBEs for their services to Ladies’ football.
As Jessica wandered down memory lane she remembered an event that had occurred in the summer of 1967 which reflected just what a sea change certain sports had undergone with regards to female participation.
At that time Jessica, then Hurst not Richardson, the only child of two sporting parents attended St. Winifred’s Academy for Young Ladies, where whilst average academically she excelled at sport, representing the county at Athletics, Cross Country, Hockey and Tennis. But school rules barred her from participating in her first love, Football, even forbidding her from playing in a Ladies’ club in her own time, and on the day she was remembering she inadvertently broke that rule with painful consequences.
St. Winifred’s were playing Lady Jasmine’s for the Salter cup, an annual tennis challenge that St. Winifred’s had not won for nearly twenty years, but which with Jessica and her best friend Stephanie Carlisle, an almost equally accomplished player, in their side St. Winifred’s were hoping to regain.
With half an hour before the scheduled start to go, Jessica who always looked immaculate when entering the sporting arena, left the school pavilion clad in a white tennis shirt and matching skirt, each bearing the green laurel wreath trademark of England’s most famous tennis player, and made for the courts for a knock-up.
The courts were adjacent to a road, jogging along which were David and Ray, two young men who had recently signed professional forms for the town’s local Football League club and who were putting in extra training to make a good early impression. Both knew Jessica from having involved her in kick-abouts and impromptu games on the local sports ground. Though they had initially been scathing about girl footballers, they had quickly recognised her ability and, as a striker with the surname Hurst, she was inevitably nicknamed ‘Geoff’.
Noticing Jessica as they jogged past, they entered the school by the nearby gate, produced the ball they had with them, and in the tradition of using jumpers for goalposts placed their tracksuit tops eight yards apart and taunted her: “Here, Geoff, bet you can’t score past us.”
Quickly up for the challenge, Jessica placed her tennis racket on the ground, and egged on by the girls assembling to watch the tennis, won the ball from Ray and bore down on the goal guarded by David who was later to go on and play over 500 League games as a goalkeeper.
As she shaped to shoot she recited to herself part of Kenneth Wostenholme’s iconic commentary from the final moments of last year’s World Cup final, “and here comes Hurst, some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over,” at which point Jessica shot, but before she could complete the immortal phrase she realized that there really were people on the pitch in the form of Miss McCluskey the formidable Deputy Head and Madame Cantona the diminutive, chic French mistress, both of whom had come across to investigate what was happening. To Jessica’s horror her shot sent the French woman flying.
Struggling to stifle their giggles two of the onlookers helped Madame Cantona to her feet, the only damage done being to her dignity and her laddered stockings. But Miss McCluskey was incandescent with rage.
“Hurst, how dare you assault Madame Cantona! You are coming along to Mrs Curzon’s study with me immediately.”
Desperately the two young footballers interjected on Jessica’s behalf. “Excuse me, Mrs,” said Ray. “It was our fault not Geoff’s she just responded to our challenge.”
This only inflamed Miss McCluskey more. “Young man, you will address me as ‘Miss’ not ‘Mrs’, and who on earth is Geoff?”
“Sorry,” responded Ray. “We call Jessica ‘Geoff’ after Geoff Hurst.”
“And who is he?” Enquired the deputy head, seemingly the only person on the Island who had not heard of England’s 1966 hat trick hero.
David then explained the identity of Hurst, and also put up a defence for Jessica, but to no avail, with Miss McCluskey advising them both that if they did not leave the school grounds immediately she would call the police.
Mouthing apologies to Jessica, they left. Jessica, feeeling as if she’d been sent off in the dying seconds of a game, followed the two teachers. As they neared the Headmistress’s study the trio were joined by the games teacher, Miss Rossiter, a sportswoman almost as gifted as Jessica. The pair shared a mutual admiration and their relationship was more like friends than pupil and teacher, and having learnt of Jessica’s demise Miss Rossiter had hurried to the study to support her star pupil.
Once inside the study Miss McCluskey gave her version of events rather exaggerating the whole affair and insisting that the young sportswoman be severely punished, whilst Miss Rossiter gave a strong defence of her pupil pointing out that the two young men had challenged Jessica and her competitive nature could not decline such a challenge.
Unlike Miss McCluskey who hated all things sporting and as an old girl of the school supported the “no boys” sport policy, Mrs Curzon liked football herself and had been campaigning to the governors to relax some of their archaic rules to no avail. She was in a Catch 22 position.
She deliberated for a moment, before announcing: “Jessica, I for one do not wish to inhibit your competitive instincts. However, in this instance several school rules have been broken, and unfortunately I will have to cane you,” a verdict which caused a large smirk to pass across the face of Miss McCluskey, and a look of horror from Miss Rossiter who could suddenly see the chance of regaining the Salter Cup diminishing. Madame Cantona for her part merely looked bemused.
However, Mrs Curzon had not finished. “I appreciate how much the chance of regaining the Salter Cup is resting on your shoulders, Jessica, and I for one am determined to win it back and am coming out to watch, so I will delay your punishment until the matches are over. You would not be in a fit sate to win if I caned you now.” Then she added with a twinkle in her eye and referring to the marked bottom that the girl would soon suffer: “There would also be a good chance you could suffer some ‘on court’ embarrassment, but as soon as they are finished, please report back to me. There’s no need to change, it will be easier carrying out your punishment if you are in tennis kit.”
Miss McCluskey, though pleased that Jessica was to be caned, was not overly happy that the Head had deferred punishment so she could play tennis. “You’ll want me as a witness when you punish Hurst I Imagine?” She asked.
To her disappointment the head replied: “That won’t be necessary. Madame Cantona and Miss Rossiter can act as witnesses.”
Within minutes, Jessica was on court and so inflamed was she by the whole event that she trounced her opponent six-love, six-love. Then in the doubles with Stephanie, who had also won in straight sets, they recorded a six-two, six-one victory to ensure the cup returned to St. Winifred’s after two decades with their rivals.
But all too soon it was time to make her way back to Mrs Curzon’s study, though she did allow herself a few moments to exchange the rather sweaty tennis knickers she had been wearing for a fresh frilly pair. The frills, she thought, may give some protection to her bottom if she was allowed to retain her panties for punishment though she guessed that in all probability they would have to come down.
Suddenly she realised that in her imaginary commentary just before she’d taken her shot, she had failed to add those immortal words “it is now”. It also dawned on her that what was also about to be all over, was her record of never having been caned at school. Still plenty before her had suffered and lived to tell the tale.
As she made her way accompanied by Miss Rossiter, the games teacher gave her a few words of advice and encouragement. “It will sting at first, then after a while start to throb. An hour or two later that will cease but it will be uncomfortable sitting, put some cold cream on the marks if you have any, if not I can lend you some.”
“You seem to know about the cane, miss?” Replied Jessica.
“Well I got it a few times more than the once you’ll get,” replied the teacher who had indeed bent over several times at school, but who had also felt her sporting father’s cane if he felt that she had not tried hard enough in her various events.
They entered the study where Madame Cantona was already waiting with Mrs Curzon. The Head was quick to praise Jessica for her performance, before adding the fatal words: “But now push your down knickers to your knees, lift your skirt and bend over and touch your toes.”
Jessica, a slim graceful athlete, obeyed in one elegant movement, slipping her panties down, flipping up her skirt and bending with ease. As Mrs Curzon extracted a thin whippy crook handled cane from her cupboard, Jessica thought of Nobby Stiles, another World Cup hero noted for his toughness. She would emulate him and take her punishment stoically.
Bent over, Jessica could see nothing but her white tennis shoes, fingers touching toes and the white frilly knickers hanging around her knees. She sensed Mrs Curzon’s movement, then heard a swish as the cane descended. She felt nothing for a second, then a line of fire burst in her bottom. After a good few seconds the second stroke was delivered, it was harder than the first, and this time the pain was instant while that from the first stroke was still intensifying. Jessica remained stoic as number three whistled down across the middle of her bottom. She struggled to remain silent but managed, wiggling in an undignified manner as she tried to cope with the burning in her rear. Three more to come she thought, as the first of those whistled down and struck her, making her bottom bounce, she struggled but made no sound. Then to her surprise she was ordered to stand and pull her knickers back up.
Both Mrs Curzon, and Madame Cantona hd agreed that she should receive just four strokes as there had been no intent on her part, and as she had performed so brilliantly on the tennis courts. Miss McCluskey, who would not have agreed, was never to learn that Jessica did not receive the full six of the best.
As Miss Rossiter had predicted, Jessica was never caned again (at least at school). She went on to a top PE college and became a very well-liked and respected games teacher.
After one year at her first school, she left to team up with Miss Rossiter who was now Mrs Foster and who had moved to teach at a large mixed school. Jessica was well received and amongst her duties she even coached the boys’ football team. On several occasions she or Miss Rossiter, were asked by the Head to cane unruly girls and they both had their own experiences as recipients to draw upon and to perform the task efficiently.
After a year at the school, Jessica met Paul Richardson a geography teacher and West Ham United fanatic. They married and he encouraged Jessica in her sport and like Miss Rossiter’s father, had a cane to use if she did not perform up to standard. But that’s another story for later.
© Dick Templemeads 2014