Today's selection is from The Rule of the Strap by Mary McKenzie, published by Wildfire Books. It is the true account of a former mistress in a school for wayward girls in Scotland in the 1950s. For lovers of the tawse, that traditional Scottish implement of discipline, this story is just for you.
In this extract, Miss Mackenzie has started her first teaching job at a school just outside Glasgow, and has 'qualified', following supervised sessions, to take responsibility for corporal punishment on her own for the first time.
I had tried a cane, and from time to time used one, but apart from the pride afforded me by being able to say I had mastered its use, I seldom had reason not to favour the tawse. The range of tawses available to us allowed us to inflict the desired degree of punishment commensurate with the seriousness of the offence committed. I found a tawse just as punitive as a cane at the time the punishment was inflicted but it did not cause the same long lasting level of distress for a girl which the cane inevitably did. In my experience discomfort lasted hours with the tawse while often the effect of a caning lasted days.
My first turn on punishment duty came after I had completed my first month. Morag had informed Mrs McEwan that I now had enough experience to handle corporal punishment with adequate severity. I made my way to the punishment room carrying both my non-classroom tawses. I was very eager to try my heaviest tawse which I had not yet used. Like all new heavy tawses this strap was very stiff and stood out straight without the hint of a bend. I thought that, given its thickness, this tawse would never become supple.
That first evening three youngsters were on report. All waited in line outside the room and both trustees were also present. I marched into the room and laid both my tawses on the table. "Youngest first!" I ordered and Ann Orr brought in the young reprobate.
"You struck Mrs McGee during physical education this morning, Bridget. What have you to say about that?'
'Ah couldnae help it, Miss! She wouldnae leave me alone cos I could nae do her stupid exercise!" In later years I came to sympathise with young Bridget's views towards Mrs McGee for there were times I felt like hitting her myself. However I was required to take such violence seriously.
"Have you ever struck a teacher before?" I asked.
"No Miss," she muttered.
"I should hope not, and when I have finished with you I don't think you will ever want to again! Now drop your knickers and lie over the horse!"
The girl slid them down and stepped out of them. After she had lain across the horse, her arms were fastened to the straps on the far legs of the horse but, because she was short of stature, her short legs hung freely just off the ground. I lifted her gymslip finding her naked beneath, thus there was no impediment to the work of the strap. In deference to her age I selected my three tailed lighter tawse but felt I should give ten strokes. I thought this would satisfy the offended party and hoped that Mrs McGee would feel that justice had been done. Crack! Thwack! Squeal! From the second stroke on, her yells accompanied my efforts with the tawse. Long before the conclusion tears were visible and she sobbed her heart out when it was all over and she could replace her knickers.
"Don't let me see you in this room ever again!" was my final admonishment.
"Sheila McBride, get in here! Well, girl, what was the fight all about this morning?"
"Darlene McMaster stole my clean knickers from my locker, Miss, and wouldnae give them back!"
I half believed Sheila's story for I had found Darlene a handful in my class and I knew she was one to throw her weight around.
"Well right now girl you won't need ANY knickers! Take off the ones you are wearing and get across that horse!"
She did as I instructed and, Sheila being taller, I fastened her arms and legs to the horse. I took the reformatory grade tawse and gauged my distance. I swung it down and the resultant thwack! in that small room was awesome. The girl yelled and I confined myself to only three more strokes of the same magnitude. When she rose her eyes were damp and she withdrew from the room quietly, walking with some difficulty.
As Sheila left, I heard Darlene say to her, "What have you been saying about me in there? Just you wait!"
"Darlene McMaster, get in here at once!" I shouted "I know all about your behaviour, girl, and you had best decide to mend your ways." I really did not wish to hear any more about who the knickers belonged to and I told her so.
"Four strokes for fighting and four more for making threats!" I announced.
"Oh that's no fair Miss...oh please Miss" The pleading had started but I was in no mood for it.
"Get those knickers off and get across that horse at once, girl!" I ordered. She stepped out of them and did as she was bid, but before I commenced the punishment I looked at the name tag inside the pants, and clearly labeled was the name 'Sheila McBride'. Angered, I did not let up one iota and the eight strokes of the heavy tawse must have been extremely painful. She yelled from the very first, burst into floods of tears, and was a very different young madam by the time I had finished with her.
That ended my first stint on punishment parade, and while invariably the punishments given were harsh, I felt they were justified. I was most impressed by the performance of my 'stiff' reformatory grade implement. It was truly awesome and, over the years, very few girls avoided floods of tears when they received it. I gave between four and twelve strokes of the tawse to girls on report and laid them on very slowly but very hard. The results were dramatic.
Now that is most certainly an implement we need to add to our arsenal.