“Da Silva in here now,” I heard the order barked out knowing my time had come, so I opened the door and entered the lion’s den.
I had been summoned to this room many times before. Nothing had changed since my last visit: a large bookcase stretched across the wall in front of me. To my left was a small couch where guests would sit, large stuffed chairs on either side. To my right was the housemaster’s huge mahogany desk, clean and tidy, and polished to perfection.
But, despite the abundance of furniture, all I could focus on was the prominent display behind the desk. Attached to the wall was a large wooden cabinet with a glass door. Through the glass I could see three crock-handled canes. They were light brown, slender, and slightly warped from years of use.
Mr Hill, my housemaster, was seated at his desk, dressed in his formal gown, with a dark suit under it.
“Stand there,” he pointed to a spot on the worn rug directly in front of his desk. I cannot ever remember in my seven years at the school having seen Mr Hill smile. This day was to be no exception. His steely grey-blue eyes glinted and he had a face like thunder. He was a man of few words. I was not entirely sure why I had been called to the study (I had broken a number of the school’s petty rules in recent weeks and any one of them might have resulted in a thrashing) but in no time my housemaster enlightened me.
“Well I know, even if you do not, boy. I know that you have not been concentrating on your work as an A-level student should. I know that you have been larking about with your pal Roehampton, whose work is almost as inadequate and unacceptable as yours.
“So I am going to make an example of you and give you a wake-up call. I am going to give you six of the very best – possibly the best you have ever had! Take off your blazer and hang it up over there.”
The housemaster had a reputation as a very fair but firm man and I knew better than to argue a point and anyway there was something about Mr Hill when he used that tone of voice that meant you gave him total obedience.
“Oh God! Another caning.” The thought raced through my mind as with my heart pounding in anticipation of the ordeal to come I slipped the blazer off my back and hanged it as instructed on a hook on the study door. The task completed I turned to once again face my punisher.
He had left his desk and placed the caning chair in the middle of the room. No one ever sat on this chair and there was no wear on the seat. However the varnish on the back, and on top of the front legs, was worn away by generations of boys bending over and holding on to the chair while they were caned.
“You know what to do,” he said. Yes, I remembered the procedure, even as I tried to forget what would come next. I had been in a similar position many times before. Without fuss I bent my athletic body prostrate across the chair presenting my eighteen-year-old buttocks tightly stretched inside snug fitting trousers to the housemaster.
Mr Hill rolled his sleeve up and took a springy cane from the selection in the glass-fronted cabinet. I could see him rubbing a piece of chalk up and down his cane as I waited for the first slash to cut into the taut grey trousers that were now spread over my small squatting bum.
Mr Hill flexed the cane a little and scythed it through the air. It made a fearsome noise. It reminded me of the many unhappy times I had spent in this study over the years.
I flinched as I felt him pull the end of my shirt out from under the waist-band of my trousers and all too soon the cane was tapping the middle of my buttocks. I kept telling myself that it was not going to be too bad, right up until I heard the crack then felt the fire sweep across my bum, Jesus he was going to rip my backside open.
He measured the rod out again, lower, pressing into the tight material of my trousers, before flogging it against me just as hard as the first, the retort of wood against cotton filling the air.
Even with all my experience, I could not have anticipated the pain, it was a hundred times worse than anything I had felt before. My eyes filled with tears, but I tried to remain calm, forcing myself to breathe while gripping tightly to the chair.
Then the third stroke thrashed hard into my poor bottom, I actually screamed and my body began to vibrate. The pain was intense, burning: unendurable.
“Control yourself boy. You have only had three strokes. I do not expect that racket,” Mr Hill admonished me as he raised the cane high into the air again and delivered Crack! the fourth cut. I screamed but held on as the agony built up. Then further pain as another crack announced the arrival of the fifth stroke. I was blubbering, pleading and screaming.
Despite my tormented state I could still feel the pressure of the cane pushing into the bottom of my buttocks as he lined up the sixth and last stroke. I know I was crying “No, please. No.” as the cane whistled into the allotted landing site with all the force that Mr Hill could put into it. As soon as it was done I stood up and my hands went to my bottom. I was in utter agony, tears were running everywhere, mainly due to the pain, but also as I was so ashamed that I could not have controlled myself better.
Mr Hill placed the cane back in the cabinet while I tried to check myself from giving my arse a rub, but my rear was burning and although I didn’t want to show it had hurt I knew I had failed miserably.
The housemaster was now sat at the desk filling in the punishment book, through my tears he passed the book and told me to initial it.
With no further ado he dismissed me from the study. Miserably, I hobbled towards the door, unhooked my blazer, and without waiting to get dressed properly, I left.
Mr Hill was so clinical in the way he had delivered the punishment I felt he had no heart, my backside was blazing and I could feel the welts raising on my skin but he was dismissing me as though he had just given me nothing more than directions to the railway station.
Once outside I clamped my hands onto my burning bottom and began to massage the sting. Never again I thought to myself as I headed off to my classroom. Never again; after nearly seven years at this school and countless canings I vowed it would be the last time.
I watched, as Da Silva, in obvious agony but determined not to show it, hobbled from my study. This boy was a problem. I fervently believe in corporal punishment. Beat a boy hard enough on his backside when he steps out of line and he won’t come back for more. The cane works, I know it. But, I suppose Da Silva is the exception that proves the rule: he is a recidivist, a repeat offender, and it is difficult to deal with a boy like that. The only option you have is to thrash him a little bit harder each time he bends over in front of you.
Or of course, repeat offenders can be ordered to take down their trousers to receive six across the underpants: or sometimes even across the bared buttocks. Here at St Francis Independent Grammar School, the governors only allow the headmaster to thrash a boy in such a manner, more’s the pity.
Some people say it was wrong to beat teenaged boys on their bared buttocks; some even suggest schoolmasters are “pederasts.” Today there are “Progressives” who say we should abolish corporal punishment altogether. What tommyrot: asking a schoolmaster to give up his cane! Where should we be then? If the cane were abolished the country should be in a state of anarchy within five years.
I was beaten on the bare myself at school. Yes, I admit it, I was a repeat offender. It did me no harm: it made me the man I am today. I was a smoker and had been given the standard Six on the trousers by my housemaster. It taught me a lesson, I can tell you, but a few weeks later I was caught puffing on a Woodbine behind the gymnasium and this time I was up in front of the Beak (as we called the headmaster, affectionately I’m sure, at my school).
I can remember it as if it had happened only this morning. It did not matter that I was a senior boy and at eighteen was due to leave the school in a matter of weeks. There was no big sermon; he and I both knew why I had been summoned to his study. It was confirmed that I had been beaten for a similar offence only weeks previously. In no time I was bent over a wing-backed armchair, my trousers and white cotton underpants at my thighs. The Beak folded back my shirt and grey short-sleeved pullover away from my buttocks until they rested on my shoulders. Then without further fuss he laid six stingers across the centre of my bare cheeks.
It hurt like hell, but schoolboys have a code of conduct and we resolved never to show our punisher that we were in pain. I tried my best, my level best, to be stoical, but after slash number two ripped my bum to shreds I was pounding my fists against the back of the armchair in agony. The heartless headmaster was not deterred and whipped the rattan cane down with great severity into my now bleeding rump.
I lost control and tears washed down my cheeks. My bum felt like I had sat in a coal fire and I left the study with the Beak’s words stinging in my ears, “If you are caught smoking again, it will be twelve strokes on the bare bottom.”
Twelve strokes? On the bare? Was he really permitted to give such a punishment, or was it just a tale he told to naughty schoolboys to stop them from re-offending?
Later as I sat in a lavatory pan of cold water, I vowed never to smoke again: and I never did. Well, not cigarettes: I took up my present tobacco habit (the gentleman’s pipe) five years later when I was up at the university.
I rose from behind my desk and replaced the caning chair to its resting place. I knew Roehampton, Da Silva’s partner in crime as it were, was even now waiting outside my study and the chair could have remained where it was for his thrashing, but I preferred to treat each boy before me equally: the ritual of placing the chair in position was part of the total caning experience (as marketing men might call it) for each boy.
I have a number of options for placing a boy when I cane him. I personally don’t favour the “traditional” position of boy bent down touching toes. It has the obvious advantage that you don’t need props (apart from the cane itself), but if you are properly to beat a boy you should always intend to cause the maximum pain possible, and in such circumstances it is only Christian to give him something to hold on to as he attempts to deal with his agony.
Usually, I have boys bend over the back of a large green leather armchair; the small ones can bend over an arm; while the taller, over the back. The seat cushion removes to reveal stout bars that the victims hold on to. It is both comfortable and very supportive, which means that they cannot move about and escape their just deserts.
Roehampton, my next client is eighteen years old, but, this will be his first caning. He only joined the school at the beginning of the third form (he is some kind of scholarship boy, I believe) and hitherto has managed to avoid corporal punishment. I cannot say whether this is because he is an exceptionally well-behaved boy, or he has just escaped detection for his misbehaviour.
This time he is well deserving of a caning. His academic work has been deteriorating and his subject masters inform me that he will almost certainly do badly in his examinations. In my experience I find this kind of thing happens at this time every year, so I have a purge. Boys in danger of failing are sent to me and I deal with them in the time-honoured fashion.
Was it the Romans who said that a boy’s ears are in his backside? If you want them to study and they will not, then you must force the issue. I don’t suppose any of the boys thank me for it (although some of them do literally say “Thank you, sir” as they hobble from my study) but I have no doubt it was my cane that got many schoolboys through their examinations and on to a half-decent university and beyond.
“Come in Roehampton!” I called from behind my desk. The door of the study inched open, but at first nobody entered. Then, Roehampton’s head appeared around the frame, followed at a snail’s pace by the rest of his body. His face was deathly white and he appeared on the verge of tears. Obviously, he had heard the ferocity of the caning his friend Da Silva had received and I had allowed ample time for the boy to pass on a blow-by-blow account of his thrashing. Roehampton would be expecting no less an ordeal for himself.
“Stand there boy,” I indicated the spot in front of my desk. I was surprised the carpet wasn’t more worn than it was by the scuff marks made by the shuffling feet of generations of naughty schoolboys.
He stood to attention so stiffly I wondered if he were a leading light in the school’s Officer Training Corps.
I never lectured boys if I could possibly avoid it, they came in bent over and took the required strokes then they quickly got up and left leaving the next boy to enter and so on till they had all been dealt with. But, I had to make it clear to Roehampton the gravity of his offence so I began my ritual sermon about unacceptable, disgraceful behaviour – totally unexpected of sixth-form boys who had examinations forthcoming and who needed good grades to secure a place at university.
Then I pronounced sentence: Six-of-the-best. Roehampton’s face had gone rather pale and his lips were trembling as if tears were not far away. “I really am sorry Sir. Please could you let me off this time?”
I suppressed a snort. By way of reply I walked in front of my desk and moved the caning chair into position. I have caned many boys in my time and almost without exception had to position a boy for his first caning. “Right boy, take your blazer off hang it up on the door and then come and stand behind this chair.” I pointed to the green leather chair as if there could be any doubt which one I meant. “Right, now bend over the chair, holding the bars with your hands,” I ordered sternly.
Resigned to his fate and clearly not prepared to beg further for mercy, Roehampton struggled to get into the requested position, while I went to the glass-fronted cabinet and selected a long brown dragon cane. I returned, bending it and whistling it through the air in practice strokes intending to send chills through the teenage boy.
I found him looking at me as he half leaned over the back of the chair as though checking this was how it was to be done. “Head nice and low please Roehampton,” I confirmed.
He grimaced and bent right down over the back of the chair. His firm bottom stretched his now very tight grey trousers, a point I was careful to observe as I positioned myself behind him.
“Stick your bottom out more, boy, hollow your back, legs slightly apart.”
I knew this was the boy’s first caning and I intended it to be memorable. “Roehampton when I cane I make sure it hurts. There is no point in giving a boy a beating if it doesn’t. I won’t lie to you, your backside will be on fire and you will be sore for a few days. The marks will last about two weeks but you will live.”
It had the desired effect and tears started to flow freely before I had even cracked the first stroke against his tight backside. He was gripping the bars of the chair so tightly his knuckles must have ached.
I could see the outline of the lad’s buttocks under the trousers and his pants across the bottom nestling deep into the crack of his cheeks. I gripped the cane and took a few steps away. To calm down I took a few “air shots” before finally returning to stand to his left such that with my arm outstretched the cane tip lay half way across the cheek of his further buttock.
I watched him flinch slightly as the rattan touched the middle of his buttocks. I raised it slowly then, setting my face, brought it whistling down. It landed with a satisfying thwack right across the middle of his bottom.
“Oww! Gosh, oww!” Roehampton yelped, trying to keep his scorching bottom still after his first ever stroke of the cane.
The study was again filled with the sound of the cane swishing through the air, followed by that awful crack that signalled another searing bout of pain across his already sore bottom. I drew the cane back for another stroke. The teenager arched his back and screwed his face up as he experienced the smarting of yet another assault to his red raw bottom.
Despite the shocking pain, Roehampton had resolved to take the caning bravely and silently and did manage to hold in the scream for the first blow, and indeed the second, but when slash number three connected with the seat of his trousers he lost all control, his feet started to beat a frenzied tattoo, as his hips twisted and squirmed.
He desperately wanted to jump up and run from the study clutching his buttocks in both hands, but some schoolboy instinct kept him down. He was grateful that he had the rails of the chair to grip on to even though his hands were now grasping them so tightly his fingernails dug deeply into his palms.
The fourth branding was met with another scream and Roehampton was now audibly muttering: “No!” and “Please!” I stood back took aim again and the cane flashed through the air with a whoosh and the resulting blow snapped into Roehampton’s waiting backside with venom.
Bawling continuously, he waited for the final crack which I put right across the middle of his buttocks, angled, so that it crossed about three of the other cuts.
It took some time after the last stroke for him to realise the ordeal was over. “Yes,” I sighed. “That concludes your punishment, Roehampton. I hope you have learned your lesson.”
Like so many thrashed schoolboys before him, Roehampton remained slumped across the back of the chair, just trying to absorb the line of fire across his bottom. Nothing his pal Da Silva had said about being caned had prepared him for the pain or for the feeling that his bottom had being cut into slices and then set on fire.
“Up boy!” I commanded. Eventually his hands scrabbled for the arm of the chair and he pushed himself upright, panting and sobbing as I wrote the relevant entry in the punishment book. As I said previously I prefer a boy to take his caning and leave the study without fuss.
He danced on the spot, clutching the seat of his trousers. I knew beneath them there would be six vivid and very painful stripes decorating his hindquarters which would be felt every time the boy sat down for days serving as a constant reminder to study hard in future.
I offered him the punishment book to initial, which he did with great difficulty; his tears were still flowing freely.
“That will do for now,” I said quietly and correctly he took this as his cue to leave my study.
Other stories from St Francis Grammar School you might like.
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second