No sixth-former had ever been caned at my school, so I made history that day.
Actually, hardly anyone had been caned in living memory – it was a “progressive” school and I had thought corporal punishment had been abolished a long time ago.
But, as I was to find out it had only fallen into disuse and that day it was making a comeback.
And, I welcomed its return, thank you very much, Sir.
I was eighteen years old and for a long as I could remember I had had a thing about corporal punishment. I used to fantasize about what it would be like to go over someone’s knee for the slipper or be sent to the headmaster’s study for six-of-the-best with the cane.
And, now my fantasy was to come true: or so I hoped.
It was all rather unexpected. I was in no way a bad lad, a rebellious teen, or a troublemaker. In fact I was such a goody-goody I was a prefect at the school and tipped to go on to university.
I had fallen foul of one of the school’s most fearsome battle-axes: Miss Lowenstein. She really was an old crone. One of the ugliest women you’d ever be likely to meet, with buck teeth and a gammy leg, courtesy of a childhood bout of polio.
She was, of course, a spinster and we boys all thought she was sex starved (as if we weren’t). And, she was a tough disciplinarian. She called herself a “martinet” and woe betides anyone who did not call her “ma’am”. No way were we allowed to call her “miss”, like we did all the other women teachers.
She had a mean streak and that’s how it was that I was about to break the record and take a caning.
We had a school magazine, it wasn’t a posh one, professionally published, but just something we cobbled together on an old Roneo printer. It was mostly short stories and poems (well doggerel verse really). It was my prowess as a poet that got me in trouble. I’d penned a verse that did not name her, but everyone knew who I meant. Somewhere in there it called her a “crow” and that she did not like.
So, before I knew it she was onto Mr Henderson, the head of Upper School, whining on that something must be done. And, the only “something” that would satisfy the bat was me bent over getting a sore arse.
When I realised I was for it I was not the least worried. I had dreamt about this for so long. I was fascinated by school canings and read lots of stories and comics that involved schoolboys getting their backsides tanned.
My favourite stories took place in public schools which were a world away from the inner city comprehensive I attended. In England “public” schools are expensive private schools, often where pupils boarded. What they all had in common was the thwack of the cane across the seat of the trousers that rewarded boys who misbehaved.
At home I used to pretend I was one of the boys sent for “six on the bags” as the school stories had it. Often I would dress up in my school uniform and pose in front of the full-length mirror in the passageway of our council flat. I would bend over touching my toes admiring the reflection of my bum in the mirror.
I never did anything about my spanking fantasy. I was young and we were all very naïve in those days. We didn’t have Internet then, so I wasn’t to know that there were plenty of people out there who shared my interest. Let’s face it there would have been plenty of people ready to cane an eighteen-year-old schoolboy’s backside raw (and much else besides) if they knew he was ready and willing.
I had one friend who looking back I think might have shared my interest. We were too young to express to each other our true feelings and the closest we got to doing anything was one day, while playing in his house, we found some sticks and had a go at sword-fighting. I can’t remember how it happened, but we moved on from medieval knights or whatever to naughty boys.
To this day, I remember he was willing to get a whacking from me. He bent over the back of the couch. We were both children so he couldn’t quite stretch all the way over. But, I do remember his chubby buttocks stretching against his corduroy trousers. He made a perfect target and if I hadn’t been so shy, I would have (no, should have) swished the stick into his arse.
But I chickened out. Why? I don’t know. But even now nearly fifty years after the event I still have pangs of regret.
So, I wasn’t about to give up the chance of a proper headmaster’s caning from Mr Henderson.
I went to a pretty ordinary school and we had no airs and graces: my school uniform was a very standard black blazer with grey trousers.
My uniform was ordinary and if truth be told I was pretty ordinary too: about five-foot-seven, a little over eight-stone in weight, and properly proportioned, not like the obese teenagers you see today.
At the appointed time I went to the concrete and glass Admin Block and knocked on the door of Mr Henderson’s office. My heart was thumping as if I had run a mile in a minute to be there. Something exciting was happening here and I couldn’t easily describe it, but I hoped that after this afternoon I wouldn’t quite be the same again.
I entered on Mr Henderson’s command. I was surprised to find Miss Lowenstein waiting there: not only was she determined to make sure I got my beating; she was going to personally witness it.
Mr Henderson had a modern office and it was very small. With all the filing cabinets you couldn’t swing a cat (or hardly a cane) in it. He probably looked like a typical comprehensive schoolteacher: wearing a rather scruffy shirt and plain tie with beige trousers that had seen better days since he bought them at a cheap chain store many years ago.
There wasn’t much room with all three of us present. I stood as best I could in front of Mr H’s Formica-covered desk. It was a mess, piled high with files and school notebooks. Miss Lowenstein moved out of my eyesight, probably all the better to get a view of what was to happen next.
Mr Henderson didn’t quite know what to say. He called me “Walton,” which isn’t quite my name. He mumbled something about how awful I had been. He actually said my behaviour was “ugly” and I suppressed a laugh at that, knowing that word perfectly described Miss Lowenstein.
I said something nondescript in return and then he told me matter-of-factly that he was going to cane me.
He moved to a filing cabinet. I hadn’t noticed before, but on top of it lay a short stick. This was no crook-handled ashplant cane beloved of public school masters; this was a piece of bamboo, a little over two feet long and so rigid it would be impossible to bend it, or get much of a swish out of it.
Then he said the wonderful words I had dreamt of hearing for so long, “Bend over, Walton.”
There wasn’t anything to bend over, a desk or a chair, so heart thumping madly I just bent down. He hadn’t given the time-honoured command “touch your toes,” so I leaned forward a bit and keeping my legs straight I put my hands on my knees. That was enough. I was stooped there showing sufficient backside to serve the purpose.
I waited staring down at the worn carpet for the first stroke to land, remembering all those times I had bent touching my toes in front of the mirror. It didn’t matter how much it hurt I would shut my teeth and stick it, just like the boys in the stories I loved so much.
There was no swish as the cane landed on my bum, just a dull thud. I felt it, but there was no searing pain. The second and third stoke landed. What a disappointment. I hardly felt a thing. Mr Henderson’s heart was not in this. I felt terribly let down.
I got six strokes, but there’s no way anyone could have mistaken them for “six-of-the best.” I remained bent over after the last one landed. I knew the etiquette was you stayed in position until you were given permission to stand up. In the stories if a boy stood up before being allowed he got extra strokes. I wouldn’t have minded some more, but I doubt Mr Henderson would have obliged.
Eventually, rather absent-mindedly Mr Henderson said I should get up. I did as I was told. Did my face show my disappointment? I can’t be sure, but I could see Miss Lowenstein had a face like thunder. She was not impressed. Had she wanted to see me jumping about from foot to foot clutching my bum in agony and choking in fits of sobs?
Maybe she did. I’m sure that’s what I wanted too.
Mr Henderson was still holding the cane, not sure what to do with it, or how to dismiss me from his office. I don’t suppose he had much experience caning schoolboys since corporal punishment had all but been abolished at the school.
Eventually he summoned up enough wit to send me on my way.
I was in no real pain. In the stories I would have been rubbing my backside furiously as I rushed back to my study. I did have a surreptitious feel of the seat of my trousers, just a quick rub with my thumb, but there was no sensation there.
I knew I couldn’t go to the lavs to inspect the damage (if there was any) because they would be full of smokers and there’d be no privacy.
Instead, I went straight home. Thirty minutes later I was lying on my bed, my trousers and pants on the floor beside me. I was sorely disappointed. I couldn’t find a trace of the cane’s marks. It was as if it hadn’t happened. There were no welts or bruises that would last for days and no chance that I would have difficulty in sitting down at tea time or have to sleep on my stomach tonight.
I leaned over and took an ancient storybook and a handful of tissues from the bedside table. They certainly knew how to deal with misbehaving seniors at St Tom’s School.
Dr Tulke rose from his writing-table. To Wooton’s surprise, he picked up a cane. Wooton could not see what the cane was wanted for.
He was, however, soon to discover.
“Senior boys,” said the Head, “are not usually caned at St, Tom’s, but there are exceptional cases that can be dealt with in no other way. Bend over that desk, Wooton!”
“Bend over that desk!”
Wooton – bewildered and dismayed – bent over the desk.
Swipe! Swipe, Swipe, Swipe, Swipe, Swipe!
It was not merely “six.” It was as thorough a licking as Dr Tulke had ever administered; such a licking as Wooton had seldom or never experienced before.
It seemed like a horrid dream to Wooton of the Sixth. But it was no dream; it was painful reality. Very painful! The head was a venerable gentleman, but he seemed to have a lot of beef in his right arm. He put it all into that whacking.
Wooton fairly squirmed.
“Now,” said the head, breathing hard, “you may go, Wooton! Not another word, or I shall cane you again! Go!”
Wooton almost tottered from the study. He left with pale face and compressed lips. His eyes were burning like hot coals.
Other caning stories you might like.
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second