Mr Saxon had been headteacher at Brocklehurst Comprehensive for three months. Already he had made changes. Things were never to be the same again. The contents of a narrow drawer in his study attested to that.
It wasn’t a bad school. Much better than the “bog standard” comprehensives the newspapers talked about. But standards had slipped. Exam results were down. Pupils ignored school uniform rules. Homework was often neglected. Respect for the teachers had waned.
Saxon wanted to put some pride back into the school. He was the first headteacher to wear a black flowing academic gown. He knew many of the pupils called him “The Batman”, but he didn’t care. He called his “office” his “study”. He thought it made it sound classier.
He brought back corporal punishment. It had never gone away. Not officially. The previous headteacher was a leading comrade in the local Communist Party. He didn’t believe in the cane. He didn’t abolish it. He didn’t want a fight with the traditionalists among the staff. The “deadwood” he called them. He just stopped using it. Soon people, especially the worst behaved of the pupils, forgot it had ever existed.
Saxon found a bunch of canes in a storeroom. They had never been unpacked and were as good as new. Three and a bit feet of whippy rattan. Crook handles. The lot. Some of his new colleagues beamed with delight when he took them to the staff room. A return to sanity at last.
Saxon had wanted people to call him headmaster, but Brocklehurst Comp was a co-ed school. Boys and girls learned together. If the male teaches did not mind being called “masters” the women certainly did not want to be called “mistresses”.
Saxon tightened up on the school uniforms. Homework was completed on time. Discipline was getting better. But one thing puzzled him. Sixth-formers were going to the pub at lunchtime. They’d been doing it for years. Saxon couldn’t understand it. Who on earth allowed that? How could it be right for schoolchildren to go to the pub at lunchtime?
All right, he understood the basics. Many of the Upper Sixth were eighteen years old. They were of the legal age to drink. That didn’t make it right. They could legally smoke and have sex, but neither activities were allowed during school hours.
Saxon was a fair man. It wasn’t entirely the fault of the sixth-formers. They had been allowed to get away with drinking beer for too long. He called a meeting and announced a rule change. No more pubs at lunchtime. From here on it stopped.
There wasn’t a rebellion. No school student (as the former headteacher had called his pupils) went protesting at the door of Saxon’s study. Nothing like that happened. It didn’t have to. The sixth-form drinkers just ignored him and went on propping up the public bar at the Old Tap just like before.
That was how Don Gallagher, Rob Bashford and Dave Hawkes came to be standing in the headteacher’s study early one afternoon. Caught in the act. A barefaced act of defiance against the Head’s instructions.
Saxon peered over half-moon eyeglasses. Could this be true? Such a blatant disregard for the Head’s authority?
The three eighteen-year-olds stood arraigned before Saxon’s desk. Unconcerned. What was the worst that could happen? A ticking off. They were prefects for heaven sake. Maybe they’d get a detention. A composition even. Five hundred words on “Why I shouldn’t go to the pub at lunchtime.”
Saxon frowned. It shouldn’t be like this. They should be terrified. Summoned to the Head’s study. Why weren’t they quaking in their shoes?
“You were at the meeting at which I announced pubs were out of bounds.” The teenagers frowned at him. Was this a statement or a question?
“You knew the new rules. You chose to defy them.” He was quiet and authoritative.
Don Gallagher’s ears pricked up. He didn’t like the Head’s tone of voice. He wasn’t sure where this was going.
“That is quite unacceptable behaviour. It would not be tolerated in a junior boy. It won’t …” He corrected himself. “I won’t tolerate it in a sixth-former.”
Dave Hawkes and Rob Bashford exchanged nervous glances. Now all three boys sensed danger.
Saxon pulled himself from his chair and straightened his academic gown. He wasn’t an imposing figure physically. At five-eight he was no taller than any of the three pupils standing before him. He was more thick set. That came with age. As did the pot belly that hung over the waist of his dark trousers. But, he had presence. When he spoke you listened. Some might call it steely determination. He would get his way.
He said no more. He walked across the study to a set of cupboards and shelves that ran along the far wall. His destination was a long narrow drawer. He tugged it open, placed his right hand inside and rummaged around. The three boys heard the distinctive sound of rattan canes rattling together. They stopped breathing. Just for a moment. Long enough for the full horror of it to sink in.
“Turn around and face me.” It was a quiet instruction. The boys took it as a command and immediately turned on their heels. They faced their headteacher. None of the boys had seen a cane close up before. They had never needed to.
Saxon recognised the look on their faces. He had seen it before. Many times since he joined the school.
“Never seen a cane before, boys?” Saxon just about kept the smirk from his voice. “Well today not only will you see a cane for the first time; you’ll feel it.”
He wasn’t a cruel man, but was delighted when simultaneously blood drained from the three faces in front of him. They had deliberately disobeyed him. They needed to be taught some manners.
He flexed the cane between his hands. It was a “senior” cane. Thick as a pencil. But swishy. It would pack a punch. Three backsides would leave the study smarting like mad by the time he was through.
“You will be caned,” Saxon swished the rod through the air as if to confirm his statement.
“You can’t.” It was Rob Bashford, proto-trade unionist. Barrack room lawyer. Adolescent know-it-all.
Saxon snorted. “You will take a caning. If you do not your parents will be informed. You will be suspended from school.” He narrowed his eyes and swished the cane for emphasis. “Pending expulsion.”
Bashford’s mouth opened and closed. No words came out. He looked like a goldfish. He didn’t know how to answer.
“Think about it Bashford,” Saxon sneered.
“All three of you. Stand by the wall.” Another swish of the cane for emphasis. The wretched teenagers shuffled across the study.
“Gallagher. Step forward.” Saxon pointed to a spot just in front of his desk. “Bend over.”
“B.. b.. but ..,” Gallagher blabbered. He couldn’t think of anything to say. He was guilty as charged. No mitigating circumstances. He knew Saxon was in charge. If he said “Bend over”, then over he must bend.
“Bend over as far as you can go. Keep your knees straight. Hands on your shins. Head low. Bottom out.”
Dave Hawkes watched spellbound. From his position against the wall he had a perfect view of his pal’s backside. It seemed to jut out from his back. He watched Saxon grip the end of Gallagher’s blazer and tuck it a little way up his back. Away from the target area.
Dave had never noticed that his friend’s bum was so round and beefy. When it was stretched, it filled out the seat of the boy’s black trousers. It made a wonderful target for Saxon’s cane. Gallagher’s longish fair hair fell across his face, masking his look of fearful apprehension.
Dave watched fascinated as the Head took up a stance a cane’s length to Gallagher’s left. He saw the boy stiffen his shoulders. Anticipating the pain to come. Saxon placed the tip of the cane against the edge of the left buttock. He drew back the cane a foot or so and then with a forearm jab and a flick of the wrist brought is crashing down so that it landed across the centre of both the teenager’s buttocks.
Gallagher expelled a hiss through clenched teeth. His body shuddered. He wriggled his bum. He gripped his shins tightly. But he stayed in position. Ready for number two.
It had hurt. Considerably. Dave Hawkes could see that. But, how much was a caning supposed to hurt? He didn’t know. The only experience he had was from the old film, Goodbye Mr Chips. They showed it on television. Often. A boy (a boy! The actor looked about thirty-five) bends over the arm of a chair and Mr Chips swipes six-of-the-best into his backside. After, the boy looks a little dazed, but he doesn’t seem too much the worse for wear.
Saxon placed the second stroke alongside the first. Gallagher’s lips puckered, miming a perfect “P” sound. He shook his head from side to side. It was a reflex action. It didn’t help to ease the pain one bit.
The Head took his time for the third stroke. He hoped his demeanour was conveying a deep sense of concern and distaste for the task he was performing. How could it please him? Middle-aged, highly-qualified. A professional man. Forced to apply a cane to inflict corporal punishment across the backsides of three young men, prefects at the school?
Dave and Rob’s eyes met each other. Dave’s stomach churned. Anxious. Knowing he would be the next one to be summoned, “Take up your position, boy!”
The first three stokes had been delivered with precision. Dave watched transfixed as Saxon adjusted his position. He leant back on to his right foot. Gallagher tensed his entire body in anticipation of the climax of his caning. The final three strokes were going to be special.
“Bottom out further.”
Gallagher wriggled his hips. Pushed his bum out more to wait for another swipe of the stinging rattan. It came with a loud whipping sound and a wave of intense pain. He gasped and screwed up his face. This was hard to take. A fifth stroke lashed down. He squealed and leapt up, rubbing his sore backside with his hands.
He realized his mistake. He had let himself down in front of his friends. He might be a virgin to the cane but instinctively he knew the rituals. Never let the punisher know he has hurt you. Quickly, he resumed position. Hands on shins, bum sticking out. Ready. Waiting. Asking for the final cut.
The cane landed further down. Close to the crease where the buttocks meet the thighs. It sliced into the previously unmarked zone with alarming effectiveness. Gallagher lost all his self-control, as a loud “Aghhhhh!!!” echoed around the room.
Sweat soaked his long fair hair. His face was scarlet. His backside was ridged with six double-edged welts.
“Stand by the wall.”
Gallagher straightened up in intense discomfort. Painfully he shuffled into position. His eyes were red, but he stifled the tears.
“Hawkes.” A swish of the cane instructed Dave into position. The sixth-former gulped down a lungful of air. He moved forward. He’d seen how his friend had done it. He bent down, hands on shins, buttocks pointed upwards. He tensed and un-tensed his young behind in fear of the agony of the first stroke.
The next thing was he heard the swish of the cane and felt a line of fire erupt across the middle of his bum. He was catching his breath when the next stroke landed just below the first. Now he had two burning lines across his cheeks.
After the third slash hit lower down, he felt tears well up in his eyes. He struggled not to cry out. The fourth and fifth strokes followed; going lower. His eyes were wet. He was losing control. Then tears rolled down his cheeks. The final stroke bit deep into his under-bottom and he let fly with a lusty yell.
Don Hawkes did not need telling twice. He shot to his feet and performed the caning dance, hopping from one foot to the other. He tried, unsuccessfully, to stamp the pain away. Like footballers did when they were kicked by an opponent.
Hawkes hobbled back to his place at the wall. Saxon glared at Bashford. The teenager could not take his eyes off his own scuffed shoes. It had been a long time since they had seen a tin of Cherry Blossom.
“Well Bashford, what is it to be?”
The terrified teenager knew he had no choice. He had seen his two pals go through their thrashings. If he didn’t offer up his own backside to Saxon’s monstrous cane everyone at the school would know. They’d call him a coward.
Not quite in control of his trembling, Bashford stepped forward. Making sure not to catch the Head’s eye, he bent himself forward. He tried to stop his knees shaking. He was as ready as he ever would be.
The headteacher placed the cane on his desk. Bashford heard the rattle as it rolled slightly. He turned his head and saw Saxon slowly removing his academic gown. Carefully, he folded it and placed it next to the cane. Then with his left hand he took the cuff of his right shirt sleeve and undid the button. All three sixth-formers watched transfixed as Saxon then rolled up his sleeve until it rested neatly above the elbow. He was readying himself to deliver the thrashing of a lifetime.
Satisfied that there were no obstacles to his free-flowing caning arm, he picked up the rattan. He swished it through the air so that it swooshed horizontally with the floor and resumed his place to Bashford’s left.
Rob Bashford screwed his face tight. He closed his eyes and shut his teeth. He knew this thrashing would be awesome. He would pay for his insolence. For daring to say “No” to the headteacher.
Saxon put all his beef into it. It was as if he were beating a carpet. He hoped by the time he had finished Bashford wouldn’t be able to crawl.
The first slash sank deep across the middle of both buttocks. Bashford’s eyes blazed and his face went white. But he uttered no cry. The obstinate nature of the boy came out in full force.
Five more cuts flogged down, each as hard and stinging as the first, but not a sound came to his lips. But for the drawn, strained look about his mouth, and the blaze in his eyes, he might have been a statue bending there, under the blows of the cane. He gave no sign of suffering.
Saxon looked hard at him, and laid down the cane.
“Up. By the wall.”
Bashford rose, near uncontrollable hate and rage welling up inside. He wanted to press his hands against his bum. That would have to wait. He wouldn’t give Saxon the satisfaction of knowing he had hurt him. The strokes had been laid on with a strong hand, and the pain was aching and tingling through all the boy’s nerves.
Five minutes later in the sixth-form lavatories the three boys had trousers and pants at their thighs. Bashford’s cheeks were the rawest. Spots of blood had formed where two cuts of the cane had crossed. Gallagher’s skin was the fairest and deep purple bruises ran the entire width of his bum. The thick dark hair on Hawkes’ buttocks obscured most of the marks, but when, gingerly, he ran his fingers over his toasted rear he found six distinct welts had risen.
The pain had eased, but three pairs of buttocks were still throbbing when Gallagher, Bashford and Hawkes returned to the sixth-form common room.
Schoolboys who have just been caned are celebrities. It happens the world over. Everyone wanted the details.
“What did the cane look like?”
“Did he flex it between his hands before he swished you?”
“Touching toes or bent over a chair?”
“How many strokes did you get?”
“Can we see?”
So many questions. So much interest.
Sid “Feeble” Wheble, an eighteen-year-old with the complexion and gait of a Thunderbird puppet, was the chief interrogator. He shuffled in his chair. Laid a copy of the Sun newspaper across his lap and tried to hide his raging boner.
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second