In February 2006 Mr R. A. F. Brightlington-Pugh, a former housemaster at the Ridgeway private boarding school in the west of England, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of ninety-seven. Some years later, his great-great-great-great nephew found a leather-bound travelling chest containing diaries he had written during the 1930s and 1940s. This present story The Scotch whisky mystery was inspired by the diary entry for 11th November 1932.
The mystery of where the sixth form boys obtained their whisky has been solved at long last. It had been troubling me for many months. They thought I did not know they were taking nips after lights out. There is nothing that goes on in this house that I do not know about. Nothing. Sometimes, I believe it is better not to show one’s hand too early.
Whisky and all alcohol is naturally banned at Ridgeway, but the senior boys had a supply from somewhere. We are an isolated community and the boys are very conspicuous in the locale. The boys wear grey short trousers until they enter the sixth-form; no purveyor of alcoholic beverages could mistake them for anything other than schoolboys. Even the sixth formers dress in bright red blazers with white trimming and red-and-white-hooped school caps.
I was certain that nobody locally would knowingly supply my boys with firewater. I was, however, quite wrong. There was one person and he was I confess very adept at deceiving the school authorities.
I discovered it quite by accident. I had been to the senior common room and found I had forgotten my pen which I needed to correct some compositions. As I hurried down the passageway to my study I espied Tom Nedley, the baker’s boy. He had secreted under his jacket an empty Scotch whisky bottle. His stock in trade was loaves of bread and sticky buns; not booze. Something was afoot.
One need not be Sherlock Holmes to work it out. The idiot boy confessed under the mildest interrogation. He was the supplier to the sixth form. He brought to the school full bottles and later collected the empties. That way no evidence of illicit drinking would fall into the hands of we schoolmasters.
Tom is I suppose at least eighteen years old. I cannot be sure, but he stands at close to six foot and has a build that suggests he has worked manual labour for some time. He looks much older than that age. I know very little about him, except that he works in his father’s bakery and the family has been supplying the school since Noah was a lad.
What would his father say if the school cancelled its order and found a new baker for its needs?
“You have let your father down very badly,” I told him.
His ruddy face paled significantly. Some horror had struck him. “No, please don’t tell my dad,” he said. Then he positively wailed, “Ple-ase!”
Within minutes we were in my study and I was on the telephone to Mr Nedley. I could hear the alarm in his voice after I threatened to cancel the school’s order.
“Keep the boy there. I’ll be right over.”
Mr Nedley was true to his word. Within a quarter of an hour he stood in my study. Mr Nedley was his son’s father. Nobody who saw the two together could doubt it. They were like two peas in a pod, except that one was somewhat older than the other.
Tom quaked as his father entered the study. There is no other word for it. There was genuine fear.
I had no prior knowledge of Mr Nedley’s intentions. He was both young Tom’s employer and his father and legal guardian. I sat in my armchair and watched as events unfolded before me.
Mr Nedley’s face contorted with anger as his son confessed his misdeeds. He had supplied illicit alcohol to a variety of sixth-formers over the past months. He had received a generous “tip” with each delivery for his troubles. Yes, he confessed to his father, he knew he was breaking the school rules and the laws of Olde England itself.
That was enough for Mr Nedley. His son had erred and he had a father’s duty to punish him.
His eyes searched the room; until he found what he needed. He carried a straight-backed wooden chair from against the wall and placed it in the very centre of the study. Then, without saying a word to his son, he unbuckled his wide heavy leather belt and in one swift continuous movement pulled it through the loops on his thick serge trousers.
He sat himself down on the wooden chair. Tom stood horror struck. Clearly he knew where this episode would end.
“Take down yer trousers and drawers and get across me knee.”
Tom shot a look across at me and then at his irate father. He said nothing, but the panic in his eyes said, “No, please, not in public.”
“Quickly, or I’ll do it fer yer.”
I watched impassively as the boy complied with his father’s instruction. First his thick grey worsted trousers fell to the ground. He hesitated significantly before sending his grimy grey woollen drawers in the same direction.
For a few moments he stood; his private parts on full display. His ruddy face was now scarlet.
“Over.” His father slapped his own thigh as if there were any doubt what he meant.
Tom lowered his vast frame across his father’s lap. At six-feet tall he made an imperfect fit. An over-the-knee spanking is best administered to a small child; not to a strapping eighteen-year-old. His knees were bent and his toes rested on the fairly worn rug. He placed the palms of his hands flat on the floor. His meaty bottom was raised at an angle against his father’s right knee.
In the time waiting for Mr Nedley to arrive I had contemplated what punishment young Tom should receive. I fully intended that the sixth-form boys would receive a severe beating with my special Malacca cane. It seemed only fair and appropriate that young Tom should receive similar treatment.
I had been prepared to offer one of the two crook-handled rattan canes that dangled from the hat stand in the corner of my study to Tom’s father. Indeed, I should have been prepared to administer the thrashing myself had Mr Nedley felt he did not have sufficient expertise to wield a cane effectively.
I watched as Mr Nedley trebled up his thick heavy leather belt. I am an exponent of corporal punishment. As a schoolmaster it is my duty to instil discipline in the young. I am the representative of authority; of law and order. As such it is entirely appropriate that I should deliver a beating at (quite literally) arm’s length. A boy prepares himself for a beating and I lash the cane into his backside. Our respective roles in this little ritual are clearly defined.
Corporal punishment delivered by a father to his son is altogether different. The spanking is part of a loving relationship and as such more intimacy is assuredly required. If I were to order a pupil (even the most junior) across my knee eyebrows would be raised. The relationship between schoolmaster and pupil is not at all intimate. The boy most of all would resent the imposition.
I once had a colleague who told me that when he was a schoolboy a certain master would always punish his charges with an over-the-knee spanking. He was last dealt with in such a way when he was aged eighteen. He had been required to lower his trousers and underwear and lay across the master’s lap to allow him to slap the palm of his hand into his naked bottom.
A realist would say that a hand spanking could never hurt nearly as much as a swishing with a rattan cane and therefore the boys should have been grateful to receive a lesser punishment. The boys did not see it this way. Their dignity suffered. A caning was a “manly” punishment; a spanking should be confined to the nursery.
I had never before witnessed a spanking, but it was clear this was not new territory for Tom and his father. The boy lay submissively, his head held so low that he was able to look underneath the chair and observe the trousers and underwear bunched at his own feet. Mr Nedley took hold of the tail of his son’s shirt and tucked it up his back so it was away from the buttocks. Then slowly and deliberately he rolled up the shirtsleeve on his own right arm so that any swing he might make with the leather belt would be unhindered.
Then, without warning he lashed the thick leather belt into Tom’s naked haunches. A sunset stripe appeared immediately; followed by another and then another as Mr Nedley set about covering every square inch of his son’s bottom.
The boy scrunched up his face to absorb the pain. His mouth opened and closed silently, rather like that of a goldfish. But, he made no sound. His father set about his task at a rhythmic pace and soon two meaty cheeks were the colour of a good Burgundy. From my vantage point on the armchair I could tell Tom must be in considerable pain. The flesh on his buttocks looked scorched.
Sweat soaked Mr Nedley’s grubby cotton shirt as he continued to pound his leather strap up and down; up and down. Satisfied that there was no part of the boy’s bottom unbranded he turned his attention to the back of the teenager’s thighs. That part of the anatomy is especially sensitive and the boy wriggled and squirmed a little in response to the sting of the strap.
At no point did Tom move the palms of his hands from the floor. He made no attempt to resist the ministrations of his father. He was as submissive as any one of my schoolboys when required to present themselves to me for a thrashing. I admired the boy’s fortitude.
In no time Tom’s face was as red as his backside. The leathering was having its desired effect. But Mr Nedley was not yet ready to conclude the spanking. With renewed vigour he took his belt once more around the circuit; smacking it into every part of the boy’s bottom; from the top of the curves, across the fleshiest part of the buttocks and into the crease at the under-cheeks where the rear end meets the thighs.
Then and only then was Mr Nedley satisfied.
There was no lecture. All he said was the single word, “Up.” The boy sprang to his feet and without waiting for permission he whipped up his underwear and trousers. Within seconds he was once again fully dressed.
Since we were in my study I felt the need to say something that might conclude the matter. I assured Mr Nedley that I had no intention of stopping further bakery orders. As far as I was concerned the boy had transgressed and he had accepted his just punishment. We could all move on now.
I did however warn young Tom that if he ever dared to supply my boys with whisky or any other alcohol I would personally see to it that he received a severe swishing with one of my special Malacca canes.
He murmured something that might have been, “Sorry, Sir,” and the pair of them went on their way.
All that was now left for me to do was to decide whether or not when the sixth formers attended my study later that day I would require them to lower their trousers and underwear.
Picture credit: Endart
Other stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second