We visited wonderful New Lanark recently, a World Heritage site near Glasgow. At the start of the nineteenth century, enlightened mill owner Robert Owen’s pioneering initiatives here included the world’s first nursery school, and the first shop run on co-operative principles.
Haron and I could hardly keep up with the number of kinky ideas sparked by the fabulous restored mill buildings. Our fantasies were totally inauthentic – Owen opposed corporal punishment, and was a hugely beneficial employer. That didn’t stop us wondering what might have been.
We visited Owen’s house, where he lived with his wife Caroline and her three younger sisters, who joined them after their father’s death. As we stood in his study, in front of the mill owner’s imposing desk, we imagined the three trembling newcomers being called in to see him, glancing nervously at the cane on his wall:
“I know from Caroline that your father was a good man, and a strict one at that. Now that you are in my care, I want you to understand that I will be taking on all of his responsibilities. New Lanark is built on the principles of hard work and honesty, and the behaviour of my own family must be exemplary. I do not wish to see any of you in here again, for you will only visit me in my study if your behaviour has fallen short of those high standards to which we must adhere. And should you give me occasion, then I shall have no hesitation in whipping you, and whipping you hard. Do I make myself clear?”
Thence to an audio-visual display, told through the eyes of a young mill worker. We imagined a bright girl being told by her father that it was time to leave school and start earning money. She argued, not wanting to leave the comfort and safety of the classroom, and was duly bent over and flogged with his doubled-up belt.
Another of our make-believe girls reported to the mill manager for her first day at work – only to be told that her school records showed her to be ill-behaved, and that she could not start until the schoolmaster reported an improvement. Her father, too, thrashed her severely.
Hygiene was deemed hugely important at New Lanark. We imagined a girl arriving for the morning shift, dischevelled. Being taken to the supervisor’s quarters. Being made to strip; being washed; being whipped, being sent on her way back to the mill.
And this was New Lanark. What of Old Lanark, presumably down the road, where the owners were less enlightened: the dark, satanic type of mill that inspired Owen to his good works?
Do visit, if you are ever anywhere near. On a vanilla level, it’s a truly moving and inspiring experience. For sparking kinky dreams, there are few places to rival it. Haron would have been spanked vigorously that evening, were it not for the fact that we stayed in Gretna Green, and other fantasies inevitably took over.