Abel's spanking blog & stories
My eye was caught a few weeks back by the following tweet:
@historyweird: 1642: Elizabeth Johnson, a young Massachusetts maid, is flogged for “stopping her ears with her hands when the word of God was read”.
How very fascinating, I thought. At the front of the church as the congregation watched? Outside on the village green, tied to a whipping post? In private by the curate? At home, by the master of the house in which she worked?
I thought I should research a little further, and found the following case about homosexuality laws, via Google:
The first known prosecution was that of servant Elizabeth Johnson in 1642. She was sentenced to a fine and to be “severely whipped” for unspecified “unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid[.]“
So, now I’m puzzled. Was this the same lass? Surely so – same name, same State, same year. But would she really have been so foolish as to earned a second flogging in a the space of a short while?
The Guardian’s review on 2nd January of BBC2′s “Queen Victoria’s Children” included the following parenting advice on “how to bring up children the Victoria and Albert way”:
If she lies I will beat her. I will teach her mathematics and to play the piano, and if she gets a sum or note wrong I shall beat her some more. And she will get many sums wrong and many notes wrong…so I will beat her and beat her and beat her. Not because I dislike of resent her… but because I love her and want to do the right thing by her, as well as to be seen by other people to be doing the right thing.
Oh, how I want to play an extended Victorian father / daughter scene, over the course of a weekend. My house, being Edwardian, is a tad too modern, but who cares! Not that I know anyone who’d actually be up for it, but the idea so appeals…!
PS Actually, in the original review it was ‘him’ not ‘her’ – the son in question being the future Edward VII. But I can transpose the gender, right?
I know some of you are as fascinated by tales of real-life school cp as others are squicked. Reading Seb Coe’s autobiography on the plane the other day, I found some references to life at a Secondary Modern school from the late 60s that might interest those of you in the former camp:
“The teachers… were highly competent. When a teacher came into the classroom, you stood up. When the headmaster came in, you practically genuflected. In short, you messed around at your peril.
Discipline was maintained via the threat of corporal punishment, a sword of Damocles that hung over our adolescent heads by the finest of hairs. It could take the form of instant justice… but more often it was ritualised, when you’d be hauled out in front of the class to be ‘caned’ or ‘slippered’, that is given six strokes on the hand with a bamboo stick or rubber-soled plimsoll kept in the classroom for the purpose.
More serious transgressions resulted in a visit to the headmaster. I was caned by him on several occasions, always justified, I have to say.
One master – or should that be mistress – of the art of corporal punishment was a former nun who taught us religious instruction. She had an unusual delivery, wheeling her arm straight up and over before plunging downwards, an action reminiscent of the great England test bowler Alec Bedser.”
On one occasion, Coe pulled his hand away as she tried to inflict a stroke, so she sent him to the deputy head:
Cyril May was known to be mahogany hard and his weapon of choice was unique, as befitted his status and reputation – a car aerial… As I made my way down to his study, I was overcome with terror. Why hadn’t I let her do her worst and get it over with? Mercifully, when I knocked on his door there was no reply and I spent the next forty minutes keeping my head down, praying no one would wonder what I was doing out of class. I never darkened his door again and so never discovered where the car aerial sat on the scale of pain.”
I’d picked up the book wanting to read about the Olympic bid, and how they delivered the project so wonderfully well. Coe’s surely entered the pantheon of Britain’s true greats. The school anecdotes were therefore something of a surprise! Now, where’s my car aerial…? (Joke!)
Here’s an interesting curiosity, from a 1903 edition of “Free Lance”, a New Zealand publication:
I can see scene potential both in recreating the original spanking (the daughter going to the dance hall without permission, perhaps, with a boy her father had banned her from seeing?) and in events after the court hearing (“I hope that when you get her home you’ll teach her a very sound lesson about wasting court time? “Of course, your Worship!”).
Next time any UK-based readers happen to wander along the shopping streets of London, they may care to pause and contemplate what went on in at least one store at the turn of the last century, as reported in The Canadian at the time:
It’s the sort of thing I’d have dreamt up for one of my stories - only it would, perhaps, have seemed a little far-fetched. I don’t think I’ll be able to go into, say, Selfridge’s now without wondering where the birching room used to be, and how many strokes it was deemed necessary to administer to a gentlewoman to spare her the shame of appearing before the magistrates.
You know, industrial disputes used to be so much more interesting in the old days:
One has to giggle at the thought of the thousand office workers preventing the police from stopping the spectacle!
(From The Evening Post, in 1935).
A Google news feed the other day pointed me to a story of a school which had uncovered a pile of rather fascinating document in its archive. (As the newspaper concerned is one I dislike intensely, I won’t honour it by linking to its site, I’m afraid).
The punishments dealt out in the 1970s and 80s were detailed in a book entitled ‘Record of Corporal Punishment’ found by [the] headmaster… as he looked for artefacts to help with his primary school’s centenary celebrations.
Said book was duly photographed (badly), along with (perhaps more interesting) the regulations from the local authority regarding the administration of corporal punishment:
The final sentence of point (d) is particularly fascinating: “if delegated” [my, slightly surprised, italics!].
Some folks, I know, are (understandably) squeamish about any documents relating to historical punishments. As I’ve discussed here before, I can conveniently compartmentalise my thinking, with the fact that real people were actually hurt kept quite separate from the potential that any such artefacts offer as a basis for roleplaying.
I recently ordered a document from the National Archive that was of interest to me in two ways – for its kinky potential, and as it relates to the history of my home city (about which this post is the last in my recent Scouse spanking series!).
For, ladies and gentlemen, at great expense, I have unearthed the regulations from 1843 for the school set up at the city’s Workhouse for pauper youths:
(Excuse the formatting: I’ve extracted the relevant pages as best I can from the original into a format that will be readable here – just click on the images and click again to expand them).
As you can imagine, the disciplinary regime forms an important part of the text:
And here’s the format set out for the workhouse Punishment Book:
The full rules run to 14 pages, and would make the basis for a truly fabulous deep, extended roleplay sometime. Oh how I fancy a themed weekend away!
Amongst the attractions in The Hague was the “Gevangenpoort” (Gatehouse) prison museum. And, unlike some such places, it wasn’t actually too off-puttingly gruesome.
There was an “interrogation room”, directly beneath the “judge’s chamber” (for girls who needed other forms of persuasion to confess?!). We were led into the old cells – with their double bars and metre-thick walls: a fascinating and scary place (especially when the guide switched off the lights!). The posh “Knights’ Chamber” in which well-to-do prisoners were kept was fascinating to see and there was even a “Women’s Chamber”:
In the past, aristocratic women prisoners were probably kept here. It is certain that rich prisoners, who were often imprisoned on political grounds, were kept in this room. They were allowed to take books and writing tools with them so that they could, while imprisoned, continue to work normally.
And, of course, there were the whipping benches – four in total, of which I managed to capture usable snaps of two:
(See, I’m really not a very good photographer. I blame my BlackBerry. Bad workman…and all that!)
The short guidebook contained an anecdote that merits a wider audience, too. A diplomat and historian named Abraham de Wicquefort was facing charges of treason:
After an imprisonment of four years the old prisoner succeeded in escaping from the Gatehouse with the help of his daughter and her servant. On February 11th, 1679, the warder had the evening off. Jannetje, the servant, had been able to get possession of the key and left the Gatehouse with Abraham. De Wicquefort fled to Germany. The warder was fired because of his negligence.
The servant was not able to avoid her punishment. She received only 50 of the 1000 rix-dollars De Wicquefort had promised her. In the end, she was captured by officers when she visited her husband in Amsterdam. She had already spent all the money. After being publicly whipped she was sentenced to 6 years in a house of correction.
All I need now is some authentic-looking C17th costumes, a suitable public place, a whip and a willing volunteer to play Jannetje…
Trips to Edinburgh always make me think about schoolgirls in tartan kilts, being soundly tawsed. Bent over, touching their toes? Hands outstretched, looking up into the eyes of the master who’s punishing them? Then there’s the hierarchy of severity of the implement itself: perhaps a ‘Medium’ weight tawse from the classroom teachers, ‘Heavy’ used by housemasters; the dreaded XH in the headmaster’s study. And what of home life? Is it inconceivable that a parent, a guardian (a governess, even) might not strap a girl severely should she step out of line.
A little browsing led me to the following rather lovely article, from The Scotsman ten years ago. Those of us who own authentic school tawses – or girls who’ve been on the receiving end – may smile at thoughts of their provenance:
FOR generations of Scottish schoolchildren it was an instrument of terror that could cow the unruliest of spirits. But now the dreaded tawse has become an expensive collector’s item.
Antique shops are selling the leather straps to collectors across the country who are willing to spend hundreds of pounds for a rare article in mint condition.
Leather tawse, once cut by country saddlers, are pored over like works of art, with collectors eager to get their hands on a four finger ‘Huntly’ or a heavyweight three finger ‘Lochgelly’.
Demand is so strong that retired secondary school teachers are being offered up to £100 to part with tawse they kept after leaving school. A tidy profit, given the average cost of a tawse in 1982, when production ceased in Scotland, was just under £6.
Antiques dealer Neil Rankin of Church Antiques in Crieff is one of an increasing number of dealers who are selling the straps. “There is a dedicated band of collectors out there,” he said. “We have bought a couple recently and have a fair number in stock. It’s mainly retired teachers who bring them in.
“We have 20 people on our mailing list and some of them are very serious collectors. They are looking for extremely old and rare tawse from different parts of the country.
“They are very shy of publicity and fearful of being cast as dirty old men in shabby raincoats but they are perfectly respectable. But we are finding it increasingly difficult to locate the older and more unusual belts…”
Despite their infamous role in school discipline, collectors say the leather straps hold the same fascination as any other antique.
One tawse collector, who refused to be named for fear that people would not believe his motives were purely innocent, said: “It may seem unusual to some people. But it’s no different from collecting chairs or tables. The challenge is to get as many different varieties from different areas.
“They come in a surprising array of different types. Some are in blond leather with four or even five tails, others are dark and heavy with two fingers. There is a lot more to a decent tawse collection than a bunch of boring Lochgellys.”
Even antique collectors who don’t stock tawse are being inundated with inquiries. Perthshire antique dealer Bob Dakers said: “It is surprising how often I am asked about these things. But they are not something I stock, they bring back too many memories of my school days.”
Most tawse still in circulation are Lochgellys, named after John J Dick, of Lochgelly, who dominated Scottish tawse production by the 1970s. He offered nine different varieties of belt, ranging in size from 21 inches to 24 inches…
Now, all this talk of tawses makes me want to administer a good sound strapping. Volunteers…?!