The following is an extract from a chapter on the subject of schooling. I thought I’d throw it in to give modern yoof an idea of how easy they have it in school these days. I should add that I was taught by the De La Salle brothers – a sort of sub-cult of the Christian Brothers.
The Brothers as we called them were hot on discipline. Each brother would have his weapon of choice. The favourite was The Leather.
The Leather was a thick stiff strap of black leather strips sown together to form a nearly rigid instrument of sheer pain. The usual punishment was six of the best, which could either mean three whacks on each hand or even six on each. The beatings were given with relish with the leather raised high and then whipped down onto our outstretched hands. This was extremely painful and could reduce the strongest to tears. The usual result was for the victim to rush back to his seat to wrap his stinging painful hands around the cold steel parts of the desk. Quite often, the marks made by the stitching would leave pretty patterns and indents on our hands which we would proudly compare after class. Beatings were secretly taken as a badge of honour amongst us: the worse the beating, the greater the honour. If nothing else, the beatings did teach us a lifetime’s skill – empathy.
Some teachers had other weapons such as two rulers held together for strength and used in the same fashion as The Leather. Frequently the rulers would actually snap with the force of the beating which would add some kudos for the victim.
The headmaster was another Brother. George was a small runt of a man with a sour face. His weapon was his bamboo cane which he carried around at all times. His favourite stance was to stand glaring at his intended victim, swishing the cane against his black cloak in anticipation of the fun to come. That damned cane would nearly cut your fingers off and was widely feared and respected.
Punishments were very common, were swift and merciless. Usually they were for some misdemeanor such as homework not done or talking in class. Other times they were random or, if the Brother was in a foul mood (a common occurrence) the entire class would get a beating because maybe someone had been talking in class and hadn’t owned up.
Probably the worst punishment came from a lay teacher in secondary school. He didn’t believe in corporal punishment and his favourite torture was to pick up some book at random and tell the victim to write out the chapters he chose numerous times for homework. Writing out some random extract from a book maybe ten or twenty times was sheer hell. “Forgetting” to do the punishment meant an automatic doubling of the punishment for that evening. In those days there were no computers or photocopiers so everything had to be written out by hand.