Monday memory musings — 8 Comments

  1. In Scotland, the belt, the strap, or more formally The Tawse.
    For some reason the wee town of Lochgelly in Fife dominated the market, and in that town one particular saddler, John J Dick made the most. I wonder if they were flogged in Ireland.
    The business end was split in two to increase the nip. The were sold in many grades, I suppose according to length, and weight of leather used. A single strip of thick leather, presumably cowhide but some of them felt like rhinoceros hide.
    The one in your picture seems to be composed of two layers of hide sewn together at the edges. Perhaps it was stuffed with lead shot.
    Male teachers would carry them over the left shoulder underneath a Harris Tweed jacket. Jacket usually had (real) leather elbow patches and as time went on the cuffs would be covered in leather too. A Harris Tweed jacket would last a teacher’s whole career. Justice was quickly dispensed by whipping the tawse out from under the jacket and into action before the victim could react.
    We had a teacher whose fame / infamy preceded him. When presented with a class who had never experienced him before he would stride in, “Good morning class. Sit down. ” because it was the custom to stand when a teacher entered and then thereafter when the Headmaster entered.
    He would take a big six inch nail from inside his desk and force the point of it into his desk so that the nail stood upright. Then in one smooth move he would whip the tawse out from under his jacket and with one thunderous blow drive the nail right into the desk lid. Awed silence from the class.
    Oddly enough he was one teacher who never, or hardly ever, had to resort to the proper use of the tawse.
    Only in later years did we discover that the desk was pre-drilled, and that he performed this trick for every first year class that he taught. And of course the pupils from more mature classes never let on about the trick.
    Mr Dick’s daughter Ms Dick now runs the saddlery company, and she apparently still gets orders from those either feeling the need of, or from those who dispense, some discipline. And they are not cheap. The tawse I mean.
    I am not sure about the plural of tawse.

    • The Leather was always just referred to as The Leather. I hadn’t come across the Tawse before. When I was researching images I came across the split version.

      I have no idea as to what made up the weapon. It was heavy and slightly flexible so I imagine it was just layers of leather stitched together like heavy duty ply. The Brothers had pockets in their cloaks/dresses/gowns and they used to stick the Leather in those like the pockets were holsters. Generally as class began the Leather would be produced and slapped down on the teacher’s desk as a gentle reminder to us all as to who was boss.

      Incidentally it was a badge of honour after a beating if you could show off the imprint of the stitching on your hands!

  2. I was fortunate enough to attend public schools for all 12 grades. At times my mother posed the threat to me by suggesting that I be enrolled at a local Catholic school, “Sacred Heart Academy”. Fortunately, my father came to the rescue by reminding her that not only could we not afford the tuition or the uniforms, but he and his older brother had gone to a Catholic boarding school all through the grades and he refused to “subject my son to that environment”.

    He got a first-rate education, but it came with a good deal of pain and humiliation. The humiliating part wasn’t the paddling itself, it was having to say “Thank you Sister” afterword.

    • Catholic schools certainly seemed to be different all right. I was lucky in that so far as I am aware there was no boggery, rape or other sexual shenanigans in my school. There is a big investigation now into Blackrock College [the “elite” school. Hah!] where a multitude of victims are coming forward with all sorts of nasty stories.

      There seemed to be something about Catholicism that attracted all the perverts, sadists and bullies.

      • Well, I never ran into (or heard of) any of that sort of thing in our parish; but then, I was never “Alter Boy” material either.

  3. I can’t imagine a situation in which harming a child is the right thing to do. Your teachers abused you, plain and simply. How would your life be different if they had been patient with you, had treated you well, and nourished your love of learning?

    • Different times. They didn’t see it as harming; just a method of discipline. Incidentally teachers frequently smoked in class and the year after I left they opened a smoking room for the Sixth Year students. As I said – different times.

  4. Yes, different times. You would not dare complain at home about “getting the belt, because you would only be in more trouble.
    Looking back, I think that teachers only used it reluctantly. Classes were large, over 30, and time could not be wasted dealing with some rebel. There was the rest of the class to think of.
    The crime and the punishment all happened in a small time frame, and there was never any further issue. A punishment well taken increased your kudos.
    I only once was punished for something another boy had done – used a thumb and forefinger catapult with linked elastic bands to fire a folded lump of paper at the head of a girl, who objected loudly. Of course I could never name the real culprit.
    That would have made me a clipe. Good Scots word.

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