I can only really recall one time when I was sent off in search of a cane. I don't think it was the only time but it didn't happen very often - some of our Masters who used the cane carried one around with them, and there was often one stored in a classroom..
But towards the end of Form I, I was in a geography class - and we'd had prep work to do and I hadn't done it. Mr O'Bryan virtually never checked our prep work. I normally did it - but on this occasion I hadn't.
He was late getting to the class and he didn't have anything with him. As he came into the room, he asked me - I sat near the door. "Rysher, did you do your prep?"
He never checked. "Yes, Sir."
"Give it to me please."
"I need it - I haven't been to my study. Haven't got my books. I need to copy the table."
I was in trouble now. I probably wouldn't have been in trouble if I'd said I hadn't done it. I think he knew that sometimes we didn't get around to his work, and he never made an issue of it unless our marks were suffering. But he was a real stickler for the truth. And I'd told him a lie. I sat there looking at him, trying to think of a reason, of something to say. He saw me looking, and reached down and grabbed my exercise book.
"You haven't done it."
"You said you had."
"You do not LIE to me in my classroom, Rysher. You don't do it and get away with it." He walked away from my desk to the cupboard on the other side of the classroom door - a cupboard that should have contained a cane - and maybe it did. But he didn't have his keys with him either.
"Rysher - go next door and ask if you can borrow a cane. You're getting six."
The cane wasn't new to me anymore - I'd been caned a few times - but generally it was 2 or 3 strokes. And that hurt. Six - six was a horrible, awful, thought. As I left the room I was already almost crying in fear.
I walked down the hall and knocked on the first door that I could hear noises coming from it.
I walked in - it was a senior level mathematics class - Form V, 16 year olds. The Master was Mr. Marsden. Mr. Marsden was, to put it mildly, a total bastard. My father had been to the school himself, and Marsden had been a teacher there as well - and my father had told me all sorts of stories about how awful this man was. He hadn't mellowed over the years.
"What do you want?"
"Please, Sir. Mr O'Bryan would like to borrow a cane."
The man just looked at me, and then he started to smile - not a nice look on him. "Oh, and have you been a naughty little boy?"
I didn't answer - I didn't know how to answer.
He picked up the cane. Everybody in the class was watching this - I could feel their eyes on me. I was really close to crying and fighting not to. He advanced on me with his cane.
"Not enough. Say it - say "I've been a naughty little boy, Sir." Say it."
"I have been a naughty little boy, Sir."
"Here you go." He handed me the cane. I turned to leave - I wanted to bolt. "Hang on. What do you say when a Master gives you something?"
"Thank you, Sir."
I left the room - and as soon as I was out the door, I was crying. This was embarassing - I'd have to walk back into my classroom crying before I'd even got the cane - but I couldn't do anything about that - I couldn't delay more than a minute or so, or questions would be asked.
I pushed my way into the class, and handed over the cane to Mr O'Bryan. He guided me to his desk at the front of the room and pushed me over it - and he caned me. He gave me six, but he did it very fast, and not incredibly hard. It hurt - but not as bad as I feared.
"Take it back."
I went back down the corridor - and I was crying. Again I knocked on the door.
I entered and walked across the room to Mr Marsden's desk. I intended to put the cane down and leave as quickly as possible.
"So... you got six, didn't you?"
This horrified me - the only way he could know that was if he'd listened out - this building had thick walls - in some buildings you could hear the cane echoing around all day (I remember when I was in sixth form - we actually had some girls in our classes that year - 'guests' from our sister school, and one of my vivid memories from their first day in my mathematics class was the three girls looking back and forth at each other all through the class, as if to say "Are we hearing what we think we're hearing.") - in this one, you could barely hear it standing in a corridor outside the room.
He had to have deliberately stood and listened to what had happened.
I nodded - I didn't want to speak, and put the cane down. He just looked at me.
"Awwww... did you get your little bottom caned? Come on, tell us all you got your little bottom caned."
A voice spoke up, "Come on, Sir, let him go."
"Shut up, Lewis, I'll see you in a minute."
I said what he wanted to hear, through the tears. "Yes, Sir. I got my little bottom caned." I wanted to get out of there - and he had all the cards.
I went back to class. The physical pain was gone before lunch - but that one stayed with me for a long time.
I'm not one of those people who thinks caning was sadistic, or damaging, or wrong.
But there are certainly some men who should never have be involved in its use.
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