No matter who the recipient of such heinous measures– each pupil endured much more than what was then commonly referred to as “Tingle-of-the-Tawse”.
Punishment of this magnitude proved to be an extremely painful experience, both emotionally and physically, and on occasions, some strikes, which landed on infant flesh, actually resulted in the laceration of the palms and wrists of numerous youngsters.
My own primary educationalist, one Richard Ferris, remained as the most infamous practitioner of beatings at the school, where other teachers placed their implements of torture in full view of their respective classes, either by hanging it on a hook next to the blackboard, or indeed, by laying it across the front of their own desk at the apex of the classroom, Ferris always stowed his personal weapon atop of his left shoulder, covertly entrenched underneath a ubiquitous and well-worn Harris Tweed jacket.
This somewhat surreptitious measure to conceal his own personal tawse always provided him with a painful element of surprise for any pupil who may have erred in a given task, or who may have simply spoken out-of-turn.
Where other kids received a thick red line through the middle of work that they had answered incorrectly on paper, the pupils ensconced within Mr Ferris’s class did not receive such an inert and crimson alert in ink.
Our red lines never landed on incorrect papers – but across the back of our hands, or onto our exposed pubescent palms – this when aggressively asked to, “Show-them!
Ferris, in a flash, would, without hesitance, speedily raise his otherwise limp right arm with incredible speed – implementing therefore, a precision-like foray to the inside of his jacket in order to access the hidden belt from his left shoulder, then mercilessly lash-out at any child who created displeasure in him.
Before long, and in a most concealed manner, my school friends and I came to re-christen Ferris as “Quick-Draw-McGraw”.
Come nineteen-sixty, things had improved significantly, Ferris was programmed to assume a new teaching role somewhere on the Scottish Borders and subsequently, each of his long-suffering pupils were scattered across the school’s educational infrastructure to intertwine with other classes.
My new teacher, one Miss Elspeth Hamilton from Kilmarnock, a stunning, blondish twenty-something with an hourglass figure of Monroe proportion, became my next mentor…and my very first boyish love – I was smitten from day one!
My adoration of her was both singular and absolute, not even Debbie Reynolds, Sandra Dee or Connie Francis could sway me into accepting that there existed a more beautiful specimen on the planet…I was ten years old and had experienced my final encounter with that leathery rein of chastisement…Miss Hamilton never elected to use the ‘Strap’ on any child under her tutelage – sweet liberty indeed!
Unfortunately, she did not wait for me and soon married another; nevertheless, I never forgot her forgiving grace and exquisite beauty – a divine presence that transported me from scholastic dread to educational accomplishment – and without the aid of medieval means – ecstasy most certainly.
During her short presence in my life, Miss Hamilton bequeathed on me- and my fellow pupils, that human kind’s existence is a prized commodity – one not to be threatened, devalued or compromised by hostile outside influences – or those that exist within our own mind – childhood, as with maturity, represents only chapters in the book of life, read on, move on – and live!
I’m never going back, physically or psychologically – the present is just too good, despite my advance years – all sixty-four of them, but with many more to come hopefully!