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16 October 2014
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Forum - childhood - Click here to return to the Forum menu page.
Schooldays with the Strap
There are 26 messages in this section.

Jimmy McGregor from Perth. Posted 7 Mar 2002.
Primary 4 meant a move into the headmaster’s room, in size much akin to the infant room. For heating there was a large stove. It was coke burning and the older pupils took it in turn to stoke up at the 11 o’clock interval. I was now on to vulgar and decimal fractions, English Grammar, parsing, mental arithmetic, reciting poetry etc. I cannot remember the "strap" being used in the infant room but it was certainly used in the headmaster’s room.
Sometimes it would be merely for sheer inability on the part of the pupil. This happened to one girl so often that she decided to play truant. It was found out and her mother returned her to school and pleaded with the headmaster not to "belt" her. This was agreed and the mother departed from the classroom. There elapsed only minutes and the belt was produced. Two whacks and the door burst open; mother rushed in, wheeled the headmaster round and kicked him in the backside with her wellington boot. The class was in an uproar and one girl fainted.
Eva Mack from Brig O' Turk . Posted 24 Mar 2002.
Lining up for cod liver oil and orange juice, knitting scarves for the soldiers, picking rose hips for making syrup. These are some of the things I remember about school in 1942-47. The Norwegian Royal Band was stationed with us during the war and I remember when they left they gave us cans of golden syrup.

Fiona Middler from Stepps. Posted 8 Apr 2002.
I distinctly remember my first day at Stepps Primary School. In the early 1960s there were two intakes and as my birthday was in October I wasn't permited to start school until the February intake.
Because my mother had taught me reading and writing at home, when I did start school,
I was allowed to sit with the August intake and the teacher, Miss Jackson, asked who I would like to sit beside. I chose to sit beside a girl with beautiful long golden hair - mine was short and dark brown - we have been friends ever since.

Laura from Utah. Posted 16 Dec 2003.
I was never given the belt in Scotland. It was discussed among the kids at times in great detail (salt and vinegar) and feared. It was almost like an Urban Legend. Although, one time I threw a stone and it went off wrong and hit a boy. I guess I cried so much thinking that I might get the belt and was teased relentlessly by the other kids that I got off with just a slap on the hand. It never seemed like the belt was given at my school out of malice or cruelty. The one or two times I saw it given was by one older teacher and usually done with the boy (I don't remember any girls) up in the front of the room with a big smug smile on his face. We all respected and to some extent feared our teachers. I had no idea there was so much abuse of the belt for so many.

Rosemary Borthwick. Posted 2 Apr 2002.
It was Primary 3 1955. Tommy had sworn in the playground. Miss Guild brought him in by the scruff of his neck, took him to the sink and washed his mouth out with carbolic soap. This was a much more impressive form of punishment than the 'belt'. I remember 'interval' time more than anything else. It must have been no more than 15 minutes but we seemed to play for an eternity. Staying seated in your desk was a feature of past times. We never moved without permission. We worked extremely hard in class and I do not remember doing much homework.

Maurice Mallon from Dumbarton . Posted 10 Apr 2002.
I attended both primary and secondary schools at St Patricks in Dumbarton in the 1950s. I hated both with a passion. The strap was used excessively, I was scared witless going to school in the morning. The secondary school day was split into 8 periods with 8 different teachers, so you had 8 excellent chances of getting the strap each day. At the end of his period, one teacher would ask for a show of hands of those he hadn't strapped. He would call them out and strap the lot of them to show that he would not play favourites.
Most of the kids left school at 15 or 16. I wonder why?
I sat the apprentices examination for the Royal Naval Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. Only 5 places were available. I placed 5th out of about 120. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I guess my tough education had some benefit after all. I went on to nightschool and took a Higher National Certificate from Stow College in Glasgow.

Tina Lawson. Posted 25 Apr 2002.
Dear Sir,
Good on you for being accepted at the RNT factory and being 5th out of 120. I am 25,
thankfully by that time the belt was abolished and that 8 classes thing. I totally disagree with that form of punishment for young kids, teenagers also. Before I read your quote I never really had a clue about it all, so thank you for giving me a wee insight into your school life.

Theresa Pellowe from Hynes . Posted 13 Oct 2002.
I remember the belt vividly, one time in particular was when my teacher had not got his and he sent me to get one. I went into the classroom next door and got a new strap, when I took it to my teacher he was disgusted with it as his was well used and he did not want to use 'that thing'. Thankfully he sent it back without using it. I don't know what was worse getting the strap or the agony of delay of having to get a strap.

Maurice Mallon. Posted 13 Nov 2002.
Dear, Trish and Ann.
Thank god that those days are over. The number of letters on the subject certainly testify to the systematic abuse that was employed. I had the experience of going to night school for my 'O' Level English as part of my continuing education after I had left school. Lo & behold the English teacher was my old English teacher from school. What a difference, this former sadist who terrified me was a nice as could be and took extraordinary care with his nightschool class. we all passed. So why could'nt he do that in his day job?

Ann Young. Posted 14 Jul 2002.
Dear Maurice
I attended St.Mungos's primary school in Stanhope St. Glasgow. Belting the children was how the teachers kept fit. I got the belt every day that God sent because I couldn't understand what the teacher was saying. The experience left me totally traumatised for the rest of my life.

Jim Fraser from Oz . Posted 22 Oct 2002.
We had one vicious teacher at Holyrood School who took a delight in strapping kids en masse. He would steep his strap in vinegar all night and boy did it hurt. What an animal he was and his sister was no better.

Trish Plummer. Posted 14 Apr 2002.
School was definitely different back then, we were afraid to move or talk. I do remember the strap, that was at St. Mary's in Captain St. in Greenock. It seemed to go on all the way through high school, right across both wrists. Did that ever hurt, I can still feel it!

Rob McDougall. Posted 5 Jun 2002.
Trish, in the vast majority of cases, teachers took great care to avoid the belt making contact with the delicate area of a pupil's wrist. Most were very accurate with the delivery of the stroke - lets face it they were using it on a daily basis.
However, I did receive one exceptional belting at school from a young French teacher. For throwing paper balls at a group of girls in class, the teacher asked me to roll my sleeves up and proceeded to give me four of the belt, not only did the belt hit my hands, the tails went up my wrists. She intended that the resulting marking act as a deterrent to others. I am horrified to think that a girl was ever belted on the wrists.

Donald Sutherland. Posted 5 Jul 2002.
I remember at secondary school calling a teacher by his nick name, "smacker", he told me to come to his room later in the day, which I dutifully did. He then proceeded to give me the belt which lacerated my wrist and broke my watch. I returned to my class in tears and the subsequent action that came from the management was to sack that teacher, a probationer who was not even supposed to have a belt. I have only met that teacher once since then, when I was an adult and he deliberately kept out of the way - I wonder why?

Neil Macaulay from Perth . Posted 16 Jun 2002.
Ah mind fine gettin' the belt when ah wis 5 in 1944 at the Shans (Southern District in Perth). Ah used tae huv tae go fur the rolls for breakfast while ma mither wis still in bed snorin' her hied off. So ah wis often late for the skale. The teacher sent me to Miss Sword who wid gie me twa o' the belt and it hurt but it didnae mak much difference tae me. Naebuddy thought onythin' aboot it. If ye cannae take a wee bit o' the belt noo and then ye cannae be Scottish. When I was 11 and passed the quallie I went to St. John's R.C. in Perth for 3 years where Miss McAlister and Miss Dwire set up the all time world record for beltin' bairns. Miss McAlister's belt was the strap from the window of a railway carriage but ach it didnae hurt a' aw. But Miss Dwire the maths teacher had a big Lochgelly leather belt split up the middle and it hurt like hell and she used to go through us like a Valkerie (how do ye spell psychopath Billy?) We got about 4 of the belt every day mostly for not knowing something. The lassies got it too but no' nearly as much as the boys. The lassies used tae start greetin' so then it would stop. We had lots of homework every night, English, French and Maths. Brian Bett simply refused ever to do any homework and so got the belt for that every day and never batted an eyelid. He had the teachers close to exhaustion but they knew their duty and never let him off. Mr Burke was the headmaster and he walked around the school wi' his belt up his sleeve. If he caught any bairn misbehaving he would flick out his arm and the belt would come whizzing down into his hand and the bairn would get at least 2 of the belt on the spot. In 1952 we all complained to our parents about the amount of homework and the belt. All our parents went to see the head and the teachers but they were as nice as pie and Miss Dwire was the sweetest of all and so the parents were fooled and nothing changed. Once Miss Dwire lined up the whole A class (all 7 of us) and asked us what x squared was. We all knew perfectly well. We'd been doing algebra for 2 years but as each kid gave a perfectly good definition, Miss Dwire said "Wrong" and gave 2 of the belt. (Aye ah kin hear ye Billy - "I'll give you bloody psychopath.")
Would you believe that discipline was perfect? We got the best education you could get. We started calculus at age 14 nae bother. Obviously the belting was excessive but it was better than today's alternative of no belting and teachers with nervous breakdowns, misbehaviour etc. The alternatives to the belt are just too time consuming. 2 of the belt = 5 secs and it's all over and get on with the lesson. Today's school system sounds like a neurotic farce to me. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Children will misbehave if not controlled and they won't work if they don't have to. If you think bairns are wee angels you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

Wilma Anderson. Posted 20 Jun 2002.
Educated in Kirkcaldy, 1952-1966. Just really horrid memories, what a cruel place school was. Discipline.???? It was cruel child abuse. I can't imagine allowing anyone to "belt" my child. Or my grandchildren. What an easy "cop-out" for parents, just send the kids off to school, they will raise them, belt them black and blue and no repercussions.
Shame on all you "teachers" for the harm you did to so many kids. Sure we had a good education, but that's what they were paid for, not to hurt us. And shame on the parents who sat back and did nothing to stop the abuse. I have no fond memories of Fife, of school or of any teacher. And just so you know, I was never strapped once!!!!! Good riddance to the old days. No wonder I emigrated as soon as I could.
Don't "romance" the old days, they were terrible days, we all should have learned something from the days of abuse and teachers who actually got a "kick" from seeing a child squirm in pain...

Ian Dignall. Posted 4 Nov 2002.
I am not sure why, but of all the letters I have read to date ....yours is the most meaningful. I started school in Lanarkshire (mining, mainly)
in 1960 and I just know that by 1967 I could have written a very large book of things that happened to me and my wee friends.

Ian Kay. Posted 23 Jul 2002.
I attended Musselburgh Grammar School between 1954 and 57 and remember the whole class getting the belt for not knowing what year Nelson won the battle of Waterloo. After each person gave a date ranging from 1604 to 1844 the teacher Mr SMART PANTS SPOWART informed us that Nelson was a naval commander and never fought at Waterloo. A first lesson in listening to the question. The SWINE!

Kathleen Hoverter. Posted 12 Aug 2002.
Neil - if you didn't write a book, you missed your calling. You provided seven minutes of sheer glee for me and my family with your devilish and dead-on memories of your strapping school days. As you said, the strap didnae dae us any harm!

Thanks for the good laugh, and for bringing back all those stinging memories!

Kathleen (Connelly)Hoverter
(formerly of Elmwood Girls' High School, Bothwell; home of the mad Sr. Mary Gabriel, who never met a pupil she liked).

Neil McCubbin. Posted 25 Aug 2002.
I enjoyed Neil's missive, and find the series of complaints by others about the belt mostly whining. At Glasgow High School, we used to compete to get the most of the belt in a day. The headmaster told me to leave school at 14 because I would never make university. I worked like hell, finished at 16, got a 1st Class Honours from Glasgow, and went back to thank him for pushing me so hard at school. He claimed not to remember me, which is impossible since I had so many arguments on the merits of Latin with the old dinosaur.

Ann O'Donnell. Posted 28 Nov 2002.
Dear Neil
I couldn't agree with you more, I remember the days of the belt of the tawse as it was known, it may not have been the right way to discipline but it was far better than today with none which has not made for a better society. In the 1950s the teacher's word was law and we did what we were told, but I don't remember any child mugging old ladies or murdering other children. Something went wrong somewhere and belt or no belt I remember by childhood in Glasgow with great affection.

james from northants. Posted 15 May 2003.
would like to chat

Stephen Dewar from Cumbernauld. Posted 12 Jul 2006.
I think depending on your own personal experience it is easy to over-react to the effects of the belt at school. I personally copped it a few times and on a few occasions for nothing, However I don't remember it ever being a serious talking point among pupils.
Most of us just accepted it was there as part of the fabric. In the early seventies at Colston in Glasgow I thought with a couple of exceptions the teachers were pretty fair. I dont think being belted did us any good; however from the point of view as a deterrant it definitely worked. One teacher for French we had was a Mr Campbell who had this fierce reputation for giving the belt. Actually I dont recall him ever actually giving it but you can be sure if he bawled along the corridor to tell everyone to get into line.They did it without question. There woudnt be much chance of that happening today...

Ron from King's Lynn. Posted 11 Nov 2005.
I wish all those do-gooders who think that the days when children were belted at school were a bad thing.

I went through school and, from time to time, got the belt but by and large, I stayed in line because I didn't enjoy the punishment which, to me, was an effective deterrent.

I'm now a JP and I see too many youngsters who have had no discipline in their lives either at home or at school. They think they can do as they please and too often, end up with a crimnal record.

If anyone remembers playground punch-ups which ended with a visit to the headmasters office, think about what happens now. The teachers cannot punish the offender(s) and the victim's parents have only the sanction of going to the police which results in a criminal record for the yongster. Is that progress? The day when corporal punishment was banned was a serious mistake and we are paying for it today.

Elizabeth Pryde from Dundee. Posted 10 Feb 2006.
I started Rosebank Primary School in 1942. Three years later I became a latch-key kid when my mother resumed her working life. It was a hard time for parents - fathers coming back from war service and getting back to work. My father worked in the Caledon Shipyard, and was always very interested in how I was progressing at school. In his day he too had attended Rosebank. My sister and I would turn up at school often a bit too early on the dark mornings, and used to go directly to the Janitor who would take us in out of the cold, along with the other early starters, and we would all sit on a bench in his furnace room, usually getting a hot drink. Nowadays this would never be allowed, but it was the age of innocence and goodness. Our Jani' Mr Leighton was the kindest man on earth.

We had wonderful teachers, and until I went into Primary five the (quali') all went well. I had many responsibilities for a child so young, and always did my best in everything I attempted to do. Then I met Miss Crabbe who would be my teacher, until I left for secondary school. In my case this would be Rockwell. I have no doubt Miss Crabbe's exam results were always excellent, but her methods in getting them left much to be desired. She had a system of giving us ten mental arithmethic to do as the first lesson of the day. For each one marked wrong it was punished by getting one of the belt. Eventually along with others I was in such a state of nerves that I couldn't think and got nine wrong. By the time she had finished her ruthless task I was in agony, couldn't hold a pencil,and my hand was like a balloon.

Normally we weren't listened to as regards school discipline issues, or in carrying tales home, but this was an exception. I thought twice about mentioning it to my dad, but he noticed I couldn't use my hand properly. He was a man who brooked no nonsense, who respected the professionals so much so that they were all on pedestals. He was ex-navy, and a boatyard worker, and he was speechless when he saw my "Teacher's Handiwork". He asked if I'd committed the crime of the century, and became very silent. Next day he turned up at the school late afternoon to have a word with the teacher. He had cycled from the Caledon to do this. I couldn't believe my dad would take time off his work to sort out this situation. He did.

I don't know what was said but her belting days were limited from then on. Yes, nowadays it is all wrong and Teachers don't have an easy time. As a pupil of yesteryear I wouldn't want that belting method back - it solved nothing. I did go back to see Miss Crabbe and yes she was a good teacher, but in that age we respected them regardless.

Jane Millar from Dundee. Posted 12 Jul 2006.
I also went to Rosebank School, my first teacher was Miss Dryden who was also the Head Mistressm then it was Miss Birrel. My brother Bill was a pupil in Miss Crabbes class and she was wicked (she wore a jade ring that she put to good use by bunching her fist and hitting behind the ear of the boys).
My best teacher was Miss Jappe who I kept in regular touch with until she died at the age of 91.Times and life was very strict but good times too and we were never afraid to walk the streets.

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