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May 15 2010 at 12:40 PM
John McLean 

I have been reading the posts with interest.

As a child in Scotland the Tawse was used regularly and given to both boys and girls. Various different types of belt... all very painful.

Keen to hear from anyone who was belted in school and very keen to hear from anyone who was in a Residential School or List "D" school where it was often given on the bottom. I actually have one of the 3 tail Lochgelly XH's used in these special schools.


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Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 6:21 AM 

Hi John McLean. I assume that you haven't posted here before your post above and your very comprehensive response in the Survey thread. If so, my personal welcome to this estimable Forum.

I note your reference above to the use of the tawse in Residential or List "D" schools. A long time ago (well, July 2008 happy.gif) I had a thread called Scottish Approved School Punishment. This was prompted by an entry I found in a forum dedicated to Female Juvenile Detention Institutions in the UK. The entry didn't refer to the use of a tawse, but it did refer to punishment on the bottom, with a birch in the 1930s in a Scottish Institution.

I posted the link in question, though I was somewhat suspicious of it. However it is suspected that someone connected with the Forum in question reads this Forum, and the entry was rapidly deleted so that my link no longer worked. Happily my esteemed fellow contributor here, Yetanotheranotherlurker, realised what had happened and recovered the article from his browser cache and posted its text. His is the third post in the thread. The thread can accessed by clicking on the red thread name above.

Later in the thread I linked a document on a Scottish Government site entitled 'Historical Abuse Systemic Review: Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland 1950 to 1995' (still to be found here. My link is actually to Chapter 3, but the entire document can readily be accessed from links at the top of that page. In view of what the Review says, while I doubt the birching story I find little difficulty in accepting that the tawse was used as you describe in those schools.

Sadly, as many did then, my thread eventually fell victim to what we in this forum refer to as fun pesters - idiots with little concern for accuracy and truth interested only in posting rubbish. If you read down it you'll know when you get there, just watch for posts from Asquith. From then on there is the odd sensible post, but they are a bit thin on the ground.

Incidentally the forum from which my original, rapidly deleted, link came, 'Female Juvenile Detention Institutions in the UK', is still to be found here. The latest post I can easily spot is from 2009, so it may not be very active.



Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 7:31 AM 

Hi John McLean again! A quick question if I may please. One of our distinguished contributors, Prof.n, posted this photographic sequence showing the fearsome Ms Valerie Thornton demonstrating the use of the tawse. Don't ask why it's in a thread called 'Corporal punishment in Malaysia' - you'll soon get used to the ways of this estimable Forum! happy.gif

Do those pictures correspond to the way the tawse was used on you, and were you always punished along the length of the hand rather than across the palm?


Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 11:09 AM 

Hi John,

Your descrriptions of the beltings you recived were interesting, and, if you don't mind me saying so, frighteningly matter of fact!

Another Lurker kindly referred to my photo spread of 'the valkerie'(!) Valerie Thornton. My interest in the tawse came from one completely unforgettable incident in my last few weeks at junior school . I wrote about the incident in detail on this forum at

Ever since then I admit I have nothing but admiration for the Scottish kids who face the belt everyday! I was just unfortunate. As I now know the headmistress wasn't a monster, but convinced she was right . I, of course, was equally convinced of the opposite!!!! Naturally she was wrong sad.gif whilst I was, of course, right happy.gif

My lea was not that far from the Scottish border, and many teachers migrated from the north. As they allowd the strap for punishment purposes it made sense presumably to allow Scottish teachers to use their familar belts rather than insisting on a specific model as some authorities ( eg ?Manchester , I believe) did .

I felt the picture spread was pretty accurate from my memories at least.

American Way

Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 12:52 PM 

Back in June 2009 I first mentioned of this formidable instrument of correction known as the "Huntly". It is so wide that it would be impossible for it not to overlap a hand. It is extremely supple. It looks like no other tawse, if you are a collector it may be worth considering. How would it compare with others? By suppleness it would not feel like the dreaded ruler, I would imagine, that was used on my knuckles not for misbeahvior but for lack of effort learning the times table. My knuckles hurt wvwn more than when I put my Dukes up and fought by the Queensbury rules. sad.gif

A new hermeneutic has been given to that ruler on the knuclkes xperience by a long lost alumnus. He mentioned sexual abuse I was unaware of. I was taught that private were called privates for a reason and only your folks and a doctor can touch them but that didn't keep me from touching them other that for hygienic reasons, when I was young of course wink.gif I've been told there is some advantage of being ambidexrtous while sinning against purity alone. wink.gif When I quickly corrected 11 X 12 by responding 122 and quickly corrected it by saying 132 she had already sentenced me to the ruler on the palm of the hand in her mind so she took my "correction" as talking back that merited it on the knuckles. While my memory hearkens back to swallowing screams and not like a bellowing banshee heard over the public announcement system that made me a hero of sorts; it was my staring down the Nun, a no no, for them at the novitiate to their mother superior. My father being an officer taught me to look a person straight in the eye.

I was a straight A student, maybe a B here or there, but I flunked music, art and penmanship, not surprising, having been switched foron the left or devil's hand in first grade. It's an advantage in tennis, protecting the alley when playing at the net position in doubles. Also, I've been told you can switch hands withiut missing a stroke. As I said before, the sister of no mercy said if you failed three courses you had to repeat the year. My father explained that those courses didn't count for it was "readin, ritin and rithemetic". They placed a red mark under any grade below 70; I guess to help parents whose rithmetic skills were wanting.

Given my knowledge and interests in school corporal punishment on both sides of the pond my ambidexteous abilities should not be gainsayed. I do not appreciate it when, too often not gently, I repeat myself, I have given the link on the Huntly tawse. All meaning is context derivative so if I didn't repeat myself, a point I can't argue, it would not be me, however annoying it may be to others and me an honorary member to boot, no pun intended.

IMO I have been taking to task, often unkindly for my redundancy, within and between postings, and writings as sans segue as my mind, my knickers are not atwist (;(;(; for it is not that unbearable. I hope some find this link helpful. The Huntly, supple though it be for it cannot stand on its own, it's not meant for the hand IMO and one would be pressed to find tawse proof knickers.

Tawse Proof Knickers

American Way

Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 4:59 PM 

These are the links. The first was shared before. The Huntley tawse I referred to was a four tailed accounting for its extreme width. It was fatter on the business end but would bend back on itself with so little rigidity.

The Belt

Polish bootmaker

Huntly Tawse


Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 5:24 PM 

I'm not an expert on the tawse, but those who are advise me that narrower tawses were the most feared. Early Robert Philp and John Dick products from the 1950s were apparently very harsh.

Straps made by Donald Wright of Huntly were big, but were sometimes made of buffalo hide which tends to have an open, spongy texture. One person who has extensive knowledge and experience of these things has said, "Huntly tawses look impressive but have more bark than bite!"

Regarding the Polish bootmaker, my correspondent said, "No self-respecting teacher would have a Borak rather than a John Dick tawse. The students, however, would have a distinct preference for the former."

American Way

Re: Tawse

May 16 2010, 8:58 PM 

hcj Perfectly described: open, spongy texture. Church Antique was ebay vendor of one that was a part of a historal collection that I held in my own hands so I can attest to it but not on the receiving end. The McRostie had a primary tawse that was very supple and light. Lochleggy, as a rule seemed rigid and not spongy.

As painful as hands are as a target it would appear no long term damage or is that historically true, however horrific in the eyes of prof n and

For the sisters the rulers became a universal image that lingers for generations. The ruler, however rigid, was, in our school and imagine most schools, lighter and while it hurt like hell, seemed mild in comparisons. With sisters of no mercy the girls were not mollycoddled by any means but were spared the heavier yardstick that became more the instument of correction chosen in 7th and 8th grade. Perhaps, unlike 5ive and Brides of Christ, it could have been that our classes were coed that girls were spared the yardstick on the bottom. Embarrassing for some girls and a near occasion of sin for some boys. wink.gif

On a lighter note, the sticks were graded in the principals office. We thought it had to with what grade you were in and not size so we speculated the girls got a grade younger but unbeknownst to us the developments of puberty would have changed that calculus and not to their benefit. It really was irrelevant with the change in the administration in sixth grade when we saw the outlines of the first colorful bra under one of the girl's white blouse. happy.gif It was enough to give the poor girl a reputation. I was less aware from my POV for it was the hands and bottoms that attracted me. happy.gifhappy.gifhappy.gif


Re: Tawse

May 19 2010, 11:07 AM 

An interesting account of a belting with a tawse from another forum , asking the question " Did you ever get the cane at school" The poster appears to be female judging from her other posts and is from Lanarkshire.

"I got "the belt" quite a few times at school as well. I remember getting those "extra" hits too for drawing my hands away.

It was agony if the teacher hit you on the wrists.

One teacher I remember getting it from was a science teacher who used to keep the belt over his shoulder underneath his lab coat.

If you had never had it from him before it was always a real surprise as you'd be standing ready to receive it with him standing in front of you and as far as you could see he didn't have a belt.

He would reach under his lab coat and bring it down on your hands just when you're not expecting it. He was a right bastard"

John McLean

Re: Tawse

May 29 2010, 1:03 PM 


First of all, thanks for all the messages. I have been off line for a week or two and just remembered about the site.

Yes, when the belt was given it was applied to the length of the hand. I never ever saw it given across the hand. Mind you there were some strange ways to give the belt. I only ever heard of this being done to a girl but one girl who was a real trouble maker but could not take the belt (kept pulling away) was made to sit in front of the female teacher who was going to belt her. Her skirt was pulled up to reveal her bare legs and she was made to hold her hands out above legs (cross handed). Obvioulsy if she pulled away it would hit her thighs and be very painful.




Re: Tawse

May 29 2010, 9:18 PM 

Hi John McLean. Thank you for the follow-up information. You say:

one girl who was a real trouble maker but could not take the belt (kept pulling away) was made to sit in front of the female teacher who was going to belt her. Her skirt was pulled up to reveal her bare legs and she was made to hold her hands out above legs (cross handed). Obvioulsy if she pulled away it would hit her thighs and be very painful.

Interesting. Some scepticism was expressed when in the last couple of paragraphs of this post I described seeing a very similar technique used in my Junior school in the English Midlands in the early 1950s. Someone said:

It all seems very complicated. Would it not have been a lot quicker and easier for the teacher to just ignore the misbehavior and get on with the lesson?

My response was that in those days if you were due for punishment you got punished. It sounds as though that was also the case in your school!


Re: Tawse

May 29 2010, 10:02 PM 

Hi Another Lurker,

Interesting post/ Some teachers didn't want to send students , especially good students 'up the chain' for punishment because they were frightened. Here is a small extract from a piece written by a Scottish teacher of my acquaintance which makes that very point about the tawse :

Some pupils were really frightened, I'd say petrified of this, but you must remember this was an everyday punishment- it was hard to get through school without having been belted at least once. If it was your first time you were better with a sympathetic teacher like me , than with a bruiser who just belted away with an H or XH. If they were really scared I tried to deal with it at the end of class in, at least, semi private. I would make allowance, in particular I gave them strokes two at a time one on each hand, and told them to put their hands down at their sides and then if necessary I would repeat the treatment after a minute or so. This allowed the pain to dissipate a little before repeat strokes- as I say it is the initial few seconds which are unbearable. Also I hated tears in a lesson, it seems to me, if there had to be tears (and in my view sometimes had to be so) , it should be in private not in front of the whole class.

No one ever refused to co-operate with me. Having said that if they were scared, and some boys were as well as girls, I would spend time to talk and persuade them it was for the best.

Sorry if it punctures your vision! In my experience it is what happened

She got quite a lot of grief from certain colleagues who insisted that the deterrent effect required immediate punishment in front of the class.She believed this was just too hard for a few students, and that it could potentially do significant psychological harm . Eventually she left Scotland for England believing she had more autonomy south of the border.

I think it speaks for itself .As to whether she was right or wrong, that's another matter.



Re: Tawse

May 30 2010, 12:37 AM 

Hi Prof.n. The Scottish teacher of your acquaintance whom you quote on tawsing technique sounds a most humane and reasonable person. I think most teachers were of that inclination, and probably still would be if CP was in use. There were clearly exceptions but I think most teachers punished because they felt it was in the best interests of the child first and the class or school second.

The teacher I mentioned using the 'hands over thighs' technique in the post I quoted above was certainly not being vindictive in seeking to complete the girl's punishment. It must be remembered that in that school and at that time (1953/1954) the class size was around 50, 51 or 52 if I remember correctly. Teaching Assistants hadn't been invented - one teacher - one class! Almost inevitably teachers resorted to a certain amount of 'pour encourager les autres' when maintaining order.

In addition there were special circumstances in that class. We were out-stationed in a public building away from the school due to lack of space. The corridors and the rest of the building were public areas. The teacher did have the use of a small room, but it was shared with various other users of the building.

Any punishments had perforce to be in front of the class, unless a child was sent back to the school to see the Headmaster. This would have required someone coming from the school to escort them. In any event for a child in the Junior School to be sent to the Headmaster would have required a very serious 'crime' indeed. I don't recall it happening. The Headmaster was also in charge of the Senior School and I think that was virtually the sole source of his disciplinary workload.

So while in other places and other times there might have been better ways of dealing with the girl (and I don't doubt that that teacher would have taken them if available) I'd say that she did the best she could in the circumstances. We children certainly didn't regard it at the time as anything other than slightly unusual in that the girl resisted whereas the great majority of children took their punishment without any histrionics. I suspect, though I can't be sure, that most of us would have been a bit miffed if she'd have been let off, knowing that being let off wasn't what happened if you were naughty in those days!



June 1 2010, 1:28 AM 

When the tawse was administered was it applied to the palm of the hand or the fingertips? I would imagine that a heavy strap across fingertips would hurt more than across the palm of the hand. The second question I have relates to why the Scots chose to strap the hand rather than the buttocks?


Re: Tawse

June 2 2010, 5:46 AM 


I have no direct experience of the tawse myself but have spoken to quite a few Scottish girls who have been on the receiving end.

The traditional way of applying it was for the pupil to directly face the teacher and receive it face on. Both hands would be required to be held out touching each other.This would cover the whole of the hand, but the tip of the tawse would be applied to the palm. If the teacher was a poor aim the tawse could strike the wrists. Some teachers would ensure that the pupils wrists were covered to avoid accidents.

It would seem more logical to apply the tawse side on to avoid any problem with hitting the wrists, and I think some teachers used this method.

As an aside I was on another forum on the subject of soaps.In direct response to a comment I made about an actress in a soap who is taking drugs ( in the programme, not in real life) a lady ( aged 39 according to her profile)said " Holly needs a good old fashioned trashing"

I asked whether she meant trashing or thrashing, and she replied " Sorry , I meant thrashing ( very severe corporal punishment)" she then added that she would like to give an actor in the programme a good spanking ( he is regarded as something of a hunk amongst the ladies on the forum.

Here is a picture of the actress who is 19,

[linked image]



Re: Tawse

June 3 2010, 2:08 AM 

Hi Declan. I didn't know you knew how to do pictures! wink.gif

I think you've given Nathan a pretty good explanation of the administration of the belt as generally practised in Scottish state schools. However he may find it helpful to study this page on the excellent site on which there is a video wherein a teacher demonstrates the administration of the tawse to a group of secondary school pupils in 2007, some 25 years after it was generally abandoned in state schools. Apart from the fact that both teacher and pupil are seated, the teacher isn't positioned directly in front of the pupil, the pupil turns in completely the wrong direction (doubtless to demonstrate his bravery to the young lady by his side happy.gif) and he doesn't actually get belted at all, it is absolutely accurate! happy.gifhappy.gif However, it does illustrate the hand position, with hands overlaid (and swapped over on demand if both hands were to be belted) reasonably well.

Nathan also asks:

why the Scots chose to strap the hand rather than the buttocks?

This seems to have been a relatively recent innovation. One wonders if it followed on from the fact that as the 20th century advanced more girls would enter and remain in education and for whatever reason girls in Scottish state schools seem generally to have been subject to rather more corporal punishment than was the case in England. Also, given the numbers often belted in Scottish classes it may have been less time consuming to punish on the hands.

This article by Colin Farrell of the site gives some history of school corporal punishment in Scotland. It indicates that in times past portions of a pupil's anatomy other than the hands were often the target of school CP. Indeed, in some parts of Scotland the vicinity of schools frequently included a 'cooling stane' on which chastised pupils would sit as soon as possible after punishment to assuage the pain. There were sometimes complaints when tombstones in the local grave yard were utilised for this purpose.

The article also makes clear that other than in state schools punishment on the hands was not universal in Scotland, and even in state schools there was some variety especially pre 1950.


Re: Tawse

June 3 2010, 5:47 AM 

Another Lurker

You say;

Hi Declan. I didn't know you knew how to do pictures!

I was as surprised as you were when that picture appeared. I had imagined that just the URL would appear, so I was pleasantly surprised when the picture came up.

There seems to be two ways of getting the tawse. The method I have heard about is to place both hands out in front of you side by side.The method in the Corp Pun site shows one hand supporting another, and then switching hands. I'm sure the former method was the more popular one.



June 3 2010, 6:02 AM 

Tanks to Declan and Another Lurker for your responses to my post. I always hated having to return to class and sit at my desk after having received the cane because you had that horrible sting go through your body when your bottom hit those hard wooden chairs in the classrooms, I wonder if those strapped on the hands had a similar sensation when picking up a pencil and how long the marks lasted. Typically the cane marks on my bottom would last about four days in total but I think any hand marks may have dissipated quickly due to how much more the hands are used in every day life. I also wonder if the entire punishment say 4 strokes were delivered to the same hand or alternate hands i.e. 2 strokes on each hand? There may have been a benefit to receving corporal punishment to the hand rather than the bottom as one part of your body is receiving the full punishment? This begs the question which hurt more hand or bottom?


Re: Tawse

June 3 2010, 8:17 AM 

A normal school caning on the hands would leave marks lasting a few hours and no more. It would not cause any problems about holding a pen.

The tawsings I know about would be applied to both hands simultaneously, so four whacks would be quite a big deal. Usually it would be no more than two strokes.

There was a big difference in Scottish schools in that the tawse was used much more often than the cane or slipper was in English schools. This is of course a generalisation, as those girls who went to Bacon's school will no doubt testify. but the Scottish girls I have spoken to gave the impression that it was a very regular occurence, and virtually no-one would have gone through the Scottish education system a generation ago without getting the tawse a few times.

I also understand that the percentage of girls to boys tawsed was much higher than those receiving corporal punishment in England.One girl I spoke to reckoned she was strapped about 20 times. She did not really regard it as a problem at the time as it was so common and the pain was only brief.

I cannot really comment on whether punishment on the hand was worse than on the bottom. One slippering I got , through thin PE shorts, and consisting of two whacks on the same spot was extremely painful , but so was the cane on the hand.I think it simply depends on how hard the teacher hit you.


Re: Tawse

June 3 2010, 10:56 PM 

Hi Declan, you wrote: There seems to be two ways of getting the tawse. The method I have heard about is to place both hands out in front of you side by side.The method in the Corp Pun site shows one hand supporting another, and then switching hands. I'm sure the former method was the more popular one.

I am no tawse expert, but I think it was much more common for the hands to be one on top of the other to receive the belt, particularly in secondary schools. It was that which gave a more stable target and as it brought the elbows closer together, made "drawing away" more difficult.

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