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Corporal punishment

When I was at school many moons ago, we had to behave. Or Else.

Or else what? We were given the Belt. The Strap. The Tawse. The Lochgelly Tickler. The What? Corporal punishment in Scotland consisted of being hit on (usually) the hand by a thick leather strap. This wasn’t something used to keep your trousers up, this was a purpose-crafted tool of punishment. Normally it was about 18 inches long (45cm) an inch and a half wide (4cm) and up to half an inch thick (1.5cm). One end had a hole in it, for hanging on a hook or nail, and the other end, the business end, had one or more splits so that it had two or three fingers. They were manufactured by leathermakers across Scotland, but most of them

seem to have come from one particular factory in Lochgelly, Fife.  For further details, have a look at:

The punishment went much like this:

Teacher: “Fyfe!”

Pupil: “Yes sir?”

Teacher: Stop doing that! Out here now! Stand in front of the class with both hands out!

The ritual was to try and get by with one hand out, but teachers knew that you had to stand with both palms facing up, one hand on top of the other. So they waited until you did. You had to remember to keep your thumbs well tucked in, and try and judge it that your wrists were not exposed, or that your finger tips took all the hit. Then the teacher would give you any number of whacks with the belt, descending from full arm height, as hard as he could onto your hands. The number of hits you received varied with the crime committed, but this tariff was never written down. One or two for daydreaming, to focus your attention and up to six for something more serious. There was an unwritten rule that six was the maximum, but I don’t know if there was any legal maximum. I certainly don’t recall anyone getting more than six.

Teachers were respected for their ability to give a good belting, as well as their actual teaching abilities. Of course the really good teachers could control their class and keep everyone occupied and enthused, but there were others who couldn’t. And the worst combination was a teacher who could neither teach well not belt well.

I recall when I was about 15 or 16, a young French lady teacher appeared to take our French class for a term. She must have been in her very early 20s, and was, if I remember correctly, teaching in Perth as part of her teacher training course. She could neither control her class, not use the belt she had been given. So bad was she at the latter, she acquired the nickname of “Feltbelt”. One day she came slightly late into our class, we were all asked to sit down and pay attention. Very few of us did, and general mayhem continued. Mademoiselle Feltbelt told us to sit down, or else we would get the belt. She continued to be ignored, up to the point where she asked “Who would like the belt?” A few hands went up, mostly the noisy boys, and when we realised what was happening, all the other boys stuck our hands up too, Spartacus style. Mlle. Feltbelt told us to stand out at the front, in a line, and she would “go and get her belt”. She arrived back a minute later with the chemistry teacher, a greatly feared teacher who rarely had to use his belt because his administration of it was legendary. She got her revenge in style that day.

The Lochgelly tawse A daily event at - Banff  Macduff when

The belt was discontinued in Scottish schools in 1987 after a European Court of Human Rights ruling about corporal punishment. I guess that discipline took a dip for a while until the use of detentions took effect.

Meanwhile in Saudi, justice in the Kingdom is based on Sharia law. That is, the punishments awarded to people found guilty of crime are based on the teachings of the Holy Qu’ran (Koran) and the traditions “Sunnah” of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), as interpreted by the judges.  The sentences handed down include being sentenced to Lashes. This is corporal punishment where the recipient is taken to a public place, has his shirt removed and is whipped on the back. Lashing punishments seem to be handed out in multiples of 100, but to receive this number in one go would probably kill the person, so they are meted out in smaller batches over a number of weeks. Or, I should say were. A decree was handed down from the Royal Court this month that lashing should be discontinued. You might have missed this small triumph for civil rights campaigners in amongst all the doom and gloom happening elsewhere, but this is a small improvement for human decency. Public amputation and capital punishment still exist, so that is the next goal for the campaigners. Possibly that is just a matter of time.

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