My Firts Tawse - Part One

by Tawse3 <>

This is a slightly different story in that it is both a recollection of a real life event and I have added a couple of possible alternative outcomes had things gone just a bit differently.

The real life bit first. ........................................................

I went to school in Scotland in the 1970's when 'the belt' (no one ever called it by its real name, the Lochgelly Tawse, named after the village of its most prolific manufacturer, it was always the belt or the strap) was at its highest point. Every single teacher had their own tawse, some (the enthusiasts !) had several. They were in a myriad of shapes and sizes but they all had common features, they were about 24 inches long, an inch and a half or so across, around a quarter of an inch thick with the business end fringed into two or three 'tails'. They were made of the most dense stiff leather I have ever seen and they had but one purpose, to burn and scorch the palms of schoolboy's hands. The most popular by far was a tan two tailor made by John J. Dick of Lochgelly (he stamped his name in the centre of the belt). I rarely got belted (wimp) but some boys seemed determined to keep the class average up.

I rarely got the belt at school, only three times in total, and then only single strokes, but I never ceased to be fascinated by its look. Watching a classmate come out tom the teacher, hold his hands out at shoulder height with one hand supporting the other and watching the ritual of the belt coming out of the drawer, being 'measured up' then raised over the teachers shoulder for the downswing, a bit like chopping wood, as the hard stinging leather tails lashed down on someone's hands and seeing the reaction as a teenage boy tried desperately to show his friends he could take it was almost worth going to school for ! The strap was only permitted for school use across the hand (s) with a legal maximum of 6 strokes, but more than two strokes often got tears from even the toughest teenage lads. Some parents kept a belt at home for use on the bottom but no one I knew ever admitted to this.

When I was about 15 I pestered my parents to buy me a guitar for a birthday or Christmas. I duly got my cool guitar only to discover it wasn't something a cool teenager could get the hang of by trial and error. After being nagged for not using the acoustic guitar I had been obsessed with only a few weeks earlier I figured out that there were community (free!) night classes in beginner level guitar and I signed up for 2 nights a week. I discovered it was taught by some guy who had a day job but the actual classes were held in a classroom in my Grammar School Music Department although most of the students were in their 20s or 30s. The classes began early enough to make coming home after school inconvenient so I sort of hung around and lugged my guitar, in a plastic carrying case, into the music department. The first few nights I was alone in the class for a half-hour or so until the first arrival came wandering in for class. Being nosy and bored I started poking around in things I shouldn't, writing on the board etc (but always careful to rub it off, I was a schoolboy and I was in my school after all, even if it was well after hours.

On about my 4th night of this boring class I sat at the teachers desk and fiddled around (I needed to be a bit careful as there was a very small window in each door and someone outside could have seen, but no-one had ever disturbed me this early before) and I discovered the desk drawer had been left unlocked. A bit of (very nervous, this was a definite no-no) poking about amongst the sort of junk a music teacher keeps in his drawer then my hand froze. I was looking at a 2 tailed, stiff as a board, tan Lochgelly H (for Heavy, they came in various models) schoolteachers strap. I shut the drawer quickly (wimp) and almost ran to 'my' seat in the classroom. My heart was thumping as I decided to do two things quite out of character; take a huge risk and steal something I decided then and there, my hands must have been shaking, that I would steal the teachers belt. Before I could change my mind I went to the drawer, took the belt and returned to my seat. If you have ever seen a tawse you will realise they are most inflexible, you literally couldn't bend it more than 30 degrees or so without cracking the leather finish. I was in a quandary. Then I realised I had my guitar case and I slid the strap up where the neck of the guitar sits.

Throughout the class I was focussed on how I was going to manoeuvre the thing back into its case at the end of class without the illicit strap falling out. I succeeded and went off home to fantasise in my room that night and mess around with my first real schoolteacher's belt. It was the best night ever !

The next time I went to night class the teacher's drawers were securely locked.

I hid it securely in my room for a week or so then it disappeared. I panicked as I realised my mother must have found it cleaning up. The subject was simply never raised. It was as if the whole thing had been a dream. I now realise she probably had her suspicions as to my interests but decided to leave well alone.

So that is what DID happen; here's what MIGHT have happened. Version One ......................................................................

As I placed the tawse in the guitar case it wriggled a bit and I was concentrating so hard I failed to hear Mr Smith, the Deputy Headmaster open the door and watch me about my business. I didn't fail to hear his booming "YOU, BOY, what on Earth are you up to ?" He barged into the room and ignored my stuttering and pulled the belt free from the case. "I saw the whole thing from the window so don't try to lie to me lad. What class are you in?"

"3B1 Sir..Iwas only....."

"Right young man, my office, NOW!"

I followed him in silent terror out of the class only to see two of the 23-year-old or so guitar students pass me, a girl and a guy. They looked surprised to see me walking the other way with an angry teacher but when they saw the two tailed tawse swinging in his hand they could guess what I was in for next. They smiled, they could probably remember being on the receiving end themselves not too many years ago.

Thankfully the speech in Smithy's office was brief. A short rant about thieves never getting on in life, outrageous behaviour, rave rant rave. Then he said it would be poetic justice if I got belted with this (and at that he stuck the wriggling tawse under my nose and I could smell the leather so sweetly) but he then said what I had been hoping against hope he would not: "Oh you are going to get belted laddie, but I have an old friend which is better for the job" At that my knees started to knock and he went to his own desk drawer and drew out a three tailed dark brown strap which was thicker than any I had ever seen. Not a Lochgelly, this one was supple not stiff, you could wrap it around your hand or put it in a pocket.

"Hands Up." He said it almost quietly. I put a shaking hand in front of me and he said "Two hands boy, double them" I put the other hand beneath my left hand and it stopped the shaking about a bit. He stood directly in front of me and rested the three tails on the palm of my hand and I thought 'Oh, he straps straight on, not across the hand as others sometimes do' He lifted the strap up over his right shoulder and brought it down with an almighty CRACK which echoed in the small office. I could hardly believe the agony of burning and throbbing in my hand. And instinctively I put my hand between my knees to try and push the pain out.


I slowly put my hands up again, right hand on top this time, without any more ado the second almighty CRACK as I saw the blur of the three tails land on my palm. I yelped and tried the same rubbing between the legs bit and realised tears were flowing freely from both eyes. "Cut that out boy and get your hands up again or you'll get more".

I was terrified, but more terrified of him so my left hand was uppermost as stroke three lashed down. I was a mess of snot and tears by the time I had had my six of the best. My hands were burning, they throbbed rhythmically and they were scarlet with livid welts, which would soon bruise. My face was contorted and I was standing there, hands under opposite armpits as I got a tongue lashing then told "Now, get out!"

I went off to the boys toilets, rubbing the tearstains away with the back (!) of my hands. I put them under running water but that didn't help. Almost a half hour later I was presentable and decided I obviously couldn't face a guitar class so I hung around the school gates for an hour or so to make it look as if I had done so to my parents and went home in the bus, my hands numb, sore and throbbing, a well strapped young man who had been soundly leathered and who knew he deserved it. I could still feel the pain when I went to bed that night and residual numb throbbing was definitely there, albeit much reduced, the next two or three days.

It was my last guitar class. I lost interest after that !

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