At the end of January 1925, a Blantyre male stood in Hamilton Court for the third time on a charge of theft. However, this wasn’t a man, or even a teenager, it was a boy of eight, who already had the misfortune of having two similar previous convictions! The boy freely admitted to stealing a tin of butter scotch from a Blantyre confectioner’s shop at Stonefield.
Having first been convicted of theft at the age of six, the Fiscal was concerned that clearly the boy was not learning any lesson. Fining his parents with small sums of money was not working. The Fiscal declared he would now be making the thief realise the error of his ways by different means. Something had to be done even with his exceptional age. Despite having no power to do so, some words were used that made the boy believe he was about to be jailed. Then, as the look of horror swept over the boy’s face, the “sentence” was changed to six lashings of a birch cane. On hearing the sentence the little fellow fell into a fit of weeping and remorse.
Source: The Sunday Post archives 25th January 1925
Corporal Punishment was a popular form of sentence for children in and out of school. The maximum number of strokes that were permitted for a teacher to dish out was six. Any more, was considered cruel and illegal. Getting a maximum thrashing led to the saying “six of the best”. Many teachers ignored the six rule, especially in the 1800’s where without proper governance, teachers and School Boards could largely make up their own rules. Canes gave way to leather belts and if a teacher was particularly unpleasant, could involve the buckle! Receiving Corporal Punishment at school, was abandoned as late as 1987 where it became an offense for a teacher to subject a child to any sort of cruelty.
I like to think i was well behaved at school, but alas, in 1979 i did receive 4 strikes of a leather belt for being out my seat when the teacher left and came back in. I always thought this was harsh and matters were made worse when my mother demanded to see the teacher the next day at High Blantyre Primary Annexe. She asked the teacher to hold out her hand, which the teacher did. Then mother opened her bag and brought out her own belt, rolled up into a coil. The teacher said “what are you doing Mrs Veverka?”. Mum stared furiously at the teacher and said “If you hit my child again, you will have me to deal with”. I was mortified as many of my class witnessed the scene. Mum was never violent, nor would have hit a teacher, but this was clearly a time when passions and debates about being belted were running high. If you were lucky enough to escape a belt at school, good on you….. it stung for days.