Horrors of the Tawse


School taws

The Lochgelly Tawse, or school belt

On 17th July 1897, it was reported in local press that Mr William Small is sick and tired of school-children coming to his residence, Olivia Cottage, Blantyre, and exhibiting on their posteriors, evidences and traces of the their strict teacher’s ‘handiwork’.

The report suggested, “Mr Small has elevating ideas and tastes, as witness his “communicals (small flyers or publications)” but his voluminous rhetorical display on the abominable and excessive use of the tawse in Blantyre Schools, did not awaken within the breasts of the members of the Board feelings in indignation, when they recalled the time when they were boys, and when they, too, had to submit to the autocratic discipline of the hoary-headed-savant.

Blantyre’s youth still lives in fear on the tawse, but the “communicals” is threatened with a dissertation on “A Blantyre Atrocity: The Horrors of the Tawse. “

The above article is shared here by Wilma Bolton.

The report shows that there were those in Blantyre even in 1897, who saw the use of tawse (the straps of a small leather whip) on schoolchildren, as barbaric or excessive, and something that belonged in the past. I was surprised to read this report as early as 1897, for those same arguments were still around, even in the 1970’s, relating to belting kids at school. Despite those poor little souls being beaten back then, I couldnt help but smile as I imagined them trailing all the way to William Small’s house to show the marks the teacher had left, in the hope their story would be added to the local newsreports, and to the end of trying to abolish the tawse entirely.

If you were at school before the late 1970’s, did you ever get the strap or belt? I have to admit, despite being fairly well behaved, I still got landed one in 1978 for playing “tig” in the classroom whilst the teacher left for a few moments. Not like me at ALL!

On social media:

Jean Boyd Twice once for having my coat on and the other I was late for the lines outside at lunch time, oh the horror of it, and the temptation to pull your hands away while waiting on the strap to fall but that would have only added to another, just looking at it is scary smile emoticon

The Blantyre Project the thought of that now, hitting a child for stepping out of lines outside. Ouch. Did anybody else suffer leather or birch?

Susan Bernadette McMurray I was so scared from the belt, luckily I escaped it but seen other people getting it in front of the whole class, not good

Debbie Miller Almost daily for talking too much lol … Primary however high school only once or twice a year lol

Jim Cochrane Multiple times at High Blantyre from Mr Crawford and at Blantyre High.wasn,t a big problem better than homework.Even a couple of times from Mr Moncrieff who I really liked.

Elizabeth Weaver It was used daily at Auchinraith Primary in the 50s, for just about everything. The fact that it was used on a daily basis, and often on the same poor weans, proves that it didn’t work. There were children in that school who were poor wee souls – unwashed, underfed and poorly clothed, yet being belted for things like being a few minutes late. They’d probably got themselves out of the house in the morning, without breakfast – as you can tell, I’m still angry at the injustice of it, 60 years on. Whether or not you got the belt yourself, you were still watching other children being beaten day in, day out, by a succession of privileged, crabbit teachers. Grim.

Catherine Davidson 6 of the best. I think the teacher loved the power to terrorise a child.

Jim Docherty Aye at the Livvies aff Mr Davies and at Caulder St tae……..

Sandra Murphy Yes i had to double my hands on top of one and other and mrs mckay gave me six in a row…inside of my right arm up yo my elbow came up in welts….my mother went to see her a blew the shit out of her outside my classroom . BRILLANT she was.

Gord Fotheringham Sandra were you in my class…….cause I remember one girl after me getting the belt right up to the elbow

Angela Harrington I remember a gym teacher at John Ogilvie gave me the belt. I think because it was the second time I forgot my uniform.One hand over the other… I pulled away before she hit me… made her mad and it hurt like hell..

Marianne Stark Aitken Yes Mr McShane at St Joseph’s he caught me writing a note to my pal and again off Mr Gardiner at JOHS, completely barbaric!!!

Ina Cameron Yes I got the belt a couple of times for being late. Rather the belt than lines though and it was over quicker.

William McIntyre St Mary’s Catholic school Lanark..I and others regularly got strapped for the slightest move out of line. Or sometimes just for not doing my basket weaving correctly. Sister Claire was a sadist nun. Pure evil. This was the late 50’s early sixties. She should have been locked up. No doubt there are other adults who suffered the same psychological damage I did.

Mary Marr Remember the belt and getting it for being late and my late sister had just qualified as a teacher when the belt was banned in school

Clive Shotton I sas regularly belted for nothing. Probably only because I was tall. Stopped when my da went to the school and belted the teachers. God bless him. As.he used to say sad b……..
Marion Anderson I remember just the one time,when the whole class got it for being unruly…I also remember Mr Bradford or “wee Brick” at Calder street who kept his strap under and round the neck of his jacket..ah good old days!

Helen Williams I remember Mr Bradford “wee brick”, lining the whole class of 1968 up one morning, each given the belt, then when we settled back down at our desks you could hear a pin drop, then he said April Fool, yes it is the most memorable April Fool prank in my life.

Elaine Hunter That’s some April Fool! 

Mary Marr That is cruel maybe you should try not to be so cocky to the teacher especially if it was Mr Bradford because of you never knew when it would be

Helen Williams Mary Marr I did like him , best teacher, but I’ll always remember that April 1st

Betty McLean Yes wee Nick the school teacher on my first day at Calder St School for turning on the bunsen burner.

Marie Cathcart Yes only a couple of times, it didn’t do me any harm and I certainly respected I also remember I got it because I was carrying on with Anne Cassidy in the class and she refused the belt after I had just got it. Ouch! Thanks for the heads up Anne 

Jean McFadden Had this a few times wasn’t always deserved.

Thomas Barrett I remember big Archie Mckay belting the whole class because one person did wrong.

Orlando Ancilotti When I was in first year at Blantyre High in 1972 (the first year of BHS’s existence) we had a competition to see who got the most in a year. I was way at the bottom with 34, I think the winner had about 247.

Jane Davies Yes I had the belt several times at Auchinraith Primary in the 1940s, just for talking in class. But I remember many of the poor ones at the bottom of the class getting the belt for making mistakes in spelling or any other tests.

Moira MacDougall Jane I got the strap for talking too.


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  1. Remember Mr Bradford well.I got cought smoking in the toilets.he belted me 6 times as it was the last day of school for me end of June 72.he proceeded to wish me luck for the future. Lol. still he was a brilliant teacher.

    1. I got 6 of the best from him as well. It stung but it was ok. graham

      1. the strap on the hands should be brought back. Graham

        1. Fuck you. If you like it then get naked and take it yourself just like a helpless child. But fuck you thinking this does anything but damage. You get off on the fake power or humiliation? You jerk it thinking about giving this?

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