Motion to Abolish Corporal Punishment

Most of the readership of this page will remember Corporal Punishment at Schools as a child but did you know the Blantyre School Board had the power to abolish it, but chose not to. Blantyre man, Mr Andra McAnulty proved himself as a forwardly thinking individual more than 110 years ago by suggesting such violent punishment should not be taking place. And he tried to stop it.

In the monthly meeting of Blantyre School Board on Tuesday 11th January 1910, the Parish Council building occupants fell quiet as they listened to Andra McAnulty. Dr Grant, chairman, presided and heard the motion raised by Andra as follows, “That the Board eliminate all forms of corporal punishment from the schools in the Parish”— and that in dealing with such a subject he felt that he was treading on sacred ground.

His feelings, however, on the matter were that not only was corporal punishment in their schools unnecessary, but it was harmful. It crested a reign of terror amongst nervous children which was detrimental to their educational progress. It was his feeling—and it was not a sentimental one, that the children should be trained rather by kindness than the methods of punishment ‘presently’ in vogue.

He was aware that amongst the Blantyre School teachers, particularly the female teachers, a state of hysteria frequently prevailed when the strap was kept going in a brutal way long after a child’s tears had arrived or skin reddened. His could quote instances where teachers had even used their feet in dishing out such punishment, but he thought it was not desirable that he should bring these occasions or names before the Board at the present time.

He thought the Board should follow the lines adopted on the Continent. and should rule more by kindness and example, and he accordingly moved that the whole question of corporal punishment be eliminated from their Blantyre schools.

However, this was not much support and indeed opposition. Mr Lamont said that while he had considerable sympathy with the motion, he did not think Scottish Education had yet arrived at that stage when they abolish punishment entirely. If Mr McAnulty would confine the administration of punishment on the hand only to the headmasters or second masters or infant mistresses he would be pleased to second it.

Mr Neil Douglas said that it would be decidedly harmful to their schools if some kind of punishment were not permitted. Mr James Kelly remarked that he thought Mr McAnulty should be giving examples of the kind of punishment in their schools.

The Chairman said that in his opinion Mr M’Anulty was already withholding those cases, had exercised a great deal of discretion. He was aware of some of them himself.

Mr Miller said he was prepared to second the motion if Mr McAnulty would permit punishing of boys for impertinence or offences of that kind. He was in perfect sympathy with the remarks made on the subject. The other members expressed themselves similarly.

Eventually seeing defeat, Mr McAnulty said that seeing none of the other members seemed to follow him entirely in the matter he was prepared to delay further discussion of the subject in the hope that they might yet come round to his way of looking at the matter. Eventually.

Chairman, Mr Grant concluded “lt might be well to let the matter stand further over for a time. I used to stand firm for corporal punishment, but the older I become the more do I see the need there is for our present system being modified.”

It would take almost another 7 decades for corporal punishment in Blantyre Schools to be abolished.

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  1. How well I remember, starting school as a four and a half year old, proudly being walked down the street by my Mum in my school clothes, only for my mother to be called in to see the teacher and asked if I had “St Vitus Dance!”…. every day for a month I was strapped, a four and a half year old child, by Miss Nielsen, strapped within an inch of my life, or so I thought, I couldn’t understand what I was doing to invite such punishment except that one wee girl would start the day off greetin’ and every day I went to put my arm around her to try and comfort her, this was my crime, I left my seat. It took me a whole month to work that out, and by that time the wee girl had stopped greetin as well, feart she was gonna get it as well.
    Today, I realise that this is one of the reasons it took me so long to find my voice, to offer opinions, to just be myself. If only eh, that Andra McAnulty had had his way…thanks for sharing Paul

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