Mr. Traylen was one of those black and white headmasters. There was praise or the cane and nothing in between. He saw it as his duty, to paraphrase Bentham, “to cane rogues honest”. In Mr Traylen’s eyes the Irish were rogues by definition. I was a rogue, along with my brothers, because my dad was a rogue.
Every morning the variety of rogues were lined up outside Mr. Traylen’s office and given one stroke of the cane, not because we had done anything wrong, “but to remind you what will happen if you do.” It seemed to make sense at the time.
It was Thursday 17th March 19xx. We were lined up for our reminders as usual. “It’s your special day,” Mr. Traylen told the Irish contingent and gave them two strokes as a treat. Everyone else had one stroke except me. I was taken by one ear and dragged under protest to the hall where the rest of the school was waiting. I was the first order of business.
“This child has destroyed a ladder,” declared Mr. Traylen, pointing at me.
“No I didn’t,” I protested in an ineffective eight year old voice.
“Don’t lie boy,” boomed Mr. Traylen, “you were seen.”
It’s still true today that answering a headteacher back makes them even madder. “You’ll get an extra stroke for lying,” he promised.
I was bent over a chair and given four strokes of the cane on my backside for the destruction of a ladder and, “this is for lying,” stormed Mr. Traylen, delivering a fifth, much harder stroke.
There were single strokes of the cane delivered in public from time to time but my flogging was the only one I remember or recorded of that severity.
I was sent in tears to my place and ordered to sob in silence. We sang All Things Bright and Beautiful, and were then told about the importance of telling the truth with several reference being made to me.
The only things about this story that I lack are the facts about the ladder. I did not know then and never discovered what ladder was destroyed, when and how. It would appear that I had been identified as the miscreant, although it is equally likely that I was picked out as a likely suspect.
In those days if a crime was committed, someone had to pay and it was less important that justice was done than that something resembling justice was seen to be done.