Rice Reid

cane1Robert MacFarlane (10), residing with his parents at 8 Hunthill Road, High Blantyre was misbehaving in February 1928.

I uncovered this little story where he was ordered at Hamilton Sheriff Court to receive four hard strokes with the birch-rod as punishment.

This was his punishment for an amazing series of thefts, eight in all, where he had calculated a way to make money. His plan had been to take money from younger children who had been sent errands by their mothers. His method was to offer to go for the messages for the naiive children and then decamp with the money, with which he then bought pocket flash lamps and went to Blantyre picture houses.

It was said the boy was known locally as “Rice Reid,” and gave the police a great deal of trouble. When sentencing the boy to be birched, Interim Sheriff Berry ensured his parents would be involved in making sure it didn’t happen again by also fining his father £2. (about £115 in todays money)

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016

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 and close to it being abolished. If you were lucky enough to escape a belt at school, good on you….. it stung for days.

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