Those who were of school age beyond 1998 are often surprised to hear tales of ‘the cane’. Corporal punishment was prohibited in all state-supported schools in 1986, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the prohibition was extended to private schools in England and Wales. The ruling freed school children from the looming threat of a rapturous beating, but many still remember receiving the cane as though it was yesterday. In fact, Paul McCartney once recalled a frightening episode in which his Quarrymen bandmate, George Harrison, got on the wrong side of their teacher and suffered the result.
Paul recounted the tale during a TV interview in the 1980s. Answering whether he ever got caned for being “naughty”, the former Beatle said: “I did occasionally, yes, I must admit, your honour – there were a couple of occasions.” But it wasn’t just Paul who felt the hard smack of the cane: “Me mates were caned, yes,” he added. “They used to cane us – six of the best kinda thin. But, erm, I remember this time George got caned, George Harrison, because we were mates at school.”
Paul went on to explain that “although we never really did anything wrong,” their tight trousers and Teddie Boy haircuts were enough to mark them out as possible troublemakers. “So George got done once and the teacher missed him and got him here [pointing to the base of his wrist] and he had a couple of wheels come up here, you know, those rash things,” Paul recalled.
Adding: “And he went home and he was having his tea with his dad, and they’re all talking about how it went at school: his dad said, ‘What’s that?’ – he saw these things that had come up – and George told him, ‘Teacher’. So the next day they were in class and somebody popped their head ’round the door, you know, and said ‘Erm, Mr’ – whoever the teacher was who’d caned George – ‘Can you come out here for a moment please’. And he came out and it was George’s dad there. He said [pointing to his wrist], ‘Did you do that to my son?’ He said ‘Yes I did’, and his dad went [throws a punch] wack! Right there.”
As you can imagine, George’s dad soon became the talk of the school. “He was a hero,” Paul concluded. “He was just the school hero then, George’s dad. That was it, you know?” Frustratingly for Paul, his own father wasn’t so confrontational. “I used to tell my dad that I got caned and he’d say ‘Well you probably did something wrong.” Tough luck, Paul.
See the interview, below,