School embraced corporal punishment

Classmates'Form 1b, Thames Road Secondary Modern School, South Shore 1960
Classmates'Form 1b, Thames Road Secondary Modern School, South Shore 1960
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WHAT did you do in your lunch break?

Josephine Moss, now Mrs Allan, shares her classroom days from Thames Road Secondary Modern School, South Shore, in 1960.

She says: “Our art mistress was Vicky Burns, more well known today in football circles as Vicky Oyston.”

And Josephine adds: “Unless my memory is playing tricks I remember she married Owen Oyston during the lunchtime break, being Miss Burns in the morning and Mrs Oyston in the afternoon!

“At the time she was teaching she was also a beauty queen and we all thought it very exciting to see Miss Burns in a swimsuit emblazoned across pages of The Gazette.”

But it was not all smiles at that school.

Josephine reveals: “A downside to Thames Road was that they embraced corporal punishment with some relish and caning was regularly metered out as a penalty for wrongdoing as the school saw fit.

“I found one incident in particular so harsh and severe that it is still burned in my memory 50 years later. A teacher had happened across two boys fighting in the street with a group of others watching. He broke the fight up and took all the names of those involved. At the following day’s assembly the headmaster called the boys involved out to the front and they were admonished before the whole school and told they would each be given ‘six of the best’ as punishment.

“This was metered out after we had been dismissed to our classrooms. There were about a dozen boys involved including the two who were fighting. One of the onlookers was a boy from our class. The classrooms were all off a square assembly hall and I vividly remember like it happened yesterday what I thought to be a particularly brutal session.

“I remember going back to our classroom and being able to hear the cane as it swished through the air and the noise as it engaged with the seat of the boys’ trousers.

“It was horrendous and went on for some long time. In the classroom we sat in silence, all heads bowed. The level of violence frightened me. After what seemed like an age had passed the door opened and the boy came in, face full of bravado. He made his way to his seat then we heard him start to sob. Thankfully in a more enlightened time caning was banished from schools but not before time.”

Josephine, also known as Josie, can be contacted by old friends at, on 0794 1608815 or by post to Mrs J Allan, 95 Wellside, Haddington, East Lothian, EH41 4RP.