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Painful piece of local history uncovered

STRIKE: The strap that brought back painful memories STRIKE: The strap that brought back painful memories
By Ciara Quinn

AS the demolition of the former St Thomas’ Secondary School on the Whiterock Road continues an unearthed historical artefact is bringing back some ‘painful’ memories after a teacher’s strap harking back to the dark days of corporal punishment was uncovered.

Contractors McCusker Demolition found the leather strap behind a blackroom in one of the classrooms as they continue their work across the site. The strap has lain there unused since slapping children was outlawed in the north in 1987.

“Father and son Frank and Ciaran McCusker came across the strap on Tuesday morning,” explained local Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr. “St Thomas’s opened in 1957 and closed in 1989 so we think it’s been there ever since. Young Ciaran didn’t even realise what it was but it’s from a time when capital punishment was rife in schools.”

Cllr Corr said many people of a certain age would remember the use of the strap in the their classroom days.

“There is no point beating about the bush or trying to cover it up by saying school days were all brilliant. There were some pupils tramautised and assaulted by some teachers during their time at school. If you ask any child now or tell what happened it seems like something from the last century when really corporal punishment was only abolished in the 1980s.

“Children were slapped between one and six times, slapped on the hands, the legs, it was a real thing. Every parent has a story of their time being smacked by a teacher.”

Cllr Corr continued: “I went to St Gall’s Primary School in Clonard and I can remember a teacher who took great delight in hitting us. When I went to St Mary’s, you had some of the teachers who were the best you could ever come across in your life, they taught you life direction, about your language, about your sport. You had other teachers, Christian Brothers, brought in to do the discipline. One of the teachers infamously had a chalk duster with a piece of string on it and if you were caught napping, sleeping or stepping out of line he threw the duster at you and then wheeled it back in like a fishing rod. There were teachers, Christian Brothers, who were good, and some who were bad, like every aspect of life. Some did go overboard in their use of the strap and this is a fascinating piece of history from this particular site.”

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