Splintered and Breaking the Cane

An interesting question. Was it common for a cane to break whilst being used in the punishment and then being quickly replaced? I remember seeing this in old Beano’s where there were ‘broken canes’ piling up! Obviously a little exaggerated. There was a Lord Snooty story that showed this once, for example.

‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ adaptation has a comment I notice where the cane being used has been ‘splintered’ and the punisher wants a replacement only to be told there are none. He needs to obtain more from ‘the Sisters of Mercy’….


Canes are most likely to break if they are bent in a different direction from the natural curve when they grow, often determined by the prevailing winds.  In the best canes, the crook handle is aligned with the natural bend of the rattan.  This also gives the benefit that they land more accurately.  In another thread I have written that I have had canes break when the swing has caused the shaft to bend into an s-shape.

To help avoid breakage, it is not a bad idea to soak the end of a cane in water for 20 minutes just before it is used.  However, if it is soaked for too long, the cane becomes floppy rather than springy and performs less well.

Canes should never be struck against hard surfaces or forcibly bent into a semi-circle.  Swishing them briskly through the air, to cause apprehension before punishment, can also cause more damage than it is worth.


From my own experience I believe it wishful thinking that a school would have a large supply of canes on stand by.
I attended an all boys grammar school in the 50s and early 60s where the cane,by tradition, was in quite regular vigorous use . I have provided details  in previous posts.  In a school of some 350 caneable  bottoms (excluding the sixth form) there was a solitary cane which was kept with the punishment book just inside the secretary’s office which guarded the Headmaster’s inner sanctum.  The headmaster also used that cane. Miscreants had to do the walk of shame to collect it and afterwards return it. I have no doubt that the cane was changed many times during my time at the school but I can distinctly remember 2 occassions when the school was temporarily cane  less. and the slipper had to be  put to good use.
My theory is that the person in charge of The  Department that Supervises the Issue and control of  Canes of Approved and Tested Design and Standard to Educational Establishments at ILLEA was a rigid rule abiding  bureaucrat of the highest order who required a full damage report before the necessry paperwork could be prepared  for submission to the board in order that a replacement could be ordered.

Of course it may have been that a “spare” was permitted by the bureaucracy but it’s slowness of operation only became apparent when the secretary had failed to ensure that this was ordered when the existing  spare was put into use following a breakage ..


When we were young the older kids used to tell us to put a hair on your hand cos it would break the cane and stop it hurting. Plenty said it worked, but not when I saw the cane being used. Must have been unlucky!


Sometimes, at my primary school a feather duster was used as a cane. I’ve spoken about this elsewhere in this forum. Back in the 70s, they were much stronger than they are today. You would be caned on the hands. I remember one teacher had a feather duster that broke as she caned a poor student’s hands.  As there was still one stroke remaining -she went next door and got another from there and used that to deliver the final stroke. The next day, a new one appeared and that one never broke for the remainder of the year.   It got plenty of use too.