It consists of a thick, relatively hard piece of leather, often made by a saddler, rather like a prison strap, that splits into two, three or sometimes more parallel tails.
It was used instead of the English cane (which, like the riding crop, was however used in privately run 'public schools', usually on bare buttocks or on the hands). Confusingly it was frequently called the belt, which is normally a term for an unforked implement, as worn in trousers (see Belting). The products of the best-known producer John J Dickwere made in a village called Lochgelly, which became a household name, feared by punishees.
It was long quite common, also in public schools, to chastise Scottish pupils on bottoms and legs. It was not unusual for recipients to attempt relieving the burning sensation by pressing their posterior against a cooling stane (large piece of natural stone) where nearby- in fact such 'disrespectful' use of tombstones nearby schools could, if found out, say by the dominie of the kirk (Scottish church), be punished with another spanking. For serious offenses headmasters often gave a terrifying tawsing in school assembly, preferably on the bare buttocks. The 1968 teacher's code banned its use for spanking, but for common offenses it was still applied on the hands in class, and apparently far more frequently than in English schools: even in the 20th century most Scottish pupils felt it and many even more than once a month.
Since the ban on all corporal punishment in the UK, it survives mainly in BDSM and corporal punishment scenes, mainly in the UK (especially in Scotland where there exist several 'nostalgic' private clubs where the tawse is used in corporal punishment play).
Original Lochgelly tawses are prized by collectors and aficionados of the Corporal punishment scene and can fetch a great deal of money. The grand-daughter of George Wilson Dick sells original Lochgelly tawses on the Lochgelly website and there is a ready market in Lochgelly replicas.
- WorldCorporalPunishmentResearch (CorPun)- here The Cane and the Tawse in Scottish Schools; find more references by its Search
- Scottish-made replicas of the Lochgelly Tawse
- Scottish corporal punishment private club specialising in the tawse