Thursday 21 January
What a topsy-turrvy day It started in the worst possible fashion when I slipped on the ice in the school drive, fell and sprained my wrist. Matron gave me a pain-killing injection, but as it was my caning arm, I could tell I would be badly handicapped if I had to administer corporal punishment. The same thought must have struck Bracken, who was sent to me mid-morning for cheeking the geography master, Mr Contour. I could see him simpering as he stared at my caning arm, which was bandaged and in a sling. What to do? Though I say it myself, I came up with an absolute brainwave, asking my wayward secretary Celia if she would do the honours. From the vigour with which she laid on the stripes – six absolute screamers – she is obviously a natural. I must use her again next time my arm is sore.
‘This, sadly, was the last of Miss Blackstock’s diary entries. I don’t know why she suddenly stopped keeping a record of her days as headmistress — or even whether she remained as headmistress. My theory, after exhaustive research, is that she may have married and moved south of the river. Records at the Marylebone Record Office for that year indicate that a Miss Blackstock got married to a Mr Rodwell from East Dulwich in the spring of that year. That of course would have made Miss Blackstock Mrs Rodwell, as it was virtually unknown for married women to use their maiden names professionally. What did Mr Rodwell do? Did they have children? Were they very much in love? One can only guess. But I do find it significant that, by 1957, there was apparently a Mrs E Rodwell SCO on the staff of the Penge Penal Institute, only a short bus journey from East Dulwich. SCO stood for Senior Correction Officer, so it looks as if the headmistress who had wielded the cane and strap with such vigour on errant schoolboys may have found a new outlet for her skills. Corporal punishment was still used in some boroughs of South London in the 1950s: not just in schools, but in other, quasi-judicial contexts. I am doing my best to unearth documents relating to the Penge Penal Institute and, if I am lucky enough to find some, shedding light on Mrs Rodwell’s role there, I will post them on this site in due course.’