True History Of The Lochgelly Tawse
Margaret J Dick (daughter of John J Dick & granddaughter of George
It all started with a saddler called Robert Philp who had a saddlery
/ Iron mongers shop in Main Street, Lochgelly. The first tawse
was made for Robert's son and daughter who had both become teachers.
He supplied them with a belt each and it fitted the bill so well
that other teachers wanted them. Prior to this children were soundly
beaten using anything from a stick, cane, ruler, slipper or makeshift
leather strap often procured from old harness.
Grandfather George Wilson Dick served his apprenticeship with
Robert Philp.This involved 4 years learning to be a Black
Saddler (Harness maker), 3 years learning to be a Brown Saddler
(Saddle and Bridle maker) and a further 3 years as an improver.
In those days you paid for the privilege of being trained
so the first 7 years were unwaged and had to be paid for.
During his 3 years as an improver he received a wage and worked
exclusively for the Master Saddler.
After the 10 years as an apprentice he was free to take his trade
out into the world and after a short stint as a journeyman he
set up his own premises in Lochgelly with his brother Robert Shand
Dick who was a coachbuilder, these premises were on the High Street.
It was known as The Yard and consisted of a saddlers workshop
(still making the Tawse/school belt on request) blacksmiths &
wheelright, coachbuilders and latterly when my Dad's brothers
took over it operated as a working garage and filling station.
meanwhile Robert Philp retired and another earlier apprentice
of his James Heggie bought the business in Main Street, Lochgelly
and continued manufacturing amongst many other things yep! you
guessed The Tawse.
carriage built in the early days
by George and his brother Robert.
Dad, John Johnston Dick went straight from school to The Yard
to be trained as an Apprentice Saddler. There were 2 Time Served
Saddlers and another apprentice in the Saddlers workshop and approximately
30 employees at The Yard in total. You have to appreciate that
the Co-operative in Lochgelly had about 30 working horses at this
time so there was plenty of work for G.W.Dick & sons and James
Heggie even without the Lochgelly Tawse.
built by George and his sons
served a very different apprenticeship from his father. Going
into a family business has it's advantages, not having to pay
for your training and disadvantages, having to fill in where and
when required. In the early 50's things were changing. James Heggie
was retiring /selling up and Motor vehicles were taking over from
the horse and cart. Dad bought the Main Street shop and the yard
changed to a working garage and put in fuel pumps but the story
of the Tawse was far from over.
back to the Tawse, it's hard to stay on the subject because as
you will have gathered by now it might have made Lochgelly & the
Dick name famous around the world but it wasn't the mainstay of
any of these businesses. It was just another wee sideline amongst
many that made up a rich tapestry of working life.
1951 John Johnston Dick married Diana Gunn-Sutherland Fraser for
the next 5 decades they worked hand in glove through many changes
and made a formidable husband & wife team. The Main Street shop
diversified supplying gardening equipment and toys as well as
the Ironmongery and Saddlery and through it all the Tawse in there
thousands winged there way to school teachers all around the world.
My parents never knowingly supplied the 'domestic market'. They
were mild mannered folks who never lifted their hand far less
a belt to their children. They feared that in the home environment,
outwith the controls of school, a parent may go much further than
'6 of the best' on the hand.
the early 70's they bought premises in Cowdenbeath High Street
and diversified again into Fancygoods and Saddlery selling up
the Lochgelly shop about a year later. My brother Malcolm John
Dick joined the business and served his apprenticeship. It became
obvious about this time that there was other interest in the Tawse
from the 'Adult Market'. People realising John & Diana wouldn't
supply for domestic use would pass themselves off as teachers
in order to procure a belt so they tightened things up and only
despatched to school premises or after seeing adequate ID. Manufacture
continued for another decade and then things changed.
law was changed and parental consent was required before a teacher
could strike a child. Obviously not all parents would give consent
so the public school system banned the belt. Some private schools
continued for awhile but opinion had changed and the era of corporal
punishment was dying if not quite dead. But things go on and so
does this business unfortunately my brother has not been able
to continue due to Multiple Sclerosis and the shop in Cowdenbeath
was sold sometime ago but I returned to the fold after 10 years
in Engineering and attempted to absorb as much knowledge as I
could before Dad retired. I now make a good living supplying tourist
goods, workman's gear and yes the odd 'Lochgelly' so long as it's
just for hanging on the wall and not for beating children.
Margaret Janet Dick
can I buy a Lochgelly Tawse?