History Of The Tawse – John Johnstone Dick

My Dad, John Johnston Dick (born 1927 died 2005) went straight from school to the yard, he’d already spent a great deal of time in the saddlers workshop, as a child he’d suffered from polio and kidney problems and the best place to leave ‘The Bairn’ when off school poorly was the saddlers workshop which always had a pot bellied stove going and was nice and warm, inevitably he was given wee jobs to do and another generation of saddlers was begun.

By the time he started his apprenticeship around 1941 there were 2 master saddlers, one other apprentice and approximately 30 employees at the yard in total. The Co-operative in Lochgelly alone had about 30 working horses so there was plenty work for James Heggie trading as R Philp & Son and G.W. Dick & Sons even without the infamous Lochgelly Tawse.

Dad served a very different apprenticeship from his father going into a family business has it’s advantages, not having to pay for your training for one and disadvantages, having to fill in where and when required in the other departments but growing up in a family business is a bit like that anyway, with many hands (small and large) to the breach when required. Over all I think Dad enjoyed growing up at the yard it certainly left him with expertise in all the associated trades even taking over shoeing my pony when our farrier died suddenly, no doubt he spent time watching and probably helping the renowned blacksmith John Simpson back in the day.

By 1950 my grandfather George Dick was in poor health so Dad raised the money even selling his beloved MG sports car to buy out granddad’s share of the Main street shop, his brothers Alexander Dick (born1915, died1975), George Dick (born1916 died1966) and Robert Shand Dick (born1922, died2001) weren’t long in modernising the yard turning it into a popular working garage with fuel pumps. The manufacture of The Lochgelly Tawse continued with a new stamp:

Everyone at the yard fuel pumps
Two Tail Lochgelly Tawse Light Brown
2 tail tawse with the John J Dick Stamp, in tan leather, used between 1958-73
Two Tail Lochgelly Tawse Dark Brown
2 tail tawse with John J Dick Stamp, in darker leather, used between 1958-73
John Dick Lochgelly Stamp
A close up of the John J Dick Stamp, used between 1958 to 1973

In 1951 John Johnstone Dick married Diana Gun-Sutherland Fraser (born1931) from Edinburgh for the next 5 decades they worked hand in glove through many changes and made a formidable husband and wife team each bringing their own strengths and talents to the business.

The Main Street shop diversified supplying garden equipment and toys as well as the Ironmongery and Saddlery. Dad made some changes to the belt too by 1958 it came in two lengths 21 and 24 inch, 2 and 3 tail and 4 weights Light (L), Medium (M), Heavy (H) and Extra Heavy (XH)

Two Tail and Three Tail Lochgelly Tawse
Two Tail Tail Tawse – Three Tail Tawse – Weight Stamps

The belt was used by some parents to punish their children at home but my parents never knowingly supplied the ‘domestic market’ mild mannered folk who never lifted their hand far less a belt to their children they feared that in the home environment out with the controls of school a parent may go much further than ‘six of the best’ on the hand.

Around this time Dad started producing a miniature tawse it was approximately half the size and weight of a regular belt and started out as a wee joke present for a regular customer who was buying a play school desk and chair set as a present for her child but it was added to the price list and sold in small quantities to primary school teachers.

How to care for your tawse

The Tawse are hard wearing and durable, but by following proper procedure you can make sure they look the best for as long as possible.

Caring For your tawse