Anorak News | Cane Not Able

Cane Not Able

by | 20th, July 2005

‘AN era has come to an end with the announcement by Marshall’s Amusements that it is to cease production of the legendary Six o’ The Best caning machine, known to generations of schoolboys as the ‘Tuppenny Sixer’.

The machine was first produced in 1922, and was a prominent feature of every seaside pier in the land. Like most great inventions, it was brilliantly simple.

A mechanical schoolteacher, clad in mortar board and gown, stood brandishing a cane. Behind him, a painted backdrop depicted a typical 1920s classroom. In front of him stood a real school desk.

Customers bent over the desk and inserted coins into a slot on the floor, whereupon the master delivered the advertised ‘six o’ the best’.

The ‘Sixer’ was the brainchild of the company’s founder, Arthur Marshall, who had the idea when he saw a man chastising his young son on the beach at Margate.

‘My heart went out to the poor fellow,’ he recalled later. ‘Here’s this chap who has worked hard all year so he can take his family on a day trip to the seaside, and he has to waste his time punishing his son. I thought to myself, a machine could do that and save him a lot of trouble.’

The Six o’ The Best was an immediate success, but not in the way that Marshall expected. Rather than being used by parents as a simple disciplinary device, it soon became a source of popular entertainment. Punters queued to go on it, and crowds flocked to watch them.

Before long it was a full-blown phenomenon. Competitions were organised to see who could take the most punishment, with prizes and rosettes for the winners. Music hall comedians joked about it, cartoonists lampooned it, and there was even a song – ‘Give Us Another Whack, Jack!’ – penned in its honour.

Within a year of their introduction, the ‘Sixers’ were earning more than £500 a week each, at twopence a time. Even allowing for the cost of replacing broken canes, that meant a very healthy profit.

Marshall’s was generous in its readiness to lend the machines to fetes and charity events, where they raised large sums of money for good causes. During the War, effigies of Hitler were caned in aid of wounded servicemen.

But all good things must come to an end, and the ‘Sixpenny Sixer’ of 1961 cannot match the popularity of its ‘tuppenny’ forbear.

Its retirement comes as no surprise, and it is fitting that the announcement took place at a charity event to celebrate the administering of the 60,000,000th stroke of the famous cane.’

Posted: 20th, July 2005 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink