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Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Devil’s Tunes

To mark St Patrick's Day here is an Irish story by Jean-Philippe Aubourg from Janus 153, the first in a series of four.
Siobhan picked nervously at the corner of her missal, only vaguely aware of the deep male voice that boomed through the church. Normally she would have listened attentively to the priest’s every word, but this Sunday she was pre-occupied.
Father Murphy’s sermons seemed to be delivered by the voice of God himself. Authoritative and charismatic, his very tone convinced his congregation of the evils of the world outside, the books, the films and above all, the music of this new ‘free love’ generation, and how vital it was that it was kept out of their little corner of Ireland. It may be 1967 in the rest of the world, but there was no reason for this parish to leave the nineteen-thirties. Most of his elderly congregation nodded in solemn agreement.
Siobhan may not have been listening to his words directly but she was pondering his message. Indeed, she was probably thinking about it more deeply than anyone else that day. To the adults Father Murphy was preaching to the converted. To the young children he was simply a frightening man who shouted at them from somewhere up above. To the handful of teenagers he was a pompous windbag, someone to be tolerated until they could find a job in a larger town or city, maybe Dublin, or even Liverpool or London, when they would be free of his self-righteous lecturing and wagging finger, not just in church, but even when they met in the street.
There were very few people in their twenties or thirties in the congregation, or the village. The need to find work drove most out, escaping Father Murphy a side benefit.
Nineteen-year-old Siobhan was at the age when her parents would feel safe letting their only child leave. She had already started looking for a job in a neighbouring town, thirty miles away. That was why she had gone there last Thursday, and indeed she had made many enquiries, but the lure of the record shop had been too much. Siobhan did not own a record player — she would buy one as soon as she had moved away and saved enough money, of course — but one of the other girls in the village did, her father owning the largest farm in the area. Siobhan had spent many happy hours at that farmhouse, listening to the popular ballads their parents approved of, and when the coast was clear, pulling the handful of forbidden ‘rock and roll’ singles out of their hiding place and dancing wildly, albeit briefly, to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
As she walked down the high street that Thursday afternoon Siobhan checked her watch. She had half an hour before she needed to catch her bus, and catch it she must, as there would not be another before tomorrow. But still, there was time. She stopped outside the record shop and peered through the windows at the forbidden fruit.
It took a good five minutes and three more passes before she was able to pluck up the courage to go in. She found herself surrounded by treasures beyond her wildest dreams. Row upon row of records, not just singles, but long players too, all neatly stacked in slanting wooden shelves. Siobhan stared at them for a good minute, so much so that the middle-aged man behind the counter began to study her, probably wondering what sort of idiot girl had wandered in off the streets. She pulled herself together and told herself she had every right to be here. She had come to look at records, and that was what she was going to do.
Taking a deep breath, she started flicking through the first row, the ‘A’ section, pretending that she did this every day of the week. She looked through the selection but recognized none of the names. The Animals — who on earth were they? She did not much care for the name, even if the long-haired young men pictured on the sleeve did bear more than a passing resemblance to her beloved Mick, Keith and Brian. She shifted to ‘R’ and soon found what she was looking for — the Rolling Stones.
She had no idea they had made so many records! She was in heaven as she flicked through long players in their shiny covers. She turned each one over and examined the track listings. Most were just words to her, the titles of songs she had never heard, but one stood out. She knew almost all the titles, as the A or B-sides of singles. She turned the record over and examined the price on the front. Her breath caught in her throat as she realized that was less than she had in her purse. Between the small amount of pocket money her parents gave her every week, and the modest income from her Saturday job at the dairy, she had saved up quite a bit, and there was little or nothing for her to spend it on in the village.
Did she dare? She would have to smuggle it into her parents’ farmhouse, and find somewhere secure to hide it. And when she finally left home she would have to smuggle it out again, but it would be worth it. She would treasure it forever.
Fumbling in her purse, she found the right amount in coins. Carrying the record with due reverence, she took it to the man behind the cash desk and paid for it. The shopkeeper wrapped it in brown paper and handed it to her, and one very happy girl left the shop.
She checked her watch again and saw she only had a few minutes to reach the bus stop at the other end of the high street. Running as fast as she could without risking her precious cargo, she arrived just in time to see the bus disappearing. This was a disaster! What would she do? Maybe she could use the telephone box to call the village post office, and someone could tell her parents? Her father would not be happy about fetching her, but if only he would agree to have ‘one of those infernal machines’, as he called telephones, installed at the farmhouse, it would make life so much easier! She was rummaging in her purse for the right coin for the phone box, when a familiar voice caused her to spin around.
‘Siobhan!’ She found herself looking into the face of her parish priest. ‘Are you alright there, Siobhan?’
‘Father! I never expected to see you here! Well, no, not really, I’ve just missed my bus!’
‘Oh dear! But don’t worry, it’s your lucky day. I can offer you a lift home in my car. I was about to leave anyway.’
‘Oh Father, that would be wonderful! Thank you so much!’ Counting her blessings, Siobhan followed the priest to a road just off the town’s market square, where his Ford Consul was parked. She always admired it when she saw it parked outside the presbytery. Very few people had cars in their village, and her father had only just been able to afford a third-hand Land Rover to use on the farm, after years of hard work and saving. She climbed into the comfortable seat and clutched her record close as Father Murphy got in and started the engine.
They talked as they drove across the countryside. ‘Ah yes, ‘twas a real boon when the Bishop agreed to me having a car. It means I can do so much more work in the parish, far more than when I had just the bicycle.’
‘Have many other priests got cars Father?’
‘Not many, in fact none that I know of in the Diocese. But Bishop Franks and I go back a long way, and we have what you might call a special understanding, if you know what I mean.’ Siobhan did not, but said nothing, not wishing to appear impertinent. ‘So how did you come to miss the bus, young lady?’ he went on.
‘Oh, it was my fault’ she stumbled, considering for a moment making up some story to cover her dalliance at the record shop, but suddenly remembering what it would mean lying to a priest. ‘I was in the record shop, and I lost track of time.’
‘Ah, there’s a lesson there child!’ Father Murphy chuckled, ‘and I’m sure you’ll learn it for next time. And I see you bought a record as well, an LP no less. What did you buy there?’
Siobhan gulped. She could hardly deny she had bought the record, sitting as it was on her lap. She could refuse to tell Father Murphy, but that would just make him more curious. Strictly speaking of course, it was none of his business, lift home or not, but this well brought up teenage girl had no notion of speaking like that to a priest. Instead she just had to hope he would not disapprove.
She was wrong, predictably so. ‘It’s… it’s by the Rolling Stones, Father’ she whispered, peeling back a flap of brown paper to reveal the top half of the sleeve, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards peering out, as if in open defiance of the clergyman in whose car they were being driven.
‘What!’ The car jammed to a sudden halt on the deserted road. Father Murphy turned to look at the record and then at the frightened Siobhan. ‘You bought a record by those disgraceful young men!’
‘Well, yes Father, I did!’ she stuttered.
‘Child, have you not been listening to me each week? Do you not know that music is the work of the devil? Immorality! Selfishness! Impurity, even self-abuse! You name it, they’re guilty of it! And you, sweet innocent child that you are, could be the next victim of their satanic lusts! It’s fortunate I’ve found out in time to save you.’
‘But Father!’ she protested. It was useless.
‘And what of your parents?’ Father Murphy continued, ignoring her completely. ‘Do they know you’ve been out buying such filthy recordings?’ Siobhan shook her head, tears now in her eyes. ‘As I thought! Well, there’s only one course of action.’
‘Confession, Father?’ she croaked.
‘Would you have come to me and confessed to buying that… that thing? No, I don’t think you would have. Stronger measures are needed to keep you on the straight and narrow. You must come and see me after church on Sunday. I shall preach a sermon especially for you, and then we’ll see what form your penance should take. And of course, I shall have to confiscate the record.’
‘But Father!’
‘I’m sure if I don’t, your parents will, when I do my duty as their parish priest and inform them of their daughter’s immorality, don’t you? And I’m sure your father has his own way of dealing with bad behaviour.’ Siobhan was shocked into silence. The thought of her father’s thick leather belt cracking across the seat of her nightdress before she was sent to bed without any tea, was still fresh in her memory from the last time she was judged to have badly misbehaved last year.
‘Yes, Father,’ she sniffed, sullenly handing him her beloved record. Father Murphy tossed it to the back seat, with the words ‘filthy thing!’, before engaging the car’s gears again and setting off. The rest of the journey passed in silence, Siobhan occasionally dabbing tears from her eyes, until they reached the gate of her farmhouse and she climbed out, with one last sorrowful look at her record lying on the back seat.
‘And don’t forget, in the presbytery after church on Sunday,’ Father Murphy reminded her before she closed the door and he drove on towards the village.
So here she was, awaiting her fate, while Father Murphy laid down the law for her benefit and everyone else’s. He drove his last point home with a final thump of his fist on his lectern, emphasizing the final word — ‘impurity!’ — with obvious relish. Announcing the next hymn, he left the pulpit and continued with the Mass.
Forty-five minutes later Siobhan knocked on the door of the large house next to the church. She had told her parents she wanted to ask Father Murphy a few questions about a particular bible passage. Naturally they were more than happy to let her go, and told her they would hold lunch for an hour, especially for her. As she knocked she noticed the priest’s Ford Consul, and a larger and unfamiliar car parked beside it.
She heard heavy steps from inside the house, and was surprised when Father Murphy himself opened the door. ‘Siobhan, come in,’ he said, standing aside and letting her into the hall. ‘I’ve given my housekeeper the rest of the week off — she wanted to visit her sister in Kerry.’
‘So we’re alone?’ Siobhan asked, feeling a little more frightened.
‘Not quite child’ Father Murphy answered, leading her into the living room. ‘You remember Bishop Franks, don’t you? He confirmed you last year.’
Siobhan was shocked to see the black-suited man in his late fifties, who sat in an armchair sipping tea. ‘Hello there Siobhan,’ he said, ‘so good to see you again, although I must say I’m not happy to hear about your behaviour this week.’ She blushed to the roots of her jet-black hair, as he went on. ‘Father Murphy has told me all about your little dalliance with the Devil’s tunes, and how he caught you in the nick of time. I take such matters very seriously, and that’s why I’ve come here today. To make sure everything is dealt with in a proper and effective manner. I regret that I didn’t arrive in time to join you for Mass, but it is a long way across country roads to get here.’
‘So long as you’re here to witness, and participate in, Siobhan’s penance, Bishop, that’s the most important thing. And may I say what a pleasure it will be to have your assistance. Now, my dear,’ said Father Murphy, taking her coat from her shoulders and pulling it down her arms, ‘Bishop Franks and I have discussed your sins, and the appropriate punishment it requires, and I’m sorry to say we’ve decided it must be quite harsh, to make sure it never happens again, and that you’re truly sorry for your deceit and your immorality.’
‘Yes Father,’ she whispered, expecting to be told she would be saying rosaries every evening for the next month. She did not expect what the priest announced next.
‘Corporal punishment,’ he intoned, ‘is, in our view, the only suitable way to purify a soul so far progressed down the path of sin.’
‘Father! No! You can’t mean…?’
‘I’m afraid so, Siobhan,’ the bishop told her, steepling his fingers as he spoke. ‘Yours is a grave crime, lying to your parents, a lie you were presumably planning to continue indefinitely by keeping that foul record hidden from them, knowing they would not allow such a disgusting thing under their roof. No, I’m afraid your punishment must be physical in its nature, and severe in its limits.’
Father Murphy pulled a dining chair into the middle of the room and sat down, smoothing his cassock as he did so. ‘You’ll come over my lap please, Siobhan,’ he said, matter-of-factly. She simply looked at the stretch of black material in total shock. Surely he could not really mean to do this? She had never heard of any other young people in the parish who had been dealt with in this way, even those she knew had plenty to confess every Saturday afternoon. Of course, the nuns had spanked her at school, but that was when she was a child, and now she was a woman. Finally though, it was the years of conditioning imposed by those nuns that forced her to obey. He was her priest and if he said this was what had to be done to save her soul, then she could not argue with him.
She stretched her slim frame over his lap, feeling the blood rushing to her head as she tipped her upper body forward, taking her weight on her palms, spread on the carpet, and also on her slender arms. Father Murphy waited until she had settled into place, and then she felt his hands on the hem of her knee-length skirt. It was being pulled up before she realized and protested.
‘No, Father! No, you can’t be pulling my skirt up and showing off my underwear! You can’t!’ She twisted and turned, but his left hand was in the small of her back holding her tight, her skirt completely clear of her white knickers by now.
‘Don’t make so much fuss, Siobhan, you can’t expect me to spank you properly through that thick woollen skirt. And are you suggesting that the sight of your flesh might tempt me? I would remind you that I am a man of God, and have made my vows accordingly!’
From her uncomfortable position she heard the bishop tutting, and felt she had gone too far. She simply lay limp over Father Murphy’s legs and whispered a dejected ‘No Father, sorry Father,’ as she waited for the inevitable.
She felt the priest’s hand smooth over the material of her underwear, pulling it tight around her skinny little bottom. She closed her eyes and a few seconds later the first slap cracked across her cheeks.
She yelped at how hard it was, by no means as hard as her father’s belt of course, but very painful nonetheless. She did not have long to wait for the next, which landed a little below the first, stinging extra hard in the area where they overlapped. Father Murphy built up speed as he got into his stride, and soon his hand was bouncing off Siobhan’s bottom every three seconds. Her cries became more distressed, all merging into one long howl as the pain from individual spanks melded together. But just as suddenly the punishment stopped.
She lay exhausted across his lap, slowly becoming calm as the agony subsided into soreness. She felt the heat glowing underneath the cotton of her pants. She assumed that was it, but not for the first or last time today, she was wrong.
‘I think, Bishop, now is the time to remove the young lady’s last protection. She’ll be suitably warmed up for us to proceed.’
‘I agree Father. Down with her knickers!’ Siobhan detected a note of unnecessary enthusiasm in the bishop’s voice but did not have time to protest before her undergarment was pulled down to her knees, baring her bottom.
She shrieked her protests, not able to use words anymore, and kicking her legs, all of which were ignored. She lifted her right arm to protect her bottom but found her wrist grabbed by Father Murphy’s left hand, big enough to encircle it completely and hold it in an irresistible grip. He twisted her arm up her back and pushed it down, pinning her to his lap, unable to struggle any more. A spanking on her naked bottom was inevitable.
It began soon enough. Father Murphy may not have been a farm worker or blacksmith, but his palms seemed as calloused and leathery as either of theirs might be. They were also wide, wide enough to cover almost her whole behind with each spank, driving the pain into the centre of her very being. She howled and whined and tried to twist off his lap, but all to no avail.
With her left hand now taking her weight, Siobhan could see the hands on her watch right before her eyes. That added to the torture, counting the minutes as she was spanked hard, in the most humiliating manner possible for a modest young woman. It lasted ten minutes, and every second was scorching agony for her.
When he finally let up Father Murphy did at least rub her bottom for her, an action she would normally have found intrusive and repellent. Now the brisk motion of his hand on her tortured flesh brought a little relief.
After a couple of minutes, during which her sobs subsided and her breathing returned to normal, she found herself being pushed back onto her feet. The room swayed as her head rushed, and she caught sight of the bishop, smiling benevolently, as if he had just said grace at a family meal, rather than witnessed the forced stripping and beating of a nineteen-year-old girl. As she regained her balance, she reached down to cover her sex with one hand, and to pull her knickers back up and make herself decent again as quickly as possible with the other. But the men had other ideas, and she felt the priest’s hands pulling the garment back down.
‘Surely you don’t think you’ll be getting off that lightly,’ said Father Murphy.
‘L-lightly!’ sobbed Siobhan, ‘Father, I don’t think I’ve got off lightly at all!’
‘See how the modern world has changed our youth beyond all recognition!’ Father Murphy said to Bishop Franks. ‘Now they think a hand spanking is sufficient punishment for trying to sell their souls to the devil!’
‘Twenty years ago that would have meant a thrashing at the altar rail, before the whole Sunday congregation,’ the Bishop agreed. Siobhan’s blood chilled at the thought, and she imagined the shame her parents would have felt at the spectacle of such a humiliating public punishment. Suddenly she was very grateful for the Presbytery’s four walls.
‘No, my girl, there is one last thing for you to do, before you can be reconciled with God. Do you have your rosary with you?’
‘Y-yes Father. It’s in my coat pocket.’ Her heart skipped a beat. So she was to be told to say her prayers!
‘I shall fetch it for you,’ he said, ‘while you remove your skirt and knickers completely.’ She was too stunned to respond, or even move, but just watched as he retrieved the beads. He returned to find her with the clothes still dishevelled, but around her body. ‘What are you waiting for?’ he asked, a tone of annoyance creeping into his voice, ‘you have your instructions.’
‘B… but Father! I’ll be naked down there!’
‘And what of it child? What possible harm could you come to, even in such a state, when you’re with your priest and your bishop? Do you think our vows of chastity mean nothing to us?’
She cast a look at the bishop, to find him staring at her with a countenance that brooked no argument. Struggling to keep her right palm over her most private place, she pushed her knickers down to her ankles and stepped out of them, and plucked at the buttons of her skirt, opening enough to allow it to fall to the carpet, where she stepped out of it. Now wearing just her crisp blue blouse, white knee socks and best black shoes, she placed both hands across her pubic region, only too aware of the glow coming from her red bottom behind her. She stared at the floor, not knowing where else to look, and felt a tear running down her nose, then saw it drop to the floor to land amid her cast-off clothes.
Father Murphy and Bishop Franks eyed her with evident satisfaction. The parish priest went to a writing cabinet in the corner of the room, taking a key from a shelf above. He opened the front and pulled out a long thin length of wood, which he showed to the bishop. Siobhan also saw it, and could not believe it. It was a cane, the type the nun’s used for serious offences when she was at school.
Father Murphy walked back to the frightened, speechless girl, who had gone white. He handed her the rosary, which she took without a word, then he flexed the cane. More tears ran down her cheeks. ‘How many beads in each part of the rosary Siobhan?’ he asked.
‘Five, Father’ she answered.
‘A nice round number’ he said. ‘Bishop Franks and I have decided the rosary is the perfect way to teach you the lesson you need. I will give you five strokes of the cane, then the Bishop will give you five strokes — no, don’t interrupt — and you’ll count off each one using the blessed rosary. And be grateful that we’re not making you work around a whole devotion. We surely will if you ever do anything like this again. Now bend over the back of the chair, hands on the seat.’
Siobhan was overwhelmed by Father Murphy’s force of personality. Whatever fight she may have had was gone. Shielding her genitals with her left hand until the last possible moment she walked to the chair and stretched her arms over the back of the seat. She rested her tummy on the top of the backrest, placing the sides of her hands on the hard wood of the seat, the rosary clutched in her fingers. She glanced through the bars and saw her labia, covered with its thick bush of black pubic hair. She seldom looked at it closely, even in the privacy of the bathroom, having been told enough times that it was sinful to do so.
Father Murphy stood to her left, and she trembled as she felt him run the cane over the slight curve of her bottom, tickling the sore flesh. She knew that in a few moments it would do more than tickle.
He raised the cane. She felt for the first bead in a group of five. There was a whistle and a crack and her bottom caught fire, a single line of intense pain across the centre of her cheeks. The spanking had been a dull ache that built up. This was so concentrated she felt as if her skin must be cut open. She screamed and counted off the first bead through her tears. ‘Oh! One, Father!’
The priest waited thirty seconds before raising the cane again. The second stroke landed just below the first, no less painful. ‘Aaah! Oh, two Father!’ Siobhan counted the second bead.
Number three slashed home just above the first, and she reluctantly pulled another bead through her fingers. Father Murphy was landing the cane with remarkable accuracy, as numbers four and five proved. Four cut across diagonally, from top to bottom, creating agony where it crossed the three lines she had already received. Five did the same, but travelling from bottom to top, turning Siobhan’s little bottom-cheeks into a mess of pain. Nevertheless she faithfully counted each stroke, reaching a larger bead, which told her Father Murphy’s allotted strokes had been given. Now came Bishop Franks.
She shifted her weight from one leg to another, anything to take her mind off the searing pain, as the two men changed places, the priest handing the cane to the bishop. ‘Very precise Father!’ the senior man congratulated his colleague, ‘especially with such a small target. My, but she’s a skinny girl — do her parents not feed her properly?’
Siobhan sobbed. They were discussing her as if she were not even there. At that precise moment she could not have felt any more humiliated, no matter what they did to her. What they were going to do was give her five more strokes of the cane, and hard ones for sure.
As with the priest before him, the bishop tapped her bottom with the end of the cane to get his aim, and then raised it. Siobhan closed her eyes and clutched the rosary beads tight. The cane slashed across her bottom from some height, producing the same awful burning and a cry of anguish from the tortured girl. ‘Oh! Aaaaahhh! Oh, one Bishop!’ she eventually found the courage to whimper.
The bishop was as accurate as the priest had been, but chose to lay on all five straight, one above the other. On top of the spanking and the previous five strokes, she was not sure she could take it, but she did, finally calling ‘five, Bishop!’ with a note of relief as well as pain in her voice. Bishop Franks stood back and admired what he had done to Siobhan’s poor bottom, before handing the cane back to Father Murphy. He locked it back in the cabinet.
‘You may stand up Siobhan,’ he told her. She did so, rubbing her bottom furiously, no longer feeling the urgent need for modesty. The fire in her nether regions, and the need to do whatever she could to quell it, overcame all. ‘Are you sorry for what you did, and what you tried to do?’ he asked.
‘Yes Father, yes I truly am.’
‘Good. I think you’ve been suitably punished this time. Let it be a lesson to you. Now take your clothes to the bathroom and make yourself presentable. Wash your face — get rid of those tears.’
Gathering up her discarded lower clothing, Siobhan hobbled out of the room and up the stairs. As she left, she heard the two clerics discussing how successful their day’s soul saving had been.
She returned to the living room twenty minutes later, still rubbing her bottom, the cotton of her knickers chaffing on the dreadful soreness she knew she would feel for days. She would sleep on her belly for at least a week, she imagined. ‘I’ll be off now Father,’ she said. ‘Goodbye Bishop Franks.’ She wanted to be out of the presbytery as fast as possible, to be alone with her thoughts and her pain.
‘Wait Siobhan,’ said the bishop, ‘I’ll give you a lift. I must be going anyway.’ She smiled and accepted his offer, but groaned inwardly, remembering what had happened the last time she had accepted a lift from a priest. She also knew the seat of his car would be incredibly uncomfortable on her freshly caned bottom. ‘Besides,’ he went on, ‘I want to have a talk with your parents.’
‘Bishop?’ she said, startled. Was he going to tell them about the record after all?
‘Don’t worry Siobhan’ he reassured her, ‘Father Murphy tells me you’re looking for a job, and I may be able to help. My house-keeper’s getting on these days, and needs help. I was going to offer the position to you, once I’ve squared it with your Mum and Dad. Of course,’ he added, ‘working for a bishop would mean you’d have to accept a certain level of discipline.’
He smiled enigmatically and another tear trickled down Siobhan’s cheek.


  1. Excellent heart-cheering story, with a very pleasing denouement. The old ways with girls were certainly the best.

  2. Nice artwork too.

  3. This story has also put me in mind of something else. 'Charlie Is My Darling' is a film of The Rolling Stones' 1965 tour of Ireland (well, I think they only played Belfast and Dublin). For my money, it's one of the finest rock 'n' roll movies ever, great songs, storming performances and an absolutely electric atmosphere, an amazing time capsule of a film. The kids in the Dublin audience go wild and one can only think of what Ireland was like at the time and what something like The Stones would have represented in the midst such a sexually repressive society. And the funny thing is that there in the middle of it all is a rather bewildered looking priest, and it's as if he's just gone along there to keep an eye on things but becomes rather overwhelmed by the pandemonium all around him (the kids eventually invade the stage). Yes, at a time when things like the Magdalene laundries were running at full pelt, I bet there were rural clerics like those described in this story and something like The Rolling Stones and rock music generally would have been regarded as the devil's work indeed, or perhaps more cynically, a very real threat to everything these people held dear, their controlling power most particularly.