St Joseph’s and the Knights of St Columba

I’ve written about the Knights on recent posts, but there’s now been some valuable feedback from St Joseph’s Old Boys which I’ll summarise below. They have asked to remain anonymous for reasons which I understand and respect.

But first, a reprise on what I’ve written previously, indicating confirming sources where they are available, and filling in the gaps where they are important.  And explaining more about who these Knights really were. So I can present a complete picture of what happened and how this post should bring me closure.

The Ipswich Knights played an important, acknowledged and valuable financial role in establishing St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, back in the 1940s and are referred to frequently with the school in the decades that followed.  

In the early 1960s I was sexually abused by two Knights of St Columba: Canon Burrows and Father Jolly, Chaplain to St Joseph’s, both of whom are listed as Knights of the Ipswich Province. It’s likely that another abuser, Father Wace, was also an Ipswich Knight, although he’s not on the list, which is far from complete. 

Other Knights were involved, too, in particular two Knights – who are on the list – and who had a close connection to my family. They’re not named because I need to check details on their death certificates to ensure I am 100% correct they are the right people. The current virus emergency has delayed me there.

Regarding Father Jolly: One Old Boy has already related how this school Chaplain was a sexual abuser. When boys confessed to impure thoughts, he would drill down, wanting intimate details. 

A source has also described to me how Jolly broke the seal of the confessional, revealing what he had heard from schoolboy penitents. This source found a tape recorder in the priest’s side of the confessional and it became clear – from subsequent events – that Jolly was taping boys’ confessions and why. It was an attempt to keep tabs on boys’ allegations of sexual abuse and who intended to go to the authorities. 

This shocks but doesn’t surprise me. Other Old Boys will, I’m sure, remember how this Knight of St Columba was notorious for gabbling his way through the Mass at record high speed. That always disturbed me as an altar boy at St Marks where he was also the parish priest. It felt like he didn’t believe a word of what he was saying. So how could we believe?

How this relates to the religious fanaticism of Jolly’s own father (police were called to one religious meeting by his dad’s violent behaviour), Jolly’s role as a Knight of St Columba, and his hard drinking, described to me by another Old Boy, I have no idea. But a picture emerges of a very unpleasant individual. This was the man who would take me sailing on his yacht – where he began grooming me – and later drove me to Knights of St Columba private events.

There I witnessed their secret rituals, which are a matter of record during my era, acknowledged by the Knights themselves. See Wikipedia. There are also transcripts available of these rituals by similar Catholic Knights. They are clearly psychologically abusive. I also witnessed an unrecorded ritual, which denigrated women, focussing on Mary Magdalene and her role as a prostitute. There was a real life stand-in.  And there were other ‘social’ activities, too, which I became a part of.

I remember, in particular, these private events concluded with the Loyal Toast and the National Anthem. Or rather I remember the rage I felt at what had been done to me.  So much so that – when I was 18 – I organised a sit down protest during the National Anthem at the premiere of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle at Ipswich theatre. One of my friends was in the cast and a  group of us had front row seats.

I did this because I was forced to suppress my overwhelming rage, not allowed to direct it where it truly belonged: at the Knights. And so I had to find a rather ridiculous outlet for it.  For the same reason. I’m a card-carrying member of the anti-monarchy organisation, Republic, today. Everything the Knights stood for, I needed – and still need – to oppose. That’s how powerful the anger is. It doesn’t go away, as perhaps the Knights hoped, it just becomes diverted in other directions. The alternative is you drink or drug yourself to block it out, as I’ve seen several Old Boys do.  Those have never been options for me. The anger actually gives me energy. I’ve used it to turn lead into gold as you’ll see.

But, as I’ve described in an earlier post, when I was returning with Father Jolly from such an event, I was consumed with such anger that I wanted to take a sledge-hammer and smash the dashboard of his Hillman Minx car. Because I couldn’t attack a Man of God, a Knight of St Columba.

I was being prepared for the priesthood, which would give me a free education until I was 18 when I would go to a seminary. This was funded directly or indirectly by the Knights. My widowed mother was a relatively passive figure in all this, content to leave matters of discipline to the Knights who would know better how to deal with a rebellious teenager. Around the age of 14, the Knights decided I was in ‘moral danger’ because I was caught kissing a girl at the Catholic youth club run by the Knights. And because I was mixing with adult bad company. It was a classic teenager delinquent reaction to the Knights and what was happening to me. They were bad – so I got involved with another organisation that was even worse. The Knights therefore decided to send me to a junior seminary at the age of 15 where I would be safe – except from yet more predatory priests, of course.

I had the medical to enter, but then, aware of what was waiting for me, I panicked and said I wasn’t going.

The Knights then put pressure on me to go, in particular through a Knight who was lined up to be my new full-time Stepdad. Perhaps because he had his own private agenda and just wanted to get rid of me.

I’d had previous experience of a Knight who was my unofficial part-time Stepdad (he was married) and was still an ongoing part of my life, trying to control me.  For my own good, of course. As that part-time Stepdad was psychologically and sexually abusive, I was unhappy at the prospect of yet another damn Knight – cut from the same cloth – adding to, not replacing him. Becoming an intimate member of my family. He was a stern disciplinarian with a sadistic edge and – although he showed a kinder, gentler side to me at this preliminary stage, before he got his feet under the table – I could see right through him. 

I decided it was never, ever going to happen. 

This was the era before Childline existed.  I remember wondering what to do and looking through the telephone directory under ‘Youth’ – to see if there was any organisation I could turn to, but I couldn’t find one. I recall my brother saying it was too dangerous and the Knights were too powerful.  He said it would be wise to drop the whole thing.  But that’s not in my nature.  I’d put up with enough shit.

I reported the Knights to the police. 

Subsequent memories of what happened are still a little hazy. As you can imagine, these events are complex with lots of people becoming involved and lots of to-ing and fro-ing, However, my reporting them to the police is 100% accurate. Given the era, the police did nothing and the Knights, inevitably, found out. Possibly through a Masonic connection. 

The Knights retaliated by withdrawing my funding and I had to leave St Joseph’s at 15, before taking my O Levels, and became an errand boy, delivering letters for R and W Paul, riding a trade bike around the docks.

But as a consequence, plans for me to have Stepdad Number Two didn’t happen. So that was some satisfaction.

The Knights also insisted on my future silence or ‘I would rue the day I was born’. I took the threat seriously and they finally shut me up.

Until now.

But my adolescent anger with them was so intense it couldn’t always be successfully buried, as I’ve previously related. It was diverted into all kinds of strange places.  So it would be released if I encountered people who even dressed the same way as a typical Knight. Thus if I had dealings with people who were dressed in the traditional Dunn and Co., gentlemen’s outfitter’s style (cavalry twill trousers, brown brogues and sports jacket), it would immediately stir up that buried fury.

And it was not over. Part-time Stepdad Number One hadn’t finished with me yet. He was still around and, remarkably, attempted to continue what he mistakenly saw as a benign influence on my young life.

The Knights had a Masonic role in finding people work. So my brother, when he left St Joseph’s after passing his O Levels, got a job as a conveyancing clerk at a local solicitors. His future in the legal profession – had he chosen to pursue it – was assured. At my brother’s job interview the solicitor confirmed as much.

The ‘prodigal son’ was not so lucky.

Instead, Stepdad– using his similar Masonic connections – found me a series of humiliating, lowly and even dubious jobs. I deliberately screwed up on all four jobs. I say  ‘dubious’ because one office job had another sexual role in an area ‘upstairs’. 

Stepdad’s idea was ‘bring me to my senses’.  That was his ‘paternal’ technique. Normally he would go to Grimwade’s refined tea-rooms with my mother; but he took me to the roughest café in Ipswich – the Milk Bar in the Cattle Market . He warned me, ‘This is all you’ll be good for, this is where you’ll end up, Patrick, if you don’t pull your socks up.’ (My socks are still down around my ankles.)

His plan was to make that junior seminary seem so much more attractive. The seminary’s door was still open for me and I could still change my mind, even at the eleventh hour.

Instead, I went through his jobs in fairly rapid succession. I posted R and W Paul’s letters down a drain. I cut lettuces on a farm and was sacked after two weeks for being completely useless. Then I declined to be part of the ‘extra’ office services on offer ‘upstairs’. And finally I told a factory foreman that cleaning the works toilet was not part of my job description – and what he could do with it.

Afterwards, I found my own job, left home at 16 and – finally free from Stepdad’s influence – I began to blossom and haven’t looked back since. No Masonic influence was needed. My various books and comic series are successful, many translated into all European languages, with two made into films (Judge Dredd and Accident Man).  Anyone familiar with my fiercely counterculture stories will see that it was the Knights that inspired me. Even the anti-war saga Charley’s War, featuring a supposedly stupid, ‘useless’ boy soldier was based on how my Stepdad saw me. 

My work includes at least six full-blown sagas about science fiction Knights. One of them is a best-selling series in France – Requiem, Vampire Knight.  Another features an evil Grand Master Space Knight called Torquemada. He was so popular with readers, he was regularly voted ‘Britain’s most evil comic villain’. His catchphrase was ‘There is much good work to be done’ (usually slaughtering aliens). His infamous slogan ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’ even ended up daubed on the Berlin Wall. You can appreciate why I coined that mocking slogan. (It’s also the title of my autobiography).

That boy’s anger had to go somewhere. And it seems only just and right that what the Knights did should come back to them. With compound interest.

For years I had thought my experience of the Knights was a strange one-off and I was reluctant to share my story for this reason.  Who would believe such a bizarre story that comes close to rivalling the science fiction I write for a living?

Confirmation was vital before I could relate what had happened in this comprehensive detail.

So I’m delighted that I’ve now got that confirmation from more than one other Old Boy. In particular, one source has described to me in incontrovertible and considerable detail just how the Knights operated. It’s very briefly summarised below, but I have his full account. That means a lot to me and, I’m sure, to other survivors reading this.  We need to be believed. And our experiences can hardly be unique. Whilst the Knights have helped many, especially if they ‘Behaved’, there were also casualties like myself.

It also took time to make sense of my experience with the Knights because of its complexity. And to find other evidence that supported my recollections.  Even now there are further elements I haven’t included, thus far, because it is so involved.

The role of the wives of the Knights, for example. They were never passive wallpaper and simply dutiful spouses in this otherwise all-male scenario. They did so much more than cleaning the church and organizing the flowers rota. And the Knights private events required some female arrangements in those male-dominated times.  Certain things – like cooking, for instance, the Knights were hardly going to do themselves. At least one woman was very kind and helpful to me. Others played a different role, which I’ll return to another time.

The woman in question was a teacher and wife of Stepfather Number One. Presumably at his request, she coached both my brother and I to pass the relevant exams to get into St Joseph’s. So I’ll always be grateful for her assistance. 

I’m sure there were many other acts of kindness the Knights individually and collectively carried out. I understand they did – and continue to do – a lot of good in the Catholic community.  I once asked my elderly aunt about them and she recalled them as ‘local businessmen who do so much good work for charity.’ In her 1950s/1960s era, the businessmen had to have a certain financial status to join the Knights, she said. It’s a pity that my experience of them was far from ‘good work’.

So now comes the corroboration.

One Old Boy wrote to me last week about the Knights: ‘They were bad blokes. I had a crossing point with them. It may have been one of dad’s drinking friends. He was a doctor who used to beat his wife and keep her constantly pregnant. They lived not far from Oak Hill.’ (St Joseph’s preparatory school).

About five Old Boys have said to me previously that they recalled, via their dads’ experiences or possible enlistment, that the Knights were strange, dangerous and not to be messed with.  I have their quotes.

These were Old Boys were all St Joseph’s boarders, so – when they were telling me about their fathers’ opinions – I assumed they are referring to Knights from other provinces rather than the Ipswich province.

Another St. Joseph’s Old Boy related to me how – in the same era as myself – the Knights saved him from very serious abuse by the De La Salle Brothers. So he sees them as a force for good and speaks highly of them and their great kindness to him. 

My thanks to him for his time and his honesty in sharing his experiences. It cannot have been easy.

But I cannot agree with his conclusion. Because, thanks to the intervention of these Knights, a De La Salle Brother was not prosecuted for serious sexual assault. He continued teaching and, almost certainly, continued abusing. 

The same Old Boy also related that the Knights then used their behind-the-scenes influence to insist on significant changes being made to discipline at St Joseph’s, so the same thing could never happen again.  So they were, once again, a force for good. 

But it did happen again.  Despite these supposed safeguards, serious sexual abuse continued through the 1970s and 1980s, as can be seen from numerous past posts and comments on my blog.

It could be argued that this was hardly the Knights’ fault. That they did their best. But then you have to also consider their role where I was concerned, and Knight Jolly taping confessions. They were always part of the problem, so I’m not convinced they were ever part of the solution.

Even though they helped the Old Boy in question, it was still a cover-up. 

Furthermore, given the nature of the arrangement that was made with him and his account of the circumstances – which I won’t post on this blog without his permission – it amounted to a criminal conspiracy between the Ipswich Knights and the De La Salle Brothers of St Joseph’s to suppress the truth.

I don’t say that lightly. There is no other possible way to interpret what was described to me.

There are further implications. It indicates that, in an emergency, where things were getting ‘out of hand’, the Knights would come in as experienced troubleshooters to protect the good name of the Church and the College, and save both from scandal. And – from the survivor’s account – this was clearly not a one-off event.

There are indications this had happened before elsewhere in the Catholic community.  His account ties in with my own experience, including the financial aspect.

This is new territory, which deviates from the official media version of the Catholic Abuse scandals. I don’t think any of us were aware that the Knights had (have?) an éminence grise role behind the scenes at St Joseph’s and presumably other Catholic schools and churches.

The media continues to present the scandals as one-offs, one rotten apple in the barrel event, localised and very separate from the Catholic congregation who, supposedly, have no idea what is going on. If you think about it, that is naïve. Priests and monks were intimately involved with the laity, as my own account demonstrates.

Occasionally we hear of several monks at a school being caught, but the suggestion is always that priests – even Cardinal Pell – acted alone and the congregation and his fellow priests had no idea. Really? In this context the priests are almost scapegoats to take the rap for others.

Another St Joseph’s survivor – from more recent times – sums it up well:

‘I don’t think it’s beyond reason to assume there was /still is a co-ordinated effort to keep all this stuff buried in the past. However, having buried my own experiences there without even realising for far too long, I’m convinced now this was not simply “the culture at that time” but that DLS were part of a self-perpetuating system of perversion (unless, like many survivors, we chose not to sign up) that extended to and attracted lay teaching staff with an unhealthy interest in kids. I could name two.’

Lay teaching staff ‘with an unhealthy interest in kids’ – that was my experience, too. One of them was a Knight of St Columba.

And ‘Self-perpetuating’ is also important. I’m aware from two separate sources that abuse can be trans-generational. I’m aware, for instance, that the Knights’ books of ‘unfinished business’ is trans-generational, passed onto descendants. So it raises questions about just what is happening today which I’ll come back to another time.

And how, when and if there was a subsequent cut-off/separation between the Knights and St Joseph’s. I have no idea. Perhaps they’d like to tell us?

The final element I’ve received from an Old Boy recently is the Masonic role of the Knights, past and present. I understand they always deny they are or were Masons, but it’s pretty obvious to everybody and does it really matter? Who cares? Thus a colleague who had a high-ranking position in the Freemasons has sent me details of the Freemasons and the Catholic Knights (in this case the Irish Knights of St Columbanus) and – side by side – their rituals are pretty much identical.

Personally, I’m indifferent – especially if they have truly stopped being a secret society as they claim. As long as they’re helping and not harming people.

The Old Boy related how the Knights helped him in a number of useful ways throughout his life. I’m rather envious. Good luck to him.

However, this source also pointed out – just as other Old Boys have previously done – that it’s really not wise to cross the Knights in the way I have been doing. He described a number of  unpleasant and negative scenarios to bear this out and none of them came as a surprise to me; indeed I’d previously considered them and just how I would deal with them. Where that’s concerned, I’ll keep my powder dry.

He summed it up with: ‘If you piss them off too much they will bring you pain.’

Thank you. I appreciate the warning.

Anger aside, I should now say how I felt about the Knights as human beings. After all, I probably knew them better than most Old Boys because I was observing them at close quarters for over ten years. They were my world.

If you’re surprised by just how many Knights were involved in my life, and how much abuse took place, then you should consider that many Catholic boys lived in a closed society where everyone around them has the same belief system. It was like being in a Scientology cult or being a Mormon. Especially as I had a widowed mother who believed what they were doing was for my own good

Firstly, I know there must have been good Knights who did good deeds and I have endlessly racked my brains to recall them, without success. Yes, they paid directly or indirectly for my education and my brother’s. But the price we paid, as I’ve described, was far too high.  I’d rather have gone to Borstal.

The only good deed I can think of is a family event at the Coop Hall that was organized by the Knights. I can see right now two Knights  smiling as we won the raffle – a ‘giant’ box of delicious groceries which was most welcome. I remember being astonished because my family never won anything, but my mother explained, smiling, that the raffle was fixed so we would win the groceries.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the only thing the Knights would fix in the years ahead. Otherwise, there’s nothing. 

Some Knights were ‘foot soldiers’ : ‘jobsworths’, doing what they were told without question; others aspired to status and position; others already had that status but needed further recognition from the masses. I’ve described them in a previous post – huddled in an elite group at the back of St Marks, noticeably separate to us ‘council house’ Catholics.  But all of these Knights were damaged souls in some way and that doesn’t escape a child’s eagle eyes, even if he doesn’t know at the time quite what it means.

There was the desperate sadness of one Knight who had recently lost his wife. Concealed beneath his harsh exterior, he had that lonely aura of the lone and lost male about him. I seriously challenged him once and I could sense his momentary reluctance to respond to my provocation, but he still had to follow orders and deal with me.

Then there was the inflated ego of another who had the confidence and the Irish Blarney of a used car dealer and believed he could fix everything and everybody. Particularly me.  But you could sense from his washed-out, yet alcohol tinged face and slight, dapper appearance and self-important walk that there was something desperately insecure about him. He may have called himself a Knight, but, inside, he was just a little Corporal.

I don’t think there’s anymore to be said about Father Jolly. What I’ve described is revolting enough.  And I feel similarly about the esteemed Knight Canon Burrows who called me his little ‘Sheriff’ and liked to show me conjuring tricks. ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’ Let’s just say at primary school, around age 6,  what happened when I saw another kid’s open mouth and her lips firmly wrapped around the mouth of a bottle of school milk. As it jogged up and down, I wanted to vomit. I called it ‘Boggy’s milk.’

And finally there were a few Knights who were ‘Other’. They were never damaged. They always had dark souls. Dark Knights. I remember them at the ceremony about Mary Magdalene, sneering at the stand-in.  I’ll only focus on one here.

As a bored altar boy, endlessly scanning the congregation during the sermon and communion, I could  see how this Dark Knight’s two gentle, lightly-built sons – with their unusually severe, short back and sides haircuts – were scared shitless by their sturdily built, similarly short back and sides, ultra-conservative dad.  Why, I don’t know, but they were so afraid of him.  I remember thinking – ‘Things are bad, but at least he’s not my dad.’

When he read me the riot act, he did it in that forceful way that men sometimes use to talk to women. ‘Mansplaining’. I had to shut up and listen and he would explain to me just how it was.

I can still see him getting out his large cheque book and a beautiful, marbled, classic, gold-nibbed Parker pen. He told me meaningfully how he could change my future with just a stroke of his pen. It was up to me. Maybe he was the treasurer. But his words were a blur. All I can recall was that huge pen I saw as his symbol of office, his magician’s wand, that he could wave and make everything all right again.  I don’t remember any more. I was disassociating, focusing on an inanimate object as he Mansplained to me.

There was more where he’s concerned. But that’s enough for now. He was a Dark Knight, all right.

So where do I go from here? Today?

First, if as a 15 year-old-boy, I was brave and/or stupid enough to go to the police about the Knights, I’m hardly likely to keep my mouth shut now.  But my motive is not revenge, it’s answering that angry boy’s demand for Justice. It’s no good saying, as one distinguished Old Boy said to me, that St Joseph’s is very different today. I know it is. But the Truth about its terrible past has yet to come out.  And it has to.

Secondly, I will continue to post and support the testimonies of other survivors of St Joseph’s and the Knights. That should be valuable for them and for me. Not least where perpetrators are still alive and where action can be taken.

This blog and this post is also a record that will be useful for a researcher should these dark areas of the Catholic Church ever be investigated now or in the future. You may say that’s unlikely. After reading the survivor’s account of the Knights’ awesome, behind-the-scenes Masonic power back in the 1960s  (which I’ve only briefly covered here), I’d be inclined to agree with you. But consider this. Back in the 1970s and 1980s it was unthinkable for priests to be called out as abusers. No one would have believed they were capable of such things. Then, in the 1990s, suddenly everything changed. Not even the Knights here or in the States, not even Bill Donahue himself, could stop the truth coming out.   

But it’s only part of  the truth.  There is still a long, long way to go. So it’s not impossible that the complete truth  – the organized, endemic abuse, involving Priests, Brothers, Monks, the Knights and other key members of the Congregation –  will one day be exposed in a similar way.

Finally, this is a journey of healing for me. I’ve found time and time again that revealing the Truth really gives me closure. Where the Knights are concerned, I’m hoping that I’m finally approaching journey’s end. Currently, I’ve two or three more posts  on them and then it’s over as far as I’m concerned. And those posts are very much an ‘epilogue’ to this account.

I also have a further post to do on my own awful experience with the serial sexual abuser Brother James, which didn’t directly involve the Knights, although they played a lesser role in sweeping what happened under the carpet. As always, it was to protect the good name of St Joseph’s and the Church at the expense of  young children. I was 12 at the time.

That’s all I have currently outstanding. Fingers crossed that’s it. I hope so – because I’ve far better things to do with my time than wade through this sewer of disgusting memories

So that boy’s anger now needs to return to where it rightfully belongs: to the Knights. It’s their turn to silently swallow it, just as they made him silently swallow it all those years ago.

Or maybe not so silently. That’s up to them.

My writing about this publicly is a direct message to St Joseph’s College, the De La Salle Brothers, the Catholic Church and the Knights of St Columba. Because it’s impossible to know where one’s responsibility ends and another begins. They all were – and possibly still are – so closely enmeshed. Today, they still bear the same names and continue in the same spiritual traditions of my childhood. I’m aware there’s a trans-generational continuum as they celebrate the positive achievements of their pasts, and thus they must bear some responsibility, or at the very least acknowledgement, for the negative behavior of their now deceased predecessors.  A negative past they continually try to distance themselves from or deny, despite all the overwhelming evidence.

By addressing them collectively I’m bypassing the Catholic Church’s usual, well-rehearsed, time-wasting, Pontius Pilate routine of passing the buck when it’s accused of abuse.  My message to them is:

‘Here: This is your shit. You own it. You sort it out.  It’s disgusting and you should all be ashamed. Including those who hid the shit. Or deny the shit even exists. Or ignore it and claim it’s nothing to do with them. Shame on every single one of you. I’m not carrying your shit any longer. You have it back now. You deal with it. It’s not mine.’

Anyway who is spiritual– as the parties above believe they are – will know very well that such a publically witnessed statement has a powerful spiritual as well as psychological impact on everyone concerned. It has the same power and energy that Catholics usually refer to as ‘the power of prayer’. I recommend other survivors try it. It works.

And that’s it. I’m done.

I’ll leave them to their manure.

ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE AND BROTHER KEVIN – AGAIN!

This is another account of abuse at St Joseph’s sent to me by someone who would prefer to remain anonymous so that the survivor’s identity is protected. I’m so glad he wrote in. The more we can share our experiences, the more the truth can come out. About the true nature of so many De La Salle brothers and their College in Ipswich.

Two things I should note: Firstly it concerns Brother Kevin. Again! I think there’s about five survivors stories about Brother Kevin on my site now. I know one such survivor did take police action and another is considering it where Kevin is concerned. So it’s relevant and important to put up this post because Kevin is probably still alive, although in his mid to late 80s. It challenges the view of the lady who wrote in and said that she knew Brother Kevin and, in her opinion, he was a wonderful man, safe to leave with children, and who could not possibly do the awful things that were alleged.

Secondly, I find when I write about the past, my writing style varies considerably. Usually I write in summary when I’m posting here. When I’m exchanging email accounts with other survivors I tend to expand.  And I sometimes keep a personal journal, writing everything down, in considerable detail, so I can get in touch with the feelings and make sense of often confusing events.

It’s possible that the author has done the same thing here and also  to pay tribute to the courage of the survivor concerned. He is indeed a hero.

So here is yet another account of Brother Kevin’s abuse.

The bravest little boy I have ever known Aged only 11 1/2 years old.

He attended St Josephs College Birkfield, Ipswich and was a second former in 1965.

This little boy was born 6 weeks premature and barely survived childbirth. He was the youngest in a very large family therefore his elder sisters and brother were already married and in their 30’s. Due to his birth problems he was very small for his age and had to wear glasses with incredibly thick lenses. He could only see with his glasses on and only half the colour spectrum. Not your average superhero material for sure.

Just before Easter 1965 it was a Friday night he was fast asleep in his dormitory when he woke up and found his dorm master Brother Kevin performing oral sex on his little immature penis. He yelled and screamed at the top of his voice and Brother Kevin had to make a quick retreat to his own bedroom which was at the end of the dorm. He turned all the lights on in his dorm and Brother Kevin emerged from his bedroom and pretended that he had been asleep. It’s alright boys settle down and go to sleep this young lad is just having a nightmare.

Eventually everyone settled down the lights were turned off and they all went back to sleep thinking someone had had the most terrible nightmare – well that was true – but what happened next is beyond belief.

The following morning this little boy calmly got out of bed got dressed in his little grey suit with his tiny little grey short trousers said nothing to anyone. After breakfast without a single penny in his pocket he casually walked through the side gate on Belstead Road and walked into Ipswich Town. He walked for almost two miles to the A12 (the main London Road) and then began hitchhiking. It was not long before some kindly Lady gave him a lift to Colchester. When he asked where the London Road was she told him to get back in the car and she drove through town and dropped him off at the A12 intersection.

God alone knows how he got to London and started walking anti clockwise all along the A4 the North Circular ring road. He found the sign he was looking for the A1 / M1 motorway and followed it. You cannot hitchhike in the middle of a City so he walked for miles following the road signs. He eventually found the last sign and stopped at the beginning of the access to the main North Road. There was a big sign there prohibiting pedestrians, tractors or cycles etc. Here he found two or three students also looking for a lift North.

He was such a tiny little tyke with his enormous glasses he soon got a lift and announced he was going to Coventry. He was dropped off at a service station on the M1 and the car was about to drive off when the drivers wife made her husband stop and reversed back and they asked the little boy if he was hungry. He though they might be going to give him a sandwich instead the husband parked the car and the wife lead him into the cafe. They gave him a slap-up meal and a cup of tea and were so impressed that he eat everything on his plate and politely thanked them for it they bought him a desert and a second cup of tea.

It was early evening and it was beginning to get dark. The wife took him to the second exit of the service station which was reserved for heavy good vehicles and asked two or three drivers if they were going to Coventry. Eventually a man said yes I can drop him off for you.

Having just eaten and walked god knows how many miles that day the little boy soon fell asleep. The driver woke him up a couple of hours later and asked if he would like some of the coffee from his thermos flask. He said here we are young sir this is Coventry. The little boy thanked him very politely and was helped down just outside Pool Meadow the main bus terminal. It was 8 or 9 o clock at night now.

The little boy walked around the bus station and asked where the busses for Kenilworth departed from. A kindly bus inspector told him the last bus had gone. He had intended to say he had lost his money but could supply his address. (Coventry bus drivers and conductors had been instructed never to refuse to pick up a child for any reason) so he asked the inspector where is the Kenilworth Road I can find my way from there.

Well the roads in Coventry are a bit like a bowl of spaghetti. With loads of flyovers and underpasses. The little boy soon got lost and sat down on a bench and began crying with frustration he had got so far he was almost there but now he was lost and bewildered. For Coventry 1960’s think of Glasgow 1960’s not a nice place to be in after dark. Eventually a Taxi driver stopped and said what’s up little man are you lost. The boy said yes sir I am, I am trying to get to the Kenilworth Road. Why do want to go there the taxi driver asked because I need to get to Kenilworth Sir the little boy replied thinking the question rather silly. Jump in the cab and I take you to the Kenilworth Road. But sir I don’t have any money. No worries said the man it’s not far. The taxi driver took him all the way to Kenilworth and asked him where about’s he wanted to go. The little boy repeated the address including the post code like a robot the Taxi driver said don’t you know where that is. No sir replied the little boy I never been here before but I always write to my sister every week so I know the address.

The taxi driver took out his A-Z (they didn’t have sat-navs. back in those days) and found where it was and took him the house. The taxi driver said I’m going to wait here until someone answers. If no one answers the door come back to the car I will take you home and my wife will make you a bed up on the sofa. The little boy rang the doorbell and waited – nothing – after two or three attempts a light came on upstairs. A huge ex Navy man came down in his dressing gown and opened the door. The little boy grabbed hold of him for dear life sobbing his eyes out. Right stop all those tears and come inside said the man who made John Wayne look like a dwarf. He was just about to go inside when he remembered something very important Wait Wait he shouted. He ran across the lawn to the Taxi driver and said thank you so much sir you have been so wonderfully kind if you give me your name and address I will send you my pocket money to pay you what I owe you. The taxi driver said hurry along now someone is waiting for you.

Everyone was in tears when he told his story even the big “I never cry” – me.

Several weeks later I asked why on Earth did he go to London instead of the much shorter route cross country via St Neots. He said just a minute he disappeared into his bedroom and came back with one of those small pocket books. He showed me a miniature map of Great Britain’s road network that only showed the main roads and said “this is all I had to go on.”

This story is absolutely true without any embellishment whatsoever and is burned deep in my memory forever and still makes me cry with pride over 55 years later.

I am still to this day amassed that this tiny shy little boy by far the smallest in his class partially sighted and not a penny in his pocket would undertake such an incredible 240 mile journey into the complete unknown to reach a place of safety trusting in the absolute goodness of strangers rather than stay one more night in his dorm at St Joseph’s College.

THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT ST JOSEPH’S (MY OLD SCHOOL)

I had to pour myself a whisky after reading this survivor’s account. It’s strong stuff. Thank you so much to the survivor – who has asked to remain anonymous – for sharing. I’m going to respond in detail in the coming week or so.

Meantime, this is the most damning indictment yet on St Joseph’s College, Ipswich. It raises issues, not just confirming various sexual abuses among the teachers, but also criminal conspiracy. This is something I’ve always been aware of, but been reluctant to talk about, as other survivors at other schools have not covered this subject. It therefore makes the case for St Joseph’s being the first school where survivors have described criminal conspiracy. My own experience bears this out.

There will be much more to come from me in response to this testimony in the weeks to come.

I invite other survivors to share their experiences too. Only in this way can the true infamy of St Joseph’s College and its De La Salle Brothers finally be exposed to the healing light of truth.

Dear Pat,

You either must know me personally or certainly know of my exploits. I hung my girlfriends knickers on the newly completed chapel in 1967 just to piss off Brother Elwin because that chapel was his pride and joy and crowning achievement and he was such a pompous evil conceited man I wanted to do something to hit him where it hurt the most – his stupid pride. No one said much at the time but I am so glad to learn some many years later it is remembered by a few.

First Observation is many people seem to have only vague memories of St Josephs and lack a lot of detail – I do not – I have an excellent memory of everything that happened to me.

In September 1964 I just was 14 years and 2 months old and there was some confusion if I should be put in the 3rd Form or 2nd Form. Eventually I ended up in 2nd Form and had to change dormitories to the new block attached to the main building.
My first canning was to be performed by Brother Bernard when I dropped my trousers and he saw my backside covered in scars new and old he just told me to pull them back off again and learn to behave. That’s why I was at St Joseph’s in the first place because I had a very abusive father and some senior members of the Catholic Church had arranged a scholarship for me. Knights of St Columba sound familiar.

It would have been May 1965 just after half term my math teacher Brother James the one with the awful broad Irish Accent told me to stand outside the door of the classroom (I cant remember what I had done) and I should only come back in when the class finished. On returning to the classroom I was told I had to report in my gym kit to the gym at 1200 noon on Saturday. That was a real bummer because Saturday was when we were allowed to go into Ipswich for the afternoon.

I duly arrived at the gym expecting to have to do some push-ups or run around the track four or five times. Bra James turned-up right on time unlocked the gym told me to get inside then he followed in and locked the door.
He walked me over to the stage and told me to drop my shorts and put my head and hands on the stage. He then took a dozen steps back and ran at me with his cane – whack. He expected some sort of reaction but I just waited for the next one, as I said my own father was a very violent man and I was well used to a beating or two. The next one was from maybe 12 paces away he ran up I braced myself but nothing happened. I turned around and he went ballistic and shouted if I dare turn around again that would be another 6. Naturally I said I’m very sorry Bra it won’t happen again. He ran up again and again nothing happened but I did not turn round and then I got one hell of a blow from a stationary position.

That hurt like hell but I did not make a sound. I was well use to my fathers stupid antics trying to psych me out keeping me guessing when the next blow was coming. Bother James was huffing and puffing, I just assumed he was out of breath from running up and down the gym. I waited for the next blow it seemed to take forever then it came he got a slight noise out of me for that. He was breathing even more heavily but he had not taken a run at me this time. The next blow seemed to take even longer than before – I vividly remember thinking good perhaps the old bugger is having a heart attack or something then it came this time across the back of my legs he got a good yell out of me for that one.

Eventually having had my 6 of the best I turned around and pulled up my shorts in one quick movement only to see him madly playing with himself under his robes, his eyes were almost closed but I must have made a noise turning around and when he realized I could see what he was doing he went completely insane and I mean absolutely and utterly uncontrollable insane. He shouted and screamed at me to turn around again – I was having none of it and stupidly said I was going to report him to the headmaster (Brother Elwin). He came at me and I dodged him easily after all I was the best and fastest fly three quarter the school had ever had. I got to the double doors of the gym only to find them locked. He followed walking slowly. I turned around and I just couldn’t help myself laughing because he had his left had stuck in his robe or pocket and his dick was hanging out the center of it. He turned around and fumbled to get his hand out eventually having to put his cane down to get the other hand free and put his dick away. He was frothing and had a very weird twisted grin on his face and said “did you not forget the door was locked”. I dropped my head slightly and said I wont say anything just open the door please and let me go.

I certainly was not expecting what came next he hit me very hard indeed across my left ear and left temple with his cane. I put my left hand over my ear it was bleeding very badly. The second blow was across the back of my left hand that was protecting my ear by then and third and fourth blows across both my upper and lower left arm. I put my right foot against the glass of the doors and drove straight at him knocking him to the floor. As he tried to get up I kicked twice between the legs. He stopped breathing (as you do) and dropped his cane and put both hands over his balls. I grabbed the cane and hit him as hard as I could mostly on his upper arm and upper legs screaming at him give me the bloody key.

My adrenaline was up and after two or three more blows he said stop, stop, here take the key. He got it out of his right hand pocket and threw it on the floor. I grabbed it opened the door and locked it from the outside. My white gym vest was covered in blood all down the left hand side and I made my way over the lawn to the main building. There was hardly anyone about because the boarders were allowed to go downtown on Saturday afternoons.

I went through the main entrance and climbed the wooden staircase up to Brother Elwins Office, which was immediately above the main entrance. I did not knock I was in no mood to be polite. There was no one in his office but the door to his bedroom was ajar. I heard a kids voice saying “there is someone in the your office”
I just flung the door open and there was Brother Elwin naked on his bed with a naked kid of only about 12 sitting on his stomach.

We just stared at each other for 30 seconds. I turned around and went down the block to the showers and Laundry room. I grabbed a tee shirt from one of the lockers went to the hand basins that were just in front of the showers because they had mirrors and I wanted to see how bad I was hurt. That was a terrible mistake. I spent too long looking at the huge bleeding welt across my face and trying to clean up the blood. I grabbed another t-shirt from someones locker and held it over my ear. I knew I had to get outside the college and call the Police or and Ambulance. I went out the back entrance of the showers down the steel stairs and was walking across the rugby pitch to get to the small gate that lead to the Chantry Estate where I was sure I would get help. I was almost there when Brother Hugh rugby tackled me and brought me to the ground. He was a big man and very fit and he had completely knocked all of the wind out of me and easily picked me up and carried me back to the main building.

He carried me into the sickbay and then into a single bed isolation room at the back of the sickbay. He told me he was going to the infirmary to get something to bandages my ear. He locked the door as he left. Brother Elwin arrived in the sickbay and shouted why is the door locked, meanwhile Brother James had arrived, (I found out later there was a fire door near the stage that you could just push open from the inside) and I am sure Brothers Leo was there and one more I not sure who it was.

Brother James was screaming at the top of his voice for Brother Hugh to give him the key to the isolation room. There was a huge slapping sound and Brother James suddenly stopped shouting. Brother Elwin was next to rock off shouting “You bloody idiot haven’t you done enough already”. He then asked how bad is it?that bastard has left blood all over my office and all down the hallway.

Brother Hugh said everyone should take the conversation elsewhere and I will try to patch him up. The other left with Brother Elwin for his office I guess but I don’t know for sure. Brother Hugh unlocked the door and began with the small talk like “I guess your good looks have gone forever now still you’ll have quite a scar to impress the girls with.” He then said this is going to hurt a bit and put something on my face to clean it – damn right it hurt it must have been surgical spirit or something it burned like hell, he then put gauge and some bandages. He said I will have to give you a tetanus shot but I protested I already had one that year either way he took a syringe and a little glass bottle and put quite a lot of this water like liquid in the syringe and jabbed in in my backside. It burnt like hell and I passed out – it was anesthetic.

I don’t know how long I was out but various people came and went saying can you hear me – wake up. I just ignored them and tried to sleep.
Eventually I heard a woman’s voice speaking very softly and calling my name I opened my eyes it was Mrs Bacon the school nurse. I begged her don’t let any of those bastards come near me – she promised she wouldn’t and I was sure I was safe while she was there.

A man in a suit turned up sometime later and I asked if he was the Police he said he was a Doctor. He took the bandages off but the gauge had stuck to my face. He tried to be gentle but I screamed so badly he said he would give me something for the pain. When I came round I don’t know where I was but it was not in the school anymore that I was sure of. I was in a large comfortable bed with my wrists tied to the Iron bedhead with bandages. I waited and waited eventually a nurse came in and I asked why are my wrists tied up. She explained I had an operation and it was very important that I stay lying on my back and my wrists were tied to stop me trying to scratch my face in my sleep.

The same Doctor came back sometime later and said he was very pleased with the operation and assured me I would only have a slight hairline scar. I asked where I was he said a Private Hospital and I was safe now. Later I had to go to the toilet and the Nurse gave me a piss bottle I just said not that one the other one. I had to promise to behave myself and not pull at the bandages. In the toilet I could not resist to look in the mirror. The left hand side of my head had been shaved and I was wearing some sort of white netting over my head. A couple of days went by and I was asked if I was well enough to see a Priest. I said I didn’t feel up to it but Father Jolly just seemed to barge his way into the room and greet me like a lifelong friend. I did not want to speak to that man so when he asked me by my name how I was feeling I had a brilliant idea I said “what did you call me, is that my name who are you.” I started shouting Nurse Nurse – I do not know this man please ask him to leave. He kept insisting I knew him very well and kept asking if I remembered how I got here. I told him I could not remember him or anything else and I wanted him to leave.

The Nurse came back and was very professional indeed and told Father Jolly he must leave because he was upsetting me and she would not take no for an answer. He waited outside the door to my room and asked the Nurse what is going on with that boy quick as a flash she said someone had given him a massive overdose of anesthetic and he is lucky to be alive. Father Jolly said surely he will recover his memory in time she said there was not much hope less than a 10% chance I’m afraid he was left too long before he got proper treatment. Father Jolly left after that.

The Nurse came back in the room and gave me a huge smile and said that sorted him out. I asked her why she had lied and helped me – she smiled and said I went to a Convent boarding school and I recognize his kind a mile off and besides I have seen all the welts on your hands arms and back and I’m pretty sure I know how you got them. I must keep you safe until you recover. Later she let slip I was not the first boy she had treated with cane and whip marks when the beating had gone too far.

I recovered pretty quickly but by then it was the school summer holidays and I was very keen to get out of hospital. I was told I was not allowed outside the hospital without my nurse imagine my surprise when I found out I was in London. My Nurse promised me things are going to change for the better and I must stay calm and in the Hospital and not make a fuss. She said she was quite sure some men would eventually come with a fantastic offer to make sure I could get a good education in another school in a really really nice place as long as I played the game and stayed calm.

I asked her why was she so certain she gave me that enormous smile of hers and said how do you think I became a nurse and went to Nursing School without ever passing a single entrance exam. Well I cannot tell you the details of the deal I got but I was most insistent on one thing I was not going to be expelled from St Josephs. They agreed to everything but insisted I must never return to St Joseph’s again, guess who won the argument but with a lot of conditions attached.

Yes I returned to St Joseph’s for 3 more years, I got a fantastic education. I had special tutors to help me with some subject normally first year sixth boys (part of my deal) and Mr Sumner helped me ace my math exam. I got £1 pocket money every week (a great rise from half a crown) and I even got the Chemistry and the History prize. I’d love to say I was a model student but that would be too much, I put my girlfriends knickers on top of the cross of the new chapel late at night before the official opening and no sixth former could be convinced to go up and get them down. I was amazed that they eventually had to hire a crane and a basket to get them down.

How did I do – pure math and logic. I ran a rope around the pyramid (As I called it) got the two ends of the rope together and just gently pulled them back and forth until I worked it to the base of the cross. A bowline under my armpits and pulled myself up with the other end of the rope. The cross was more difficult. I had to throw a smaller rope over one arm of the cross then the other arm and hoist myself up. Having got the knickers secure I nearly came a cropper coming down the cross when the smaller rope broke fortunately I had the sense to tie one end of the main rope around the base of the cross It was a very long way to the bottom fortunately the rope stopped me about half way. I managed to hang on and get back up to the base of the cross untie the end and lower myself back down.
It was worth it – it was so so wonderfully worth it.

When no-one seemed to notice the next day I said to one of the third former’s “you have good eyes what’s that hanging from the cross?” He had such an hysterical laugh that everyone had to find out what he was laughing about on such a solemn occasion. He could only point to the cross because he could not speak once he started laughing – Yes young master Wallin many thanks for your help that day otherwise all my efforts may have gone unnoticed and suspicion could have easily fallen on me. Part of my deal was that I would never give anyone any trouble or talk to the other boys about what had happened.

I fought back in my own way. I returned and made those bastards squirm every-time I pasted them and cheerfully said “Good Morning Bra”. However I had one great advantage over those poor innocent boys who suffered so much. I had already been violently abused by my own father at home. I was used to cruelty and especially of showing no fear even when I was very afraid – that is what made them avoid me. The other boys had left a loving caring safe environment to go to what they thought was a cross between school and a holiday camp. They were innocent and naive in the extreme. After they were abused they were made to feel worthless and ashamed of themselves and that if it was their fault, it was never their fault and the suffering did not stop when they left St Josephs.

The worst of all abuses to those poor boys that they themselves most probably did not know about is if ever they went to Confession and in the they told Father Jolly that they had done something terribly wrong (anything about the abuse they had suffered) he reported them back to Brother Elwin. He sat in the confessional without a light on with just a mess screen. The other side has a small light – he could see the boys faces but they could not see his. He was a pervert of the worst kind constantly prompting the boys that they must tell him everything all the sordid details how may times they had masturbated otherwise he could not give them absolution.

I am nearly 70 years old now and I still have flashbacks of my early life some very pleasant some I would like to forget forever but just can not when the bad flashbacks start dwelling on my mind I snap out of it and say “Right back in the real world time for a drink I think”

To the survivors I would say NEVER EVER blame yourselves for what happened to you. Never ever feel ashamed because you were innocent of any wrongdoing and there was nothing you could have done back then when you were just a helpless little kid. Even grown men struggle to fight back.

The people that should have looked after you failed miserably they are the ones who should be ashamed of themselves I mean all the adults who knew and the Authorities both civil and religious. You cannot fight a 2000 year old organised religion especially when you don’t know who they are or how many they are. Often the people you turn to for help are the same type of people that are abusing you and will go to great lengths to protect your abuser or what is even worse they consider that you will damage their faith or their Church in some way by your accusations even if they are true. If fact they would insist for the good of the Church you must stay silent and God will punish the guilty ones in time.

The Catholic Church is like a brick wall. You can bang your head on it for as long as you want. Your head will break and the wall still stands. If you take a compass point and keep rubbing it back and forth along the mortar line eventually the mortar will give way and you can remove a brick or two but it takes a very long time.

Anyone who reads this and was there 1964 -68 will know who I am No need to put my name is there.

Pat give me a heads-up if you remember me.

CHALLENGE TO ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE, BIRKFIELD, IPSWICH, SUFFOLK

Here’s a challenge from Old Boy Nosssh. You can read his full comment at the bottom of this post.

St. Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, how about allowing an investigation into crimes committed there? 

So how about it St J’s.? I know you’re aware of this site.

Yes, I know you are a different regime. But you have the contacts with the DLS and the local Catholic Diocese.

They will listen to you. You know that the infamous Brother Solomon was the Jimmy Saville of St Js. That’s beyond any reasonable doubt, and that’s going to be picked up eventually by the media. It’s a strong story – his victims in double, possibly triple figures, his links to Homan’s Boys Town, his TV appearances, how he inspired a famous comic character, oh, yes – and how he owned a fun pier, too. I think it was at Weston Super Mare.

You still inherit, benefit from and recognise a past that’s good, yet you deny or ignore the bad. You still say ‘In the La Sallian Tradition’. That means something awful for many survivors. See below. You still have a prize named after a questionable teacher, Kearney, whose sado-masochism (bunsen burner pipes as lashes. Highly diluted sulphuric or hydrochloric acid as a drink) makes him entirely inappropriate to be upheld as a chemistry role model in these modern times. And I’m still investigating Kearney with the likelihood of revealing far more about him.

And doesn’t it concern you that the abuse cases on this site alone are now reaching record numbers? Are you still not going to say anything? At least a message of sympathy for survivors? Or won’t your insurers allow that? Surely such a human and Christian response would be more important than what an insurance company thinks? Or maybe it isn’t? So are you going to remain silent until you are fetched? E.g. When the media eventually takes an interest in these historic crimes – which ended somewhere in the 1980s, or perhaps even later, according to one source – and exposes your school’s dark past.

I think we survivors are owed at least a comment from you, even if you have to hedge it with legalese to cover yourselves against fear of litigation. There’s always a way – if you want to find it. Or if that’s too much to ask, why don’t you take down your obvious connections with a sad and  awful past that has harmed so many boys. Surely the fate of those past children who went to your school – and the price they had to pay surviving abuse – must mean something to you?

The longer you leave it, the darker it looks. Your school’s past isn’t going to go away. Acknowledging it is the right and proper way for everyone – including yourselves – to have closure. 

Here’s Nosssh’s full comment, in response to my post THE IMPORTANT OF FIGHTING BACK:

I am yet another survivor of St. Jo’s. The guy responsible for abusing and controlling me is still around and I know where he lives so almost every day I have to resist that crucifix-ramming urge! Years ago though I had to blurt the words out loud, long before I understood why, that I forgave him in order to get on with my life. Maybe it’s easier or better that the most of the actual details remain blanked out (little snippets are there; that blue flecked paint used on the toilet wall, having to decide outside the gym to shut down part of my brain to deal with what just happened and get back to class after the lunch hour siren had gone and appear normal to friends…). At last I understand exactly what happened because my sister reminded me of a few details about the guy I’d chosen to forget. Anyway, survival is all about management and choosing to be better than your abuser. It’s such a shame so many have suffered at the hands of DLS “brothers” and their pedo associates (lay-teachers). Closure is massively important to all of us who’ve walked those hard years so St. Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, how about allowing an investigation into crimes committed there and do us all a favour. That word Tenacitate eh, what a bitch 😉

EVIDENCE OF ORGANISED CATHOLIC ABUSE

A reader wrote back in response to my post THE IMPORTANCE OF FIGHTING BACK. He asked for his reply to be kept private so I will respect that and call him Lee (not his real name).

Lee asked about evidence for organised abuse and the ‘Hidden Theology’ of the Church so I thought I’d share my thoughts and limited knowledge on the subject here.

The evidence that convinces me abuse is/was organised is still extensive but is a work in progress. If I cross-reference everything and quote sources and provide web links it will take me at least a day.

In the unlikely event that anyone is seriously interested in following this up, I will do so.

Anywhere, here is my summary of the evidence:

1) My own personal experience. IMHO it’s astonishing that the only three priests I knew during my Catholic upbringing were all abusers. That’s a helluva co-incidence. I’ve given outline details of the three priests in Fighting Back and could provide comprehensive accounts on all three should it ever become necessary. 

2) I think the ‘one rotten apple in the barrel theory’ is therefore unlikely and most people have surely realised by now it’s so much bigger. The staggering clerical abuse figures bear this out.

But this also begs a question – what about the congregation? That’s the elephant in the room that’s never talked about – yet.

Some congregations – hopefully the majority – wouldn’t have known. Some would have known and kept quiet. Some would have known and dealt with the priests or reported them. (I’m aware of one such example in my era)

But some members of the congregation would have participated.

Because that’s human nature. Why would it be just the priests and monks? That really doesn’t make sense if you stop and think about it. But I’m only aware of one confirmed account of organised Catholic congregation abuse. It went to court and I have the details. Just one. I did a comprehensive Google search and couldn’t find any more.

3) Now we come to the Knights who are, of course, part of the Congregation. A brief introduction:

There are the British Knights of St Columba (KOSC), the Irish Knights of St Columbanus (KOSCB) and the American Knights of Columbus (KOC). There are variations for each country, but in over-arching terms they can be treated as the same. They all belong to the same ‘parent’ group. They all strongly deny they’re masonic but that’s how most people would describe them then and now. A comparison of masonic and Catholic Knight rituals would convince most of us.

The KOC is still very secretive. Knights and Squires – young men – still have to swear a vow of secrecy about what goes on. Still. (I can quote from their official site)

The KOSC were secretive, masonic and ritualistic when I was growing up. They also had Squires in my era. This stopped towards the end of the 60s. Too late for me, unfortunately. Their original ritual nature is confirmed on Wikipedia.

I have a copy of the KOC rituals and it can be read on line. And I have some confirming similar written details of the KOSCB. So it’s reasonable to conclude all three very roughly used the same rituals.

These rituals are very unhealthy psychologically, they’re colourful, scary and use creepy role play (‘Trick’ blood etc.) They’re also tedious to read. It’s probably why they’ve never been investigated – they’re bloody boring to go through. The Knights enthusiastically admit they’re trying to screw with the heads of new entrants. And that’s utterly wrong! It’s the kind of stuff I would associate with cults like Scientology.

And, of course, that’s just the rituals in print. It’s reasonable to assume with such secretive organisations that there would be more that will always be out of the public gaze.

One of the three priest abusers I’ve mentioned is listed on an incomplete list of dead KOSC members as a Knight. The fanatically religious father of a second priest abuser is also there as a Knight. It’s reasonable to think his son was a Knight, too. Plus there’s my recollections. The third abuser priest is not listed, but given his wealthy and elitist background it’s also fair to assume he, too, was a Knight.

I’m currently researching two other relevant Knights. I have to check the info on their death certificates to ensure I’ve found the right guys before I talk publicly about them. I have their names and the dates of their deaths.  Let’s call them Knight X and Knight Y for now.

There’s also a couple of other relevant Knights, but they don’t seem as important. One of them was a convert, an ex-Anglo-Catholic, and he had long conversations with me about the gay Cardinal Newman, the Oxford Movement etc. Being a bookworm as a kid, I was very impressed. I guess that was his grooming technique: to make me feel important and perhaps to rationalise his crimes. I’m reminded of Evelyn Waugh’s famous quote – ‘Beware of Anglo-Catholics, they’re all sodomites.’ 

4) But ’Follow the money’ is usually the best way to get to the bottom of things. My expensive college fees, and my brother’s, were paid for ‘By the Church’. That’s a total of 8 years school fees (we both failed the eleven plus). Three sources directly or indirectly confirm our fees were paid for ‘By the Church’. Why? The Church doesn’t usually do that. Why did two boys qualify? We were a poor council house family, so there was nowhere else the money could have come from.

My belief is that the Knights were the Church agency that paid the fees. Knight X and Knight Y were close friends of the family. Knight X was a part-time stepdad. And later, Knight Y had ambitions in that direction which did not make me happy. One bullying abusive step dad was more than enough.

The KOSC may have paid all the fees or Knight X may have topped it up. He may have been the KOSC treasurer. He certainly had a lot of clout. A lot of it around my head. So when I started fighting back – as kids do around age 14 or 15, and saying ‘I want this to stop’– that’s when the money mysteriously dried up and I was out on my ear at age 15, my St Joseph’s College days suddenly at an abrupt end.

The KOSC was intimately connected with St Joseph’s. It was the Knights who helped finance the actual purchase of St J’s Birkfield. The news clippings I have state that it was the Knights’ long and difficult financial negotiations that resulted in the school building and grounds being purchased from the R and W Paul family.

Subsequently, the KOSC maintained their close link to St Js, and are mentioned in other news clippings – such as the St J’s School Sports Day.

So you can see how I came to my conclusions: Follow the money.

5) The Knights back in my era have been described to me by four Old Boys as ‘strange’, ‘weird’ and ‘sinister’.

‘They were too weird even for my dad’ was how one St J’s Old Boy put it to me.

It was because of these comments that I finally decided to look into them as my memories of these Knights had been bugging me for at least two decades.

Back then, the Knights were definitely the financial elite of the Congregation. You had to have money to join. As an altar boy, I witnessed this first-hand.

In St Marks, our newly-built council estate church, this elite group was gathered in a special reserved praying, or rather preying, group at the back, and they never mixed with us council estate-Catholics. They included a lawyer, a coroner, a magistrate, and a teacher from St J’s and his missus. With one exception (someone who had sons at St J’s), the elite never mingled amongst the other working-class worshippers.

Why were they exhibiting this very obvious apartheid? And why would the regular Congregation tolerate it? I knew that this elite group had previously attended the established St Pancras church in Ipswich town centre. So why slum it on a council estate? The obvious answer is for power. They got a kick out of lording it over the poor.  They needed people to look up to them.

I’m reminded again of Evelyn Waugh, another elite Catholic who agonised over sharing his upper-class religion with Irish Catholics, and is on record as describing them as ‘Bog Catholics.’ I think the Ipswich elite felt the same way about us ‘Council House Catholics’.

We were prey. Well, I was anyway. A prime example of droit de seigneur.

Back to the Knights. I’m only aware of one ritual that I witnessed. It wasn’t Eyes Wide Shut, but it was still ritualistic, unpleasant and misogynistic. I was around 13, so I doubt I really understood the finer details. But it was certainly anti-women and there was a rationale that was explained to me. It wasn’t an orgy, and I was just an onlooker, thankfully. In fact, I recall it as a kind of pseudo-serious ceremony. It seemed to focus on sneering at a stand-in for Mary Magdalene… You can possibly fill in the dots yourself. 

The rest is a bit vague at this point in time, so I’m not going to speculate or try to reconstruct it. Not least because their successors will deny it. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

Anyway, it was an example of the Inner Theology. Sorry I can’t be more precise, it was a very long time ago. However, I do remember them clearly really banging on about the duty of Knights and how they’re all there for each other. Very masonic. And  if I stayed the course,  my golden future would be ensured with them. Which, if you’re a kid on a council estate, is great news. Bring on the funny handshakes!

But if I didn’t stay the course…

I just wanted the bastards to stop – especially as I got older. To hell with the rewards, I didn’t care. I really wanted to smash the bloody Hillman Minx car of that Knight priest. I still do. Because I could never hit a priest. He’s a Man of God. 

Making it stop. That’s all that mattered.

I don’t think there was any formal and ritualistic vow of silence, which is surprising. Maybe they just took my silence for granted. My guess is I was never a formal Squire.

I know I was told in no uncertain terms to be silent on the subject from my mother, one of the priests, and his fellow Knights.

But that’s not me. I have a long and provable history of whistleblowing that continues to this day, and on this blog, of course. I think it was my defence mechanism so I didn’t become a victim. It was the nearest I could get to fighting back.  And at the age of 14, I would have been full of teenage defiance. So their various threats to shut me up got them nowhere.

Finally, one of them – I believe it was the magistrate – looked me sternly in the eye and gravely warned me, ‘If you do not keep silent, you will rue the day you were born.’

For me, that was ‘middle-class code’ for beating the shit out of me. Or worse. That shut me up – for a while anyway. And then I tried to forget the whole vile bunch.

6) So what’s happening today? There’s a lot emerging about the KOC now: a number of disturbing cases of abuse. I have the various links. And the KOCB had their well-known masonic role in Irish government. But you won’t find anything about today’s KOSC, other than the numerous good works they do – which is excellent news.

So they must have turned over a new leaf between the 60s and today. Or maybe it was just the KOSC in Ipswich that had its own strange ‘Inner Theology’? Let’s hope so.

However, about four years ago there was a disturbing local newspaper report about a KOSC member in Colchester who had used his position to abuse children. He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. 18 years. That’s a pretty hefty sentence. Serious crimes were clearly involved. But what is even more disturbing is that it was not covered by the national press. Just mentioned briefly by the local papers.

Whether there is a media blackout on certain organisations is hard to prove.  Certainly I’m aware of a media blackout by all the papers on Recovered Memories of abuse. Thus there was the American detective, Frank Fitzpatrick, whose recovered memory led to the legendary Father James Porter case. How Porter, a serial abuser,was caught by Fitzpatrick has never – to my knowledge – been reported by the mainstream British press. And there are 53 more American recovered memory cases where the abusers were banged up, but not covered by the British media. 53 cases. An authoritative academic study has confirmed their authenticity. But you’re not allowed to read about them in the British press, including the woke Guardian. Although they will write about similar American clerical abuse cases not involving recovered memories. Instead our media, including The Guardian, still promote the dubious False Memory theory from the British False Memory society, an organisation that has worrying links with its questionable American counterpart.

I know Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black (ex Daily Telegraph) and Jimmy Savile were/are all Super Knights. Savile was a Knight Commander. These Super Knights are the next level above the KOSC. They are Knights of the powerful and influential Order of St Gregory the Great. At least one KOSC Supreme Knight has become a Knight of St Gregory.

I also have one particularly significant piece of evidence that would strongly suggest there is a media black-out, but I think that’s worth going into another time.

7. Lee asked me how I thought it might all work. ‘The Church’s hidden, Inner Theology.’

The examples above give you some indication, Lee, and may lay the groundwork for others to look at this.

I’m also reminded of an account I read about an abuser priest in Ireland who was sodomising a child. A woman came out of her home and surprised him in the act. He called to her, ‘Get back in the house, woman – this is Church business.’

I see genuine Catholics, many of whom I know and admire hugely, as part of an outer protective ring of truly good people. This echoes Lee’s words that there are ‘genuinely good people’ in the Church. In the UK, Ireland and elsewhere. Of course. I have huge respect for them and I’m currently reading an excellent book about family trees by a practising Irish Catholic priest. So I’m not phobic about the Church per se.

But these good people are inadvertently and unconsciously protecting an inner core of vile individuals whose moral compass is so shot to Hell they actually believe in the ‘virtue’ of their crimes. That was my strong feeling as a boy. 

There’s enough awful cults out there whose similar crimes have been proven, to see how this could have come about.

And if you’re looking for proof, well surely the best place to start is at the top: with the three latest Popes.

I watched a reputable French TV documentary (It’s on Amazon, I have the link.) that looked at recent Catholic abuse. It highlighted – with details and witnesses – how Pope Francis had personally covered up serious abuse in Argentina.  The journalists then confronted him in St Peter’s Square. His shifty denial and the ‘caught out’ expression on his face could probably be angrily explained away by Bill Donahue. But the rest of us would know exactly what the Pope’s response means.

There’s no point in going into Pope Benedict, because surely everyone knows by now about his numerous cover-ups.

And finally there’s Pope John Paul. He has Opus Dei and the Maciel case to answer for. And more. None of which stopped him from becoming a Saint. Maciel was the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. He was a serial sexual abuser whose crimes were covered up during JP’s era.

 The Church does seem fond of Legionaries and Knights, doesn’t it?  Historically, Legionaries and Knights were evil mercenaries. The Crusades were monstrous crimes. The Code of Chivalry is an offensive lie.

The Catholic faithful need to live in an Orwellian cloud cuckoo land and believe in the current, sugary, fantasy version of the Catholic Church. Or turn a blind eye to the alternative. The grim reality is just too awful to think about, so most people – very understandably – don’t.

Alas, I don’t have that luxury. My muse insists I make my research and my recollections public. Or maybe it’s the angry 13-year-old boy inside me that’s still demanding justice.  Or perhaps it’s both of them.

Catharsis is not enough, my muse says. People need to know, she says. And I’m tired of arguing with her that no one gives a damn. ‘You should have published your recollections at least ten years ago,’ she tells me irritably. My excuse, ‘Sod the Knights –it was all a long time ago and they’re all dead now. Let’s just let it go,’ cuts no ice with her. Which is why I’m typing this now, rather than being curled up with my beautiful wife and a glass of wine, and watching telly. But my muse tells me the work must come first. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand. Sigh!

Of course the Vatican always insists: the Popes never knew about their army of sexual abusers. Denial. Denial. Denial. Despite an endless and ongoing avalanche of serious abuse cases. Historical and Current.

I know what my muse would say about that. And so do you.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FIGHTING BACK

The recent newspaper article about an abuse victim killing a 92 year old clerical abuser by shoving a crucifix down his throat made me reflect on the various ways Survivors fight back.

Sadly, fear and violence, horrible as this example is, is all these clerical abusers seem to understand. I wish it were otherwise, but in an age of endless cover-ups, when the current head of the Catholic Church – Pope Francis – is provably guilty of deliberately lying to cover up abuse – it’s inevitable.

See the final section of a French TV documentary (In English) Sex Abuse in the Church:  Code of Silence.

It’s well worth seeing because when the Pope is caught lying (Over the Grassi scandal), the guilt is clearly written all over his face. He’s caught red-handed and papal apologists will have to tie themselves into knots to excuse his reaction. Even Bill Donahue would have difficulty. I guess he’d just bluster and shout at the camera as he usually does.

But with a long line of Popes like Francis in charge, it sends a message to these perverts that what they’re doing is okay, and is tolerated and IMO, for which I have some evidence, is actually encouraged by the clerics at the top. Such priests are not abusing their vocation, as critics or defenders usually claim, because it’s actually part of their vocation.  I believe it’s always been part of the Church’s belief system. It’s actually no different to PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) attempting to legitimise its crimes against children, and with a similar evil, if pseudo-spiritual, logic.

It’s never been one rotten apple in the barrel. When I was growing up, all the apples in the barrel were rotten and I very much doubt my parish was unusual. That’s when you start to realise the Church is actually like PIE; it’s hardwired into the religion itself. It’s something the media dare not say, because it’s thinking the unthinkable, but it seems blindingly obvious to me.

My own experience involved three parish priests based in Ipswich in the 1950s era, all three paedophiles: Canon Burrows, Father Wace, and Father Jolly – chaplain to St Joseph’s College.

So I thought I’d share three examples of fighting back against clerical abusers and how valuable it was for me personally. Even if I didn’t always win.

The one thing all three priests had in common was that they were English upper class, the product of Catholic public schools, and two of them, at least, were Knights of St Columba. (Canon Burrows and Father Jolly). I believe that their elite English Catholic background gave them a Droit du Seigneur and a pseudo-spiritual rationale for their crimes. 

For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to focus here on the fighting back, although I have extensive notes on all three individuals. I even hired a private detective to gather information on one of them. A useful and positive step, by the way, which I would recommend to Survivors.

So Canon Burrows first: parish priest at St Pancras, Ipswich. Burrows was a very close friend of my Irish widowed mother. He was always round our house, doing practical jobs, like rebuilding a fireplace. I was 5 years old when he bought me an expensive cowboy suit, amongst other gifts, and he always referred to me affectionately as ‘The Sheriff’. One wintry afternoon he drove me to a deserted lumber yard down by Ipswich docks where his ancient car broke down and it needed a hand crank start. I can still remember wanting to hit him with that crank handle. Instead, I remember kicking him (a valuable symbolic gesture in retrospect) and then I did a runner. Maybe because he called me ‘The Sheriff’, instead of going home, I went to the police station to report what had happened.  After all, that’s what a Sheriff would do.

I don’t remember the details, but I do recall vividly a kindly and positive response, where the cops made a real fuss of me. A classic Dixon of Dock Green cop brought me a cup of hot chocolate – a beverage I still drink today if I’ve had a shock. The official family story became that ‘I got lost’ and that’s how I ended up at the police station, because the truth was just too difficult for Catholics to deal with. Sadly, I doubt it was High Noon for Burrows – not in those days – but I think he may have been warned off.  Anyway, my experience at the police station was so encouraging, I believe that’s what’s turned me into a life-long whistleblower. They listened to my story and they believed me. That was very rare in the 50s. So I’m still grateful to the boys in blue and that’s why I’m writing this whistle-blowing post today.

The second was Father Harry Wace – he was Chaplain to Canon Burrows. He was from a wealthy military family – his father was a Lieutenant Colonel in a Sikh regiment of the Indian Army. His brother, too, was a priest. According to his obituary, Harry liked to wear dead priests clothes and his dead father’s suits.   As they were the same gender, I guess there’s nothing Norman Bates there. My mother was his housekeeper. So when I was around seven, I followed her around as she made Wace’s bed and folded his pyjamas. His pyjama jacket, casually left out on the unmade bed, was covered in the most amazing metal badges. A collector’s paradise. I was in awe and I can still recall that feeling of really coveting those super-cool badges. They were every young boy’s dream.

Wace was 28 years old at this time. He had been in the Rifle Brigade of the Suffolk Regiment and served in Palestine in the 1940s for two years.  So he was not some immature young Father Dougal from Father Ted.

That pyjama jacket would have been impossible to sleep in, but my mother simply smiled at me as she put his pyjamas away. She was surely a classic example of Stockholm Syndrome, which is how the Catholic Church got away with so much – and still does. They call their denial system – when faced with overwhelming evidence – the highly prized Gift of Faith. You believe in the Church, no matter what. Every Catholic aspires to it.

So then I joined the Catholic Cubs, which was run by Wace. He was Akela and all I can recall visually is a memory of his bare knees and his special Cubmaster grey socks.  The rest is still hazy but I guess he thought that my mother being a widow, I was fair game. But what he didn’t know was that although my legal father was dead, my biological father was still very much alive and would visit us from time to time as a family ‘friend’. He was from a working class background in Dublin and was fond of the notorious ‘Bucky’ – Buckfast Tonic Wine – the ultimate tongue loosener, which is how I knew that he was actually my dad.  So I told my dad – I blew the whistle on Wace – and, to my delight, he paid the priest  ‘a visit.’ I then mysteriously left the Cubs and Wace shortly afterwards left his chaplaincy at St Pancras church.

Filling in the gaps on these minimal details is conjecture but I believe it’s pretty close to the truth. Because, annoyingly, adults rarely tell kids what actually happens on these occasions. But it would certainly not have been a polite middle-class exchange of views! However, dad – under the influence of Bucky – once opened our front door with his shoulder, so I’m convinced he would have dealt with Wace in an appropriately ‘physical’ way. Even though he too was an Irish Catholic, there was no danger of him being affected by Stockholm Syndrome.

And that makes him quite unusual. In the same era, a middle-class dad gave his son a horrific beating for making up ‘terrible lies’ when he complained about the notorious Brother Solomon abusing him. And that was the usual reaction of parents in that time – the child must be punished for being a ‘malicious liar’ in order to protect the corrupt institution and corrupt individual.

What makes me know my dad was different and say this with conviction is the song, ‘Oh! My Papa’,  which was very popular in the 50s. When I listen to that song today, the tears stream down my face, but they are never tears of sadness or loss – which the words usually evoke for most people. (E.G. ‘Deep in my heart, I miss him so today.’). Instead, surprisingly, they are tears of happiness, of joy and celebration! Celebrating what? I’m pretty certain I’m celebrating dad’s visit to Father Wace. Dad may not have shoved a crucifix down Wace’s throat, but I like to think he gave that upper class pervert a good hiding, which he certainly deserved.  ‘Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful.’ Thank you, dad.

And lastly we come to Father Jolly – the chaplain at St Joseph’s and my parish priest at St Marks. I would help him paint his yacht moored at Pin Mill, and he took me sailing as a reward. He also took other St Joseph’s pupils on sailing trips.  When he wasn’t buying me wooden clogs – one of several souvenirs he brought back from his visits to 1960s Amsterdam – and loaning me his 1930s super-long skis, he was part of a wider Catholic community of like-minded souls. This involved weekend ‘retreat’ trips away in his Hillman Minx car and I would sometimes accompany him. Once again the details are hazy, but let’s put it this way – I still have a fanatical hatred of Hillman Minx cars, specifically their dashboards, which I’d still like to smash with a hammer. Because when you can’t attack a perpetrator, you displace the anger onto a nearby inanimate object.

But kids’ revenge is sometimes as devious, ingenious, nasty and – most important – deniable as the groomers’ actions themselves, and this needs honouring and recording. So here’s a case in point. A friend of mine, who I’ll call Paul, also knew Jolly very well, disliked him intensely for some mysterious reason, and – in recent years – described to me an incident which I had no knowledge of at the time.

Paul related how he and his friends, all fellow pupils at St Joseph’s,  (not in my class) ‘made a pipe bomb and blew up the remains of an old tree in Father Jolly’s orchard.’

Why?

‘Because we were interested in chemistry.’

(Next time I see Paul I must ask him if Mike Kearney was their teacher – although I doubt their bomb would qualify for his memorial prize.)

So I quizzed Paul further. He and his friends bought all these specialist ingredients to make a bomb. But why choose Father Jolly’s orchard of all places to detonate it?

Paul shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, his sphinx-like face giving nothing away.

Any old boy of St Joseph’s from our era will tell you that Jolly’s orchard was small – it was just a garden, really, overlooked by Jolly’s house – and it was so close to the school that the risk of being caught was high. If you’re going in for crazy chemistry experiments, as kids used to do, there were other places nearby where you could carry them out without any fear of discovery.

I tried interrogating Paul again.  ‘Was Jolly there at the time? What was his reaction to you exploding a bomb near his house?’ I was wasting my breath. I doubt Paul would break, even under waterboarding. He came back with his standard reply whenever I push him too hard for details about his days at  St Joseph’s.

‘It was so long ago, I don’t remember now,’ he said, his face a picture of complete innocence.

Fair enough. So I’ve filled in the blanks myself, and a fictional version features in my novel ‘Serial Killer’. Doubtless you can reach your own conclusions.

Bottom line on all this?  Kids do hit back in their own unique ways and we need to remember their victories over the priests, teachers and De La Salle brothers in Ipswich, cowards who have otherwise largely escaped justice.

This is because of a Catholic Diocese that has shown zero interest in historic crimes by its priests. Instead, it does a Pontius Pilate and refers them to the police, which is all too often wasting valuable police time as the crimes are historic and, invariably, there’s nothing the police can do. But they still have to look at every case passed to them. I’ve personally found the police as supportive today as when I was six years old.

In a similar way, the De La Salle brothers are still going strong, but the organisation also ignores the numerous historic crimes its order are notorious for. Unless they’re fetched. Then, of course, they will wring their hands with expressions of regret which I doubt fools anyone, including themselves. 

Meanwhile, St Joseph’s maintains its links with its past  (e.g.  a sadistic teacher like Kearney. See an earlier post), but otherwise does a complete Pontius Pilate while at the same time proudly proclaiming that it is ‘In the La Sallian Tradition’.

Which particular aspect of the tradition would that be?  As a Survivor, that means something quite negative and disturbing to me.

Yet the reaction of Catholic authority is hardly surprising when the Pope, their leader is caught lying on camera. He is clearly telling Catholic perpetrators: ‘It’s okay to lie. I’m on your side.’ Stockholm Syndrome, cognitive dissonance, or whatever you choose to call it, is still as potent today as it ever was.

But we don’t have to always talk about all this in sad, hushed tones as stereotypically represented in the media. These sick individuals, when they’re still alive, probably enjoy that because it means they still have the power and power is ultimately what all this is about.  Especially when – as the facts have shown time and again – they’re still protected by their Pope, despite his phoney words to the contrary.

Naming and shaming them is one way of us taking back our power and I’m looking forward to doing more of the same shortly. There are other ways, too – like suing them or their organisation or having abusers arrested and banged up before they can plead senility. If you’re a Survivor, whichever path you decide to take, I wish you luck and can assure you it will be worth it. 

Because you’re fighting back.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

The Daily Mail article about my old school, St Joseph’s, and how it inspired my version of Judge Dredd and Torquemada.

The recent Daily Mail article, also featured in The Sun and The Express, described Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s time at my old school, St Joseph’s College, Ipswich. If they were trying to trash him for going to a ‘posh public school’, they failed dismally in my opinion. Nevertheless, they twisted the facts sufficiently so that Daily Mail readers would have all the fake news they needed to believe the worst of McDonnell.

That said, there were some real gems in the feature that will bring back memories for many old boys of our time at St J’s. And it also reminded me of how I built a successful writing career based on my experiences at the school.

I particularly enjoyed the Mail’s rather unlikely opening description of Chantry Secondary Modern ‘yobs’ doing battle with St Js rugby elite. Supposedly wielding cricket bats and golf clubs, the college boys sent the working class kids packing back to their council estate where they belonged. It felt more like a typical, fetid Mail fantasy, but perhaps it was true. But I lived on Chantry council estate at that time and cycled past the Secondary Mod every day, wearing my brightly striped St J’s blazer, with no problem and not one taunt or confrontation from anyone. In fact, three of us ‘Holy Joes’ – as the Mail enjoyed labelling us – regularly hung around the Secondary Mod gates chatting up the girls. The Secondary Mod boys were completely indifferent to us muscling in on ‘their territory’. But the Mail account suggested tensions between the two adjacent schools mounted until there was a massive shindig straight out of the Jennings and Darbishire novels by Anthony Buckeridge.

It was also good to read that John McDonnell described the school as ‘sado-masochistic Christianity’, a regime that enjoyed ‘kicking the shit out of you’. That is 100% accurate, as I relate in my autobiography ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’. It was this kind of warped behavior by De La Salle monks that inspired my version of the 2000AD comic book character Judge Dredd and also Torquemada in my Nemesis the Warlock. I am, of course, the developer of Judge Dredd, not its creator as the Mail states. But I don’t think anyone really expects the Mail to get its facts completely right.

But I do wonder if McDonnell’s criticism of the school is the real reason the current regime no longer lists him among past alumni. They would doubtless prefer no one knows about the school’s dark past, which they do their best to disassociate themselves from.

So it transpires that John McDonnell was at St Js for four years, just a couple of years after I was there. I, too, was down for the seminary; I, too, had my school fees paid for by a church grant; and I, too, left at age fifteen when I ‘discovered girls’.s I used the exact same phrase at the time.

But the Mail article chooses to miss out on aspects that would explain why St J’s, whilst never a seminary, could often seem like one and how that misunderstanding may well have arisen. Because the college was motivated to send boys in the direction of the seminary. Highly motivated. I was very aware back then that, following the Second Vatican Council, there was a disastrous slump in vocations. Maybe I overheard adults talking about it, but I knew there was panic in the air. In a decade or two they were going to run out of priests! And this has, of course, come to pass. Consequently, every day we were regularly and fanatically harangued by Brother James, our form teacher, with fierce recruiting speeches to ‘answer God’s call’ which, he warned us, we ignored at our peril. God would not be happy, he told us sternly.

The psychotic Brother James, as readers of ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’ will know, was one of the sources of inspiration for my version of Dredd and also Torquemada, a xenophobic, Darth Vader-like character who regards all aliens as deviants who must be ‘cleansed’ by his deranged Terminator Knights. The other sources were Brother Solomon, the notorious wannabe pop star known as the ‘Swinging Monk’ and a Catholic layman who I’ll call ‘Torquemada’ for now, as I’m still in the process of researching him and – unlike the Mail – I like to get my facts right. More on this gentleman in a moment.

Eventually I succumbed to Brother James’s passionate rants, signed up for the priesthood, and was forthwith taught Latin one-to-one by Brother Kevin. Once you sign up, a church grant is arranged as the Mail article rightly states. How that was done is a bit of a mystery, though, but I’m assuming that the Knights of St Columba – a group of successful Catholic businessmen – were most likely involved in some way. After all, according to the Catholic Herald newspaper, it was the Knights who arranged the original purchase of the St J’s school building from R and W Paul, a local Ipswich seed merchants. It was the start of a long relationship between the De La Salle brothers and the Knights.

So with that grant, the Church had invested in me and they expected a return on their investment, just like any business. And I guess that’s reasonable. So when I was observed snogging a girl at St Mary’s Catholic youth club, the Church worthies and the School went on red alert. A harmless kiss was really a big deal to them. To put this in context, when a dance was arranged at St J’s with a local school band (Murray and the Mints!) the college finally decided against the local convent girls attending in case we ran off with them into the wooded school grounds, which we doubtless would have done. So, instead, boys danced with each other, which was much wiser. The opposite sex was definitely taboo. Consequently, Brother Kevin was called to the youth club for an emergency meeting to discuss my disgraceful behaviour.

My case was then referred to a Church worthy, who I’m naming Torquemada because he was definitely a prime source of inspiration for the Grand Master of the Terminator Knights. His real first name also begins with ‘T’ so it seems appropriate. Torquemada spoke sternly to me about conduct unbecoming. He urged me to suppress my hormones, mend my ways, lead a celibate life from now on and stay away from girls. After all, the trouble began with that hussy Eve. He exhorted me… ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’ Or words to that effect. He and I were unaware that one day this famous slogan would be scrawled on the Berlin Wall (No photos were taken at the time, alas. Sorry!) And become the title of the Manic Street Preachers documentary film.

beoure

Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! is available as an e-book, paperback and audiobook. Find out more over at my Millsverse website.

 

The sensible thing for me to do would have been to shut up and obey. And to be a little more discreet in my dalliances with the opposite sex. But there were other factors at work and things were already getting out of hand.

To keep this brief, let’s just say I blew the whistle on the behaviour of some Church worthies who were definitely guilty of conduct unbecoming. I had good reason to do so, but I naively thought that telling the truth was the right thing to do. It was not. No one in authority was interested. ‘Best stay away from them in future, son,’ was the typical advice I was given. Whistleblowers, then and now, are not popular because most people are socially conditioned to keep their mouths shut and put up with shit. Somehow I seem to have escaped that process of omertà, both then and now. Speaking out is, unfortunately, hard-wired into my DNA. But ‘betraying’ these gentlemen and their sworn secrets did not go down well with Torquemada.

There then began an interesting battle of wits between me and the Grand Master, where we both progressively upped the ante. It was a process of action and reaction with – just as in fiction – each action and reaction becoming more serious than the last and potentially spiraling out of control as we attempted to defeat the other. Once again I was naïve to imagine I could possibly beat Torquemada. How dumb was that! But when you’re a kid you’ve only got three choices: fight, flight or surrender. I chose to fight. Always.

There were attempts to keep me on a tight leash, which only had the effect of sending me further ‘off the rails’. I had already witnessed some of these Catholic gentlemen’s dubious, neo-masonic and esoteric practices. If you find that unbelievable, let me assure you their rituals are a matter of written record. Although the particularly dubious ones have gone unrecorded. It was the latter that were the subject of my whistleblowing. If you’re curious, drop me a line and I’ll send you the link to a full description of their official rituals. These occult ceremonies – which continued until the late 1960s – still make for disturbing reading.

So, furious that my complaints had not been listened to, and as a mark of my defiance, in classic ‘juvenile delinquent’ manner, I became involved with what the Church might describe as ‘The Opposition’. It was typical teenage rebellion. That would show them all! ‘The Opposition’ was a group of adults with their own equally dubious esoteric and masonic practices who recruited me from the local library. Talk about out of the frying pan… But I needed to rebel in some way and it seemed preferable to glue sniffing. But Torquemada saw right through my less than convincing excuse that these people were actually okay because ‘they were into yoga’. So was Aleister Crowley.

Now I was thought to be ‘in grave moral danger’, it was Torque’s turn to up the ante. Accordingly it was decided to speed up the vocational process. It was the norm to go to the seminary at age 18, as the Mail makes clear. This would be after a truly excellent education, at which point I might well say, ‘I don’t have a vocation after all, but thank you very much and goodbye.’ Instead, there was a change of plan. To my horror, they were sending me to a junior seminary at age fifteen! Right away. No messing. To get me far away from those ‘bad influences’!

Whether I really had a vocation was academic – when you are brainwashed every day, who is to say? I guess I thought I could decide when I was 18, but now they’d called my bluff. I passed the medical exam for the seminary and my entry was planned with immediate effect. I agonised long and hard over whether I should go. It wasn’t concern over leaving home or even my friends that finally decided me against it. That didn’t worry me at all. I had a strong sense of adventure and I wanted to discover the world – hence why I had gotten involved with ‘The Opposition’. No, it was because I knew what was waiting for me at the other end. More moral danger, this time if not officially approved by the Catholic Church, certainly carried out by its devotees.

After all, I was already aware of enough perverted practices amongst priests and the Church worthies. Too big a subject to detail here. The Mail might relate just how delightful the St J’s yachting club on the River Orwell was, but I can tell you it’s no joke being trapped on the school chaplain’s personal yacht when he is after his droit du seigneur, there’s nowhere to run and you’re a lousy swimmer.

These were not minor or isolated incidents: they were widespread and endemic. It was the norm and a way of life, something that is still conveniently steered around when the Church’s appalling record is brought to public attention. Probably because it’s on the list of taboo subjects that our tightly controlled media has been told never, ever to write about. For instance, why there is never any media reference to Jimmy Savile and the Catholic Church? Some subjects are off limits and probably always will be and these seem to include the conduct of certain important Catholic lay people. If you imagine it’s just priests who were paedophiles and the congregation never knew or never joined in, there’s probably a bridge I could interest you in. Of course what was good enough for a priest was undoubtedly good enough for certain prominent members of his flock.

So I bailed. I wasn’t going. They tried damn hard to persuade me otherwise with endless – and I mean bloody endless – lectures from Torquemada and other Catholic worthies. Every time there was a knock on our front door there was another one of them standing there, like a Jehovah’s Witness, wanting ‘a quiet word’! I guess they were used to winning, but so was I. Neither of us would back down. My behaviour was ‘very naughty’, according to a relative. Damn right it was. Their guilt-tripping lectures ranged from ‘you’ll break your poor mother’s heart’, to ‘she’s sacrificed everything for you, you can’t let her down now,’ to ‘she doesn’t know how to cope with your wild ways anymore,’ to ‘the seminary will be the making of you,’ to ‘you’re throwing away a great future, your life will be ruined’. You see, as it says in the Mail article, it was the dream of every Irish Catholic Mother for her son to be a priest. But how many kids would willingly enter the PIE equivalent of Fagan’s Den? This was how I saw the seminary. And with good reason. Google them and you will see just what I mean.

So I stuck to my guns. In retaliation, I had to face the Wrath of Torquemada! Torquemada became Torquemadder. I was kicked out of St J’s with immediate effect at just fifteen, thereby narrowly escaping the humiliation of being sent to that Secondary Modern over the road for my final school year. But the only job I could find was as an errand boy riding a trade bike at the previously mentioned R and W Paul’s. I believe this was arranged by Torquemada himself although I still need to double check my facts there. (The full fictionalised story is recounted in my Read Em and Weep novel series). It had been a busy year.

torquemada be pure my terminators are watching you.jpg

Torquemada knows when you’ve been naughty.
Nemesis The Warlock ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT ©  REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

But, surprisingly, that wasn’t the end of it. Torquemada just wouldn’t give up. Really! I don’t know what went wrong at Vatican 2, but they must have been absolutely desperate for recruits to still want me. I’d have thought it was bleeding obvious I was beyond saving and I’d have given up on me long ago. ‘He’s a bust. Move on.’ My bad attitude alone surely wouldn’t suit a clerical life of obedience to authority. Maybe he thought he could finally break me in the end. So, after several months had passed, he actually offered me a ‘second chance’ to join the junior seminary and all would be forgiven. I recall meeting him at Grimwades restaurant (that posh outfitters mentioned in the Mail article. Although it was never the Savile Row set-up the newspaper made it out to be). He thought suffering the indignity of being a messenger boy would ‘bring me to my senses’. Maybe that was all part of his cunning plan. Perhaps now I would finally heed his dreadful warning: ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’

Maybe he genuinely wanted to ‘save my soul’, but I just wanted to save my ass. Besides, I’d now discovered a new form of anti-authority delinquency to really piss him off that was much more appealing than my foray into the occult Opposition. Now it was Mods and Rockers. Mods were really cool, I excitedly told a sour-faced Torquemada as he scowled at my ex-army parka, desert boots and red socks. At last I’d found a group I could belong to. The Quadrophenia delights of Mod riots on the beach at Great Yarmouth were easily more attractive than fending off weirdo priests at the seminary, so my response to Torquemada was ‘Fuck you.’ Although not literally, of course.

I left home at 16, and thankfully, severed all connections with the Church.

So I don’t know how it was for John McDonnell, but, as you can see, from my experience, the Church do not give up easily. They want their pound of young flesh. To imagine that you can have an expensive, first rate education for four years and at the end of it all you simply say ‘I’ve changed my mind, I don’t have a vocation’ and walk away without any consequences is a little optimistic. Kids are, of course. I was. But adults are realistic. And these were very intelligent, very successful, very determined adults. I would not have been the first or the last recruit who tried to change his mind. And they would have their strategies in place to deal with them.

But, in the end, I guess I did beat them. I finally beat Torquemada. Although you don’t need to remind me it was a pyrrhic victory.

I don’t know whether McDonnell’s time at St Js helped make him a Marxist, but my experiences there certainly affected my beliefs – big time. Maybe the school affected fellow old boy Chris Mullin, too, and that’s really why he wrote A Very British Coup, one of my favourite novels and films because it’s about the underdog winning. I’m probably more radical than either of them and that’s undoubtedly due to my experiences with ‘Judge Dredd’, ‘Torquemada’ and the rest of that unholy crew associated with St J’s and now immortalised in the pages of 2000AD. So every cloud…

But let’s not forget about that ‘church grant’. If the Church thought McDonnell was going to be a priest then they would pay his boarding fees. Because he passed the eleven-plus, his local education authority would cover the rest. If the Mail article is a bit wooly there it’s because the process was a mysterious one but it would always be fuelled by an agenda.

However the fees were nothing like the Mail is mischievously trying to suggest. As a day boy, my fees were 21 guineas a term. Allowing for inflation, that’s approaching 2K a year in today’s money. Boarding fees would be more, but still a whole lot less than the ridiculous figures the Mail is implying McDonnell’s church or family would have had to pay.

My mother was a widow, and there was no way she could afford 2K. She was as poor as a church mouse and that comparison is deliberate because young widows with kids are always vulnerable to powerful male abusers and predators and doubly so in the Catholic Church. Especially in that era. It’s very likely that my hard-wired aggression developed at a very young from trying to protect her from dubious characters. To be ‘the man of the house’. Of course I didn’t always succeed, but there are ways… kids are still animals and animals don’t take any shit, so why should they?

So it’s no good saying – as one St J’s old boy said recently on my blog – words to the effect, ‘Well I was at St J’s and nothing bad happened to me or to anyone I know. So you and the other survivors must be making this up.’ Even if your dad wasn’t an all-in wrestler, if you had a dad, the chances are he would keep the predators at bay. These scum are cowards, after all, and they like to avoid a baseball bat in the face which is, of course, what they so richly deserve.

Anyhow, my mother sent my older brother and I to St J’s for a combined total of nine years. Even though neither of us passed the eleven plus. So our education was paid for solely by the Church. This was confirmed recently to me by my mother’s younger sister. They’re both deceased now, but the mystery remains. Why on Earth would the Church do that? After all, having two sons becoming priests seems a little excessive, even for an Irish Catholic family, although that was undoubtedly my mother’s dream.

It’s certainly rather odd, but these facts are beyond any doubt. So why? Is the Church really that generous with its cash? Not in my personal experience. On the contrary. When we were desperate and in need of charity, we turned to the local Rotary club for help and I’ll never forget their kindness and generosity. But the Church? Forget it. That’s a self-promoting myth they still spread to preen their egos. So why? The full answer lies outside this post and is connected with Torquemada. I’ll come back to him another time as I continue my researches into him.

But for now… Let’s just say, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch.’