IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION

Here’s a recent comment from Martin, from my ‘About’ page, in response to a thread about St Joseph’s College, Ipswich.  I think he makes some interesting points.  I decided our exchange deserved its own blog status, so here it is.

Thanks, Martin.

Hi Pat,
I was at St Joe’s for many years. I remember them , Bros Cecil, James, Hugh, Damien, Owen, Gerard, Soloman, Denis Robert, Gregory, Benet, Cuthman, Peter, Terrence and others. They seemed all to have some sort of attitude or psychological problem or were perverts. Having spoken to others over the years about this it does seem that all the Del a Salle Schools and Catholic Schools were all the same. I am quite sure all the stories are pretty much true. The film Catholic Boys captures it pretty well. I’m in contact with a number of people from the 60s and early 70s from St Joe’s, I think some have tried to give details to the police. Interestingly and rather oddly one of the number listed above is still around and his partner (female) works for the police in relation to child abuse. Talk about poacher turned game-keeper! He waxes lyrical now about abuse saying ‘it only takes good men to do nothing etc etc’. He knew what was going on when he was at St Joe’s and did nothing. The pious hypocrite.

 

Hi, Martin,

Great to hear from you and thank you for making some truly excellent observations. As you say, the film Catholic Boys captures the tone of St J’s very well. Although I think it was actually worse in my time there in the 1960s.

As you say, hypocrisy is the thing that bothers us. Thus, I once looked up Brother James on the web. At first I thought it was a truly monstrous De La Salle headmaster named Brother James currently doing a long prison stretch for his crimes. But he turned out to be a different De La Salle Brother. The Brother James from St J’s has died and was described in his obituary as a shy and timid character. This is far from the truth and whoever wrote that obituary must have known it. I witnessed him explode with demented rage and violence when he attacked a classmate and his psychotic behavior still preys on my mind to this day. But despite his reputation for violence and rage, he was also a great maths teacher who knew how to reach kids like me who were hopeless at the subject.

Similarly, Brother Solomon who – confirmed by the tragic poetry of one his victims at Beulah Hill – abused many children. Yet I know I owe my deep love of classical music to him. He, too, is dead.

And I think their excellence as teachers combined with their perversions sets up confusion and cognitive dissonance in many pupils who thus try and block it from their minds, and that’s how so many Brothers have largely got away their crimes.

I do believe St J’s and the Order itself both owe Survivors a collective apology. It’s no good putting the blame on individual Brothers – there are just too many of them to use the ‘one rotten apple’ defence. It’s the College and the Order itself that is clearly responsible. Thus Brother Solomon was suddenly transferred from Birkfield because of abuse (and given a glowing tribute by Brother James in the school magazine), then sacked from Beulah Hill and returned – in the 1980s – to Birkfield as a lay teacher. Once again he was dismissed following allegations of abuse – but he should never have been reinstated.

One thing I find offensive is the caption on the school gates of St J’s today: “In the Lasallian tradition”. Although the College today seems to have distanced itself from the Brothers per se, nevertheless the uniforms, the motto, the history, the traditions, and the legacy are still proudly confirmed in those words. According to the College’s website, the caption pertains – with some dexterous semantics – to St Jean Baptise de La Salle, but significantly not to the Order of Brothers he founded. Whatever the intention, in practice, “In the Lasallian tradition” means the promise of an excellent Christian education but also that it has not disassociated itself from the De La Salle Brothers. So for many old boys up to relatively recent times those words stand for something terrible and dark. Only an acknowledgement of this really makes that caption acceptable in today’s world.

Thus I don’t agree with one famous St J’s old boy, who told me recently how different the school is today: it’s unisex, the Brothers have gone, and it’s properly run etc. I’m sure he is right but I took the subtext of his comments to be that the past is the past and everyone really needs to forget about it and move on. But in my opinion, closure is not possible until the successors to the Brothers have acknowledged what happened or until justice is done.

So I wish our fellow old boys well in pursuing the Brothers responsible for harming them before they are too old and infirm to be charged. I have a St. J’s old boy police detective contact who specializes in investigating crimes of this nature and it’s possible he might be able to help or point your contacts in the right direction. If that’s any help, do ask them to write to me and I’ll put them in touch with him.

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11 thoughts on “IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION

  1. I went to St jos from 1953 to 61 as a day boy so knew nothing of the boarders problems. I recall Bro James, he with the small round glasses, he used to fly in rages for no reason. Whilst he was in that state he would lash out at anyone who upset him. Bro Ives James was another, I remember him calling a boy out to the front whilst he was writing on the board. He spun round and hit the boy on the face so hard that he staggered back and fell over.
    Bro Solomon, he just looked evil, short fat and with a air of evil about him.There were whispers that we heard about him such as pulling boys pyjama trousers down as a supposed joke but nothing concrete. He used to say that he had to cane small boys harder then big boys. He was still there when I left. I had to go back to the school in the early 1980s and was really surprised to see him there as a lay teacher as the brothers had always held up anyone who left the order as damned and beyond help.

  2. Hi,
    Please can you provide a name or contact of someone willing to help me, during the years of 1981 through to around 1984 a PE Teacher by the name of Andrew Rutherford at SJC repeatedly abused boys by making them do excercises naked and would stand and inspect us after showers for “cleanliness”. He would make us bend over naked and give us the slipper, as well as make us do naked “Star” jumps.

    I have a minimum of 2 other people willing to make statment to this effect. Should you ever visit Ipswich I am living here and would be happy to give you a first hand account. Please note however that concerning the DLS Brothers that on only one occasion did I ever witness, first hand, physical abuse by Brother Francis Tyson on Giles Churchill when he hit him several times with a cane noth in the face and on the arm as well as several other instances of violence and abuse. I also witnessed another teacher, first hand, Mr Twist (Chemistry Teacher) hit several children including myself with a ruler and a physics teacher (Mrs or MIss Warren) pull hair and hit people physically or with objects, and also on one occasion Mr A Rutherford lifting me up by my hair and kicking me in front of the class because I had my buttons undone.

    I’d really relish the opportunity to meet any of the above named teachers on a one to one (or they can bring their friends) basis in order to perhaps explain and highlight my issues. I’d really , really relish the chance. Trust me.

    • Hi, Peter,

      I’m so sorry to hear what happened to you and your classmates. The Suffolk police are definitely the people to contact. As you have corroborating witnesses, that is going to help, too.

      I checked with a police detective friend of mine and he says that is definitely the thing to do. I’m sure they will take it very seriously. He tells me that

      “they will have some form of Child Protection /Safeguarding Unit (probably based at Martlesham Heath). They should really be his first port of call as all crimes should be reported locally at first.”

      I’ve got an email address and name for what may be the same police unit if you’d prefer to make an initial approach online. Just drop me a line and I’ll pass it onto you.

      In the past, such abuse was so commonplace, it wasn’t seen as the very serious, damaging crime it is. And the Catholic Church hasn’t helped because – even today – they seem, on certain occasions, to claim that their priests are subject to canon law first or are above the law. For instance, in 2005, Marcial Maciel, a serial sex abuser and founder of the Legion of Christ was – in view of his advanced age – ordered by the Vatican

      “to conduct a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry.”

      Whereas, of course, he should have been reported to the police for his crimes and banged up for the remaining years of his life.

      Fortunately, in the UK and in the Suffolk area, the Catholic set-up seems refreshingly different these days. In the East Anglia Diocese, they have a “safeguarding co-ordinator” to look into instances of abuse. It’s part of their remit that they automatically pass on any and every allegation to the police. That’s got to be a big improvement on the past. When I was a kid at Catholic primary and started talking about the foul things that were going on, the nun headmistress grabbed me by the throat, started squeezing it, and told me to never speak on the subject ever again.

      I think we all have to speak up whenever an opportunity arises. One day soon I must write to St J’s and tell them they really need to express some regret or acknowledgement of their school’s dark past as they still say they are in “The Lasallian Tradition”, which means something awful for a lot of us old boys. An acknowledgement, at least, might give some of us some closure.

      Good luck, Peter.

      Best wishes

      Pat

      • Almost forgot about Mr Rutherford. He was known to ‘verify’ that students were showering naked – I never witnessed it myself but he made us all uneasy. It got to the point where some of us found ways of avoiding PE/Games when he was on duty (admittedly I avoided because I didn’t like playing ‘skins’ and had health problems limiting what I could do). I do remember him saying that those who refuse to play in skins have to play naked, as a form of intimidation. I never realised he’d actually done that.

        Maybe they mellowed a bit but I have positive memories of Brother Francis and Mrs Warren – I was in the top set so perhaps I didn’t see everything that happened, although I remember hearing a couple of stories about Mrs Warren’s temper with the lower set. Then again I did spend a lot of my classes looking in from the hallway – I was the type of student old style teachers hate – a poorly behaved high achiever.

        Another bully was Chemistry teacher Mr Kearney, he was total authoritarian and would threaten students, he was one of two teachers I refused to work with (the other was Mr Andrews) and after a few confrontations either self excluded or went to the library during their classes.

        I do remember Spanish teacher Brother Peter labelling me a ‘likeable rogue’ and that label sticking during my time at SJC, he was one DLS that I’ve only heard positive things about (the other being Brother David Hennessy, who was very distant but seemingly harmless), however going by what I’ve read I’m waiting for that to change.

  3. I was a victim (perhaps the victim) of the “shy and timid” Brother James psychotic behaviour. In 1957 a group of us were sitting in one of the classrooms when he came in and walked up to me and accused me of whistling in the classroom. I replied that it was not me and that in any case I could not whistle. Without warning he removed my glasses and struck me forcibly across the face with his clenched fist, five or six times. He then replaced my glasses, felt my pulse and said “You’ll live. Get out”. Nearly sixty years later I still have the occasional flashback about the above. Even if I had been guilty as charged the punishment was out of all proportion to the offence. Some years ago I mentioned the above to a retired teacher who told me that, even in the 1950s, such punishment was illegal. I doubt whether my parents would have done anything about it though as they shared the prevailing opinion that all the Brothers were saints

    • Thanks for your recollections of Brother James. I was shocked and saddened by them. What you described is even worse than the terrible violence I witnessed when Brother James beat my class mate, Damien “Day-Day” Moss, in an insane rage. James not only had psychotic episodes like these, but was also a coward who could only pick on young boys rather than adults. Hence the description in his obituary as a “shy and timid” man. The De La Salle Brothers have a clear and current responsibility to acknowledge these crimes and collectively apologise to their past victims. The fact that they haven’t speaks volumes about the true nature of their organisation and “The Lasallian Tradition”. As you say, parents would have upheld the Brothers in their criminal behaviour. In fact, my recollection is that it was the whole Catholic congregation – notably the Knights of Saint Columba, made up of Catholic pillars of society,such as lawyers and lay teachers – who supported the Brothers, so they could no wrong in the eyes of the faithful. Those very same Knights of Saint Columba who closely surrounded the coffin at Catholic Jimmy Savile’s funeral and which – curiously – despite the clear photographic evidence of their presence, have never been mentioned in the national media.

      • Hi Pat
        I came across your site recently and sent Damian an e-mail with some comments and a link to your site. You may like to see his reply:

        “In the time it took me to read this email and the accompanying links I was immediately transported back to that dark place masquerading as an educational institution.
        I have an uncomfortable feeling that I was that thirteen year boy described so graphically by Pat Mills.His description of Brother James was so chillingly accurate that it revived memories long forgotten. He and I fought a running battle over a two year period mostly involving my determination to flout school rules and his equally determined passion to uphold the rule of law. It culminated with the pair of us grappling on the ground for some article of clothing- if my memory serves me correctly, I think it was my beloved beatle boots with the two inch cuban heels! Soon after this incident I was deemed unmanageable and shipped off to Beulah Hill to continue my ordeal at the thankfully metaphorical hands of the De La Salle Order.
        Brother James in all honesty was a figure of tragic pity. He was inadequate, unloved, deeply frustrated and a raging sado-masochist. Apart from that, he was you’re standard issue christian brother.
        Brother Solomon, however, was a completely different incarnation of evil. He was a person of unmitigated perversion. After arriving at Beulah from De La Salle rehab camp he was appointed Head of Boarders in 1964. He was immediately placed in a position where he could continue his abuse of young, vulnerable, sensitive boys in his care/charge. His profile was that of a classic paedophile. He was able to carefully select his victims and groom them over a period of time to gain their trust and confidence before subjecting them to his unspeakable depravity. He was known among other things as the ‘ bugger meister’. He had a malevolent, brooding presence, and was the essence of pure evil. His track record was littered with scores of damaged individuals who just happened to be young , impressionable, and manipulable at the wrong time in their lives.
        Thankfully, by the time I arrived at Beulah Hill I was too old and rebellious to be groomed for anything other than immediate expulsion!! He left a frightening legacy of destroyed youthful minds and bodies. Sometimes we need to remember lest we forget such depravity.”

        Says it all. There can be no excuses.

        Rob Buckley

      • Thanks for sending this, Rob. Damian sums it up so well. Do pass on my warmest regards to him.

        I was aware of and personally inspired by his rebellious nature. Anyone who wore two inch cuban heels at St. Joseph’s, with its ultra-strict dress code, was definitely a rebel! Most of us were too scared and intimidated by these violent, cruel, black-clad fanatics to stand up to them. This was certainly the case for me – my defiance had already been partly knocked out of me at my Catholic primary school, St. Mary’s. Another old boy from St. Mary’s recently reminded me how I regularly challenged the status quo there. Then the nun headmistress – a Mother Theresa lookalike – got me by the throat and squeezed it as she warned me not to repeat my ‘wicked lies’ about the predatory paedophile priests who were endemic in our Catholic community. I really though she was going to kill me. So I had learnt – like so many other Catholic boys – to be silent about injustice by the time I got to St J’s.
        But I recall, as if it were yesterday, Damian’s passive resistance to Brother James (the teacher who was my role model for Judge Dredd). As James entered the classroom, Damian very slowly looked up from rummaging in the depths of his desk and gave James a subtle, but unmistakeable knowing look of disdain. In fact, he may not even have bothered to look up, it could have just been his sullen but eloquent body language that incited James’s subsequent psychotic episode. Even from my desk, some distance away, the message Damian’s back was sending out was clear and James got it. ‘Psychotic episode’ is the only phrase to describe the demented and unwarranted beating that ensued and which still angers and upsets me today, perhaps because I feel we should all of us, as a class, intervened en masse, protected our class mate and stopped that maniac.
        I’ve discussed it with another old boy and he’s described James having similar outbursts of uncontrollable rage. The fact that the De La Salle order have not acknowledged and expressed regret for the crimes of James and Solomon is a black mark against them which will not go away until they do. I shall certainly be writing about James and Solomon again and drawing their well-documented crimes to people’s attention. So much for St Joseph’s current regime’s proud claim that they are “in the Lasallian Tradition”. Damian’s courage needs applauding. It’s St. Joseph’s old boys like him we need to remember with pride today – “a rebel who fought Judge Dredd”. He is a fine example to us all.

  4. Hi Pat,
    I went to DeLaSalle schools in Dublin in the 70’s and 80’s and experienced my share of the Lasallian tradition. I had a strong attachment to 2000 ad when I was at school and I think that was to some extent because of its anti authoritarian stories. I would like to just say thanks for how your comic made me feel better about feeling powerless.

    A Hill

  5. Hi Pat, I attended SJC, Birkfield from 1969 to 1974. Although I did not directly experience any serious abuse at the hands of the DLS Brothers, I am aware of people who may have. I imagine many of the possible suspects may be long deceased. However if I or anyone I know can assist with current investigations please feel free to contact me. Btw, very impressed with your subsequent career. Yours truly, Andrew Yelo

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