ROLL OF DISHONOUR

Thanks to NW1 for your comment about Brother Kevin, which I talk about in my post In The Lasallian Tradition 3. I admire your diligence in trying to hold Kevin and the order accountable for their crimes.

Here’s my thoughts on the subject. Firstly, I wonder if any other old boys viewing this site had a similar experience with Kevin. If so, and they are prepared to disclose, that could be useful to NW1. I know one old boy told me recently about Kevin’s violence, but not sexual abuse. That is not so unusual in my experience; the old boys who leave their recollections here only recall Brother James’s violence, but I have a memory of another, far darker side to his character.

My own memories of Kevin are actually positive. He taught me Latin one to one and was a good teacher. But I was aware that he would stare at me intently and I felt he had some unfulfilled agenda with me. I talked about this with my wife several times over the years, long before I read NW1’s post. It could be summed up as ‘Kevin knows something about me I don’t know’ or ‘He’s thinking a lot about me, but I don’t know why.’ It wasn’t threatening, but it was a very strong and unsettling feeling. I may have had a lucky escape.

The challenge we all face, which NW1’s post demonstrates so clearly, is that many (but not all) of the Brothers and teachers we are concerned with are now probably old, sick, demented or dead, even though the order is very much alive and well and seems oblivious to its criminal past. It’s like it never happened, which I believe is what they want us to feel about our own experiences. This is born out not just by what happened at Birkfield, but also in many other De La Salle schools. It makes for grim and sad reading, as I’m sure most readers of this blog are aware. But they only seem to claim in court – when one of their number is being sentenced – that their hearts go out to the survivors. When they’ve been fetched. Otherwise, I think they would just like us to go away.

Here’s such a case. It concerns a different Brother James, a Brother James Carragher who ran a Catholic home for disturbed boys in Humberside and admitted 12 charges of sexual and indecent assault. He was jailed for seven years. One of the boys tried to kill himself because of the Brother’s attentions:

Brother Sean Sellors, a spokesman for the De La Salle Brothers, said Carragher had betrayed the order.

“We totally condemn, without reservation, any action or behaviour which harms young people,” he said.

“During his trial James Carragher said that he was ashamed of what he had done and that he had failed to live up to what he professed.

“His behaviour has been a deep betrayal of the Order’s mission to the young and to the trust that was placed in him as a De La Salle Brother.

“Our hearts go out to those who were victims of abuse and to their families in this case,” he said.

Read full news report here.

Fine words. The order will doubtless claim they cannot speak out equally strongly about Birkfield, where young people were also harmed and betrayed because it hasn’t come to court and it’s on the advice of their insurers or lawyers. That would be convenient. That would mean that, like other parts of the Catholic Church, they are controlled by lawyers and insurance companies. By Suits, who seem to have no sense of shame, and put the requirements of Mammon far ahead of their clients’ Christian ‘mission to the young’. So there’s only acknowledgement and empathy when clerical collars are being felt. When the security of their own order is at stake. The selfishness and hypocrisy of this needs no further comment from me.

I think one way to break through their shameful wall of silence is to have a Roll of Dishonour, a blacklist of those who were provably criminal abusers. So their names are no longer held high in lying eulogies (like Brother James) but are down in the gutter where they belong. So their names are sullied forever more. It’s a lot easier than spraying graffiti on their headstones, which I seriously considered at one point. (I was so angry at the time, I hired a private detective who found out all about a clerical abuser and where he was buried and gave me the plot details.) But a Roll of Dishonour will reach a lot more people.

If the idea appeals and has merit, readers may want to put up their own Rolls of Dishonour, or there may be a place elsewhere on the web better suited to the task. But below is my Roll of Dishonour. All these individuals I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, are provably abusers of children; although only one – Father Jolly – is provably relevant to me. There are other names mentioned by other old boys in past posts – a lay teacher for example – but I wouldn’t want to add names without their approval.

So I’ll wait to hear from NW1 to get his go-ahead to add Brother Kevin, although he does seem like a prime candidate.

If you have first hand knowledge or proof of other past abusers at Birkfield and would like them added, do say. Bear in mind, this blog does appear near the top on related web searches, so it will rightly impact on an organisation that has harmed so many children.

The current regime at Saint Josephs is unconnected with these terrible events; a famous old boy pointed out to me recently how very different and better they are today; I’m sure they are, but that’s not the point. They are still proudly proclaiming in their advertising and on the school entrance that they are ‘in the Lasallian Tradition’. They presumably want prospective pupils and parents to think it is a good thing to be associated with a past where criminal abuse was endemic, as the pages of this blog show – and I clearly recall. To me, that’s like saying ‘in the tradition of the Krays’, because they did some good, as well as far more harm.

The – I’m sure unintended – subtext of ‘in the Lasallian Tradition’ to old boys like myself is that the abuse doesn’t matter that much. Or it only happened to a few of us and the good outweighs the bad. Or it wasn’t really that bad. Or it was all a long, long time ago. Or it’s not really a crime unless we can actually prove it in court, and anyway the allegedly guilty monk is now dead. Or ‘that’s life, get over it’. And many of us did, although we still bear the scars. I met a once distinguished national journalist who was a St Joseph’s and Oak Hill old boy and a broken alcoholic and client of Mind (the mental health charity). He described his traumatic experiences at the school to me, and he didn’t ‘get over it’.

The strong connection to the Brothers is still there, not to mention the scholastic records, the uniforms, the mottos, the traditions and so on. And there are numerous other current links to a dark past – e.g. the Kearney chemistry prize, which honours the memory of a sadistic, vicious chemistry teacher from my day, who I will write about another time. It is not a brand new school, it has an infamous heritage, with which it is still associated, and wants to be associated with. Why not disassociate themselves from the negative aspects, with an expression of regret for what happened to so many past pupils? It’s not a matter of it being ‘unproven’ anymore. Particularly in the case of Brothers Solomon and James. And Brother Kevin. The order’s own records I’m sure will confirm what so many of us have described, if they won’t do us the courtesy of believing our numerous written statements which cross-reference each other and bear out we are telling the truth.

If the De La Salle Order or the local Catholic diocese (because the diocese surely has an over-arching responsibility for its Catholic members) are similarly wondering what to do about it, an expression of regret might also be a first step. Assuming the Suits that control them, or they hide behind, will permit it. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

 

ROLL OF DISHONOUR

St Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, Suffolk.

Time Span : 1960s to 1980s

 

 

  • Brother Solomon aka Mike Mercado, ‘the Swinging Monk’. Sexual abuser.
  • Brother James. Physical abuser.
  • Father Jolly. School Chaplain. Sexual abuser

 

 

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12 thoughts on “ROLL OF DISHONOUR

  1. Sorry not so eloquent as previous writers. 1958 to 64 Oak hill and Birkfield.
    Brother Hugh had regular children age 10 to 12 to his bedroom next to the dormitory, I recall 3 regulars that I knew about there could have been many others from different dorms, Brother James at Birkfield was a beater, aggressive and on one particular pupil who’s Maths were poor. A number of others liked the cane , quite vicious or ruler across the knuckles ,

  2. Has anyone actually attempted to engage SJC in a dialogue around what the Lasallian Tradition has meant to so many kids? Are they aware of the Roll of Dishonour? It will only have an effect if it is publicised.. You may only stumble across it if you are a Judge Dredd fan (I’m not – no offence Pat 🙂 ) or if you are sent a link. I am not at all surprised by the Brothers remaining Schtum – it’s led by Bro Laurence Hughes, an emotional and physical abuser of the highest order in my opinion, who was House Master of the 2nd and 3rd year boarders in the early to mid 80s. My general experience of school between 1975 and probably 1984 (when I turned 16) was that fear was the controller and the incentiviser. The school’s rugby tradition with its masculine and patriarchal influence may only served to aid and abet this rule by fear. Many might disagree I know but the structure and culture of a school are fundamental to overcoming resistance (a precondition, as Finklehor describes, to sexual abuse).

    I do wonder, however, whether a more restorative approach to this matter might be more constructive.

    • Thanks,FK. You make some interesting points. Especially about fear. If it was like that in your day, imagine what it was like for earlier generations, like mine.

      The site has generated a lot of traffic and I’ve put several old boys directly in touch with each other in pursuit of various RC abusers. The site does come up with search terms outside of comics – otherwise I’d completely agree with you, there would be no point. From reading accounts of others pursuing issues to do with the De La Salle brothers, I think the college’s reaction would be predictable. In the past I have contacted the Catholic diocese and I wasn’t impressed with their response, so I’m pretty certain how the college is likely to respond today, despite their “right-on” image.

      For me personally, I have one key objection: to St J’s describing itself as “In the La Sallian tradition” which means something very negative for myself and many others. It really should be removed. I doubt they’ll ever take those words down – but perhaps if the number of old boys recording criminal assaults is sufficient it’s possible they would change their minds. I think when that day comes I might consider approaching them. If they removed those words I would, indeed, see that as constructive.

      As far as the Roll of Dishonour as a whole is considered, that would be a matter for the order of brothers. They are endlessly in the news with prosecutions for past abuse, and – based on past responses – once again I think their negative reaction would be predictable.

      I don’t want to waste my time on them and I don’t, myself, want restoration with organisations that protect past abusers or ignore the abused.

      I wish there were better and more hard-hitting ways of dealing with these people and the whole clerical apparatus, but I feel my blog is a step in the right direction. I also feel there should be many more blogs on this subject, because physical and sexual abuse was endemic in the UK Catholic community in my era. St J’s was not an isolated case.

      Thanks again for your very vivid description of life at St J’s. I hadn’t made the connection that the overall overly-patriarchal and fear-inducing culture of a school creates an environment in which abusers can flourish. Thanks for making that really valuable point.

      • Thanks Pat for your prompt response. I understand your scepticism regarding SJC’s potential response to a criticism of The Lasallian Tradition being a focal point of it’s marketing strategy. But again I ask whether or not we know if they have been challenged on this in light of the convictions of some brothers and the experiences of a great many ‘old boys’ (we are never allowed to grow up) who were consistently physically, sexually and emotional abused during a hey-day era for the ‘La Sallian Tradition’? It’s worth investigating. Of course if victims of the crimes of De La Salle Brothers can be supported to make complaints and press for prosecutions then so much the better. I would be willing to support ex-victims in any way I can. I trained as a social worker and now specialise in assessing risk in sexual (and domestic) abuse cases so I would argue I have some insight and understanding into the impact on abuse on children and could at least signpost if not provide some level of moral support. I feel very strongly about this issue as you might be able to tell.

      • Thanks, FK. You’ve persuaded me! I want to give my letter to SJC and possible follow-ups the time it deserves, so I need to get my latest book up and away first (launching in early Feb). Then I will write to them. It will be interesting to see what their response will be. Will definitely keep everyone posted.

  3. Thanks, Marcus. That makes sense. I’m sure his time in South Africa in that era – the lack of respect for people – just made him worse. My recollections of him are quite awful.

  4. One more point – one of the teachers I just couldn’t work with was Mr Kearney – he was an aggressive South African who again picked on us non-white students more than anyone – apartheid was alive and kicking in his (and Mr Andrews) classes. He was clearly a survivor from when it was ok to be a racist bully in the classroom.

    An example would be when I was in the third year (year 9). I was being cautious with chemicals and test tubes. He picked up the tube and put it against my skin, which burnt my skin – he defended himself by saying that if I can put it on the table then I can put it on my skin.

    It was ONLY because of him I didn’t take Chemistry as an option (I did take Physics and Biology), it’s a pity as it stopped me from taking science options at university (although Computer Science was my first choice anyway).

    • Thanks for this, Marcus. I think Kearney was Irish, but I certainly found him most unpleasant myself and his ad-hoc punishments, not recorded in the punishment book, were notorious. I believe they now have a chemistry award in his honour. The school’s connection with its dark past is still clearly there. I think it’s shocking that they still claim their school is “In the La Sallian tradition’ because that is what it means.

      • Thanks for the reply. I think he was Irish but spent a lot of time in South Africa. I remember him talking about learning Afrikaans with his knowledge of German and English and the similarity to Dutch.

    • Thanks, Michael – really appreciate you sending the link. I’ve seen it several times before but watched it again just now and it still moved me. This man is a great spokesperson and a great survivor. Ireland has, at least, partly acknowledged what its clerics have done. So, too, has Australia and the United States, with films like Spotlight. Britain’s Catholic clerics and the De La Salle order still have a long way to go, but their turn will come. It would be so much better if they acknowledged their past and what their order has done to children – which is the point this brave man makes – rather than have to be fetched.

      And if that is something their insurers don’t recommend these men of God do, well – there’s always the Roll of Dishonour.

  5. I went to SJC in the 80s. While a lot had been cleaned up, the echoes from the past were there – if you listened to them. While there was no concept that abuse was continuing to the extent detailed here, there were still some of the old De La Salle brothers who behaved erratically (and some very pleasant younger recruits). Some of the none-De La Salle teachers were emotionally manipulative and, in the case of Mr Andrews, incredibly racist. I remember him (during an RE class) explaining that the majority of crime in the UK was due to allowing blacks to migrate. He would walk around the school with his graduation robe with a Kenneth Williams style plummy accent, he was intimidating. These days he would fail an inspection due to lack of rapport and poor discipline.

    I also remember the crazy Technical Drawing teacher – Mr Taylor – he would use the threat of violence to keep the class under tight control – a very poor teacher as he didn’t build a rapport, he just wanted to be totally in control (he was also guilty of numerous jokes that made nobody laugh at, or rather they never laughed WITH him). His colleague in woodwork (I forget his name) has a ridiculously short fuse and exploded at random pupils (maybe just because I was an Asian student I noticed this more, but it did seem to be directed at the non-white students). The latter two were quietly replaced/retired, but I’d been put of the subjects for life.

    There were others – mostly control freaks – I forget the name of another one (selective memory?), he had a glass eye, he asked a question in class “what’s the capital of Louisiana”, I replied “Baton Rouge”, he corrected to “New Orleans”, I pointed out that New Orleans is the largest city but Baton Rouge was the administrative capital (I never shared this but I had an older brother at Louisiana State University and he had told me a lot about the area) but he then chastised me and froze me out of classes. His teaching style was total silence, copy from the board – he would write things and we were expected to copy into our books (which was often difficult as his body wasn’t transparent). He would set long reading periods from our books while he would meticulously clear the black board into very tidy lines – obviously a board looking like a zebra was more important than sharing knowledge. Another teacher who thought intimidation was more important than rapport.

    It did seem almost half of the teaching staff were there because they would be totally unemployable elsewhere. A lot of control freaks and some who were just odd (Mrs Buck, she moved over from St Marks and treated everyone like they were Kindergarten kids, however she was a good Geography teacher).

    While on the subject I will shout out some of the better teachers – Mr Davies for English – largely my inspiration for becoming an English teacher myself, Mrs Warren – made me interested in Physics to the extent I took a year at university before realising it wasn’t the subject for me, Mr Hunter – while a disciplinarian he was approachable and he looked after me when my father died (however he was a bit of a bully when teaching sport, when teaching other subjects he loosened up – I had problems with sport due to a physical disability that wasn’t diagnosed until much later), Mr Bevan – a friendly face in PE as he encouraged without bullying, Mr Langley – a very laid back American computer science teacher who always had a dirty tie and a few others.

    Changes were happening but they were happening slowly. There was a mix from the old style and new. When Brother David took over the school and withdrew from De La Salle and became Mr David Hennesy changes were rapid. This was during my time there and the clear out made a big difference (although Mr Andrews hung around like a bad smell). Most of the creepy monks left or retired (Brother Cuthman [another DLS monk who acted weird, slightly racist but nothing we could really pin on him] actually looked like the grim reaper by the time he left, he was nicknamed Brother Fluff as he kept on falling asleep while teaching and students were asking each other if he’d ‘fluffed it’) and had been replaced by a stronger team of teachers who had actually been trained in how to teach rather than dictate. By the time I left in the early 90s things had really changed.

    Richard Ayoade was a couple of years junior to me, he would have been lucky as most of the nightmare teachers had been cleared out. I didn’t really know him but remember having a brief conversation with him (of all places) in the computer lab where he explained how he keeps his head down – something I personally was totally unable to do. I do remember how I was the unofficial assistant in the lab and was one of two students who had the administrator password. I’d also walk around helping people with their work and fixing minor problems with the computers – perhaps just a little bit of his Moss character came from observing me! haha

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