BROTHER JAMES: CONFIRMATION DAY

Here’s another astonishing account of the past barbarism at St Joseph’s, the crimes and the cover-ups which the school – because it says it’s in the same Lasallian tradition – the DLS Brothers still have to acknowledge to survivors.

It’s from an old boy at St Joseph’s, now living in Australia. Thank you, Dave, for sharing this with us. I suspect many more survivors’ accounts will now follow.

It’s particularly relevant for me, because I’ve known for a very long time that Brother James was also a sexual abuser, and a serious and violent one, and your letter below confirms it. I hesitated to say so before because my recollection is distant and somewhat blocked. A friend who is a social worker wrote that “In her considerable experience in various social work spheres […] where there is physical abuse one should always look for sexual abuse because the correlation between the two is very strong.”  So James’s unusual and actually hysterical violence may well be relevant.

I don’t have any problem talking about this because these criminals need to be exposed, even if they’re dead, because their organisation is still around and in denial and there may well be other victims of James’s sexual abuse who have been reluctant to talk, or used blocking techniques as I did. I do believe it empowers us all and gives us closure. And it may be useful for anyone who wants to pursue the order legally. If so, I think you may need to hurry because there’s so many charges against them now, the Brothers must be running out of cash. Personally, I’d settle for an apology, but I’m not holding my breath. Hence my alternative: The Roll of Dishonour, where “Their Shame Liveth Forevermore”.

For now, my recollection is as follows. Myself and my best friend GB, when we were around 12, went up to St Joe’s during the summer holidays to do some work, and were rewarded with the keys to the soft drinks cupboard (in the main seniors building) and told to help ourselves. Old boys will know there was the entry door and, I believe, an external hatch to dispense drinks to kids outside. (This was a separate set-up to the regular tuck shop). So we were in there swigging endless bottles of Tizer when an “agitated” – or should that be “excited” ?-  James burst in, and there was no way out.

I’m not in the same league as the impressive American old boy (LM) described below, but it’s not in my nature to let things go until I get justice, as readers of this blog will know, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I was like back then. So I complained about the assault and it was hushed up in some way. Annoyingly, that’s almost certainly why I can’t remember much today. That’s how these criminals got away with so much.

That must sounds odd to outsiders, so I think it’s relevant to say more. Not least because I now know of two old boys of St Joe’s who are in the process of recovering their memories. It can be tough, but it’s something I’ve had to become something of an expert on, so any leads or help I can give you, do say.

When my wife, Lisa, read the incredible account below where “a few dozen boys” watched cheering as James was beaten up by a school boy, she said, “Why has everyone forgotten this? It must have gone round the whole school at the time? How could that possibly have been kept a secret? They couldn’t shut everyone up, could they?”

Oh, yes, they could.

Catholic schools are not like normal schools.

It’s how cults work. Whether it’s Scientology or the Catholic Church or the DLS brothers, cults operate on secrecy and we all seem to suffer from collective amnesia or at least dimmed memories as a result. It can turn us into sleepwalkers, heading through life in disassociated dreams. It’s achieved through fear, loyalty, lack of parental support, no Childline, no adults who would believe them and more. The DLS brothers know that anyone who talks or complains will be dealt with severely. We were all used to keep our mouths shut, just as the victims of Savile kept their mouths shut.

I’ve no doubt that events unfolded in the way Dave describes them. I’ve been a participant and an organizer of events that have taken on some embodiment of the status quo or some aspect of oppressive authority. I know just what that feeling is like when there’s a “slave uprising” and bullies are finally confronted, or perpetrators of injustice or abuse dealt with. Whatever age we are, there’s a loss of control, a release of pent-up energy that’s intoxicating and a sense of “to hell with the consequences”. It’s like the scene in Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” I’m sure that’s what happened that day.

In view of what the DLS brothers subsequently did to LM – his leaving/expulsion while James was allowed to stay, his crimes known but concealed, they are lower than vermin.

If anyone wants to elaborate on James, privately with me, or on this blog, please do so. I look forward to hearing from you. I’m happy to go into more detail, if it’s useful to anyone. It may also be useful to me because, in order to make sense of what happened, I have to understand the psychotic nature of James and his modus operandi. I’m sure the assault wasn’t a one-off and he was a serial abuser.

I wish I’d been there to cheer LM on. He’s a shining example to us all.

Thanks again, Dave. You’re a star.

Hi Pat,

My name is Dave B. I have been reading your St Joe’s blog for several years but I didn’t have the courage to get involved. I first picked it up On the Crystal Palace blog site. I am the same age as you and was at Oakhill and then Birkfield. Before I went to Oakhill I was at Ipswich School Prep and that was bad as well. There again I was no model student. I left on April 8 1965,(I was kept back a couple of years) only to be thrown into another lions den in the merchant navy.

We must have been there at the same time. I was so badly treated there by all of the brothers mentioned. In my second last year I was beaten every day, even after being sick for 2 weeks. I also boarded for a short time. Brother James was not only brutal but I can confirm also a pervert into sexual abuse. I have one wonderful memory, that of an American kid from the bronx. James wanted to beat him and L.M. the student (who is now a prominent US human law rights Lawyer). At the end of the class we were all thrown out of class. B. James did his usual attack of kicking and punching. LM beat the sh….out of James with a few dozen boys watching and cheering.

The result was that we never saw LM again and the Brother director was changed and there was no corporal punishment allowed in the school. Lt.Commander Mclaughlin (sp?) was made school prefect and the only one who could dish out punishment. I felt stunned with no fear at school. However, I left in the second term and the new Brother director died, the school returned to its normal reign of terror, but I was long gone by then fighting for my existence in the merch.

McLaughlin was very kind to me, he offered to tute me in maths with his son at home. For me then it was too late and I declined sadly. I am still lousy at maths. He and Bill Moss were the only two people I respected. I can go on forever on this subject. Bill Moss’s brothers suffered the same as us. I agree wholeheartedly with Martin.

Currently this subject is in the news in Australia every day with the Royal Commission into Child Abuse and it is very difficult to keep an even keel but I have had a few years of counselling and support.

It would be “nice” if the De La Salle order would admit the goings on and apologise but I don’t think it will ever happen. Here In Aus it is happening them being exposed by the Royal Commission. It doesn’t stop the suicides though. I hope you get your own Royal commission.

We must move on regardless. This can go on the blog, but I can’t seem to do it from here. Maybe its the current Ransom virus. Let me know how to get onto the blog if you can.

Regards

Dave

EDIT: Dave subsequently sent me this:

I lived in a constant state of terror both at home and school. School was the worst though. My way of coping became John Barleycorn which got me thrown out of the under 16’s. If it all got too much at school I would find a quiet corner somewhere and take the edge off life. It ended up causing problems for me and other around me but I have been free of it for many years now. How the hell did we all cope and some of us survive.

I’m so sorry, Dave.

In response to this email, another old boy confirmed events in private correspondence with me, and named the American hero with an impressive Italian surname. I’ll just use his first name “Louis” here. This old boy had mentioned Louis to me before. Here we go:

LM is Louis M – . We’ve already written about this guy. He’s the ‘You think you’re hot shit on a silver dish but you’re just cold piss in a paper cup’ kid. I don’t know about his Bronx origins but, when he was trying to get his younger brother to give him some cash because he was spent up, the youngster exclaimed, ‘Good God, Louis, what do you do with it all!’ in what I would now describe as a New York accent…Louis was in a year lower than you and me but he didn’t start off as a first year pupil; he came to the school later. I do remember that he and I were quite good friends and often hung around in the same little group.

I believe there was, as Dave recalls, some kind of incident between Louis and Jammy. I never saw it and have not thought about since I left school. I have a vague recollection of ‘something’ being whispered about but I expect all witnesses were somehow forced to remain silent. I can’t verify that. Certainly, Louis was there one minute and gone the next without warning. I think my memory centres on the aftermath of the event and the rumours about why Louis left Birkfield. I think his little brother must have left at the same time but I’m not certain of this.

Dave says a result of this incident was the changing of a Brother Director. I think that must have been the arrival of Bro. Elwin Gerard. I can’t say that he replaced the previous Bro. Director because of the fracas and I wonder how Dave knows this. When Dave left in April 1965, I was in my second term of the 5th form. Were you still at Birkfield at that point?

I had left a year before, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, another puzzle in itself, as another old boy reminded me recently, maybe something I’ll return to another time.

I like to think that just before Louis gave James what he so richly deserved he said to him in his best Bronx Accent, ‘You think you’re hot shit on a silver dish but you’re just cold piss in a paper cup’.

It raises the question, what was wrong with James and other abusive teachers at St Joes?

Old boy “Anon” believes:

My theory is that half the teachers came back from WW2 with PTSD, took it out on boys who went off to Uni to become teachers and returned to take it out on us. That combined with a good dose of Catholic cover up.

I think it applies to his generation at St J’s. Certainly at my Catholic primary school St Mary’s Ipswich, where the deputy Headmaster, Crowley, chain-smoked in class and caned a boy across the face and once sexually assaulted a school girl in front of us. (The school was run by nuns who, of course, allowed him to get away with it and committed worse crimes themselves.) But actually the lay teachers of my era at St Joes seemed pretty normal, some of them – the Polish art teacher for example who clearly had military training – was one of the most well balanced, nicest people I’ve met. I have positive memories of nearly all of the lay teachers. In my era, they were just regular, normal guys.

The sickness seems to apply to the Brothers who had mostly escaped the war and I believe it’s specifically Catholic in nature. My recollection of reading James’s obituary (before the DLSB took it down from their site) is he was a product of the DLS school system himself. I doubt he suffered PTSD in the war. He may well have suffered PTSD as a result of whatever happened in his youth. I know from a source who went to a Catholic seminary that the attitude was: “They did it to us, so now it’s our turn to do it to others.” It was why he left the seminary in disgust. That confirms Anon’s theory.

But I don’t think James has any excuse. He should have ended his days in prison or a hospital for the criminally insane.

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18 thoughts on “BROTHER JAMES: CONFIRMATION DAY

  1. Has there been any national attempt at bring all these creeps to justice?
    You have a large population but I don’t think that should stop it. The Royal Commission here is uncovering all the abuse and forcing out the reasons for the cover up. All Orders and all denominations have had to come clean. The commission cannot prosecute but it can recomend prosecution to the Department of Public Prosection. Even those who have had payouts have been brought in as witnesses. Many are behind bars and the Commission is still going on.
    I hope Britain can do something.

    • Morning, Dave,

      That’s a very good point. Good to hear about the Royal Commission’s work in your country. I don’t think it’s happened in the UK

      I know one old boy has taken action against Brother Kevin, but I’m not aware of any action against the order of DLSB.

      The usual argument is the main perpetrators are dead, but I’m not sure that’s always the case. Some of them will still be out there.

      A year ago, I was in contact with the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia (which includes Ipswich) and also talked to the police about historic clerical crimes. Both were sympathetic but pointed out all concerned were dead so nothing could be done.

      It’s possible a Royal Commission would be different. There are several places where the DLSB are currently facing court action in the UK. It’s possible Australia has a more vigorous policy than the UK, where enquiries into non-clerical abuse seem to have ground to a halt, and the Catholic Church probably has a higher profile in Oz. In the UK, RC clerical crimes have partly slipped under the radar whereas in Ireland, too, they’ve been highlighted. However, because Ireland is still a theocracy in many ways the various religious orders seem to be getting away with it.

      It may take some time for something to happen, although I don’t know whether Royal Commissions function in the same way in the UK. I like to think blogs like this – and my forthcoming book we mentioned to you – may help bring this to the attention of a wider public.

      I suspect what’s come out so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Hoping to read your private letter later on today.

      All the best

      Pat

      • I would say Evening Pat as it is here.
        Seeing all these comments is very heart warming. I really don’t unerstand the WHY of it and never will. PTSD Has been around in its variuos mannifestations for as long as humans have existed.
        I think that it, and a combination of celebacy and self hatred for not being able to live up to the “rule” makes behavior self perpetuating. All that followed by the realisation that”others” were doing it and the having a captive terrified audiance sets them off on a downward spiral. I’m sure the psycs have better explanations for it. My own knowlege of seminarys and monastries here is that they were full of all forms of sado-masochism. There is a film called “The Devil’s Playground”. It was a pre-seminary school (for boys who had the calling). The real school was near Mt Macedon in Victoria. A friend of mine only survived because he had his uncles farms on two sides and he could get out. He went on to be a fine priest and now a fine ex priest I believe. Similar to St Jos, I think.
        It happenned and we are all left with it and if we don’t have the right tools or are not given the right tools to help ourselves , we are going to be in trouble.
        I will never be over it because it is always there. With time it is lessoning unless brought back, like now. Don’t be sorry for me, I’m passed that stage ,but no one but me knows that.

        I hope your book will rattle the cage. The cage needs to be rattled.
        Just a comment on organised cover up. I joined the Old Boys a few years ago.
        I never made any comments but after they stopped sending hard copy out. They then sort of stopped my access. My paranoid mind has been telling me that they do have someone in charge of dammage control who also has access toor knowlege of potential victims from DECADES of abuse. That is a huge database of info required. I’ll stop wrighting long replies because I know the you are a very busy man. All the best.
        Just keep rattleing the cage.
        Regards
        Dave

      • Thanks, Dave.

        I’m going to check out that film.

        We all struggle to make sense of these events. My conclusion has given me a good level of closure, i believe better than most, and it’s this:

        The Catholic Church in its inner circle is a criminal organisation. There’s a little evidence from Vatican insiders to that effect, although I ignore the ravings of fundamentalists who seem just as sick. But we’d need to be theologians to sift the wheat from the chaff in writings about the Vatican. I don’t think it’s necessary. My personal experience bears it out and thats good enough for me.

        There are many exceptions in its outer circle and many who use cognitive dissonance to ignore this blinding truth. They are often very good people, but we’re not discussing them here.

        So abuse is institutional, a way of life, it’s endemic, both historically and into our own times in the 1960s through to the 1980s at least. From talking to a St J’s old boy who is a cop specialising in this field, it’s still going on today. Although RCs methods must have changed.

        Part of this institutionalisation is that it often has the collusion and – on occasion – active support of selected members of the congregation. It’s part of their way of life. This is something never talked about, even today. I have some evidence for this and some confirmation from old boys and other sources which cross-references my conclusions. If you think about it, they would need that support for their crimes. As I can’t prove it in a court of law, and don’t particularly want to, I do what other authors have always done – I put it in a novel. It’s cathartic and may alert and help others.

        Predators can spot potential targets who are vulnerable. That was my experience. So St J’s old boys who say, “That never happened to me. They were the best days of my life” may well be right. If they have dads who were ex-servicemen,or otherwise tough or supportive, these cowards never go for them. They’re looking for the straggler in the herd. I was such a straggler.

        Once I realise I’ve escaped the spiritual equivalent of the Mafia as a child, it’s actually okay to deal with.

        So much stress is caused by “How could they possibly do that and why and how did they get away with it?” Once the answer is “because it’s a criminal organisation”, there’s no stress anymore. It’s how you’d expect a criminal organisation to behave.

        This is born out, perhaps, by your exclusion from the Old Boys. But you must have complained or similar for them to have checked and found you in their archives.

        Perhaps I should try and join the Old Boys?!! No, I’m joking. If I wasn’t in their database, I’m sure I am now.

        Trusting your instincts and what your guts tells you can be useful, too. But one warning there. My instincts usually give me the answers. But they don’t care that I have a living to make and I have a life. So I have to be careful!

        You, too.

        But write anytime. It’s certainly helping shed light on this for me and others.

        Take care

        Pat

    • Great to hear from you, Graham.

      You and Damian Moss are the only old boys who’ve made contact who were actually in my class. So your recollections help me to make sense of the madness, as some of it is a complete blank. I seem to have blocked the worst out.

      Brother Alfred. An unhygenic character, who, as you doubtless recall, kept picking on another American boy, Summers. There was something dubious going on and then Summers finally flipped, screamed at him, and ran out of the class. Alfred was admonished later, I’m told.

      I’m sure you’re right about there being a central control to decide “who to move, cover up or just allow”. I hadn’t thought of that before, it’s a valuable definition. It would be ingrained in centuries of protective RC church thinking and it clearly works. The Vatican, of course, does it to this day.

      Brother Joseph… The name rings a scary bell, but he didn’t teach us. He must have been on the boarder side. There’s so many of them who crossed the line. I’ll ask another old boy who was the same age as us but in a different class. I share your anger, mate.

      Brother Kevin. You may have seen from past posts here that he was a serious abuser. And also very violent. That came as a shock to me, because he was always very friendly towards me. I had a lucky escape. It sounds like he is still alive, so I hope he’s brought to justice.

      My abiding memory is of various boarders in my year relating to us day boys awful stories of nocturnal assaults by Brothers. It sometimes felt like a league table – who was the worst of them? I remember thinking, “Thank God I’m a day boy.” Of course that’s a defence technique, because I didn’t escape one of them (James) either.

      Brother Bernard may have been after my time. I left when I was 15.

      Good to know about Brother Adrian, the red-haired physics teacher. I was hopeless at physics, unfortunately, so his efforts were wasted on me, but I remember him as a good guy. He was crazy about Wimbledon and would slip off to watch the finals on tv.

      For years I was a huge fan of A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin – the book and the tv drama. It’s on my list of favourite tv series. And I knew about his campaign to free the Birmingham Six. But it was only two or three years ago I discovered he went to our school, so I got in touch with him. Nice guy.

      So we survived, although so many didn’t. My daughter who was a social worker introduced me to one her of clients at Mind. Ex St J’s, older than us. He’d been a Fleet Street journalist, was now an alcoholic, not in a good place, and when he talked about the school and the violence he’d been subjected to you could see how they’d destroyed his life.

      Hope life is good for you and yours.

      Bye for now

      Pat

  2. I am understanding so much more of what went on in my school life through this Pat,thanks and further to all the above and notwithstanding the aforementioned…. There are common threads that point to a central organisation making these decisions to move cover up or just allow! My memories of the DA DA thrashing and humiliation et al…I remember Bro James getting beaten up by the Louisville slugger! But most of all I remember Jo Homan….Bro Joseph ….who out of all of these sick fucks…BURNS IN HELL…!

  3. I remember James’s clenched teeth only too well. Interesting that the bell ringing provided a pause in his violence. I hadn’t come across his anti-semitism or anti-Islamism, but I know it went on in other Catholic schools. Thus my first wife Angela told me how the nuns made her feel bad because her surname was Rose. “We all know where the name Rose comes from”, sneered a nun. Presumably she thought it came from Rosenheim. I guess you may have seen the film Oranges and Sunshine about the Christian Brothers, possibly the DLSB, in Oz. The black hatred the Brothers exuded to those who challenged them was alarming. If you haven’t seen it and want to, pour yourself a stiff drink first. I certainly needed one.

  4. Brothers with a plimsol in their cassock pockets or even a sore off chair leg. First person seen talking in class, whacked. Roaring, shouting and even square bashing. Terrible rumours about certain brothers by the borders. Shell shocked French brother whacking pupils round the head. A mad brother found dead in the grotto.
    Fides Intrepida????

      • I don’t know about the dead guy but the rest were not rumours. Don’t forget the mad Spannish Brother who used to creep up behind you and for no reason king hit you with his knuckles. Why the hell did we put up with all this crap? Terror, I think.

      • I think it was Br Alpert, a small white headed brother, noted for great holiness. He was found dead in the grotto in the grounds at Beulah Hill.
        I recently went to the Four Seasons hotel, Dogmersfield, which used to be a seminary for De La Salle brothers. Three of them are buried there,from Beulah Hill,one Br Denis Andrew, who suffered profound shell shock from ww2 and once slapped me fiercely around the head.
        One genuine holy brother I remember is Br Rogation. One of the few!

      • He was Maltese and named Brother Alfred and having checked with my younger brother on a number of these Lasallian pervs. Bro. Alfred was the same nasty short assed mother fucker and had lived out WW2 in Malta and no doubt suffered PTSD …I’m sure !
        Brother Alfred who , when I had arranged to show my Uncles'( WW2 Desert Rat hero ) birds egg collection…. who looked me in the eye and crushed the smallest egg (Long tailed TIT ) in the collection under my nose and smirked. I can remember that look till this day!. Fucker !! he knew the story of my uncle , the eggs and being a George Cross medal Maltese WW2 was fucked!
        He crushed the egg while looking me in the eyes!!

      • Hello, Graham,

        Another old boy contemporary of ours was moved by your comments about St J’s.

        Here’s his thoughts…

        I felt really bad when I read Graham Bacon’s latest words. I can readily envisage that nasty scene with Brother Alfred. Here’s a young Graham, maybe only 11 or 12 years old, wanting to show a teacher a prized collection of bird’s eggs. Alfie selects the smallest and most fragile egg in Graham’s cherished collection and crushes it in front of the child. What more calculated emotional cruelty can there be for a little boy than to see the callous destruction of a treasured possession which had been passed on by a much loved uncle.

        Is the Brother Joseph (Jo Homan, Graham calls him) mentioned by Graham the guy who went off to open the Boys’ Town in India? Perhaps you could ask him?

        Graham remembers Louis bashing Jammy. Good. Perhaps he knows what happened to Louis. He also remembers the Day-Day Moss beating; I’d like to hear more about what he saw of this.

        Please feel free to pass on my observations to Graham and others where you think it is appropriate, and I’d like you to tell him how appalled and saddened I was to hear about the cruelty inflicted on him by Alfie. Graham must have been heartbroken. You can send Graham what I’ve just written about this if you wish.

  5. The reason he got away with it was because of threats as you said. Privatley at an appropriate time I will say what happened. It was not good but on the scale of things not horrendous. I don’t know if he is still alive and I don’t particularly care.
    I have not got spell check on this and as some of you will know. The fear of giving the wrong answer always made me say the wrong one therefore I have never been able to correct my spelling , grammer or maths no matter how much I have tried over many years. The wrong answer always ended in pain. Courses , books, counciling anything even prayer. The blocks are in place for the term of my natural life. (Appropriat for aus). Still making excuses.

    • Thanks, Dave. It will be useful. James could well have used threats with me and that might explain why I’ve mostly blocked his attack. Anyone would be intimidated by threats from such a psychopath. But I think I then complained in some public way (It’s my style. I’m still doing it here) and they found some other way to shut me up.

      Another old boy comments on your post:

      Boarders were probably more guarded about their real feelings because they got no ‘down time’ from the authority of people like Jammy; it was a 24 hour per day surveillance experience and it could be wearisome.

      If Jammy could treat the son of the school doctor so brutally (the savage beating of Damien Moss described in an earlier blog) and seem to get clean away with it, how much more vulnerable would the rest of us be.

      I’d be really pleased to hear more from Dave and I’d like you to pass on my good wishes

      I’ll look forward to hearing more when you’re ready, Dave. James is, in fact, dead.

      Don’t worry about the spell check. Your words come straight from the heart, and they reach all of us.

      • I was ther when Damian was late because of a puncture. That was not pretty. I think he threw the bike?? That was between the kicking and punching. What a horrible bastrard.
        Who was it he threw out of chapple. I remember the punching stopped when the bell went off for the consecration of the Host and then resumed immediatly. The victim went straight through the doors about four feet in the air (I have a friend who witnessed the same thing at another Catholic school in the Himalayas during the war). I stopped going to mass then claiming my Protestantism, he didn’t like that.
        I had him as form master. At the beginng of the first class. He required all Jews to stand, then all and Muslims and then all Protestants. It was a lot of guys and it set the mood for the year. It was all spoken through clenched teeth as he always did.

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