TO TELL THE TRUTH

BROTHER SOLOMON aka MIKE MERCADO. And MIKE KEARNEY

Below is 1967 film footage of Brother Solomon appearing on an American TV show ‘To Tell The Truth’ in the days when he was The Swinging Monk.

There have been numerous (double figures) accusations of horrible and serious abuse committed by this man. They have all been been noticeably ignored by the De La Salle order of Brothers and their proud successors ‘in the La Salian Tradition’.

As a day boy, I escaped Solomon’s abuse, but I personally know of others – in the DLS schools in Ipswich and Beulah Hill – who were not so fortunate. Their accounts of his abuse make for unpleasant reading

TRIGGER ALERT
If you were one of his victims, I suggest you pour yourself a stiff drink before you watch this video. Or even pass on it. Believe me, it is like entering a time machine. Even though he’s wearing a toupee, he’s instantly recognisable.

To Tell The Truth’. Hah! That’s the one thing the DLS brothers have never done. His fellow abuser Brother James wrote a truly glowing and lying tribute to Solomon in the school magazine – which I remember thinking (even at the time, as an eleven year old) was a complete and utter lie. This was after Solomon left mysteriously and literally overnight after complaints had been levelled against him. At the time, we boys firmly believed he went to some kind of DLS reformatory for sexual predators on Jersey, before subsequently going to Beulah Hill where he continued abusing boys. Then, some years later, he returned to St Joseph’s Ipswich as lay teacher and Housemaster Mike Mercado. St Joseph’s Ipswich would have known about his sordid past and predictably, he went on to abuse a new generation of boys before being thrown out again in 1985. Possibly heading off to Joe Homan’s Boys Town in India either before or after his return to Ipswich.

This has prompted me to re-read Mercado’s farewell letter to parents in 1985. It may be of possible interest to survivors of his crimes. He says he was ‘fully aware of what was going on with the Order’ (whatever that means) and talks darkly about intending to write an expose (which he never did, unfortunately). He says he was dismissed for ‘misconduct’ at a governor’s meeting, a charge he strongly denies..

And he laments and says it’s ‘significant’ that Kearney (‘senior lay-master whom I have known since 1958’) was not present at the meeting to defend him.Or subsequently.

That’s interesting to me personally, because it ties in with my strong recollections of Kearney as yet another abuser and also someone who never kept his promises and could not be relied upon. His ‘betrayal’ has left an annoyingly strong impression on me, so I’m not at all surprised that he did not support Mercado. That was not his style.

Today, Kearney has a school prize named after him – an example of the continuity between the current school and its dark past in the DLS days. I’m still filling in my own blanks about Kearney, who I know was very different to his public facade as a tough but fair chemistry teacher. There was a whole lot more to this guy. It’s time consuming, but it’s the only way I’m likely to get closure on him. Any recollections any old boys have, good, bad, or otherwise, about Kearney, do share. It could be helpful. Thank you.

As for Mercado, according to old boy Chris Mullin, ‘he ended his days playing the piano on a pier in a south coast resort, I believe.’

15 thoughts on “TO TELL THE TRUTH

  1. I went to st joes from 1984 to 1991. My experience of mr Kearney was not a good one. He punched me in the face once in chemistry as a third year. My dad went to the school and he apologised.

  2. Pingback: CHALLENGE TO ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE, BIRKFIELD, IPSWICH, SUFFOLK | Pat Mills

  3. Hello Pat,
    You must have been at St Joe’s at the same time as me in the 60s because we were both born in 1949. I remember many of the brothers and other teachers mentioned in your posts. One I have particularly strong memories of was the neurotic and eccentric Brother James, who had a strange nasal, almost squeaky voice. He put a curious emphasis on certain syllables. I remember him very well from the entrance exam I took in 1961. He was the invigilator and ran a comprehension test where he read out Southey’s poem ‘Bishop Hatto and the Rats’ and then made us write our responses to his questions. His piping, deliberately enunciated voice was so strange and unfamiliar to us eleven year olds that a number of us, me included, could not suppress our giggles. He became very angry.

    Brother James never taught me, though I heard he was an excellent teacher of maths. However, I had a few encounters with him in his role as Brother Prefect in charge of discipline. On more than one occasion I was the victim of his volatile temper. The worst time was when he hit me round the face with a large bunch of keys. I was running through a cloak room as I was late to one of Mr Kearney’s chemistry lessons because I had just been sick in the toilets. I had a red weal on my face for a number of days. I was too scared at the time to make a complaint or tell my parents, but thinking about it now, he could have seriously damaged my eye. Some boys thought he had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, which would explain a lot about his nervous character.

    I remember sp well when the wonderful large and powerful American pupil Louis M. gave James a good hiding. Though I did not witness this famous event, I heard firsthand accounts from a few that did. I was in awe of Louis, because I would have loved to have done it myself. Of course that was the end of his brief time at St. Joe’s. We never saw him again. Despite Brother James’s fiery temper and his disposition to violence I was never aware of his involvement in any sexual abuse.

    However, that could not be said of another brother, sadly one I had tremendous respect for as a teacher. This was Leo Barrington, who for a short time in the mid-sixties was Brother Director. He inspired me with his approach to poetry and encouraged me to learn a number of Shakespeare sonnets. When I had committed one to memory he would make me recite it to him in his office and if I got through it without mistakes would reward me with a chocolate bar. Sounds a bit creepy now, but at the time I thought nothing of it. Although he never accosted me, Leo was accused by a number of boys of molesting them when they were asleep in the dormitory. He apparently would turn up at a boy’s bed in the early hours and pull back the blankets and do his worst. A group of them confided in Father Jolly, the school chaplain and he told them to repeat their accusations to Leo’s face, which they did. From what I heard he admitted that it was true. He then rapidly disappeared and was replaced by Brother Elwin. I cannot be sure, but I gather he was sent to Malta to teach in another de la Salle establishment. I have read with horror your comments on Father Jolly.

    As a vulnerable young catholic boy if you could not trust a priest or a headmaster, who could you trust? Certainly not a certain music teacher, the infamous Brother Solomon, whose appalling behaviour I had heard about before I even went to the school. I think he had been moved on just before I started there in 1961, so I fortunately never met him. My music teacher was the harmless German lay master Mr. Tether, whose amazing baritone resulted in us calling him Thunder-guts. I was a bass and remember we could easily get him angry by improvising a Bavarian style oompah counterpoint in some piece of serious liturgical music.

    • Great to hear from you, Ivan.

      I was born in March 1949 and I’m guessing you were born later that year so we were probably in different years. Because I remember Solomon was there for a couple of terms before he left in a hurry. I took the Entrance Exam, too, and I think I’d have remembered James! Interesting Japanese POW theory, although I’d doubt it myself. You had such a lucky escape! I don’t remember Louis M. beating him up – although another old boy gave me a very vivid account. I so wish I’d been there, too!

      I remember Brother Leo well – nice chap. Of course – as a day boy – I was safe from all these predators. Or so I thought! Not so from Father Jolly who – like his fanatical father aka W.O. Jolly – was a Knight of St Columba. This was during a period of time when the Knights still had secret semi-masonic rituals. That ended in the late 60s, according to Wikipedia. Too late for me, alas. They are a subject I’m still researching.

      Re James… It was only when another old boy came forward and revealed James as an abuser that I felt secure enough to write about what happened to me. It was during the school holidays and my fellow classmate and best friend and I went up to Birkfield to do some work and James pounced. Literally. My old school friend is on Facebook and I sometimes think – should I write to him and say, ‘Hey – remember me? And do you remember that time we went up to Birkfield during the school holidays, we were given the keys to the school tuck shop and told to help ourselves (To Tizer). Then James burst in.’

      I’ve pondered on it for some years and decided against it. Knowing my friend, he wouldn’t thank me for reminding him and I’d be disrupting his life. He may well have blocked the memory out. I think both Jolly and James were more furtive about their abuse – which is why I wanted to be sure of my facts before naming and shaming them both. i remember the name Tether! But I sang flat – so I was always excluded from music lessons. What a pity! He sounds like quite a character. Good to have some happy memories, too!

      • Dear Pat,
        After discovering your blog I have now explored most of your posts and the other old boys’ comments on the disfunctional life they experienced at St Joseph’s half a century ago. I was lucky to have avoided the appalling horrors that were inflicted on you all. I heard rumours at the time about the predatory behaviour of some of the brothers and was only too aware of a culture of violence towards young people that would just not be acceptable nowadays. I mentioned the occasion I was given a firsthand account of the nocturnal wanderings of Leo Barrington. I know this happened to quite a few boys, most of whom will be our age or a bit younger. I wonder if any of them read your blog. I have lost contact with the boy who told me this and I take your point about resurrecting these awful memories and disrupting lives. But these so-called religious brothers had a duty of care to all of us and they abused it terribly.

        Proven behaviour of this kind nowadays would quite rightly result in prison sentences. But these slippery hypocrites got away with it at the time and of course those you name and shame here are long deceased. Like you I think the de la Salle order should take full responsibility for shielding these criminals and though I am sure St. Joseph’s is a safer and much more wholesome educational establishment, the current school should acknowledge this dark history of abuse. Relocating sexual predators to another school after they have been discovered and then allowing them to continue to indulge their twisted inclinations indicates a large degree of institutional culpability on the part of the order and the wider church.

        Thanks Pat for providing a forum for airing these awful truths.

  4. From what I’ve read so far kearney was strict in his discipline.is that such a bad thing ? Are you suggesting he was an abuser of a sexual nature ?

    • I think some of his discipline was fine. He caned me (and two of my friends) for smoking, for instance, and I have absolutely no complaint about that. It was entirely by the book and entered in the punishment book. Bizarrely, we were smoking outside his chemistry lab. How stupid is that? We certainly deserved everything we got!
      Some of his discipline, however, fitted McDonnell’s description of St J’s ‘sado-masochist Christianity.’ His use of the blackboard duster on kids’s knuckles for example.Taking a bunsen rubber pipe to kids. In itself, that’s hardly a big deal. I was an observer, not a victim and I still recall being chilled by the sadistic grin on his face. I think other accounts also suggest his sadism. Though not psychotic like Brother James, why should he be positively remembered while James is not. Is there a cruelty threshold which Kearney hasn’t passed in your opinion?
      In any event, my interest in Kearney is in a different direction and is still a work in progress. I have many calls on my time but I am devoting a considerable amount of my time to putting the facts together as far as it is possible after all these years. Now why would I do that? A grudge? I can’t think of one. I was a very average chemistry pupil and he was a good teacher. Or because further aspects of St J’s dark past need exposing. I think I’ve facilitated the truth about Solomon/Mercado, Brother Kevin and Brother James (including the latter’s sexual abuse: psychotic violence is often linked to sexual abuse). And I believe, from other old boys responses, that this has been valuable to them. Ditto the truly revolting Joe Homan – where I’ve also had confirmation it has been very useful.
      Kearney is among my next priorities, and not just because his memory is still held up on high by St J’s. (I can tell you Homan’s won’t be for much longer). One thing’s for sure, Kearney is not who you imagine he is. Be patient, Susie, and when I have gathered my facts on this unpleasant individual I will be delighted to share them with you and others. Burying the past and not talking about it is how teachers got away with truly appalling behaviour which would continue to this day if it wasn’t exposed. I think we all have a duty to shed some light on their darkness.

      • I believe so. Another old boy told me that she would be exasperated by their bad behaviour and call in hubby to thrash misbehavers in front of the class. With a sigh, he would dutifully carry out her instructions. I guess she didn’t have his strong right arm or considered it inappropriate to whack boys herself.

        This was in the 80s. My recollection from my own era – the 1960s – is that he was married back then, but his wife was not a teacher. In fact, I believe she was sick and may have passed. If so, perhaps he got married again.

      • She was my English teacher 1980/81 and she was Robin to Brother Owen’s Batman. She accused me of being ‘smarmy’ when I displeased her. She passed this on to Brother Owen – who was my house master – and he slippered me in the common room. I then spent the next 4 weeks of her lessons facing the wall at the back of her classroom. I seem to remember that I was allowed to sit down after a few minutes. Happy days!

      • I have only heard good things about michael kearney and that he was a great teacher and lovely man. Are you suggesting otherwise ?

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Susie. Certainly Kearney was a good teacher. But a lovely man? I’m afraid that was not my experience or the experiences of some other old boys on this site if you go back through the correspondence, you will find he is referred to on a number of occasions. So, yes, I am suggesting otherwise. Also, his name is given to an award by the current St J’s regime and that’s what I personally find triggering and I’m sure I’m not alone. The current school disassociates itself from other past St J’s teachers from my era for reasons which I can totally understand. But yet it is still claiming to be ‘In the La Salian Tradition’ . For that to be a reasonable claim, extolling the undoubted positive and admirable aspects of the DLS order, it should also acknowledge the proven physical and sexual abuse the DLS order carried out on children at St Js right through to the end of the 1980s at least.’Sado-masochistic Christianity’ as McDonnell put it. See my last post. Because I’m afraid that’s what the ‘La Salian Tradition’ means to me and many other survivors. Not just in Ipswich but across the UK as so many court cases confirm.It’s a misleading phrase. So there is no Brother Solomon award for Music. Or Brother James award for Scripture. Yet there is a Mike Kearney award. The school is either connected with this aspect of its dark past or it’s not. It’s trying to have it both ways with these two examples.

  5. I wasn’t good looking enough or athletic enough to have been the focus of attention for any of these monsters. Seeing his face in this old clip has just reminded of the rumours that persisted whilst at school and later of the things that “allegedly” happened. We now know of certain events that happened in the mid 80’s at St Joseph’s that eventually led to his removal. I know of events that were just brushed off because they weren’t worthy of comment because they happened all the time. A smack on the backside before lights out or an off colour comment or joke.
    People like Mercado were real villains but the fact they were protected by the Church and the organisations that worked with it shows a level of complicity and secrecy that leaves me breathless.
    On a final note, my experience of 5 years at a De La Salle school not only cured me of my belief in God but also made me realise that the Brothers were unfit to look after children of any age. The De La Salle Brothers should have had nothing to do with teaching or moulding young minds.

  6. I remember Br Solomon was also on Nationwide TV or something like that. He roared at me once in his office. I was terrified by the experience and nearly passed out. Someone put a spoon in my blazer and I put it in the classroom bin. I owned up after him roaring at the class with threats of what would happen if no one owned up. I was roared at in his office. A truly Christian act! Rides Intrepida?

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