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.

8 thoughts on “THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT ST JOSEPH’S (MY OLD SCHOOL)

  1. There were at least two Bro. Elwins in the order. Was the Bro. Elwin in this account also known as Bro. Elwin Gerard? That was the name of my choirmaster and headmaster at St. Peter’s in Southbourne in the early to mid 60’s and I seem to remember he eventually wound up in Ipswich. Could this be the same guy? As hard as I find it to believe this guy would have abused a kid, I have learned to take such allegations by others seriously. What an uncomfortable deception: a brilliant teacher/choir director and an abuser of children—and so much of it going on. In the interest of having you publish this, Pat, I will refrain from using the kind of language that springs to mind as I read about these perversely unhinged men; all of them intelligent, trained teachers and scholars.

    As a film composer, I am often called upon to score difficult films and TV episodes. One project in the ’90s for CBC Television (Canada) stands out. It was called “The Boys of St. Vincent’s”, the story of Irish Christian Brothers (not to be confused with the DLS “Christian Brothers”) some of whom were heavily into the child abuse business in Newfoundland in the ’60s. My first instinct was to use a boys’ choir as the basis of the score. But I was reluctant to have to explain to the mothers of a dozen young singers between ten and twelve years of age what sort of project their little guys were getting involved in. What to do? While working on this problem, I came up with the realisation that while the children were the obvious victims of this whole scene, they weren’t the only victims.

    Growing up in a DLS school exposed us to the Junior Noviate; the platoon of teenagers who had been recruited by the brothers as apprentice monks. These kids were not only indoctrinated by their keepers (as were we), but led by their naïve noses into a system of training culminating in the taking of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. These three practices are all well and good for an adult to deal with but under no circumstances is a 17 or 18 year-old kid capable of taking an informed position on life-long chastity. Our young monks-to-be were recruited under dangerously misleading circumstances. In other words, these children—older, but not by much, than their future victims, were also victims. While this would never excuse their possible future sexual and sadistic transgressions, it might go a long way towards explaining them.

    In a fit of combined cowardice and brilliance I came up with a solution. I would hire a men’s choir and write music that presented their voices not as aggressive or authoritarian, but in a somewhat pathetic (as in “pathétique”) light. Problem solved. I arranged a 16th century Gaelic keening song,
    Seacht nDolás na Maighdine Mhuire (The Seven Sorrows of Mary) for eight men’s voices and that was that. The series was a moderate success.

    All that to shine a small light on an aspect of religious sexual and physical abuse that I have not heard mentioned, but which I believe is just one more reason why religious orders should have nothing to do with children. It’s a very dangerous mixture as history has shown. If you want to gather together with like-minded spiritual buddies, go ahead. Just stay the hell away from kids.
    Life in a DLS boarding school in the ’60’s was a life of mostly good education, yes, but it was also a life full of brutality, psychological, emotional, physical and—now I see—sexual abuse. The catholic church has plenty to answer for.

    • Hi, Chris, It was indeed the same Brother Elwin you knew.

      Here is a comment an old boy sent me: ‘Yes that is the Brother Elwin Gerald who was transferred from St Peters to become headmaster at Ipswich, he was a brilliant pianist and an abuser of quite a few of the choir boys he trained. He used to stand in the shower room pretending to do a crossword whilst perving all the naked third formers and asking them for clues to his crossword.’

      I dont recall the trainee Brothers at St J’s Ipswich. If they were there, I suspect they would have had the piss taken out of them by us all. Thus, when I signed up for the priesthood at 13/14, i was very coy about it. Very! And I know at least two other classmates who signed up were equally coy. (I also noticed John McDonnell (the labour MP) was very reticent about his vocation. Come on, John – why don’t you share YOUR story about St J’s? What’s the problem? That’s far more useful than claiming in GQ mag that Tony Blair was NOT a war criminal. Really? So maybe you really believe black is white??) Anyway, we were a hardboiled bunch at Ipswich (my compatriots in the A stream gave an Indian teacher Mr Sen Gupta a nervous breakdown with their racist jokes) and any sign of piety, real or fake, would have been pounced on. You’re so right about vows of chastity. When I was 14 i used to go to St Mary’s Catholic youth club near Woodbridge Road. There, I was snogging a girl of the same age, unaware that the youth club was run by or had links to the Knights of St Columba. They alerted everyone – my mother, the school etc – and I recall Brother Kevin turning up to investigate. It was a big deal – not just the breaking of future vows of chastity – but how far did I go? Seriously. (A question boys would regularly ask each other after a date) The Catholic overseers of my life were concerned that it may have gone much further. But, being 14, that seems unlikely. In fact, I should have been so lucky! This was one of the reasons the Knights, The School and the Church moved the goal posts and decided to send me off to a junior seminary at age 15, rather than the agreed 18. At the seminary I would be out of moral danger. Only running the risk of being sodomised by paedophile Catholic priests which was absolutely fine where the Church/Knights/My mother was concerned. As I’d had enough of that, thank you very much, I bailed and had to leave St J’s.

      On a happier note, my wife Lisa and I listened to some of your folk music on youtube and loved it! Brilliant. I’ve also seen The Boys of St Vincent’s and I recall it was a powerful movie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts there

      • Thanks for the story Pat, I’m starting to get an idea of the tone of St. Peter’s sister (brother?) schools. My old man went to St. Joseph’s, Beulah Hill, others I knew were at St, John’s, Southsea. Now, with these harrowing tales of life in Ipswich and those other schools, plus my own take on visits to the Beulah Hill and Southsea outfits (grey, damp, grim and rougher around the edges than St. Peter’s) I’m beginning to see that life at St. Peter’s was comparatively benign.

        Thanks for the kind words on the music. I guess none of us ever was damaged by too many jigs or reels! Best to you. Chris

  2. Incredible yet utterly believable tale and thanks for sharing. 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.

  3. MAN. How can a person who knows better become that evil? Demanding behaviour but not following the same line? Clearly Brother James didn’t believe a word he preached.
    This line says something brilliantly: “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.”
    I wonder how many of the folks (eg the abusive father) were the result of war trauma: taught to kill and then returned to normal life.

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