Creator and first editor of 2000AD, champion of girls' and political comics. Spacewarp, Requiem Vampire Knight, Marshal Law, Accident Man, Nemesis, Charley's War and more. Get in touch: patmillswriter (@) gmail.com. Go to millsverse.com for comics stuff.
Thanks to a St J’s Old Boy for school photo from the mid 80s.
Mike Kearney, sitting, 6th from the left
Mrs Kearney, sitting, 2nd from the left
And unless I’m mistaken that’s Bill Moss,my old English teacher, second row fifth from the right.
My first reaction on looking at the photo was surprise at how Mr Moss seemed to have aged. And how short and suntanned he seemed. And how Kearney didn’t look that different to how i remembered him. He seemed remarkably young and not noticeably obese as one Old Boy remembered him recently. But a big guy. What did come over to me was his energy. He’s not as relaxed as some of the others. He comes over as very affable and likeable. But of course it’s a photo.
I just showed it to an Old Boy friend from that 80s era who immediately identified one of the brothers as ‘An absolute psycho who assaulted a couple of boys in my second form dorm.’
Doubtless other Old Boys from that era will know who he is referring to. He sounds quite notorious – but after my time. I shan’t identify him here.
And my friend added ‘That place was poison’
Sadly, that was my experience, too. There was a third teacher in that photo who was also an abuser. That’s a considerable number to still be there by the 80s. And I don’t think a fourth – the infamous Mercado – is present. It bears out the theory of transgenerational rings established in an academic study of a comparable Catholic set-up in Oz. Like so many other survivors I so wish it was different.
When did it stop?
Or did it?
I remember talking to the Catholic Diocese some years ago about all this. I thought that was the right way to deal with my memories as a survivor. The spokeswoman enthusiastically explained to me how there were strict protocols in place now and the Church had just appointed a non-Catholic social worker to vigorously investigate any complaints. i was reassured for a while.
As you may know, I think the non-Catholic lasted less than two years before resigning. I think she’d signed an NDA because she avoided saying why, but indirectly indicated it was because she had no proper budget and there was great opposition to her within the Church.
So now the Church has reverted to the old system under a new name.
Classic cover-up technique. Nothing’s really changed. It’s just Catholic abusers have to be so much more careful now.
I found the Facebook entry on the same page as the photo – quoted below – quite painful to read because it’s so far removed from the truth. You can only be genuinely proud of the past if you also acknowledge the crimes of the past which have now been proved beyond any reasonable doubt. I cannot believe they are not aware as my site comes up early on the web and there’s also my autobiography which was classified as a best seller. Anyway, here’s the quote:
‘We are very proud of our Old Birkfeldians, the school’s alumni, who provide of course the best example of what a St Joseph’s education produces and the best advertisement for our school.’
If they are really so proud, why not help survivors to expose and deal with the truth, so we can all have closure on it?
I recall Kearney regularly exploding with rage in classrooms next door and desperately hoping I didn’t have to contend with him (as well) in my next year group (1970-75). I spent each day trying my hardest to stay invisible or better still, absent because of the inappropriate actions of one teacher. Thus a promising ‘A stream’ pupil (demoting himself to ‘B stream’ to avoid Mr _) left as soon as possible to face the world armed with the single o-level he still cared about and a lot of anger. I would urge anyone on the list of 70+ names I’ve just jotted down (in best “Moggs” voice) to please consider reporting anything they might regard as suspect. Seemingly many/most of my peers sailed through St. Joes with no issues but believe me, some of us are only now able to start processing what happened there to try and reclaim our identities. Others have died before even starting that process.
That’s a powerful statement which needs commenting on. Especially on behalf of my earlier 60s St J’s generation who are that much closer to our mortality.
After all: Why let these evil individuals get away with it?
That’s what today’s St Joseph’s College, the Catholic Church and the De La Salle Brothers clearly want by their silence in the face of so much evidence.
Fortunately, Kearney lasted through to the 80s. So if my generation or the 70s generation doesn’t nail him and expose the full nature of his crimes, the younger 80s generation may. This isn’t going to go away. I find that thought rather comforting.
Because these characters are – by definition – serial offenders. They’re predators and they would have abused again and again and again.
It’s usually those of us from vulnerable backgrounds (my mother was a widow) who these characters pick on, which made me a prime target. It explains why other Old Boys from St Js – probably from more stable homes – will say endlessly, ‘Well he never did me any harm.’ Lucky you.
It prompted me to repeat here a direct message which I’ve kept anonymous.
Hi pat, I came across your WordPress article.. About Ipswich in 70s, I was there, I remember many of the people and places you talk about but buried it deep… Always knew I’d have to face it one day…. Keep it up
Reclaiming our identities is what makes the process of ‘facing it’ worthwhile.
Here are some pointers to where I’m personally going where Kearney is concerned.
1)KEARNEY THE BEAR
Firstly, a recent description of him from an Old Boy from the Mid 80s
Summer 1985 in your photo. Mr Kearney too, but his description would not have been as Pat says. At that time, he was big but overweight, and with a short beard. We used to call him “the bear”. The skin on his hands was so thick he could use his thumb to cover the test tube where he was heating concentrated sulphuric acid without a second thought…
A gay website confirms the term was in use in the UK by the 1980s.
Or maybe Kearney was called ‘the Bear’ just because he was a big guy.
Not in my experience.
It ties in with my recollections of him. I remember him as an abuser. I’ve been slow to talk about it on this site because I was looking for other indications on the subject before really opening up. Maybe I should be the first one to take the plunge, just as two other Old Boys courageously outed Brother James as a sexual predator before I said anything about my own horrendous experience.
‘The Bear’ is one indication – of course it’s not proof and there could be an innocent explanation for his nickname even in the streetwise 1980s.
But sadists usually have a sexually abusive dimension to their character and Kearney was most certainly a sadist.
He also had a personal connection to my family which appalled me so much, I cut out all memories of him.
That was my survival system.
If that sounds extreme, ask yourself – would you want a sick individual like Kearney to be a ‘close friend’ of your family?
I think that might help explain why I still bang on about this wretched guy after all these years. Yes, it is personal.
2) KEARNEY AS A SADIST
That’s my abiding memory of him. I don’t recall his temper exploding as above, but I do recall his sadism as he lashed kids with the Bunsen burner pipe. This was born out recently by an Old Boy who described his sadistic racism.
3) KEARNEY BREAKING BAD
This is the toughest one because it’s new territory even for the vile teachers we’ve all described on this site.
Long before the fictional Walter White, chemistry teachers have been prosecuted for the illegal manufacture of drugs and illegal use of chemicals. Available materials were used for all the obvious reasons – including as predecessors to rohypnol. So it’s not that remarkable. Some of the processes and uses are quite straight-forward, unlike the complexity of Breaking Bad.
I would so prefer this to be some twisted fantasy born out of my job as a science fiction and fantasy writer. A product of an over-active imagination. If only!
I’m afraid it is not.
It’s a lingering memory that needs acknowledging. Unlike other Old Boys, I only have snapshot memories of the past. My ‘polaroids’ are clear enough, but they don’t provide a continuous ‘video’ narrative. There are gaps. Hence my hesitation.
And please consider this: The man’s memory has already been tainted beyond repair by recent testimonies of various Old Boys as well as myself. His name doesn’t need further blackening. He’s already a monster. So why would I need to do and say anymore?
Because it happens to be the truth.
And in stating and exploring that truth, it’s far more than a catharsis, it helps me reclaim my identity. Who I was. What really happened to me. Who I am today. So it’s empowering for me personally.
It’s well worth it.
There’s a second reason that’s particularly relevant in the area of ‘Breaking Bad’. Anything involving drugs has huge implications that always involve others. I’m sure I don’t need to spell them out. We’re all worldly wise. Breaking Bad and other films show it clearly.
The drug scene in Britain in the early 1960s – my era – is rarely covered in film AFAIK. It’s a bridge too far for most. Quadrophenia is one example – but it only shows working class kids as users.
I can’t recall the ‘respectable’ middle classes ever being shown taking recreational drugs, which seems most unlikely, ahead of the late 60s when cannabis, LSD and heroin were all featured in movies.
But the 60s started long before the Beatles. The Christine Keeler series and the Keeler film gives some indication of what really went on in my era and earlier. This was the era when I had the misfortune to make Kearney’s acquaintance both in school and out of school. And there are strong hints in the film Darling. But most of it seems to be off limits. It’s like there’s an unwritten rule ‘Don’t go there’.
There’s also the transgenerational nature of abuse rings which the Oz academic study I’ve written about proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, is hardwired into their systems.
One thing I will swear to is this: Kearney was a member of one – or possibly two – of those transgenerational rings. (I say two because one of the rings seems to have been non-Catholic.)
When it stopped, I have no means of knowing. Presumably with the dawn of more vigilant times in the 1990s? When the Church and its various aligned organizations, like St J’s, came under critical scrutiny and it (supposedly) weeded out its prime abusers.
Kearney, my old chemistry teacher at St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, is, annoyingly, someone who is still very much on my mind. Even though it was a lifetime ago, the guy still haunts me. Frankly, I could do without it as I have a great and rewarding quality of life and have far better and more important things to think about than the crimes of this evil individual.
There’s a reason why Kearney is still there in the forefront of my mind. Other notorious abusive teachers at St Joseph’s– such as Brothers James, Solomon and Kevin – have been fully outed now. They’ve been rightfully named and shamed with subsequent closure.
But Mike Kearney is rather different.
Not least because he’s a complex character and it’s a necessary part of my healing to understand who he really was. I truly wish I didn’t have to, because it’s like looking into the darkness of another man’s soul. It’s taking time to gather my recollections and to fully comprehend and define the nature of his abuse. It’s sometimes quite painful, because it’s like I have to travel back in time to relive the original experiences and to make sense of them, but I’m getting there.
Sorry to be a little mysterious, but I will relate it more fully in the future.
Meanwhile, it’s relevant in the current climate to show again an earlier comment about Kearney relating to his racism.
It was originally posted in November 2016. So it’s worth noting that St Joseph’s would have been aware of his racism for over three years and have chosen to ignore it.
If they claim they weren’t aware, well, they are now.
This post refers to a period in the mid 1980s at St Joseph’s, when Kearney was, presumably, coming close to retirement. There would have been more black students in that era than in mine. I only recall one African boarder in my class. So I doubt I’d have seen Kearney’s racism in action.
Marcus commented on ROLL OF DISHONOUR 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).
Given that Kearney was at St Joseph’s in the late 1950s, according to his close colleague,the paedophile Mike Mercado/Brother Solomon, it’s reasonable to assume Kearney was in South Africa in the 1940s and/or 1950s.
This was when the apartheid state of South Africa was at the height of its power.
I recall his harsh, menacing voice very well. I don’t remember his accent being particularly British, South African or Irish (the derivation of his name). He could, of course, have connections with all three countries.
But certainly Kearney had the arrogance of a believer in apartheid in the way he dealt with me. Although it was also tempered with a certain caution and wariness, too. And with good reason, I’m pleased to say. I was no easy victim, you see, although he did come perilously and scarily close to victimising me. For him, breaking my spirit was really important, and, at the time, I didn’t understand why. Teaching ‘obedience’ and ‘humility’ is imbued in Catholic culture, of course, but this was something else. Something much more.
So why did he waste his energy dealing with some annoying, Bolshie kid who isn’t going to do what he wants and– between the time I was 14 – 16 years old – had challenged him on personal matters outside the classroom and seriously pissed him off? So what? At the time, his reaction and his vengeance always seemed disproportionate to me. In retrospect, I realise I hugely underestimated him and the impact my rebellion had on him. Such is the confidence of youth.
Knowing he spent some years in racist South Africa, knowing he was a sadist (detailed in past testimonies on this site), who enjoyed inflicting pain and knowing he was later – in the 1980s – nicknamed ‘The Bear’ and its likely meaning, helps me finally start to make sense of him.
Consequently, I’ve been able to build an authentic and accurate picture of this man which is still a work in progress, because I want to get it absolutely right.
It will be my personal memorial to Mike Kearney.
My sincere thanks to Marcus above for helping me understand him.
Coming from an impoverished and vulnerable home background, and dealing with Kearney who had a measure of personal control over me, outside of the school, I have some small sense today of what it must feel like to be non-white.
To be on the receiving end of a racist’s abuse, their seething, barely suppressed anger, hate, vengeance, malice and their need to victimise and control.
I can tell you, it feels bloody terrible. It makes me feel like I’m nothing. Like I’m an object. Like I was entirely at his mercy. And he knew that and he loved it. I think he even enjoyed my spirited and angry responses, so he could retaliate and bring down his psychological equivalent of a sjambok on my back. He certainly had a few psychological weapons in his armoury.
At the time, I zoned out, I disassociated many of the feelings as a survival mechanism to get through my early teenage years. So now I’ve got to feel them to get closure. It’s not much fun, but I try to pace myself and it has to be done. And I firmly believe it’s better than prozac, alcohol or otherwise numbing the feelings. Hopefully, I won’t have to feel the whole shebang.
To reprise, Kearney is a man who is provably a violent criminal. Punching a 13 year old boy in the face (see an Old Boy’s recent past testimony) was not an isolated incident.
A man who doesn’t appear to have been a very good chemistry teacher – according to another calm, balanced and insightful recent past testimony.
A man who came from a racist country at the height of its racism, and behaved in a racist and covertly violent manner – as shown in the testimony above.
And today, the current St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, has a Memorial Chemistry prize to proudly honour this man’s memory.
Well, maybe not quite so proudly today.
They previously announced the Kearney prize regularly in their Summer newsletters, but I see the 2019 newsletter no longer makes the award information public.
Whether that’s in response to this blog I can’t say. Certainly the De La Salle Order hurriedly took down their glowing obituary to Brother James as a ‘gentle and timid man’ when various Old Boys, myself included, highlighted his psychotic rages and violent sexual assaults and rapes on schoolboys on this site.
And the Knights of St Columba, Ipswich Province, have removed their list of past Knights (which I have a copy of) from their website. Possibly because I was writing about them as their list of deceased members included paedophile Canon Burrows and Father Jolly, school chaplain at St Joseph’s, who was almost certainly a Knight. And a member of a Catholic paedophile ring.
(Sources: See my past testimonies on Burrows and Jolly. And another Old Boy’s testimony on Jolly and how he tape-recorded school boys ‘impure sins’ confessed to him in the confessional. And see my Dark Networks post for an authoritative academic study proving the existence of transgenerational Catholic paedophile rings and how they function. )
So St Joseph’s might choose to ‘update’ their prize list and remove Kearney’s name from the memorial prize on the grounds that he was a racist– even if they don’t care about his criminal violence and other matters still to come.
If numerous councils, schools, universities and other public bodies can disassociate themselves from racist characters in their pasts, and tear down their statues and remove their names, I really think St Joseph’s should follow suit. Particularly as the school must be more multi-racial today than in earlier decades.
There are other precedents. I’m told on good authority that the Joe Homan charity is likely to be renamed so its evil founder – an ex De La Salle Brother who also taught at St Joseph’s College – is no longer honoured. (See past testimonies detailing his horrific and violent sexual abuse towards children) That renaming process is currently a work in progress, but I hope it has a positive outcome. If so, that’s excellent news and I hope it helps survivors and gives them some closure on Homan’s numerous crimes.
As you can see from the above, Catholic sexual abuse was endemic at St Joseph’s College, Ipswich in the 1960s and it seems to have carried on in a similar vein in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. It was not all clerical abuse. There are several instances where lay teachers were also abusers. Hence the validity of a transgenerational organised ring as confirmed by one survivor here as well as myself and backed up by the academic study of ‘Dark Networks’ in similar Catholic schools and churches in Oz
Today’s St Joseph’s College is very different although they still proudly describe themselves as in ‘The La Sallian Tradition’ . This is an obvious insult to survivors who, as children, were brutalised and raped by De La Salle Brothers. And they still want to honour a racist teacher.
Why they should choose to hold onto these aspects of the past and maintain their provocative links, I find disturbing because it lacks any obvious motive. It’s easy enough to get rid of the association, to give some plausible ‘modernising’ excuse, so there’s no loss of face, and they can still espouse worthy Catholic values without being connected with a religious order which included numerous violent sexual predators. Any web search on the De La Salle order will show this beyond any doubt. That way they are rid of people like me reminding them with our testimonies appearing on search engines where parents can read the damning evidence.
The fact that the school haven’t fully cut the connection with their past makes me wonder if there is a hidden motive or some covert pressure on them to maintain their inappropriate links to the College’s past.
I think it’s time they entered the 21st century and did the right thing, don’t you?