DE LA SALLE COVER-UPS

I think all of us are aware that there were cover-ups amongst the De La Salle Brothers. I remember how Brother Solomon suddenly – according to the playground grapevine at the time – went to Jersey, then onto Beulah Hill which he was thrown out from, subsequently possibly spending some time at Homan’s Boy Town (a disturbing location for this ‘Jimmy Savile of the De La Salle Order’) before returning to St Joseph’s as lay teacher Mike Mercado and then being thrown out again for sexual abuse.

I recall, as a boy, Brother James writing in the school magazine what a great asset Solomon was to the college and what a spiritual person he was. He clearly knew otherwise. It never rang true to me at the time.

Later, James himself got moved to Beulah Hill where his behavior was equally criminal. His obituary described him as a shy and timid man, not the violent rapist he really was. Once again, whoever wrote that obituary – almost certainly a DLS brother – must have known the truth and was lying through his teeth.

Similarly, when a startled Knight of St Columba (the Eminence Gris of St J’s) discovered the shocking evidence of violent abuse by James, he proclaimed ‘Oxford shall hear of this!’ I understand Oxford was and is the DLS centre of operations.

All these and many other references on this blog and elsewhere indicate a high level of collusion and cover-ups within the De La Salle Order. But it’s never been as clear cut and revealing a central control as the account below just in from Guy Lavender, an Old Boy of DLS school St Peter’s.

He refers to “an administrative organization” being responsible.

It could therefore be valuable in the days to come. Many thanks to Guy for this account and for allowing me to use his name.

                                       …………………………………

FROM GUY LAVENDER

Just read your latest post regarding the abuse at St J’s. It is a reminder to me and a stark jolt to put pen to paper and add my account. As you quite rightly quote “If you are able to speak up, but remain silent then we are implicitly condoning the wrongdoing of others” something along those lines.

As I mentioned before, I did not attend St Joseph’s school. I was a boarder at St Peter’s school, Bournemouth (1975-1982) This was also a Catholic School run by the De La Salle teaching order as you know. After reading all the blogs, accounts i draw striking similarities to what happened at St Peter’s during my time as a border there.

But there is more than that. Before I attended St. Peter’s, I had 2 older brothers who attended another school, St John’s college, Southsea, also run by the De La Salle order. They were borders from 1970 to 1977. Their accounts of going’s on and wrongful abuse of boys during that time is equally harrowing.

Now then. Because of my brothers accounts of the behaviour of certain individuals at St John’s (namely Br Cyril) my experiences at St Peter’s (at the hands of Brother Kevin literally) together with reading all the stories, posts and blogs on your website, I am in a unique position to add an interesting perspective on all this scandalous abuse. This is what I have pieced together.

Let’s start with Brother Kevin. After reading the accounts by borders at St Joseph’s there was quite obviously some woeful wrongdoings involving Brother Kevin during the mid to late 1960’s. Then he was suddenly moved overseas and conveniently out of the way to France for 1 to 2 years. Long enough for the scandal to blow away and all be forgotten about no doubt. After which he was again re-appointed in a position of ultimate trust over young boys as junior housemaster at St Peter’s School, Bournemouth at around 1969-1970. There he was given a free hand to recommence his sinister and evil operations ie the abuse of young boys under the pious illusion and disguise of a religious white dog collar. I, as a border at St Peter’s from September 1975, was witness to much of his immoral behaviour.

Then there was the case of Brother Cyril. The notorious, weird and known homosexual housemaster at St John’s college, Southsea. According to my brothers there were several incidents involving improper conduct involving young boys at the hands of Brother Cyril during his time as housemaster of junior division there at St John’s. This was approximately from 1972 up until his untimely and abrupt transfer to St Peter’s school at around 1978. Now then, I do recall remarking to him that I had 2 brothers who were, at the time, still boarders at St John’s college.  I strongly remember the frosty and uncomfortable response that I received on even mentioning this. With hindsight, it was probably because I had been privy to his previous behaviour at St John’s that he then wanted and thought he could bury.

So it seems like we have a clear pattern of similar events here in just two accounts. Whenever the bubble is about to burst and some unsavoury individual is about to be exposed and held account for his actions, then he is conveniently moved or re assigned somewhere else.

What is abundantly clear to me is that it was not just one individual who was responsible for moving these monsters around to avoid detection, but an administrative organisation. Someone somewhere knew exactly what kind of person Brother Kevin was/is and actively appointed him in a position of trust and authority over young boys, some as young as 6 or 7 years old. Even as 11 year old boys we were very aware of the pedophile nature of Brother Kevin. Indeed, the jokes and sniggering comments transcended through every corridor and classroom in the school. Yet not one teacher knew anything about his despicable tendencies?? Impossible. Of course they knew and were fully aware. Every single one of them. But this was the 1970’s and pedophilia behaviour and activities were a taboo subject. It simply did not exist. Sadly it did.

I hope that my account and perspective on events helps to explain things at the time. Ie coverups. I will later on send you my account at the hands of Brother Kevin. I’m working on it. I’m not shy. I will be in touch again soon

4 thoughts on “DE LA SALLE COVER-UPS

  1. You’re right, Paul. I remember with great affection Brother Paul, a senior English teacher who took time out to encourage my creative writing when I was a junior. He had no agenda and was genuinely interested because he’d seen some of my poetry and felt I needed encouraging. But even the bad apples were often excellent teachers which makes it quite confusing for children. Thus Brother James, Kevin and Solomon were all good teachers. Although i was on a podcast recently about clerical abuse (i’ll put the link on here) and I waxed lyrical about Solomon giving me a love of music and the interviewer said it sounded like classic grooming. I’m sure he was right. I have a copy of Solomon/Mercado’s resignation letter which is somewhat disturbing because of its sub-text and what isn’t said.

  2. I was a border at St. Peter’s, Bournemouth from 1956 to 1967. We had our share of tyrants mixed in with what seemed to be generally decent, normal (if you reckon lads of eighteen taking vows of chastity, poverty and obedience is normal!) brothers and lay teachers. All of us from the late sixties at SPS remember the cruel and mean-spirited reign of fear and loathing under Bro Ives Patrick (aka Gregory Vincent Tracy). However, I never heard of any sexual abuse. I certainly don’t say it didn’t happen, but I never caught wind of it. Some have said in these pages that perhaps the De La Salle brothers knew which schools to leave alone, especially the more well-to-do ones like St. Peter’s, who’s parent cohort included professionals, army and navy officers and solicitors as well as parents who could afford, and knew how, to make life difficult for any black-robe who dared interfere with their sons.

    Fast forward to 2019. I was having dinner in a Vermont farm house. The host, sitting next to me was getting exercised about this topic in American schools. At some point I said I had been a border in a catholic school in England for ten years but that I never heard of this happening at St. Peter’s. I said that we kids would certainly have picked up if something was wrong and so I had always assumed it was not going on. My host slammed his knife and fork down, leapt to his feet and roared at the top of his voice: “You have no idea! You can’t possibly be sure there was nothing happening to other kids! You don’t know what you’re talking about! I ought to know. It happened to me! You couldn’t possibly be sure someone wasn’t raping your friends right under your nose!”

    This had quite an effect on me as you can imagine. Maybe there was abuse at SPS. Guy Lavender’s story, although after my time, seems to indicate I may have been innocently blind.
    As I sit here at 73, in Covid-flavoured 2021 looking out of my Québec farmhouse window at the vanishing snow and the northbound geese, I count myself lucky that I never had to bear the suffering so many hundreds of others have born.

    These criminals must be brought to justice. I don’t care how old or infirm they are. Ruining children’s lives is not to be forgiven, and certainly not to be rewarded with long and peaceful retirement. The sooner religious orders and religion-based education are abolished, the better. Not to say that brothers, priests and nuns are the only paedophiles in charge of children, but they are very adept at covering for one another. The task you have set yourself, Pat, is a rough and tortuous one. I can’t help thinking that for everyone who posts here there are dozens more who can’t bring themselves to face the pain. Good work.

  3. Just a thought whilst it is clear that there were some bad criminal Bros there were also some good ones and ones that were well liked and remembered fondly at meetings of Old Boys. There are rotten apples when ever adults deal with the young. The head master of my childrens state primary school just vanished after an incident with an 8 year old girl in his car, this was in the 1980s. In the 1960s a volunteer youth club leader also was never heard of again after an incident with a 16 year old boy. There was no police action the whole matter was hushed up by the authorities.
    Talking about Solomon I was at St Josephs until 1961 when he was there. I was very surprised when in the early 1980s I went to the school in my role as a police officer and found him there as a lay teacher.I recall when I was at the school we were told that anyone who left the order was not worth knowing. I wonder who actually employed him in the 80s

  4. I remember very clearly the sacking of Br Solomon. He was in the ferry with his band and Br Cuthman. They had been performing with Ken. Mackintosh in France. Solomon was drunk and shouted at Br Cuthman, the Headmaster, that he was a “Maltese bastard.” He never returned again to St Joseph’s. Tumour was he was sacked.

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