THE IMPORTANCE OF FIGHTING BACK

The recent newspaper article about an abuse victim killing a 92 year old clerical abuser by shoving a crucifix down his throat made me reflect on the various ways Survivors fight back.

Sadly, fear and violence, horrible as this example is, is all these clerical abusers seem to understand. I wish it were otherwise, but in an age of endless cover-ups, when the current head of the Catholic Church – Pope Francis – is provably guilty of deliberately lying to cover up abuse – it’s inevitable.

See the final section of a French TV documentary (In English) Sex Abuse in the Church:  Code of Silence.

It’s well worth seeing because when the Pope is caught lying (Over the Grassi scandal), the guilt is clearly written all over his face. He’s caught red-handed and papal apologists will have to tie themselves into knots to excuse his reaction. Even Bill Donahue would have difficulty. I guess he’d just bluster and shout at the camera as he usually does.

But with a long line of Popes like Francis in charge, it sends a message to these perverts that what they’re doing is okay, and is tolerated and IMO, for which I have some evidence, is actually encouraged by the clerics at the top. Such priests are not abusing their vocation, as critics or defenders usually claim, because it’s actually part of their vocation.  I believe it’s always been part of the Church’s belief system. It’s actually no different to PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) attempting to legitimise its crimes against children, and with a similar evil, if pseudo-spiritual, logic.

It’s never been one rotten apple in the barrel. When I was growing up, all the apples in the barrel were rotten and I very much doubt my parish was unusual. That’s when you start to realise the Church is actually like PIE; it’s hardwired into the religion itself. It’s something the media dare not say, because it’s thinking the unthinkable, but it seems blindingly obvious to me.

My own experience involved three parish priests based in Ipswich in the 1950s era, all three paedophiles: Canon Burrows, Father Wace, and Father Jolly – chaplain to St Joseph’s College.

So I thought I’d share three examples of fighting back against clerical abusers and how valuable it was for me personally. Even if I didn’t always win.

The one thing all three priests had in common was that they were English upper class, the product of Catholic public schools, and two of them, at least, were Knights of St Columba. (Canon Burrows and Father Jolly). I believe that their elite English Catholic background gave them a Droit du Seigneur and a pseudo-spiritual rationale for their crimes. 

For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to focus here on the fighting back, although I have extensive notes on all three individuals. I even hired a private detective to gather information on one of them. A useful and positive step, by the way, which I would recommend to Survivors.

So Canon Burrows first: parish priest at St Pancras, Ipswich. Burrows was a very close friend of my Irish widowed mother. He was always round our house, doing practical jobs, like rebuilding a fireplace. I was 5 years old when he bought me an expensive cowboy suit, amongst other gifts, and he always referred to me affectionately as ‘The Sheriff’. One wintry afternoon he drove me to a deserted lumber yard down by Ipswich docks where his ancient car broke down and it needed a hand crank start. I can still remember wanting to hit him with that crank handle. Instead, I remember kicking him (a valuable symbolic gesture in retrospect) and then I did a runner. Maybe because he called me ‘The Sheriff’, instead of going home, I went to the police station to report what had happened.  After all, that’s what a Sheriff would do.

I don’t remember the details, but I do recall vividly a kindly and positive response, where the cops made a real fuss of me. A classic Dixon of Dock Green cop brought me a cup of hot chocolate – a beverage I still drink today if I’ve had a shock. The official family story became that ‘I got lost’ and that’s how I ended up at the police station, because the truth was just too difficult for Catholics to deal with. Sadly, I doubt it was High Noon for Burrows – not in those days – but I think he may have been warned off.  Anyway, my experience at the police station was so encouraging, I believe that’s what’s turned me into a life-long whistleblower. They listened to my story and they believed me. That was very rare in the 50s. So I’m still grateful to the boys in blue and that’s why I’m writing this whistle-blowing post today.

The second was Father Harry Wace – he was Chaplain to Canon Burrows. He was from a wealthy military family – his father was a Lieutenant Colonel in a Sikh regiment of the Indian Army. His brother, too, was a priest. According to his obituary, Harry liked to wear dead priests clothes and his dead father’s suits.   As they were the same gender, I guess there’s nothing Norman Bates there. My mother was his housekeeper. So when I was around seven, I followed her around as she made Wace’s bed and folded his pyjamas. His pyjama jacket, casually left out on the unmade bed, was covered in the most amazing metal badges. A collector’s paradise. I was in awe and I can still recall that feeling of really coveting those super-cool badges. They were every young boy’s dream.

Wace was 28 years old at this time. He had been in the Rifle Brigade of the Suffolk Regiment and served in Palestine in the 1940s for two years.  So he was not some immature young Father Dougal from Father Ted.

That pyjama jacket would have been impossible to sleep in, but my mother simply smiled at me as she put his pyjamas away. She was surely a classic example of Stockholm Syndrome, which is how the Catholic Church got away with so much – and still does. They call their denial system – when faced with overwhelming evidence – the highly prized Gift of Faith. You believe in the Church, no matter what. Every Catholic aspires to it.

So then I joined the Catholic Cubs, which was run by Wace. He was Akela and all I can recall visually is a memory of his bare knees and his special Cubmaster grey socks.  The rest is still hazy but I guess he thought that my mother being a widow, I was fair game. But what he didn’t know was that although my legal father was dead, my biological father was still very much alive and would visit us from time to time as a family ‘friend’. He was from a working class background in Dublin and was fond of the notorious ‘Bucky’ – Buckfast Tonic Wine – the ultimate tongue loosener, which is how I knew that he was actually my dad.  So I told my dad – I blew the whistle on Wace – and, to my delight, he paid the priest  ‘a visit.’ I then mysteriously left the Cubs and Wace shortly afterwards left his chaplaincy at St Pancras church.

Filling in the gaps on these minimal details is conjecture but I believe it’s pretty close to the truth. Because, annoyingly, adults rarely tell kids what actually happens on these occasions. But it would certainly not have been a polite middle-class exchange of views! However, dad – under the influence of Bucky – once opened our front door with his shoulder, so I’m convinced he would have dealt with Wace in an appropriately ‘physical’ way. Even though he too was an Irish Catholic, there was no danger of him being affected by Stockholm Syndrome.

And that makes him quite unusual. In the same era, a middle-class dad gave his son a horrific beating for making up ‘terrible lies’ when he complained about the notorious Brother Solomon abusing him. And that was the usual reaction of parents in that time – the child must be punished for being a ‘malicious liar’ in order to protect the corrupt institution and corrupt individual.

What makes me know my dad was different and say this with conviction is the song, ‘Oh! My Papa’,  which was very popular in the 50s. When I listen to that song today, the tears stream down my face, but they are never tears of sadness or loss – which the words usually evoke for most people. (E.G. ‘Deep in my heart, I miss him so today.’). Instead, surprisingly, they are tears of happiness, of joy and celebration! Celebrating what? I’m pretty certain I’m celebrating dad’s visit to Father Wace. Dad may not have shoved a crucifix down Wace’s throat, but I like to think he gave that upper class pervert a good hiding, which he certainly deserved.  ‘Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful.’ Thank you, dad.

And lastly we come to Father Jolly – the chaplain at St Joseph’s and my parish priest at St Marks. I would help him paint his yacht moored at Pin Mill, and he took me sailing as a reward. He also took other St Joseph’s pupils on sailing trips.  When he wasn’t buying me wooden clogs – one of several souvenirs he brought back from his visits to 1960s Amsterdam – and loaning me his 1930s super-long skis, he was part of a wider Catholic community of like-minded souls. This involved weekend ‘retreat’ trips away in his Hillman Minx car and I would sometimes accompany him. Once again the details are hazy, but let’s put it this way – I still have a fanatical hatred of Hillman Minx cars, specifically their dashboards, which I’d still like to smash with a hammer. Because when you can’t attack a perpetrator, you displace the anger onto a nearby inanimate object.

But kids’ revenge is sometimes as devious, ingenious, nasty and – most important – deniable as the groomers’ actions themselves, and this needs honouring and recording. So here’s a case in point. A friend of mine, who I’ll call Paul, also knew Jolly very well, disliked him intensely for some mysterious reason, and – in recent years – described to me an incident which I had no knowledge of at the time.

Paul related how he and his friends, all fellow pupils at St Joseph’s,  (not in my class) ‘made a pipe bomb and blew up the remains of an old tree in Father Jolly’s orchard.’

Why?

‘Because we were interested in chemistry.’

(Next time I see Paul I must ask him if Mike Kearney was their teacher – although I doubt their bomb would qualify for his memorial prize.)

So I quizzed Paul further. He and his friends bought all these specialist ingredients to make a bomb. But why choose Father Jolly’s orchard of all places to detonate it?

Paul shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, his sphinx-like face giving nothing away.

Any old boy of St Joseph’s from our era will tell you that Jolly’s orchard was small – it was just a garden, really, overlooked by Jolly’s house – and it was so close to the school that the risk of being caught was high. If you’re going in for crazy chemistry experiments, as kids used to do, there were other places nearby where you could carry them out without any fear of discovery.

I tried interrogating Paul again.  ‘Was Jolly there at the time? What was his reaction to you exploding a bomb near his house?’ I was wasting my breath. I doubt Paul would break, even under waterboarding. He came back with his standard reply whenever I push him too hard for details about his days at  St Joseph’s.

‘It was so long ago, I don’t remember now,’ he said, his face a picture of complete innocence.

Fair enough. So I’ve filled in the blanks myself, and a fictional version features in my novel ‘Serial Killer’. Doubtless you can reach your own conclusions.

Bottom line on all this?  Kids do hit back in their own unique ways and we need to remember their victories over the priests, teachers and De La Salle brothers in Ipswich, cowards who have otherwise largely escaped justice.

This is because of a Catholic Diocese that has shown zero interest in historic crimes by its priests. Instead, it does a Pontius Pilate and refers them to the police, which is all too often wasting valuable police time as the crimes are historic and, invariably, there’s nothing the police can do. But they still have to look at every case passed to them. I’ve personally found the police as supportive today as when I was six years old.

In a similar way, the De La Salle brothers are still going strong, but the organisation also ignores the numerous historic crimes its order are notorious for. Unless they’re fetched. Then, of course, they will wring their hands with expressions of regret which I doubt fools anyone, including themselves. 

Meanwhile, St Joseph’s maintains its links with its past  (e.g.  a sadistic teacher like Kearney. See an earlier post), but otherwise does a complete Pontius Pilate while at the same time proudly proclaiming that it is ‘In the La Sallian Tradition’.

Which particular aspect of the tradition would that be?  As a Survivor, that means something quite negative and disturbing to me.

Yet the reaction of Catholic authority is hardly surprising when the Pope, their leader is caught lying on camera. He is clearly telling Catholic perpetrators: ‘It’s okay to lie. I’m on your side.’ Stockholm Syndrome, cognitive dissonance, or whatever you choose to call it, is still as potent today as it ever was.

But we don’t have to always talk about all this in sad, hushed tones as stereotypically represented in the media. These sick individuals, when they’re still alive, probably enjoy that because it means they still have the power and power is ultimately what all this is about.  Especially when – as the facts have shown time and again – they’re still protected by their Pope, despite his phoney words to the contrary.

Naming and shaming them is one way of us taking back our power and I’m looking forward to doing more of the same shortly. There are other ways, too – like suing them or their organisation or having abusers arrested and banged up before they can plead senility. If you’re a Survivor, whichever path you decide to take, I wish you luck and can assure you it will be worth it. 

Because you’re fighting back.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

The Daily Mail article about my old school, St Joseph’s, and how it inspired my version of Judge Dredd and Torquemada.

The recent Daily Mail article, also featured in The Sun and The Express, described Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s time at my old school, St Joseph’s College, Ipswich. If they were trying to trash him for going to a ‘posh public school’, they failed dismally in my opinion. Nevertheless, they twisted the facts sufficiently so that Daily Mail readers would have all the fake news they needed to believe the worst of McDonnell.

That said, there were some real gems in the feature that will bring back memories for many old boys of our time at St J’s. And it also reminded me of how I built a successful writing career based on my experiences at the school.

I particularly enjoyed the Mail’s rather unlikely opening description of Chantry Secondary Modern ‘yobs’ doing battle with St Js rugby elite. Supposedly wielding cricket bats and golf clubs, the college boys sent the working class kids packing back to their council estate where they belonged. It felt more like a typical, fetid Mail fantasy, but perhaps it was true. But I lived on Chantry council estate at that time and cycled past the Secondary Mod every day, wearing my brightly striped St J’s blazer, with no problem and not one taunt or confrontation from anyone. In fact, three of us ‘Holy Joes’ – as the Mail enjoyed labelling us – regularly hung around the Secondary Mod gates chatting up the girls. The Secondary Mod boys were completely indifferent to us muscling in on ‘their territory’. But the Mail account suggested tensions between the two adjacent schools mounted until there was a massive shindig straight out of the Jennings and Darbishire novels by Anthony Buckeridge.

It was also good to read that John McDonnell described the school as ‘sado-masochistic Christianity’, a regime that enjoyed ‘kicking the shit out of you’. That is 100% accurate, as I relate in my autobiography ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’. It was this kind of warped behavior by De La Salle monks that inspired my version of the 2000AD comic book character Judge Dredd and also Torquemada in my Nemesis the Warlock. I am, of course, the developer of Judge Dredd, not its creator as the Mail states. But I don’t think anyone really expects the Mail to get its facts completely right.

But I do wonder if McDonnell’s criticism of the school is the real reason the current regime no longer lists him among past alumni. They would doubtless prefer no one knows about the school’s dark past, which they do their best to disassociate themselves from.

So it transpires that John McDonnell was at St Js for four years, just a couple of years after I was there. I, too, was down for the seminary; I, too, had my school fees paid for by a church grant; and I, too, left at age fifteen when I ‘discovered girls’.s I used the exact same phrase at the time.

But the Mail article chooses to miss out on aspects that would explain why St J’s, whilst never a seminary, could often seem like one and how that misunderstanding may well have arisen. Because the college was motivated to send boys in the direction of the seminary. Highly motivated. I was very aware back then that, following the Second Vatican Council, there was a disastrous slump in vocations. Maybe I overheard adults talking about it, but I knew there was panic in the air. In a decade or two they were going to run out of priests! And this has, of course, come to pass. Consequently, every day we were regularly and fanatically harangued by Brother James, our form teacher, with fierce recruiting speeches to ‘answer God’s call’ which, he warned us, we ignored at our peril. God would not be happy, he told us sternly.

The psychotic Brother James, as readers of ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’ will know, was one of the sources of inspiration for my version of Dredd and also Torquemada, a xenophobic, Darth Vader-like character who regards all aliens as deviants who must be ‘cleansed’ by his deranged Terminator Knights. The other sources were Brother Solomon, the notorious wannabe pop star known as the ‘Swinging Monk’ and a Catholic layman who I’ll call ‘Torquemada’ for now, as I’m still in the process of researching him and – unlike the Mail – I like to get my facts right. More on this gentleman in a moment.

Eventually I succumbed to Brother James’s passionate rants, signed up for the priesthood, and was forthwith taught Latin one-to-one by Brother Kevin. Once you sign up, a church grant is arranged as the Mail article rightly states. How that was done is a bit of a mystery, though, but I’m assuming that the Knights of St Columba – a group of successful Catholic businessmen – were most likely involved in some way. After all, according to the Catholic Herald newspaper, it was the Knights who arranged the original purchase of the St J’s school building from R and W Paul, a local Ipswich seed merchants. It was the start of a long relationship between the De La Salle brothers and the Knights.

So with that grant, the Church had invested in me and they expected a return on their investment, just like any business. And I guess that’s reasonable. So when I was observed snogging a girl at St Mary’s Catholic youth club, the Church worthies and the School went on red alert. A harmless kiss was really a big deal to them. To put this in context, when a dance was arranged at St J’s with a local school band (Murray and the Mints!) the college finally decided against the local convent girls attending in case we ran off with them into the wooded school grounds, which we doubtless would have done. So, instead, boys danced with each other, which was much wiser. The opposite sex was definitely taboo. Consequently, Brother Kevin was called to the youth club for an emergency meeting to discuss my disgraceful behaviour.

My case was then referred to a Church worthy, who I’m naming Torquemada because he was definitely a prime source of inspiration for the Grand Master of the Terminator Knights. His real first name also begins with ‘T’ so it seems appropriate. Torquemada spoke sternly to me about conduct unbecoming. He urged me to suppress my hormones, mend my ways, lead a celibate life from now on and stay away from girls. After all, the trouble began with that hussy Eve. He exhorted me… ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’ Or words to that effect. He and I were unaware that one day this famous slogan would be scrawled on the Berlin Wall (No photos were taken at the time, alas. Sorry!) And become the title of the Manic Street Preachers documentary film.

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Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! is available as an e-book, paperback and audiobook. Find out more over at my Millsverse website.

 

The sensible thing for me to do would have been to shut up and obey. And to be a little more discreet in my dalliances with the opposite sex. But there were other factors at work and things were already getting out of hand.

To keep this brief, let’s just say I blew the whistle on the behaviour of some Church worthies who were definitely guilty of conduct unbecoming. I had good reason to do so, but I naively thought that telling the truth was the right thing to do. It was not. No one in authority was interested. ‘Best stay away from them in future, son,’ was the typical advice I was given. Whistleblowers, then and now, are not popular because most people are socially conditioned to keep their mouths shut and put up with shit. Somehow I seem to have escaped that process of omertà, both then and now. Speaking out is, unfortunately, hard-wired into my DNA. But ‘betraying’ these gentlemen and their sworn secrets did not go down well with Torquemada.

There then began an interesting battle of wits between me and the Grand Master, where we both progressively upped the ante. It was a process of action and reaction with – just as in fiction – each action and reaction becoming more serious than the last and potentially spiraling out of control as we attempted to defeat the other. Once again I was naïve to imagine I could possibly beat Torquemada. How dumb was that! But when you’re a kid you’ve only got three choices: fight, flight or surrender. I chose to fight. Always.

There were attempts to keep me on a tight leash, which only had the effect of sending me further ‘off the rails’. I had already witnessed some of these Catholic gentlemen’s dubious, neo-masonic and esoteric practices. If you find that unbelievable, let me assure you their rituals are a matter of written record. Although the particularly dubious ones have gone unrecorded. It was the latter that were the subject of my whistleblowing. If you’re curious, drop me a line and I’ll send you the link to a full description of their official rituals. These occult ceremonies – which continued until the late 1960s – still make for disturbing reading.

So, furious that my complaints had not been listened to, and as a mark of my defiance, in classic ‘juvenile delinquent’ manner, I became involved with what the Church might describe as ‘The Opposition’. It was typical teenage rebellion. That would show them all! ‘The Opposition’ was a group of adults with their own equally dubious esoteric and masonic practices who recruited me from the local library. Talk about out of the frying pan… But I needed to rebel in some way and it seemed preferable to glue sniffing. But Torquemada saw right through my less than convincing excuse that these people were actually okay because ‘they were into yoga’. So was Aleister Crowley.

Now I was thought to be ‘in grave moral danger’, it was Torque’s turn to up the ante. Accordingly it was decided to speed up the vocational process. It was the norm to go to the seminary at age 18, as the Mail makes clear. This would be after a truly excellent education, at which point I might well say, ‘I don’t have a vocation after all, but thank you very much and goodbye.’ Instead, there was a change of plan. To my horror, they were sending me to a junior seminary at age fifteen! Right away. No messing. To get me far away from those ‘bad influences’!

Whether I really had a vocation was academic – when you are brainwashed every day, who is to say? I guess I thought I could decide when I was 18, but now they’d called my bluff. I passed the medical exam for the seminary and my entry was planned with immediate effect. I agonised long and hard over whether I should go. It wasn’t concern over leaving home or even my friends that finally decided me against it. That didn’t worry me at all. I had a strong sense of adventure and I wanted to discover the world – hence why I had gotten involved with ‘The Opposition’. No, it was because I knew what was waiting for me at the other end. More moral danger, this time if not officially approved by the Catholic Church, certainly carried out by its devotees.

After all, I was already aware of enough perverted practices amongst priests and the Church worthies. Too big a subject to detail here. The Mail might relate just how delightful the St J’s yachting club on the River Orwell was, but I can tell you it’s no joke being trapped on the school chaplain’s personal yacht when he is after his droit du seigneur, there’s nowhere to run and you’re a lousy swimmer.

These were not minor or isolated incidents: they were widespread and endemic. It was the norm and a way of life, something that is still conveniently steered around when the Church’s appalling record is brought to public attention. Probably because it’s on the list of taboo subjects that our tightly controlled media has been told never, ever to write about. For instance, why there is never any media reference to Jimmy Savile and the Catholic Church? Some subjects are off limits and probably always will be and these seem to include the conduct of certain important Catholic lay people. If you imagine it’s just priests who were paedophiles and the congregation never knew or never joined in, there’s probably a bridge I could interest you in. Of course what was good enough for a priest was undoubtedly good enough for certain prominent members of his flock.

So I bailed. I wasn’t going. They tried damn hard to persuade me otherwise with endless – and I mean bloody endless – lectures from Torquemada and other Catholic worthies. Every time there was a knock on our front door there was another one of them standing there, like a Jehovah’s Witness, wanting ‘a quiet word’! I guess they were used to winning, but so was I. Neither of us would back down. My behaviour was ‘very naughty’, according to a relative. Damn right it was. Their guilt-tripping lectures ranged from ‘you’ll break your poor mother’s heart’, to ‘she’s sacrificed everything for you, you can’t let her down now,’ to ‘she doesn’t know how to cope with your wild ways anymore,’ to ‘the seminary will be the making of you,’ to ‘you’re throwing away a great future, your life will be ruined’. You see, as it says in the Mail article, it was the dream of every Irish Catholic Mother for her son to be a priest. But how many kids would willingly enter the PIE equivalent of Fagan’s Den? This was how I saw the seminary. And with good reason. Google them and you will see just what I mean.

So I stuck to my guns. In retaliation, I had to face the Wrath of Torquemada! Torquemada became Torquemadder. I was kicked out of St J’s with immediate effect at just fifteen, thereby narrowly escaping the humiliation of being sent to that Secondary Modern over the road for my final school year. But the only job I could find was as an errand boy riding a trade bike at the previously mentioned R and W Paul’s. I believe this was arranged by Torquemada himself although I still need to double check my facts there. (The full fictionalised story is recounted in my Read Em and Weep novel series). It had been a busy year.

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Torquemada knows when you’ve been naughty.
Nemesis The Warlock ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT ©  REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

But, surprisingly, that wasn’t the end of it. Torquemada just wouldn’t give up. Really! I don’t know what went wrong at Vatican 2, but they must have been absolutely desperate for recruits to still want me. I’d have thought it was bleeding obvious I was beyond saving and I’d have given up on me long ago. ‘He’s a bust. Move on.’ My bad attitude alone surely wouldn’t suit a clerical life of obedience to authority. Maybe he thought he could finally break me in the end. So, after several months had passed, he actually offered me a ‘second chance’ to join the junior seminary and all would be forgiven. I recall meeting him at Grimwades restaurant (that posh outfitters mentioned in the Mail article. Although it was never the Savile Row set-up the newspaper made it out to be). He thought suffering the indignity of being a messenger boy would ‘bring me to my senses’. Maybe that was all part of his cunning plan. Perhaps now I would finally heed his dreadful warning: ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’

Maybe he genuinely wanted to ‘save my soul’, but I just wanted to save my ass. Besides, I’d now discovered a new form of anti-authority delinquency to really piss him off that was much more appealing than my foray into the occult Opposition. Now it was Mods and Rockers. Mods were really cool, I excitedly told a sour-faced Torquemada as he scowled at my ex-army parka, desert boots and red socks. At last I’d found a group I could belong to. The Quadrophenia delights of Mod riots on the beach at Great Yarmouth were easily more attractive than fending off weirdo priests at the seminary, so my response to Torquemada was ‘Fuck you.’ Although not literally, of course.

I left home at 16, and thankfully, severed all connections with the Church.

So I don’t know how it was for John McDonnell, but, as you can see, from my experience, the Church do not give up easily. They want their pound of young flesh. To imagine that you can have an expensive, first rate education for four years and at the end of it all you simply say ‘I’ve changed my mind, I don’t have a vocation’ and walk away without any consequences is a little optimistic. Kids are, of course. I was. But adults are realistic. And these were very intelligent, very successful, very determined adults. I would not have been the first or the last recruit who tried to change his mind. And they would have their strategies in place to deal with them.

But, in the end, I guess I did beat them. I finally beat Torquemada. Although you don’t need to remind me it was a pyrrhic victory.

I don’t know whether McDonnell’s time at St Js helped make him a Marxist, but my experiences there certainly affected my beliefs – big time. Maybe the school affected fellow old boy Chris Mullin, too, and that’s really why he wrote A Very British Coup, one of my favourite novels and films because it’s about the underdog winning. I’m probably more radical than either of them and that’s undoubtedly due to my experiences with ‘Judge Dredd’, ‘Torquemada’ and the rest of that unholy crew associated with St J’s and now immortalised in the pages of 2000AD. So every cloud…

But let’s not forget about that ‘church grant’. If the Church thought McDonnell was going to be a priest then they would pay his boarding fees. Because he passed the eleven-plus, his local education authority would cover the rest. If the Mail article is a bit wooly there it’s because the process was a mysterious one but it would always be fuelled by an agenda.

However the fees were nothing like the Mail is mischievously trying to suggest. As a day boy, my fees were 21 guineas a term. Allowing for inflation, that’s approaching 2K a year in today’s money. Boarding fees would be more, but still a whole lot less than the ridiculous figures the Mail is implying McDonnell’s church or family would have had to pay.

My mother was a widow, and there was no way she could afford 2K. She was as poor as a church mouse and that comparison is deliberate because young widows with kids are always vulnerable to powerful male abusers and predators and doubly so in the Catholic Church. Especially in that era. It’s very likely that my hard-wired aggression developed at a very young from trying to protect her from dubious characters. To be ‘the man of the house’. Of course I didn’t always succeed, but there are ways… kids are still animals and animals don’t take any shit, so why should they?

So it’s no good saying – as one St J’s old boy said recently on my blog – words to the effect, ‘Well I was at St J’s and nothing bad happened to me or to anyone I know. So you and the other survivors must be making this up.’ Even if your dad wasn’t an all-in wrestler, if you had a dad, the chances are he would keep the predators at bay. These scum are cowards, after all, and they like to avoid a baseball bat in the face which is, of course, what they so richly deserve.

Anyhow, my mother sent my older brother and I to St J’s for a combined total of nine years. Even though neither of us passed the eleven plus. So our education was paid for solely by the Church. This was confirmed recently to me by my mother’s younger sister. They’re both deceased now, but the mystery remains. Why on Earth would the Church do that? After all, having two sons becoming priests seems a little excessive, even for an Irish Catholic family, although that was undoubtedly my mother’s dream.

It’s certainly rather odd, but these facts are beyond any doubt. So why? Is the Church really that generous with its cash? Not in my personal experience. On the contrary. When we were desperate and in need of charity, we turned to the local Rotary club for help and I’ll never forget their kindness and generosity. But the Church? Forget it. That’s a self-promoting myth they still spread to preen their egos. So why? The full answer lies outside this post and is connected with Torquemada. I’ll come back to him another time as I continue my researches into him.

But for now… Let’s just say, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch.’

Finn: Eco Warrior, Lover, Cabbie

Thanks to Chris at Talking Comics for interviewing me and showing Finn some love!

Talking Comics

Evil filtered through the bodies of corrupted man, tendrils of dark energies masquerading as light clinging onto the well-known corporations, the governmental bodies directing them to do the bidding of ancient inter-dimensional Gods.  Against these forces, a man trained by the old ways of powerful earthy witchcraft and the modern combat techniques of the territorial soldier.  His beast like mask striking terror on the agents of the seemingly human agents of these elder cthulhu – like Gods.  He is murderer, Assassin and protector of humanities free-will.

ecological_warrior_finn_from_2000_ad_by_allistermac-d9tcafp

There have been many characters in the annals of the 40 years of 2000AD which have stood out, one of the most memorable of these is Finn, a character infused with imagination, esoteric power and righteous fury.  Created by long time comic scribe Pat Mills, Finn originally appeared in the fortnightly magazine in the UK called Crisis.  Crisis continued the edgy, darkly satirical focus of…

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MISTY LIVES!

So delighted with the imminent reprint of Misty by 2000 AD, and the huge interest it’s generated.  I’ve just done an interview with Samira Ahmed for BBC Radio 4’s art and culture show Front Row for broadcast tonight at 7.15pm (6 Sept 2016).  And The Herald has a great in-depth Q&A with me on the subject (Graphic Content: Pat Mills tells the behind-the-scenes story of 1970s girl horror comic Misty).

But of course, that interest in Misty (and girls’ comics in general) has always been there. I first wrote the below post in October 2012 as a digression on a series of posts I wrote on Judge Dredd, back when the idea that Misty would actually get a decent reprint seemed like an impossible dream. In terms of reader comments, the Misty post is probably one of my most popular blog posts.

So here we are in 2016, and 2000 AD have done a fantastic job of reprinting two popular Misty stories: Moonchild (written by me, art by John Armstrong), and Four Faces of Eve (by Malcolm Shaw and Brian Delaney).

Coincidentally, I’m in the middle of writing the first text novel in a series with Kevin O’Neill that could be described as a darkly humorous alternative history of UK comics publishing in the 1970s.  And right this very week I’m writing the fictional account of how Misty was created. You could say, it’s my own vision of how Misty could have been.

The novel series is called Read Em And Weep Volume one is called Serial Killer. Did I mention that it’s also a thriller?

If you’re a fan of murder mysteries, flawed and eccentric characters, 70s nostalgia, insider knowledge on creating comics, childhood revenge, and film noir (it’s got a lot of noir!), you’ll probably like Read Em And Weep.  It’s due out in February 2017 and volume 2 will be published later the same year.

I’ll be releasing more info over the next few months (look out for a cover reveal at the end of October), so click here if you want to stay in touch and get the latest news.

One more thing: I also wrote a series of posts called The Formula around the subject of Misty, prompted by questions from Catherine, a PhD candidate studying scary kids’ stories, who was producing a sample Misty-inspired comic as her final project. She wanted to know how comics are produced and this prompted me to explain some of the inner workings of the creative process. So if you’d like to know more about creating comics, with particular reference to Misty, check out Part 1 – Inspiration.

And here’s my original October 2012 post!

Apologies for this digression from the Judge Dredd story, but there is so much interest in Misty – the female 2000AD – that there is now a Bring Back Misty Facebook group.  Because Misty was connected with the origins of 2000AD, I thought I’d talk about it here.

It was the last few weeks before I left 2000AD and I was looking forward to starting work on my next creation: Misty. I took the title from the film, Play Misty For Me and my plan was to use my 2000AD approach on a girls’ comic: big visuals and longer, more sophisticated stories with the emphasis on the supernatural and horror. My role models were Carrie and Audrey Rose, suitably modified for a younger audience.  John Sanders and I had several meetings to discuss its content and we could both see how it could be a hit; potentially bigger than 2000AD as girls comics sales were always higher than boys. (On launch: Tammy: 250,000 copies per week; 2000AD: 220,000 copies per week; Misty: 170, 000 copies a week. Approximate figures.)

But given the success of 2000AD, I felt if I was going to create another hit for IPC juveniles, I should really have a share of the profits. John Sanders said his board of directors would never agree but I wouldn’t budge either.  So I left and went back to freelancing. Later, I relented and agreed to be the consultant editor for Misty and guide it on its way, but without taking responsibility for it, like 2000AD. I also agreed to write the lead story for Misty – Moonchild – inspired by Carrie; and later Hush, Hush, Sweet Rachel, inspired by Audrey Rose, a story about reincarnation.

Without my direct involvement, the stories were not as hard-hitting as I would have liked them to be and some punches were pulled. There were far too many short, self-contained stories, some a bit weak, not enough serials – which are vital to hook the reader – and more than a little “old school” thinking slowly starting to creep back in. Despite this, Misty was still very good, the art was fantastic – often better than 2000AD – and it was very much  part of the Comic Revolution. Here’s how Will Brooker, author of Batman Unmasked and an expert on popular culture recalls Misty: “Pacts with the devil, schoolgirl sacrifice, the ghosts of hanged girls, sinister cults, evil scientists experimenting on the innocent and terrifying parallel worlds where the Nazis won the Second World War.”

The pages below give you a taste of Misty (apologies for the poor scan quality).  They’re from Moonchild, by me and John Armstrong, the top artist in girls comics. And my short story called Roots.  Don’t know the artist, I’m afraid, but it’s beautifully drawn. I’ve blanked the last picture out which was too safe and reassuring and was added by editorial, against my wishes. I wanted it to end on this note of horror with no punches pulled. Some of my other horror stories were similarly toned down by editorial, applying “old school” thinking – not to scare the readers “too much”.

Next are three pages from The Sentinels by my colleague Scottish writer Malcolm Shaw about a tower block which shares an alternative reality with a Nazi-occupied Britain.

Many Misty readers recall The Sentinels with particular affection. Malcolm, who sadly died very young, was same generation as John Wagner, myself and Gerry Finley-Day (creator of Tammy). Why was it mainly guys on girls comics, I hear you ask? Answer: because all the younger female magazine journalists looked down on girls comics and didn’t want to write or edit them, aspiring to teenage and women’s glossy magazines instead.

Malcolm was a brilliant writer of girls comics and also some early Judge Dredds. We started Jinty together, dreaming up a selection of stories, before Mavis Miller (previously editor of June) was appointed editor and turned it into a very successful comic with a strong science fiction edge. Malcolm really deserves a separate article on his important contribution to the Comic Revolution, but I only worked with him for a brief period, so my knowledge of his work is rather limited, I’m afraid. Another of his excellent Misty stories was Four Faces of Eve about a girl who looks absolutely normal but is really a female Frankenstein’s monster-  she’s actually made up of four girls. That was a truly awesome and scary serial with great art by Brian Delaney.

I’ve always regretted not creating Misty the way I created 2000AD. I’ve little doubt if I had, it would still be around today and it could have changed the British comics landscape for the better.

Alas, Misty eventually died, for the reasons I’ve given, but it’s still well-thought of to this day.  Many of us hope it could be reprinted with collected stories, just as 2000AD stories have been successfully collected. There’s a huge archive of supernatural girls comic stories from Misty that would make a great Best of Misty which would appeal to new readers as well as nostalgia readers and their daughters. Although they would need to be the right stories. A Misty Souvenir Special (2009) bombed because – as Misty  readers confirmed to me – it was The Worst of Misty. Whoever put it together hadn’t got a clue what the comic was about and just slung together a collection of boring features, text stories, and “nice” safe, mildly creepy, self-contained comic strip stories.

But it seems to me there is a chasm in the market for female comic readers.  Significantly, Twilight,Vampire Diaries and House of Night are in the same genre and are trying to fill that gap by adapting their text to graphic novels. And Misty works for us guys, too, of course. Great stories and great artwork cross generations, age-groups and gender.

To assess if this was still the case, my wife and I did a straw poll of local kids aged 8-11. The feedback on our poll was very encouraging. The kids read episodes from three stories:  Moonchild, The Four Faces of Eve and my Glenda’s Glossy Pages (a supernatural story I wrote for Tammy) and enjoyed them all.  Here are just two of their many positive quotes:

Moonchild

I loved how it was building up and how they discovered her powers after a while. I would like to read more of those sorts of comics.

The Four Faces of Eve

It’s really exciting, and it always leaves a mystery at the end of each page.

Clearly they are timeless classics, rather than ephemeral.  None of these young readers thought they were old fashioned.

A contact of ours (Jo Bevan) is passionate on this subject and recently carried out a larger, more detailed survey on kids’ reading habits, with encouraging results.  Over two thirds wanted to see more comics available.  Jo is active on the influential Mumsnet and started an interesting thread where many mums were complaining that there were no decent story-based comics for their daughters – or  their sons, for that matter.

I know several women in the media who grew up with and were influenced by Misty, just as 2000AD inspired many artists, directors and writers. A few months ago it was mentioned in the Daily Mail You magazine where renowned artist and designer Julie Verhoeven found Misty’s dark and mysterious content an inspiration.

As John Freeman (Down the Tubes) said to me, “With writers Jacqueline Rayner out there (as well as yourself) pushing girls comics, why the hell is no-one reprinting them?”  Jacqueline’s Guardian article is here, and she also has a very entertaining blog on the subject.

Good question. And with films like Hunger Games – a typical girls comic story – and Black Swan and Twilight, doing so well, how risky is it to do a Best of Misty?  My good friends at Titan Books had the option to reprint Misty, but unfortunately they couldn’t find anyone to edit it at the time. That’s totally understandable. It is a specialist subject and you do have to know which were the cool and popular stories. (Damn! I should have suggested I’d edit it, just to get it out there.) So Titan handed the project back to copyright holders, Egmont, who have since turned down at least one publisher from reprinting it because they weren’t big enough. They may be hoping for a larger publisher, but I fear only Titan is the likely contender. I’ve suggested it to other publishers I know but it’s simply not their genre.  So it doesn’t look good at the moment, but we can still hope. If Egmont gave Titan a new license, I’m sure it would do well for them.

If you’d like to see Misty reprinted, do give Bring Back Misty a look. Or ask Titan to reconsider (readerfeedback@titanemail.com).  Or I’ll pass on your thoughts to them. If there’s no-one else available, I’d edit a collection, just to see it return.

I hope to come back to the subject of girls comics soon because that’s where the Comic Revolution actually began with Gerry Finley-Day, creator and first editor of Tammy. Bunty was great, but Tammy was revolutionary!  For example, these astonishing stories from the early 1970s, all created by Gerry:

Slaves of War Orphan Farm. The wartime evacuee farm is run by the cruel Ma Thatcher (based on Mrs T, then infamous as Thatcher the Milk Snatcher) and was truly terrifying with the evacuees having to fight, escape and defeat genuinely evil monsters.

Ella on Easy Street – a profound and cool attack on middle-class values with beautiful artwork by Casanovas. Ella sabotages her parents plans to better themselves. She wants to stop them becoming high-achieving yuppies because she fears it could break up their happy family.

And Aunt Aggie: a working class, eccentric, ‘salt of the earth’ TV personality and national treasure with a heart of gold who makes children’s dreams come true on her mega-popular TV show, visiting orphans and helping the sick and the vulnerable. Behind the scenes, she cheats and mocks kids, hates them and lives a secret life of luxury, driving around in a customised Rolls-Royce. The heroine is Aunt Aggie’s orphan side-kick who sets out to sabotage her cruel plans.

Okay, sorry for that interruption, my normal Dredd chapter will be continued in my next post with:  “Don’t mention the Silver Surfer”.

2016 edit: If you want find out more about my new novel, Read Em And Weep: Serial Killer, due out in February 2017, click here to stay in touch!

IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION 2

“Brother Solomon, however, was a completely different incarnation of evil. He was a person of unmitigated perversion.”

 

I feel it’s time to write a new post, based on a recent comment on my January 2016 post IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION.

IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION was created from a comment on my ‘About’ page from Martin Hunt about the institutional violence and sexual abuse that was experienced by many boys at my school, St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, Suffolk.

I was very touched to read this account from my classmate at St. Joseph’s, Damian Moss, sent via his friend Rob Buckley about the abuse by the Christian Brothers. Damian sums it up so well.  My reply to him follows after.

“In the time it took me to read this email and the accompanying links I was immediately transported back to that dark place masquerading as an educational institution.
I have an uncomfortable feeling that I was that thirteen year boy described so graphically by Pat Mills.His description of Brother James was so chillingly accurate that it revived memories long forgotten. He and I fought a running battle over a two year period mostly involving my determination to flout school rules and his equally determined passion to uphold the rule of law. It culminated with the pair of us grappling on the ground for some article of clothing- if my memory serves me correctly, I think it was my beloved beatle boots with the two inch cuban heels! Soon after this incident I was deemed unmanageable and shipped off to Beulah Hill to continue my ordeal at the thankfully metaphorical hands of the De La Salle Order.
Brother James in all honesty was a figure of tragic pity. He was inadequate, unloved, deeply frustrated and a raging sado-masochist. Apart from that, he was you’re standard issue christian brother.

Brother Solomon, however, was a completely different incarnation of evil. He was a person of unmitigated perversion. After arriving at Beulah from De La Salle rehab camp he was appointed Head of Boarders in 1964. He was immediately placed in a position where he could continue his abuse of young, vulnerable, sensitive boys in his care/charge. His profile was that of a classic paedophile. He was able to carefully select his victims and groom them over a period of time to gain their trust and confidence before subjecting them to his unspeakable depravity. He was known among other things as the ‘ bugger meister’. He had a malevolent, brooding presence, and was the essence of pure evil. His track record was littered with scores of damaged individuals who just happened to be young , impressionable, and manipulable at the wrong time in their lives.
Thankfully, by the time I arrived at Beulah Hill I was too old and rebellious to be groomed for anything other than immediate expulsion!! He left a frightening legacy of destroyed youthful minds and bodies. Sometimes we need to remember lest we forget such depravity.”

I was aware of and personally inspired by his rebellious nature. Anyone who wore two inch cuban heels at St. Joseph’s, with its ultra-strict dress code, was definitely a rebel! Most of us were too scared and intimidated by these violent, cruel, black-clad fanatics to stand up to them. This was certainly the case for me – my defiance had already been partly knocked out of me at my Catholic primary school, St. Mary’s. Another old boy from St. Mary’s recently reminded me how I regularly challenged the status quo there. Then the nun headmistress – a Mother Theresa lookalike – got me by the throat and squeezed it as she warned me not to repeat my ‘wicked lies’ about the predatory paedophile priests who were endemic in our Catholic community. I really though she was going to kill me. So I had learnt – like so many other Catholic boys – to be silent about injustice by the time I got to St J’s.
But I recall, as if it were yesterday, Damian’s passive resistance to Brother James (the teacher who was my role model for Judge Dredd). As James entered the classroom, Damian very slowly looked up from rummaging in the depths of his desk and gave James a subtle, but unmistakeable knowing look of disdain. In fact, he may not even have bothered to look up, it could have just been his sullen but eloquent body language that incited James’s subsequent psychotic episode. Even from my desk, some distance away, the message Damian’s back was sending out was clear and James got it. ‘Psychotic episode’ is the only phrase to describe the demented and unwarranted beating that ensued and which still angers and upsets me today, perhaps because I feel we should all of us, as a class, intervened en masse, protected our class mate and stopped that maniac.
I’ve discussed it with another old boy and he’s described James having similar outbursts of uncontrollable rage. The fact that the De La Salle order have not acknowledged and expressed regret for the crimes of James and Solomon is a black mark against them which will not go away until they do. I shall certainly be writing about James and Solomon again and drawing their well-documented crimes to people’s attention. So much for St Joseph’s current regime’s proud claim that they are “in the Lasallian Tradition”. Damian’s courage needs applauding. It’s St. Joseph’s old boys like him we need to remember with pride today – “a rebel who fought Judge Dredd”. He is a fine example to us all.

IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION

Here’s a recent comment from Martin, from my ‘About’ page, in response to a thread about St Joseph’s College, Ipswich.  I think he makes some interesting points.  I decided our exchange deserved its own blog status, so here it is.

Thanks, Martin.

Hi Pat,
I was at St Joe’s for many years. I remember them , Bros Cecil, James, Hugh, Damien, Owen, Gerard, Soloman, Denis Robert, Gregory, Benet, Cuthman, Peter, Terrence and others. They seemed all to have some sort of attitude or psychological problem or were perverts. Having spoken to others over the years about this it does seem that all the Del a Salle Schools and Catholic Schools were all the same. I am quite sure all the stories are pretty much true. The film Catholic Boys captures it pretty well. I’m in contact with a number of people from the 60s and early 70s from St Joe’s, I think some have tried to give details to the police. Interestingly and rather oddly one of the number listed above is still around and his partner (female) works for the police in relation to child abuse. Talk about poacher turned game-keeper! He waxes lyrical now about abuse saying ‘it only takes good men to do nothing etc etc’. He knew what was going on when he was at St Joe’s and did nothing. The pious hypocrite.

 

Hi, Martin,

Great to hear from you and thank you for making some truly excellent observations. As you say, the film Catholic Boys captures the tone of St J’s very well. Although I think it was actually worse in my time there in the 1960s.

As you say, hypocrisy is the thing that bothers us. Thus, I once looked up Brother James on the web. At first I thought it was a truly monstrous De La Salle headmaster named Brother James currently doing a long prison stretch for his crimes. But he turned out to be a different De La Salle Brother. The Brother James from St J’s has died and was described in his obituary as a shy and timid character. This is far from the truth and whoever wrote that obituary must have known it. I witnessed him explode with demented rage and violence when he attacked a classmate and his psychotic behavior still preys on my mind to this day. But despite his reputation for violence and rage, he was also a great maths teacher who knew how to reach kids like me who were hopeless at the subject.

Similarly, Brother Solomon who – confirmed by the tragic poetry of one his victims at Beulah Hill – abused many children. Yet I know I owe my deep love of classical music to him. He, too, is dead.

And I think their excellence as teachers combined with their perversions sets up confusion and cognitive dissonance in many pupils who thus try and block it from their minds, and that’s how so many Brothers have largely got away their crimes.

I do believe St J’s and the Order itself both owe Survivors a collective apology. It’s no good putting the blame on individual Brothers – there are just too many of them to use the ‘one rotten apple’ defence. It’s the College and the Order itself that is clearly responsible. Thus Brother Solomon was suddenly transferred from Birkfield because of abuse (and given a glowing tribute by Brother James in the school magazine), then sacked from Beulah Hill and returned – in the 1980s – to Birkfield as a lay teacher. Once again he was dismissed following allegations of abuse – but he should never have been reinstated.

One thing I find offensive is the caption on the school gates of St J’s today: “In the Lasallian tradition”. Although the College today seems to have distanced itself from the Brothers per se, nevertheless the uniforms, the motto, the history, the traditions, and the legacy are still proudly confirmed in those words. According to the College’s website, the caption pertains – with some dexterous semantics – to St Jean Baptise de La Salle, but significantly not to the Order of Brothers he founded. Whatever the intention, in practice, “In the Lasallian tradition” means the promise of an excellent Christian education but also that it has not disassociated itself from the De La Salle Brothers. So for many old boys up to relatively recent times those words stand for something terrible and dark. Only an acknowledgement of this really makes that caption acceptable in today’s world.

Thus I don’t agree with one famous St J’s old boy, who told me recently how different the school is today: it’s unisex, the Brothers have gone, and it’s properly run etc. I’m sure he is right but I took the subtext of his comments to be that the past is the past and everyone really needs to forget about it and move on. But in my opinion, closure is not possible until the successors to the Brothers have acknowledged what happened or until justice is done.

So I wish our fellow old boys well in pursuing the Brothers responsible for harming them before they are too old and infirm to be charged. I have a St. J’s old boy police detective contact who specializes in investigating crimes of this nature and it’s possible he might be able to help or point your contacts in the right direction. If that’s any help, do ask them to write to me and I’ll put them in touch with him.

MOVING HOUSE

Thanks for visiting!  There is a substantial archive of blog posts here that I hope you find interesting.

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