St Joseph’s and the Knights of St Columba

I’ve written about the Knights on recent posts, but there’s now been some valuable feedback from St Joseph’s Old Boys which I’ll summarise below. They have asked to remain anonymous for reasons which I understand and respect.

But first, a reprise on what I’ve written previously, indicating confirming sources where they are available, and filling in the gaps where they are important.  And explaining more about who these Knights really were. So I can present a complete picture of what happened and how this post should bring me closure.

The Ipswich Knights played an important, acknowledged and valuable financial role in establishing St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, back in the 1940s and are referred to frequently with the school in the decades that followed.  

In the early 1960s I was sexually abused by two Knights of St Columba: Canon Burrows and Father Jolly, Chaplain to St Joseph’s, both of whom are listed as Knights of the Ipswich Province. It’s likely that another abuser, Father Wace, was also an Ipswich Knight, although he’s not on the list, which is far from complete. 

Other Knights were involved, too, in particular two Knights – who are on the list – and who had a close connection to my family. They’re not named because I need to check details on their death certificates to ensure I am 100% correct they are the right people. The current virus emergency has delayed me there.

Regarding Father Jolly: One Old Boy has already related how this school Chaplain was a sexual abuser. When boys confessed to impure thoughts, he would drill down, wanting intimate details. 

A source has also described to me how Jolly broke the seal of the confessional, revealing what he had heard from schoolboy penitents. This source found a tape recorder in the priest’s side of the confessional and it became clear – from subsequent events – that Jolly was taping boys’ confessions and why. It was an attempt to keep tabs on boys’ allegations of sexual abuse and who intended to go to the authorities. 

This shocks but doesn’t surprise me. Other Old Boys will, I’m sure, remember how this Knight of St Columba was notorious for gabbling his way through the Mass at record high speed. That always disturbed me as an altar boy at St Marks where he was also the parish priest. It felt like he didn’t believe a word of what he was saying. So how could we believe?

How this relates to the religious fanaticism of Jolly’s own father (police were called to one religious meeting by his dad’s violent behaviour), Jolly’s role as a Knight of St Columba, and his hard drinking, described to me by another Old Boy, I have no idea. But a picture emerges of a very unpleasant individual. This was the man who would take me sailing on his yacht – where he began grooming me – and later drove me to Knights of St Columba private events.

There I witnessed their secret rituals, which are a matter of record during my era, acknowledged by the Knights themselves. See Wikipedia. There are also transcripts available of these rituals by similar Catholic Knights. They are clearly psychologically abusive. I also witnessed an unrecorded ritual, which denigrated women, focussing on Mary Magdalene and her role as a prostitute. There was a real life stand-in.  And there were other ‘social’ activities, too, which I became a part of.

I remember, in particular, these private events concluded with the Loyal Toast and the National Anthem. Or rather I remember the rage I felt at what had been done to me.  So much so that – when I was 18 – I organised a sit down protest during the National Anthem at the premiere of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle at Ipswich theatre. One of my friends was in the cast and a  group of us had front row seats.

I did this because I was forced to suppress my overwhelming rage, not allowed to direct it where it truly belonged: at the Knights. And so I had to find a rather ridiculous outlet for it.  For the same reason. I’m a card-carrying member of the anti-monarchy organisation, Republic, today. Everything the Knights stood for, I needed – and still need – to oppose. That’s how powerful the anger is. It doesn’t go away, as perhaps the Knights hoped, it just becomes diverted in other directions. The alternative is you drink or drug yourself to block it out, as I’ve seen several Old Boys do.  Those have never been options for me. The anger actually gives me energy. I’ve used it to turn lead into gold as you’ll see.

But, as I’ve described in an earlier post, when I was returning with Father Jolly from such an event, I was consumed with such anger that I wanted to take a sledge-hammer and smash the dashboard of his Hillman Minx car. Because I couldn’t attack a Man of God, a Knight of St Columba.

I was being prepared for the priesthood, which would give me a free education until I was 18 when I would go to a seminary. This was funded directly or indirectly by the Knights. My widowed mother was a relatively passive figure in all this, content to leave matters of discipline to the Knights who would know better how to deal with a rebellious teenager. Around the age of 14, the Knights decided I was in ‘moral danger’ because I was caught kissing a girl at the Catholic youth club run by the Knights. And because I was mixing with adult bad company. It was a classic teenager delinquent reaction to the Knights and what was happening to me. They were bad – so I got involved with another organisation that was even worse. The Knights therefore decided to send me to a junior seminary at the age of 15 where I would be safe – except from yet more predatory priests, of course.

I had the medical to enter, but then, aware of what was waiting for me, I panicked and said I wasn’t going.

The Knights then put pressure on me to go, in particular through a Knight who was lined up to be my new full-time Stepdad. Perhaps because he had his own private agenda and just wanted to get rid of me.

I’d had previous experience of a Knight who was my unofficial part-time Stepdad (he was married) and was still an ongoing part of my life, trying to control me.  For my own good, of course. As that part-time Stepdad was psychologically and sexually abusive, I was unhappy at the prospect of yet another damn Knight – cut from the same cloth – adding to, not replacing him. Becoming an intimate member of my family. He was a stern disciplinarian with a sadistic edge and – although he showed a kinder, gentler side to me at this preliminary stage, before he got his feet under the table – I could see right through him. 

I decided it was never, ever going to happen. 

This was the era before Childline existed.  I remember wondering what to do and looking through the telephone directory under ‘Youth’ – to see if there was any organisation I could turn to, but I couldn’t find one. I recall my brother saying it was too dangerous and the Knights were too powerful.  He said it would be wise to drop the whole thing.  But that’s not in my nature.  I’d put up with enough shit.

I reported the Knights to the police. 

Subsequent memories of what happened are still a little hazy. As you can imagine, these events are complex with lots of people becoming involved and lots of to-ing and fro-ing, However, my reporting them to the police is 100% accurate. Given the era, the police did nothing and the Knights, inevitably, found out. Possibly through a Masonic connection. 

The Knights retaliated by withdrawing my funding and I had to leave St Joseph’s at 15, before taking my O Levels, and became an errand boy, delivering letters for R and W Paul, riding a trade bike around the docks.

But as a consequence, plans for me to have Stepdad Number Two didn’t happen. So that was some satisfaction.

The Knights also insisted on my future silence or ‘I would rue the day I was born’. I took the threat seriously and they finally shut me up.

Until now.

But my adolescent anger with them was so intense it couldn’t always be successfully buried, as I’ve previously related. It was diverted into all kinds of strange places.  So it would be released if I encountered people who even dressed the same way as a typical Knight. Thus if I had dealings with people who were dressed in the traditional Dunn and Co., gentlemen’s outfitter’s style (cavalry twill trousers, brown brogues and sports jacket), it would immediately stir up that buried fury.

And it was not over. Part-time Stepdad Number One hadn’t finished with me yet. He was still around and, remarkably, attempted to continue what he mistakenly saw as a benign influence on my young life.

The Knights had a Masonic role in finding people work. So my brother, when he left St Joseph’s after passing his O Levels, got a job as a conveyancing clerk at a local solicitors. His future in the legal profession – had he chosen to pursue it – was assured. At my brother’s job interview the solicitor confirmed as much.

The ‘prodigal son’ was not so lucky.

Instead, Stepdad– using his similar Masonic connections – found me a series of humiliating, lowly and even dubious jobs. I deliberately screwed up on all four jobs. I say  ‘dubious’ because one office job had another sexual role in an area ‘upstairs’. 

Stepdad’s idea was ‘bring me to my senses’.  That was his ‘paternal’ technique. Normally he would go to Grimwade’s refined tea-rooms with my mother; but he took me to the roughest café in Ipswich – the Milk Bar in the Cattle Market . He warned me, ‘This is all you’ll be good for, this is where you’ll end up, Patrick, if you don’t pull your socks up.’ (My socks are still down around my ankles.)

His plan was to make that junior seminary seem so much more attractive. The seminary’s door was still open for me and I could still change my mind, even at the eleventh hour.

Instead, I went through his jobs in fairly rapid succession. I posted R and W Paul’s letters down a drain. I cut lettuces on a farm and was sacked after two weeks for being completely useless. Then I declined to be part of the ‘extra’ office services on offer ‘upstairs’. And finally I told a factory foreman that cleaning the works toilet was not part of my job description – and what he could do with it.

Afterwards, I found my own job, left home at 16 and – finally free from Stepdad’s influence – I began to blossom and haven’t looked back since. No Masonic influence was needed. My various books and comic series are successful, many translated into all European languages, with two made into films (Judge Dredd and Accident Man).  Anyone familiar with my fiercely counterculture stories will see that it was the Knights that inspired me. Even the anti-war saga Charley’s War, featuring a supposedly stupid, ‘useless’ boy soldier was based on how my Stepdad saw me. 

My work includes at least six full-blown sagas about science fiction Knights. One of them is a best-selling series in France – Requiem, Vampire Knight.  Another features an evil Grand Master Space Knight called Torquemada. He was so popular with readers, he was regularly voted ‘Britain’s most evil comic villain’. His catchphrase was ‘There is much good work to be done’ (usually slaughtering aliens). His infamous slogan ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’ even ended up daubed on the Berlin Wall. You can appreciate why I coined that mocking slogan. (It’s also the title of my autobiography).

That boy’s anger had to go somewhere. And it seems only just and right that what the Knights did should come back to them. With compound interest.

For years I had thought my experience of the Knights was a strange one-off and I was reluctant to share my story for this reason.  Who would believe such a bizarre story that comes close to rivalling the science fiction I write for a living?

Confirmation was vital before I could relate what had happened in this comprehensive detail.

So I’m delighted that I’ve now got that confirmation from more than one other Old Boy. In particular, one source has described to me in incontrovertible and considerable detail just how the Knights operated. It’s very briefly summarised below, but I have his full account. That means a lot to me and, I’m sure, to other survivors reading this.  We need to be believed. And our experiences can hardly be unique. Whilst the Knights have helped many, especially if they ‘Behaved’, there were also casualties like myself.

It also took time to make sense of my experience with the Knights because of its complexity. And to find other evidence that supported my recollections.  Even now there are further elements I haven’t included, thus far, because it is so involved.

The role of the wives of the Knights, for example. They were never passive wallpaper and simply dutiful spouses in this otherwise all-male scenario. They did so much more than cleaning the church and organizing the flowers rota. And the Knights private events required some female arrangements in those male-dominated times.  Certain things – like cooking, for instance, the Knights were hardly going to do themselves. At least one woman was very kind and helpful to me. Others played a different role, which I’ll return to another time.

The woman in question was a teacher and wife of Stepfather Number One. Presumably at his request, she coached both my brother and I to pass the relevant exams to get into St Joseph’s. So I’ll always be grateful for her assistance. 

I’m sure there were many other acts of kindness the Knights individually and collectively carried out. I understand they did – and continue to do – a lot of good in the Catholic community.  I once asked my elderly aunt about them and she recalled them as ‘local businessmen who do so much good work for charity.’ In her 1950s/1960s era, the businessmen had to have a certain financial status to join the Knights, she said. It’s a pity that my experience of them was far from ‘good work’.

So now comes the corroboration.

One Old Boy wrote to me last week about the Knights: ‘They were bad blokes. I had a crossing point with them. It may have been one of dad’s drinking friends. He was a doctor who used to beat his wife and keep her constantly pregnant. They lived not far from Oak Hill.’ (St Joseph’s preparatory school).

About five Old Boys have said to me previously that they recalled, via their dads’ experiences or possible enlistment, that the Knights were strange, dangerous and not to be messed with.  I have their quotes.

These were Old Boys were all St Joseph’s boarders, so – when they were telling me about their fathers’ opinions – I assumed they are referring to Knights from other provinces rather than the Ipswich province.

Another St. Joseph’s Old Boy related to me how – in the same era as myself – the Knights saved him from very serious abuse by the De La Salle Brothers. So he sees them as a force for good and speaks highly of them and their great kindness to him. 

My thanks to him for his time and his honesty in sharing his experiences. It cannot have been easy.

But I cannot agree with his conclusion. Because, thanks to the intervention of these Knights, a De La Salle Brother was not prosecuted for serious sexual assault. He continued teaching and, almost certainly, continued abusing. 

The same Old Boy also related that the Knights then used their behind-the-scenes influence to insist on significant changes being made to discipline at St Joseph’s, so the same thing could never happen again.  So they were, once again, a force for good. 

But it did happen again.  Despite these supposed safeguards, serious sexual abuse continued through the 1970s and 1980s, as can be seen from numerous past posts and comments on my blog.

It could be argued that this was hardly the Knights’ fault. That they did their best. But then you have to also consider their role where I was concerned, and Knight Jolly taping confessions. They were always part of the problem, so I’m not convinced they were ever part of the solution.

Even though they helped the Old Boy in question, it was still a cover-up. 

Furthermore, given the nature of the arrangement that was made with him and his account of the circumstances – which I won’t post on this blog without his permission – it amounted to a criminal conspiracy between the Ipswich Knights and the De La Salle Brothers of St Joseph’s to suppress the truth.

I don’t say that lightly. There is no other possible way to interpret what was described to me.

There are further implications. It indicates that, in an emergency, where things were getting ‘out of hand’, the Knights would come in as experienced troubleshooters to protect the good name of the Church and the College, and save both from scandal. And – from the survivor’s account – this was clearly not a one-off event.

There are indications this had happened before elsewhere in the Catholic community.  His account ties in with my own experience, including the financial aspect.

This is new territory, which deviates from the official media version of the Catholic Abuse scandals. I don’t think any of us were aware that the Knights had (have?) an éminence grise role behind the scenes at St Joseph’s and presumably other Catholic schools and churches.

The media continues to present the scandals as one-offs, one rotten apple in the barrel event, localised and very separate from the Catholic congregation who, supposedly, have no idea what is going on. If you think about it, that is naïve. Priests and monks were intimately involved with the laity, as my own account demonstrates.

Occasionally we hear of several monks at a school being caught, but the suggestion is always that priests – even Cardinal Pell – acted alone and the congregation and his fellow priests had no idea. Really? In this context the priests are almost scapegoats to take the rap for others.

Another St Joseph’s survivor – from more recent times – sums it up well:

‘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.’

Lay teaching staff ‘with an unhealthy interest in kids’ – that was my experience, too. One of them was a Knight of St Columba.

And ‘Self-perpetuating’ is also important. I’m aware from two separate sources that abuse can be trans-generational. I’m aware, for instance, that the Knights’ books of ‘unfinished business’ is trans-generational, passed onto descendants. So it raises questions about just what is happening today which I’ll come back to another time.

And how, when and if there was a subsequent cut-off/separation between the Knights and St Joseph’s. I have no idea. Perhaps they’d like to tell us?

The final element I’ve received from an Old Boy recently is the Masonic role of the Knights, past and present. I understand they always deny they are or were Masons, but it’s pretty obvious to everybody and does it really matter? Who cares? Thus a colleague who had a high-ranking position in the Freemasons has sent me details of the Freemasons and the Catholic Knights (in this case the Irish Knights of St Columbanus) and – side by side – their rituals are pretty much identical.

Personally, I’m indifferent – especially if they have truly stopped being a secret society as they claim. As long as they’re helping and not harming people.

The Old Boy related how the Knights helped him in a number of useful ways throughout his life. I’m rather envious. Good luck to him.

However, this source also pointed out – just as other Old Boys have previously done – that it’s really not wise to cross the Knights in the way I have been doing. He described a number of  unpleasant and negative scenarios to bear this out and none of them came as a surprise to me; indeed I’d previously considered them and just how I would deal with them. Where that’s concerned, I’ll keep my powder dry.

He summed it up with: ‘If you piss them off too much they will bring you pain.’

Thank you. I appreciate the warning.

Anger aside, I should now say how I felt about the Knights as human beings. After all, I probably knew them better than most Old Boys because I was observing them at close quarters for over ten years. They were my world.

If you’re surprised by just how many Knights were involved in my life, and how much abuse took place, then you should consider that many Catholic boys lived in a closed society where everyone around them has the same belief system. It was like being in a Scientology cult or being a Mormon. Especially as I had a widowed mother who believed what they were doing was for my own good

Firstly, I know there must have been good Knights who did good deeds and I have endlessly racked my brains to recall them, without success. Yes, they paid directly or indirectly for my education and my brother’s. But the price we paid, as I’ve described, was far too high.  I’d rather have gone to Borstal.

The only good deed I can think of is a family event at the Coop Hall that was organized by the Knights. I can see right now two Knights  smiling as we won the raffle – a ‘giant’ box of delicious groceries which was most welcome. I remember being astonished because my family never won anything, but my mother explained, smiling, that the raffle was fixed so we would win the groceries.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the only thing the Knights would fix in the years ahead. Otherwise, there’s nothing. 

Some Knights were ‘foot soldiers’ : ‘jobsworths’, doing what they were told without question; others aspired to status and position; others already had that status but needed further recognition from the masses. I’ve described them in a previous post – huddled in an elite group at the back of St Marks, noticeably separate to us ‘council house’ Catholics.  But all of these Knights were damaged souls in some way and that doesn’t escape a child’s eagle eyes, even if he doesn’t know at the time quite what it means.

There was the desperate sadness of one Knight who had recently lost his wife. Concealed beneath his harsh exterior, he had that lonely aura of the lone and lost male about him. I seriously challenged him once and I could sense his momentary reluctance to respond to my provocation, but he still had to follow orders and deal with me.

Then there was the inflated ego of another who had the confidence and the Irish Blarney of a used car dealer and believed he could fix everything and everybody. Particularly me.  But you could sense from his washed-out, yet alcohol tinged face and slight, dapper appearance and self-important walk that there was something desperately insecure about him. He may have called himself a Knight, but, inside, he was just a little Corporal.

I don’t think there’s anymore to be said about Father Jolly. What I’ve described is revolting enough.  And I feel similarly about the esteemed Knight Canon Burrows who called me his little ‘Sheriff’ and liked to show me conjuring tricks. ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’ Let’s just say at primary school, around age 6,  what happened when I saw another kid’s open mouth and her lips firmly wrapped around the mouth of a bottle of school milk. As it jogged up and down, I wanted to vomit. I called it ‘Boggy’s milk.’

And finally there were a few Knights who were ‘Other’. They were never damaged. They always had dark souls. Dark Knights. I remember them at the ceremony about Mary Magdalene, sneering at the stand-in.  I’ll only focus on one here.

As a bored altar boy, endlessly scanning the congregation during the sermon and communion, I could  see how this Dark Knight’s two gentle, lightly-built sons – with their unusually severe, short back and sides haircuts – were scared shitless by their sturdily built, similarly short back and sides, ultra-conservative dad.  Why, I don’t know, but they were so afraid of him.  I remember thinking – ‘Things are bad, but at least he’s not my dad.’

When he read me the riot act, he did it in that forceful way that men sometimes use to talk to women. ‘Mansplaining’. I had to shut up and listen and he would explain to me just how it was.

I can still see him getting out his large cheque book and a beautiful, marbled, classic, gold-nibbed Parker pen. He told me meaningfully how he could change my future with just a stroke of his pen. It was up to me. Maybe he was the treasurer. But his words were a blur. All I can recall was that huge pen I saw as his symbol of office, his magician’s wand, that he could wave and make everything all right again.  I don’t remember any more. I was disassociating, focusing on an inanimate object as he Mansplained to me.

There was more where he’s concerned. But that’s enough for now. He was a Dark Knight, all right.

So where do I go from here? Today?

First, if as a 15 year-old-boy, I was brave and/or stupid enough to go to the police about the Knights, I’m hardly likely to keep my mouth shut now.  But my motive is not revenge, it’s answering that angry boy’s demand for Justice. It’s no good saying, as one distinguished Old Boy said to me, that St Joseph’s is very different today. I know it is. But the Truth about its terrible past has yet to come out.  And it has to.

Secondly, I will continue to post and support the testimonies of other survivors of St Joseph’s and the Knights. That should be valuable for them and for me. Not least where perpetrators are still alive and where action can be taken.

This blog and this post is also a record that will be useful for a researcher should these dark areas of the Catholic Church ever be investigated now or in the future. You may say that’s unlikely. After reading the survivor’s account of the Knights’ awesome, behind-the-scenes Masonic power back in the 1960s  (which I’ve only briefly covered here), I’d be inclined to agree with you. But consider this. Back in the 1970s and 1980s it was unthinkable for priests to be called out as abusers. No one would have believed they were capable of such things. Then, in the 1990s, suddenly everything changed. Not even the Knights here or in the States, not even Bill Donahue himself, could stop the truth coming out.   

But it’s only part of  the truth.  There is still a long, long way to go. So it’s not impossible that the complete truth  – the organized, endemic abuse, involving Priests, Brothers, Monks, the Knights and other key members of the Congregation –  will one day be exposed in a similar way.

Finally, this is a journey of healing for me. I’ve found time and time again that revealing the Truth really gives me closure. Where the Knights are concerned, I’m hoping that I’m finally approaching journey’s end. Currently, I’ve two or three more posts  on them and then it’s over as far as I’m concerned. And those posts are very much an ‘epilogue’ to this account.

I also have a further post to do on my own awful experience with the serial sexual abuser Brother James, which didn’t directly involve the Knights, although they played a lesser role in sweeping what happened under the carpet. As always, it was to protect the good name of St Joseph’s and the Church at the expense of  young children. I was 12 at the time.

That’s all I have currently outstanding. Fingers crossed that’s it. I hope so – because I’ve far better things to do with my time than wade through this sewer of disgusting memories

So that boy’s anger now needs to return to where it rightfully belongs: to the Knights. It’s their turn to silently swallow it, just as they made him silently swallow it all those years ago.

Or maybe not so silently. That’s up to them.

My writing about this publicly is a direct message to St Joseph’s College, the De La Salle Brothers, the Catholic Church and the Knights of St Columba. Because it’s impossible to know where one’s responsibility ends and another begins. They all were – and possibly still are – so closely enmeshed. Today, they still bear the same names and continue in the same spiritual traditions of my childhood. I’m aware there’s a trans-generational continuum as they celebrate the positive achievements of their pasts, and thus they must bear some responsibility, or at the very least acknowledgement, for the negative behavior of their now deceased predecessors.  A negative past they continually try to distance themselves from or deny, despite all the overwhelming evidence.

By addressing them collectively I’m bypassing the Catholic Church’s usual, well-rehearsed, time-wasting, Pontius Pilate routine of passing the buck when it’s accused of abuse.  My message to them is:

‘Here: This is your shit. You own it. You sort it out.  It’s disgusting and you should all be ashamed. Including those who hid the shit. Or deny the shit even exists. Or ignore it and claim it’s nothing to do with them. Shame on every single one of you. I’m not carrying your shit any longer. You have it back now. You deal with it. It’s not mine.’

Anyway who is spiritual– as the parties above believe they are – will know very well that such a publically witnessed statement has a powerful spiritual as well as psychological impact on everyone concerned. It has the same power and energy that Catholics usually refer to as ‘the power of prayer’. I recommend other survivors try it. It works.

And that’s it. I’m done.

I’ll leave them to their manure.

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.

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.’

Was Ipswich another Ballarat?

The excellent comment shown at the end of this post from Radders (commenting on my post Charity begins at home?) that mentions John McDonnell and Joe Homan has stirred my memories of St Joseph’s college once again. St J’s was my secondary school run by the De La Salle Brothers (DLSB).

These memories were also stirred after Cardinal Pell of Ballarat, Australia, was recently found guilty of sexual assault. Ballarat is a city where the Christian Brothers also feature heavily in various allegations of abuse – they currently total an astonishing and appalling 139 allegations.

On the positive side, the post also reminded me about John McDonnell. I’m really impressed that McDonnell, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, went to my old school. Reading his Wikipedia entry on the subject I also noticed his reason for attending – and possibly leaving St J’s – was remarkably similar to my own.

Still on politics, I was also impressed that fellow old boy Chris Mullin wrote A Very British Coup, one of my all time favourite novels and TV series. I rated McDonnell and Mullin both highly long before I knew they even went to St J’s, although they were there roughly at the same time as me. However they were boarders and I was a day boy, so our paths were unlikely to have crossed.

However, the fact that Mullin is also a supporter of the notorious Homan is disappointing, to put it gently. Homan was found innocent of abuse charges against him at his Boys Town in India. But I’ve read an account about Homan by an old boy I was contemporary with and knew well. It describes a vicious and horrible assault by Homan when he was a DLSB at St J’s Oak Hill and I have every reason to believe it is true.

So it sits uncomfortably with Mullin’s protagonist Harry Perkins in A Very British Coup, who becomes that so rare individual — a True Labour prime minister. A politician we can trust and admire. In fact, I could imagine John McDonnell as just such a Harry Perkins prime minister, more so even than Jeremy Corbyn. I think he would be brilliant. If it ever happens, I pray he doesn’t share the same fate as Perkins. Certainly The Sun and The Daily Mail would set out to destroy him just as their fictional counterparts destroyed Perkins.

So I got thinking as to whether these two distinguished politicians were affected by St J’s as I was. After all, they were there in the same era as me – an era when physical and sexual abuse was rife at the school and everyone knew it was going on. Even us day boys. You couldn’t avoid it. It was everywhere. In fact I would say, based on my own observations, experiences, and the disturbing and heartfelt testimonies of various old boys on this site that Ipswich – and St J’s in particular – truly was another Ballarat. Except in Ipswich they sadly got away with it. Thus all three parish priests in Ipswich at this time were abusers. No odd rotten apple there: it was endemic, just like it seems to have been in Ballarat.

St J’s certainly affected me greatly and inspired my creation of the anti-establishment British comic 2000AD featuring Judge Dredd. It’s still going strong today after 42 years. My take on the sinister Judge Dredd – also the subject of two movies – drew directly on Brother James and Brother Solomon as I relate in my autobiography Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD & Judge Dredd: The Secret History.

To briefly describe Solomon (Mike Mercado), AKA The Swinging Monk: he was thrown out of DLSBs schools three times for sexually abusing boys. Each time they let him back in! I’m told he then headed out to Boys Town, to ‘work in the missions’ with Joe Homan.

I guess most old boys are more circumspect and discreet about how meeting such monsters affected them in later life. Perhaps wisely, they are able to put it all behind them. If so, I envy them. Like many other old boys I don’t have that luxury.

Mullin reassuringly pointed out to me that St J’s today is a very different school and I’m sure it is. So in theory it should be possible to put it behind me. However it still proudly proclaims itself to be ‘In the La Salian tradition’, which means something negative and unpleasant to me – and others.

The school also has a Mike Kearney Memorial Chemistry Prize. Kearney was a St J’s teacher in my day, so there are still clear links with the school’s past. They can’t be separated to distance the current regime when it suits them. More on Kearney later.

So someone – whether it’s the diocese, the school, or the De La Salle organisation, which is still going strong – should acknowledge the crimes of past DLSBs, which are a matter of record and provable beyond reasonable doubt. Certainly in the case of Brother James and Brother Solomon (Mike Mercado).

The diocese does have its investigatory body. If they become aware of a crime they must report it to the police which, as I’ve told them, is excellent news. However, both the police and the diocese are only concerned with cases where the perpetrator is still alive so he can be investigated. Neither the school nor the DLSBs have ever shown any interest in or commented on the disturbing testimonies related on this blog and on another similar site by a St J’s survivor.

This suggests to me that the commendable, strongly anti-abuse stance of the Catholic Church in recent years is empty spin. They only come out with it when they have to. Usually when they’re under media scrutiny or in the dock like Pell. Then they’ll wring their hands and tell us how much they deplore cases of historic abuse. Otherwise they don’t give a damn.

Apologist Catholic websites and Catholic press also seek to minimise such abuse charges and limit the damage at every opportunity. Although they don’t go quite as far as my devout Irish mother did. A year or two before I went to St J’s, there was a famous case at the college where a lay teacher ran off with a boy and they were ‘lost’ for some days. It made the newspapers and couldn’t be swept under the carpet as usual. My mother’s reaction was, ‘What a silly man! He should never have allowed himself to be led astray by that wicked boy. The poor man was weak.’ I don’t think the case ever went to court. The teacher was seen as behaving in this criminal way due to a mental breakdown and medical treatment was prescribed. I don’t think the kid stayed on at St J’s. Doubtless the risk of him leading other weak teachers astray was too great. My mother’s attitude was quite commonplace at the time, I assure you, and I suspect still is in many Catholic quarters, although they daren’t say it out loud anymore.

Instead, another excuse the Church uses today for its abusers is that they are the result of the sexual revolution in the Swinging Sixties. My Irish aunt would have agreed wholeheartedly with them. She firmly believed ‘moral decay’ began with The Beatles. But the events I’m referring to here are all pre-Beatles. Thus the Church still seems unable to take responsibility for its crimes. When it’s cornered, blame it on the Sixties. Blame it on anything except themselves.

But I want to come back to Kearney now.

Because Kearney was someone I would definitely add to my personal Roll of Dishonour of St J’s. He was well known as a sadist who delighted in recounting how he could lift a boy clean off the ground by his sideburns. I never had a problem with the discipline he administered to me personally, such as a caning for being caught smoking. It was a fair cop, which I always felt I deserved. Not least because I was stupid enough to get caught. No, it was the sadistic glee on his face as he used a blackboard duster on other kids’ knuckles that stays with me to this day. I doubt I’ll ever get his look of cruel delight out of my head.

There was more besides. Much more.

So recently, I’ve been woken in the night with endless symbolic dreams about Kearney. A sure sign of repressed memory, which I’m used to and know how to deal with, so it’s not a big deal anymore. My technique as a kid for dealing with or witnessing Catholic criminal acts was to block them out. So I could enjoy a perfect Ladybird book childhood. It worked incredibly well at the time and was a far better survival method than alternatives like using alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, the recollections spew out in later life and then have to be processed in order to get closure. So it annoys the hell out of me that I still have to waste considerable amounts of my time thinking about Kearney and figuring out what my fragmentary memories and symbolic dreams mean. Clearly they must be important.

Although it’s hazy, they seem to be connected with the local chapter of those good old Knights of St Columba. Maybe Kearney was a Knight or was closely connected to them. At the time, I related my concerns about them to my mother. Her response to my graphic claims was ‘but they do so much good work’. Whatever I said about them, she repeated this endlessly as a defensive mantra which I just couldn’t get past. So in the end I gave up and blocked it from my mind. Until now. Her attitude was understandable, though. The Church and the Knights were an important part of her world. Financial support for my schooling was almost certainly a crucial factor. Where matters involving the Church are concerned, I’ve always found ‘follow the money’ is most relevant. So faced with an angry eleven-year-old ‘making trouble’, her options must have been limited.

The Knights had a strong and – it would seem – positive behind-the-scenes role at St J’s. It was thanks to their financial efforts, for instance, that St J’s was established in the first place. I believe they bought the freehold on the Birkfield building for the DLSBs. Many Ipswich leading Catholic businessmen, priests and teachers were Knights. If you’re curious about them, their secret rituals were similar to the American Knights of Columbus. The latter’s neo-Masonic rituals can be found online. And I’ve also read a copy of the version once used by the UK Knights. It makes for disturbing reading. Not least because of what else may not have been committed to paper. But the UK Knights stopped all that ‘secret weird stuff’ – to quote other old boys’ description of them – sometime in the late 1960s apparently. After my time

Normally, it takes me some time to make sense of my repressed memories. Writing about them in a post like this helps. It’s a work in progress so I can’t be more precise just now, I’m afraid. Particularly as I like to cross-reference with others recollections where I can. Eventually the memories will emerge. Then I can thankfully consign Kearney to the dustbin of memory, where he belongs.

That’s the challenge we all face who’ve encountered Catholic crimes, whether it’s in Ballarat or Ipswich. So many of us can’t let it go and move on – because of repressed memories in my case, or post-traumatic stress disorder, or not acknowledging the significance of the crimes. Thus a well-known national journalist who went to St J’s, a few years before me, was drinking himself to death. He was a client of the charity Mind, and I was introduced to him by his social worker. He told me about the vicious, blood-drawing canings he received as a little boy at St J’s Oakhill prep school where he was a boarder. But he was furious with me when I suggested there was a possible connection with his current plight. ‘I’m not drinking with you,’ he snarled as he staggered back to the bar.

It’s not all in the distant past either. As late as the early 1990s, a counsellor friend told me he had several clients who were at St J’s. In every case he advised the parents that the remedy for their child’s problem was simple: take him away from the school. I doubt they listened. St J’s has such an excellent academic reputation it has all too often clouded other rather more important matters.

Banging Cardinal Pell up helps us all, I think – even if he eventually gets out on appeal. It means that in ‘one against one’ testimony, the victim is believed, for a change. In Oz anyway. There were plenty of similar contenders to Pell in Ipswich, as past comments on this site clearly show. And they’re not all dead like Kearney, James and Solomon/Mercado. Some from long after my time carried on in the same way. As a commenter (CS) on my Roll of Dishonour post vividly relates, a lay teacher used a cat o’ nine tails. Not easy for Catholic apologists to dismiss that one as ‘Oh, they were different times back then. You can’t judge these things by the standards of today.’

Seeing some past St J’s teachers acknowledged as criminals would be so valuable to survivors. And it should be someone’s responsibility to do this, right?

Better still, rather than spout empty spin designed to sound good for the benefit of the media, why not help put some of the more recent perpetrators away? I know of at least two old boys who have in recent years pursued predator Brothers and teachers from St J’s. I’m sure they could have used some assistance in tracking them down. I hope the predators were finally caught and banged up.

That’s the kind of memorial they really deserve.


Comment from Radders on Charity beings at home?

As a border who became a day dog I’m not sure where I fit in Opus’ taxonomy. My dad was in receipt of an army disability pension and my mother worked full time as a ward sister – and I was very conscious of the cost to them of me being at St Joes, not least of which was the A4 page of necessary kit and uniforms to be purchased from Grimwades.

It was in about 1970 I think that we had to sit through a talk and a slideshow on Boystown – I honestly can’t recall whether Homan gave the talk, but the older lads certainly referred to him as ‘Jo Homo’ with the cruel wit of youth – which may have indicated some knowledge of his activity, or may simply have been juvenile bile.

Some appeal form was handed out which we were supposed to pass to our parents with a personal plea to donate, having seen the slide show. I quietly binned it.

I don’t remember John McDonnell but I boarded with his brother Keith, forever in some sort of trouble for the usual minor infractions. We used to parade in forms on the car park between the E block and the Chaplain’s cottage whilst ‘Moggs’ – Mr McLaughlin – hopped onto a little raised dias to call the names of defaulters with his distinctive nasal twang. I can still hear him today – “McDonnell!” with the stress on the third syllable. Perhaps it is the correct pronounciation.

BROTHER JAMES – A Survivor’s Story

Pleasure is to mingle with study, that the boy may think learning rather an amusement than a toil. Tender youth is to suffer neither severe thrashings nor sour and threatening looks, nor any kind of tyranny, for by such usage the fire of genius is either extinguished or in great measure damped.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey 1473-1530

 

This is an account by an old boy of St Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, of an assault by Brother James Ryan, De La Salle Brother, and “Prefect of Discipline”.

It is not an isolated attack on a child. There are numerous accounts of Brother James’s crimes recorded earlier on this blog. Primarily physical assaults and one further sexual assault.

 

This one has me tonight in all its horrible glory. I spent years of therapy with a psychologist with CASA here (Centre for sexual assault). Many breakthroughs were made, but not this one. This has got me by the balls at the moment.

What I am going to do is sit here and write it down and get it right in my head. I know from experience that to get it out of your head onto paper is half the battle. Then there has to be some form of forgiveness and I am not religious.

The other way these things manifest themselves is in a physical way. I have a rotten back and remembering this sort of trauma just sends it into spasm causing horrendous pain.

It may help you and others and me, of course.

I have been through so much of this shit over the last two or three years with this Australian Royal Commission and the press throwing it out on a daily basis. I have not been involved in it, but it is really in your face all the time and I do have friends that are in it. Fortunately I have great friends and support and that works both ways. My partner hates me going through this but she has agreed to do the editing etc., meanwhile stating that she won’t like it but she will do it for me to make sense for everyone.

Sexual abuse comes in many forms and with sadism it makes it a lot worst. As we put it out here, “he was a fair bloody bastard”. (I love this country with swearing as part of the culture) Just after I left St Joes there were two teachers from Ipswich School Prep charged and convicted. They did not have the protection of Holy Orders. Head Master Mermigan did have some good points it seems. Both my older brothers went through similar violence at Ipswich School and put it down to post traumatic stress syndrome.

I am not so sure, I think that the worst of these predators joined priesthood or orders so that they could live out their sickness. They may have had their networks as well.

I was 16 when I went to sea and there I met equally violent ones, even worse because, as junior ratings, we ranged in age from 13 1/2 to 18. The nastiest bastard was an ex brother of some sort, he was Irish and hard, very dangerous. Petty bullies at best, dangerous at worst. It was bad but we were allowed to fight back.

Enough said of the side tracking because I have a bit of work to do and it doesn’t come easily to me.

I was very disruptive in class, which is a sure sign of someone crying out for help and safety, how the hell I survived, I have no idea. Many will remember me like that and that is fair enough. I hope I didn’t mess their education up too much. If I did I am sorry.

I do not resemble the person I was before. I am positive and happy (most of the time) but I always remember that to not deal with this stuff as it comes up can open the floodgates to all the negativity and swamp me to drowning point. Thanks for being there and co-ordinating peoples chances at recovery.

I was to be beaten, for what I do not remember. I think it was to be four with the cane. He did not go about this with his usual out of control. This was calculated for maximum effect. This was a new one. He told me he would beat me in three or four days’ time. Good terror tactic in his sadistic mind.

The day came and I think it was lunch time and he called me into the hall. He locked the door and led me to one corner well out of any possible chance sighting of anyone who could possibly see in. He told me to take my trousers down and bend over to touch my toes. I didn’t take my underpants off and he started to get a bit nasty and made me take those down as well. He was very controlled after that. He was breathing heavily. I was told that on no account was I to turn round at any time or he would increase the punishment. This guy was lethal with a cane when you had clothes on.

The first stroke was full swing but the next stroke did not come for an eon, one or two minutes. I made the mistake of looking round. He lost it a bit and the next one was harder and with the threat of additional strokes. He was breathing very heavily and I realized he was masturbating between strokes through the pocket in his cassock. He really took his time. I don’t remember whether it was nine or more. I was in agony.

When it was over I was threatened that if I ever told anyone he would make my life more of a misery than it already was.

He was also smiling in a way that I had not seen before.

There may have been more like this but I hope there were not.

I remembered the beating but not the rest until reading some of the blog. It’s funny what things jog your memory. Like most survivors of sexual assault, you know that something is there but I could never get at what it was.

This happened to me in another assault. When I was finally told about it I instantly remembered the incident vividly. I remembered what was said and by whom and I was very young at the time. It was as if I was marked as fair game after that. People like James can pick it in a child. That closed the book on another phase of my life. It was as if all the cogs finally slotted into position—-for a while. I didn’t know about others at school and they not about me. There were rumours.

My lovely partner asks me why I have to keep digging and not let the past be past and move on. She sees what it can do to me and she has to watch as I consume myself, hoping that I can pull out of it, which sometimes I only do by the skin of my teeth. She supports me and puts up with it maybe understanding or not. She has that gift of character that enables her to move on and I love her for it.

I hope to God that there is not more. I enjoy life and I really don’t need this shit but if me putting this down can help me it might also help others. We have lived with this long enough. It is time to deal with it and move on. I am not religious in the sense of organized dogma and cultism but I firmly believe that there is some greater purpose to human existence. What it is, I have no bloody idea. Each to his own. South Africa and Rwanda have given us a lesson saying that forgiveness of some kind will enable us to be alive again. I find that hard but it is something to work on.

I am alive unlike many who were unable to live with it.

BROTHER JAMES: CONFIRMATION DAY

Here’s another astonishing account of the past barbarism at St Joseph’s, the crimes and the cover-ups which the school – because it says it’s in the same Lasallian tradition – the DLS Brothers still have to acknowledge to survivors.

It’s from an old boy at St Joseph’s, now living in Australia. Thank you, Dave, for sharing this with us. I suspect many more survivors’ accounts will now follow.

It’s particularly relevant for me, because I’ve known for a very long time that Brother James was also a sexual abuser, and a serious and violent one, and your letter below confirms it. I hesitated to say so before because my recollection is distant and somewhat blocked. A friend who is a social worker wrote that “In her considerable experience in various social work spheres […] where there is physical abuse one should always look for sexual abuse because the correlation between the two is very strong.”  So James’s unusual and actually hysterical violence may well be relevant.

I don’t have any problem talking about this because these criminals need to be exposed, even if they’re dead, because their organisation is still around and in denial and there may well be other victims of James’s sexual abuse who have been reluctant to talk, or used blocking techniques as I did. I do believe it empowers us all and gives us closure. And it may be useful for anyone who wants to pursue the order legally. If so, I think you may need to hurry because there’s so many charges against them now, the Brothers must be running out of cash. Personally, I’d settle for an apology, but I’m not holding my breath. Hence my alternative: The Roll of Dishonour, where “Their Shame Liveth Forevermore”.

For now, my recollection is as follows. Myself and my best friend GB, when we were around 12, went up to St Joe’s during the summer holidays to do some work, and were rewarded with the keys to the soft drinks cupboard (in the main seniors building) and told to help ourselves. Old boys will know there was the entry door and, I believe, an external hatch to dispense drinks to kids outside. (This was a separate set-up to the regular tuck shop). So we were in there swigging endless bottles of Tizer when an “agitated” – or should that be “excited” ?-  James burst in, and there was no way out.

I’m not in the same league as the impressive American old boy (LM) described below, but it’s not in my nature to let things go until I get justice, as readers of this blog will know, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I was like back then. So I complained about the assault and it was hushed up in some way. Annoyingly, that’s almost certainly why I can’t remember much today. That’s how these criminals got away with so much.

That must sounds odd to outsiders, so I think it’s relevant to say more. Not least because I now know of two old boys of St Joe’s who are in the process of recovering their memories. It can be tough, but it’s something I’ve had to become something of an expert on, so any leads or help I can give you, do say.

When my wife, Lisa, read the incredible account below where “a few dozen boys” watched cheering as James was beaten up by a school boy, she said, “Why has everyone forgotten this? It must have gone round the whole school at the time? How could that possibly have been kept a secret? They couldn’t shut everyone up, could they?”

Oh, yes, they could.

Catholic schools are not like normal schools.

It’s how cults work. Whether it’s Scientology or the Catholic Church or the DLS brothers, cults operate on secrecy and we all seem to suffer from collective amnesia or at least dimmed memories as a result. It can turn us into sleepwalkers, heading through life in disassociated dreams. It’s achieved through fear, loyalty, lack of parental support, no Childline, no adults who would believe them and more. The DLS brothers know that anyone who talks or complains will be dealt with severely. We were all used to keep our mouths shut, just as the victims of Savile kept their mouths shut.

I’ve no doubt that events unfolded in the way Dave describes them. I’ve been a participant and an organizer of events that have taken on some embodiment of the status quo or some aspect of oppressive authority. I know just what that feeling is like when there’s a “slave uprising” and bullies are finally confronted, or perpetrators of injustice or abuse dealt with. Whatever age we are, there’s a loss of control, a release of pent-up energy that’s intoxicating and a sense of “to hell with the consequences”. It’s like the scene in Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” I’m sure that’s what happened that day.

In view of what the DLS brothers subsequently did to LM – his leaving/expulsion while James was allowed to stay, his crimes known but concealed, they are lower than vermin.

If anyone wants to elaborate on James, privately with me, or on this blog, please do so. I look forward to hearing from you. I’m happy to go into more detail, if it’s useful to anyone. It may also be useful to me because, in order to make sense of what happened, I have to understand the psychotic nature of James and his modus operandi. I’m sure the assault wasn’t a one-off and he was a serial abuser.

I wish I’d been there to cheer LM on. He’s a shining example to us all.

Thanks again, Dave. You’re a star.

Hi Pat,

My name is Dave B. I have been reading your St Joe’s blog for several years but I didn’t have the courage to get involved. I first picked it up On the Crystal Palace blog site. I am the same age as you and was at Oakhill and then Birkfield. Before I went to Oakhill I was at Ipswich School Prep and that was bad as well. There again I was no model student. I left on April 8 1965,(I was kept back a couple of years) only to be thrown into another lions den in the merchant navy.

We must have been there at the same time. I was so badly treated there by all of the brothers mentioned. In my second last year I was beaten every day, even after being sick for 2 weeks. I also boarded for a short time. Brother James was not only brutal but I can confirm also a pervert into sexual abuse. I have one wonderful memory, that of an American kid from the bronx. James wanted to beat him and L.M. the student (who is now a prominent US human law rights Lawyer). At the end of the class we were all thrown out of class. B. James did his usual attack of kicking and punching. LM beat the sh….out of James with a few dozen boys watching and cheering.

The result was that we never saw LM again and the Brother director was changed and there was no corporal punishment allowed in the school. Lt.Commander Mclaughlin (sp?) was made school prefect and the only one who could dish out punishment. I felt stunned with no fear at school. However, I left in the second term and the new Brother director died, the school returned to its normal reign of terror, but I was long gone by then fighting for my existence in the merch.

McLaughlin was very kind to me, he offered to tute me in maths with his son at home. For me then it was too late and I declined sadly. I am still lousy at maths. He and Bill Moss were the only two people I respected. I can go on forever on this subject. Bill Moss’s brothers suffered the same as us. I agree wholeheartedly with Martin.

Currently this subject is in the news in Australia every day with the Royal Commission into Child Abuse and it is very difficult to keep an even keel but I have had a few years of counselling and support.

It would be “nice” if the De La Salle order would admit the goings on and apologise but I don’t think it will ever happen. Here In Aus it is happening them being exposed by the Royal Commission. It doesn’t stop the suicides though. I hope you get your own Royal commission.

We must move on regardless. This can go on the blog, but I can’t seem to do it from here. Maybe its the current Ransom virus. Let me know how to get onto the blog if you can.

Regards

Dave

EDIT: Dave subsequently sent me this:

I lived in a constant state of terror both at home and school. School was the worst though. My way of coping became John Barleycorn which got me thrown out of the under 16’s. If it all got too much at school I would find a quiet corner somewhere and take the edge off life. It ended up causing problems for me and other around me but I have been free of it for many years now. How the hell did we all cope and some of us survive.

I’m so sorry, Dave.

In response to this email, another old boy confirmed events in private correspondence with me, and named the American hero with an impressive Italian surname. I’ll just use his first name “Louis” here. This old boy had mentioned Louis to me before. Here we go:

LM is Louis M – . We’ve already written about this guy. He’s the ‘You think you’re hot shit on a silver dish but you’re just cold piss in a paper cup’ kid. I don’t know about his Bronx origins but, when he was trying to get his younger brother to give him some cash because he was spent up, the youngster exclaimed, ‘Good God, Louis, what do you do with it all!’ in what I would now describe as a New York accent…Louis was in a year lower than you and me but he didn’t start off as a first year pupil; he came to the school later. I do remember that he and I were quite good friends and often hung around in the same little group.

I believe there was, as Dave recalls, some kind of incident between Louis and Jammy. I never saw it and have not thought about since I left school. I have a vague recollection of ‘something’ being whispered about but I expect all witnesses were somehow forced to remain silent. I can’t verify that. Certainly, Louis was there one minute and gone the next without warning. I think my memory centres on the aftermath of the event and the rumours about why Louis left Birkfield. I think his little brother must have left at the same time but I’m not certain of this.

Dave says a result of this incident was the changing of a Brother Director. I think that must have been the arrival of Bro. Elwin Gerard. I can’t say that he replaced the previous Bro. Director because of the fracas and I wonder how Dave knows this. When Dave left in April 1965, I was in my second term of the 5th form. Were you still at Birkfield at that point?

I had left a year before, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, another puzzle in itself, as another old boy reminded me recently, maybe something I’ll return to another time.

I like to think that just before Louis gave James what he so richly deserved he said to him in his best Bronx Accent, ‘You think you’re hot shit on a silver dish but you’re just cold piss in a paper cup’.

It raises the question, what was wrong with James and other abusive teachers at St Joes?

Old boy “Anon” believes:

My theory is that half the teachers came back from WW2 with PTSD, took it out on boys who went off to Uni to become teachers and returned to take it out on us. That combined with a good dose of Catholic cover up.

I think it applies to his generation at St J’s. Certainly at my Catholic primary school St Mary’s Ipswich, where the deputy Headmaster, Crowley, chain-smoked in class and caned a boy across the face and once sexually assaulted a school girl in front of us. (The school was run by nuns who, of course, allowed him to get away with it and committed worse crimes themselves.) But actually the lay teachers of my era at St Joes seemed pretty normal, some of them – the Polish art teacher for example who clearly had military training – was one of the most well balanced, nicest people I’ve met. I have positive memories of nearly all of the lay teachers. In my era, they were just regular, normal guys.

The sickness seems to apply to the Brothers who had mostly escaped the war and I believe it’s specifically Catholic in nature. My recollection of reading James’s obituary (before the DLSB took it down from their site) is he was a product of the DLS school system himself. I doubt he suffered PTSD in the war. He may well have suffered PTSD as a result of whatever happened in his youth. I know from a source who went to a Catholic seminary that the attitude was: “They did it to us, so now it’s our turn to do it to others.” It was why he left the seminary in disgust. That confirms Anon’s theory.

But I don’t think James has any excuse. He should have ended his days in prison or a hospital for the criminally insane.

ROLL OF DISHONOUR

Thanks to NW1 for your comment about Brother Kevin, which I talk about in my post In The Lasallian Tradition 3. I admire your diligence in trying to hold Kevin and the order accountable for their crimes.

Here’s my thoughts on the subject. Firstly, I wonder if any other old boys viewing this site had a similar experience with Kevin. If so, and they are prepared to disclose, that could be useful to NW1. I know one old boy told me recently about Kevin’s violence, but not sexual abuse. That is not so unusual in my experience; the old boys who leave their recollections here only recall Brother James’s violence, but I have a memory of another, far darker side to his character.

My own memories of Kevin are actually positive. He taught me Latin one to one and was a good teacher. But I was aware that he would stare at me intently and I felt he had some unfulfilled agenda with me. I talked about this with my wife several times over the years, long before I read NW1’s post. It could be summed up as ‘Kevin knows something about me I don’t know’ or ‘He’s thinking a lot about me, but I don’t know why.’ It wasn’t threatening, but it was a very strong and unsettling feeling. I may have had a lucky escape.

The challenge we all face, which NW1’s post demonstrates so clearly, is that many (but not all) of the Brothers and teachers we are concerned with are now probably old, sick, demented or dead, even though the order is very much alive and well and seems oblivious to its criminal past. It’s like it never happened, which I believe is what they want us to feel about our own experiences. This is born out not just by what happened at Birkfield, but also in many other De La Salle schools. It makes for grim and sad reading, as I’m sure most readers of this blog are aware. But they only seem to claim in court – when one of their number is being sentenced – that their hearts go out to the survivors. When they’ve been fetched. Otherwise, I think they would just like us to go away.

Here’s such a case. It concerns a different Brother James, a Brother James Carragher who ran a Catholic home for disturbed boys in Humberside and admitted 12 charges of sexual and indecent assault. He was jailed for seven years. One of the boys tried to kill himself because of the Brother’s attentions:

Brother Sean Sellors, a spokesman for the De La Salle Brothers, said Carragher had betrayed the order.

“We totally condemn, without reservation, any action or behaviour which harms young people,” he said.

“During his trial James Carragher said that he was ashamed of what he had done and that he had failed to live up to what he professed.

“His behaviour has been a deep betrayal of the Order’s mission to the young and to the trust that was placed in him as a De La Salle Brother.

“Our hearts go out to those who were victims of abuse and to their families in this case,” he said.

Read full news report here.

Fine words. The order will doubtless claim they cannot speak out equally strongly about Birkfield, where young people were also harmed and betrayed because it hasn’t come to court and it’s on the advice of their insurers or lawyers. That would be convenient. That would mean that, like other parts of the Catholic Church, they are controlled by lawyers and insurance companies. By Suits, who seem to have no sense of shame, and put the requirements of Mammon far ahead of their clients’ Christian ‘mission to the young’. So there’s only acknowledgement and empathy when clerical collars are being felt. When the security of their own order is at stake. The selfishness and hypocrisy of this needs no further comment from me.

I think one way to break through their shameful wall of silence is to have a Roll of Dishonour, a blacklist of those who were provably criminal abusers. So their names are no longer held high in lying eulogies (like Brother James) but are down in the gutter where they belong. So their names are sullied forever more. It’s a lot easier than spraying graffiti on their headstones, which I seriously considered at one point. (I was so angry at the time, I hired a private detective who found out all about a clerical abuser and where he was buried and gave me the plot details.) But a Roll of Dishonour will reach a lot more people.

If the idea appeals and has merit, readers may want to put up their own Rolls of Dishonour, or there may be a place elsewhere on the web better suited to the task. But below is my Roll of Dishonour. All these individuals I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, are provably abusers of children; although only one – Father Jolly – is provably relevant to me. There are other names mentioned by other old boys in past posts – a lay teacher for example – but I wouldn’t want to add names without their approval.

So I’ll wait to hear from NW1 to get his go-ahead to add Brother Kevin, although he does seem like a prime candidate.

If you have first hand knowledge or proof of other past abusers at Birkfield and would like them added, do say. Bear in mind, this blog does appear near the top on related web searches, so it will rightly impact on an organisation that has harmed so many children.

The current regime at Saint Josephs is unconnected with these terrible events; a famous old boy pointed out to me recently how very different and better they are today; I’m sure they are, but that’s not the point. They are still proudly proclaiming in their advertising and on the school entrance that they are ‘in the Lasallian Tradition’. They presumably want prospective pupils and parents to think it is a good thing to be associated with a past where criminal abuse was endemic, as the pages of this blog show – and I clearly recall. To me, that’s like saying ‘in the tradition of the Krays’, because they did some good, as well as far more harm.

The – I’m sure unintended – subtext of ‘in the Lasallian Tradition’ to old boys like myself is that the abuse doesn’t matter that much. Or it only happened to a few of us and the good outweighs the bad. Or it wasn’t really that bad. Or it was all a long, long time ago. Or it’s not really a crime unless we can actually prove it in court, and anyway the allegedly guilty monk is now dead. Or ‘that’s life, get over it’. And many of us did, although we still bear the scars. I met a once distinguished national journalist who was a St Joseph’s and Oak Hill old boy and a broken alcoholic and client of Mind (the mental health charity). He described his traumatic experiences at the school to me, and he didn’t ‘get over it’.

The strong connection to the Brothers is still there, not to mention the scholastic records, the uniforms, the mottos, the traditions and so on. And there are numerous other current links to a dark past – e.g. the Kearney chemistry prize, which honours the memory of a sadistic, vicious chemistry teacher from my day, who I will write about another time. It is not a brand new school, it has an infamous heritage, with which it is still associated, and wants to be associated with. Why not disassociate themselves from the negative aspects, with an expression of regret for what happened to so many past pupils? It’s not a matter of it being ‘unproven’ anymore. Particularly in the case of Brothers Solomon and James. And Brother Kevin. The order’s own records I’m sure will confirm what so many of us have described, if they won’t do us the courtesy of believing our numerous written statements which cross-reference each other and bear out we are telling the truth.

If the De La Salle Order or the local Catholic diocese (because the diocese surely has an over-arching responsibility for its Catholic members) are similarly wondering what to do about it, an expression of regret might also be a first step. Assuming the Suits that control them, or they hide behind, will permit it. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

 

ROLL OF DISHONOUR

St Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, Suffolk.

Time Span : 1960s to 1980s

 

 

  • Brother Solomon aka Mike Mercado, ‘the Swinging Monk’. Sexual abuser.
  • Brother James. Physical abuser.
  • Father Jolly. School Chaplain. Sexual abuser