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.

ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE AND BROTHER KEVIN – AGAIN!

This is another account of abuse at St Joseph’s sent to me by someone who would prefer to remain anonymous so that the survivor’s identity is protected. I’m so glad he wrote in. The more we can share our experiences, the more the truth can come out. About the true nature of so many De La Salle brothers and their College in Ipswich.

Two things I should note: Firstly it concerns Brother Kevin. Again! I think there’s about five survivors stories about Brother Kevin on my site now. I know one such survivor did take police action and another is considering it where Kevin is concerned. So it’s relevant and important to put up this post because Kevin is probably still alive, although in his mid to late 80s. It challenges the view of the lady who wrote in and said that she knew Brother Kevin and, in her opinion, he was a wonderful man, safe to leave with children, and who could not possibly do the awful things that were alleged.

Secondly, I find when I write about the past, my writing style varies considerably. Usually I write in summary when I’m posting here. When I’m exchanging email accounts with other survivors I tend to expand.  And I sometimes keep a personal journal, writing everything down, in considerable detail, so I can get in touch with the feelings and make sense of often confusing events.

It’s possible that the author has done the same thing here and also  to pay tribute to the courage of the survivor concerned. He is indeed a hero.

So here is yet another account of Brother Kevin’s abuse.

The bravest little boy I have ever known Aged only 11 1/2 years old.

He attended St Josephs College Birkfield, Ipswich and was a second former in 1965.

This little boy was born 6 weeks premature and barely survived childbirth. He was the youngest in a very large family therefore his elder sisters and brother were already married and in their 30’s. Due to his birth problems he was very small for his age and had to wear glasses with incredibly thick lenses. He could only see with his glasses on and only half the colour spectrum. Not your average superhero material for sure.

Just before Easter 1965 it was a Friday night he was fast asleep in his dormitory when he woke up and found his dorm master Brother Kevin performing oral sex on his little immature penis. He yelled and screamed at the top of his voice and Brother Kevin had to make a quick retreat to his own bedroom which was at the end of the dorm. He turned all the lights on in his dorm and Brother Kevin emerged from his bedroom and pretended that he had been asleep. It’s alright boys settle down and go to sleep this young lad is just having a nightmare.

Eventually everyone settled down the lights were turned off and they all went back to sleep thinking someone had had the most terrible nightmare – well that was true – but what happened next is beyond belief.

The following morning this little boy calmly got out of bed got dressed in his little grey suit with his tiny little grey short trousers said nothing to anyone. After breakfast without a single penny in his pocket he casually walked through the side gate on Belstead Road and walked into Ipswich Town. He walked for almost two miles to the A12 (the main London Road) and then began hitchhiking. It was not long before some kindly Lady gave him a lift to Colchester. When he asked where the London Road was she told him to get back in the car and she drove through town and dropped him off at the A12 intersection.

God alone knows how he got to London and started walking anti clockwise all along the A4 the North Circular ring road. He found the sign he was looking for the A1 / M1 motorway and followed it. You cannot hitchhike in the middle of a City so he walked for miles following the road signs. He eventually found the last sign and stopped at the beginning of the access to the main North Road. There was a big sign there prohibiting pedestrians, tractors or cycles etc. Here he found two or three students also looking for a lift North.

He was such a tiny little tyke with his enormous glasses he soon got a lift and announced he was going to Coventry. He was dropped off at a service station on the M1 and the car was about to drive off when the drivers wife made her husband stop and reversed back and they asked the little boy if he was hungry. He though they might be going to give him a sandwich instead the husband parked the car and the wife lead him into the cafe. They gave him a slap-up meal and a cup of tea and were so impressed that he eat everything on his plate and politely thanked them for it they bought him a desert and a second cup of tea.

It was early evening and it was beginning to get dark. The wife took him to the second exit of the service station which was reserved for heavy good vehicles and asked two or three drivers if they were going to Coventry. Eventually a man said yes I can drop him off for you.

Having just eaten and walked god knows how many miles that day the little boy soon fell asleep. The driver woke him up a couple of hours later and asked if he would like some of the coffee from his thermos flask. He said here we are young sir this is Coventry. The little boy thanked him very politely and was helped down just outside Pool Meadow the main bus terminal. It was 8 or 9 o clock at night now.

The little boy walked around the bus station and asked where the busses for Kenilworth departed from. A kindly bus inspector told him the last bus had gone. He had intended to say he had lost his money but could supply his address. (Coventry bus drivers and conductors had been instructed never to refuse to pick up a child for any reason) so he asked the inspector where is the Kenilworth Road I can find my way from there.

Well the roads in Coventry are a bit like a bowl of spaghetti. With loads of flyovers and underpasses. The little boy soon got lost and sat down on a bench and began crying with frustration he had got so far he was almost there but now he was lost and bewildered. For Coventry 1960’s think of Glasgow 1960’s not a nice place to be in after dark. Eventually a Taxi driver stopped and said what’s up little man are you lost. The boy said yes sir I am, I am trying to get to the Kenilworth Road. Why do want to go there the taxi driver asked because I need to get to Kenilworth Sir the little boy replied thinking the question rather silly. Jump in the cab and I take you to the Kenilworth Road. But sir I don’t have any money. No worries said the man it’s not far. The taxi driver took him all the way to Kenilworth and asked him where about’s he wanted to go. The little boy repeated the address including the post code like a robot the Taxi driver said don’t you know where that is. No sir replied the little boy I never been here before but I always write to my sister every week so I know the address.

The taxi driver took out his A-Z (they didn’t have sat-navs. back in those days) and found where it was and took him the house. The taxi driver said I’m going to wait here until someone answers. If no one answers the door come back to the car I will take you home and my wife will make you a bed up on the sofa. The little boy rang the doorbell and waited – nothing – after two or three attempts a light came on upstairs. A huge ex Navy man came down in his dressing gown and opened the door. The little boy grabbed hold of him for dear life sobbing his eyes out. Right stop all those tears and come inside said the man who made John Wayne look like a dwarf. He was just about to go inside when he remembered something very important Wait Wait he shouted. He ran across the lawn to the Taxi driver and said thank you so much sir you have been so wonderfully kind if you give me your name and address I will send you my pocket money to pay you what I owe you. The taxi driver said hurry along now someone is waiting for you.

Everyone was in tears when he told his story even the big “I never cry” – me.

Several weeks later I asked why on Earth did he go to London instead of the much shorter route cross country via St Neots. He said just a minute he disappeared into his bedroom and came back with one of those small pocket books. He showed me a miniature map of Great Britain’s road network that only showed the main roads and said “this is all I had to go on.”

This story is absolutely true without any embellishment whatsoever and is burned deep in my memory forever and still makes me cry with pride over 55 years later.

I am still to this day amassed that this tiny shy little boy by far the smallest in his class partially sighted and not a penny in his pocket would undertake such an incredible 240 mile journey into the complete unknown to reach a place of safety trusting in the absolute goodness of strangers rather than stay one more night in his dorm at St Joseph’s College.

CHALLENGE TO ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE, BIRKFIELD, IPSWICH, SUFFOLK

Here’s a challenge from Old Boy Nosssh. You can read his full comment at the bottom of this post.

St. Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, how about allowing an investigation into crimes committed there? 

So how about it St J’s.? I know you’re aware of this site.

Yes, I know you are a different regime. But you have the contacts with the DLS and the local Catholic Diocese.

They will listen to you. You know that the infamous Brother Solomon was the Jimmy Saville of St Js. That’s beyond any reasonable doubt, and that’s going to be picked up eventually by the media. It’s a strong story – his victims in double, possibly triple figures, his links to Homan’s Boys Town, his TV appearances, how he inspired a famous comic character, oh, yes – and how he owned a fun pier, too. I think it was at Weston Super Mare.

You still inherit, benefit from and recognise a past that’s good, yet you deny or ignore the bad. You still say ‘In the La Sallian Tradition’. That means something awful for many survivors. See below. You still have a prize named after a questionable teacher, Kearney, whose sado-masochism (bunsen burner pipes as lashes. Highly diluted sulphuric or hydrochloric acid as a drink) makes him entirely inappropriate to be upheld as a chemistry role model in these modern times. And I’m still investigating Kearney with the likelihood of revealing far more about him.

And doesn’t it concern you that the abuse cases on this site alone are now reaching record numbers? Are you still not going to say anything? At least a message of sympathy for survivors? Or won’t your insurers allow that? Surely such a human and Christian response would be more important than what an insurance company thinks? Or maybe it isn’t? So are you going to remain silent until you are fetched? E.g. When the media eventually takes an interest in these historic crimes – which ended somewhere in the 1980s, or perhaps even later, according to one source – and exposes your school’s dark past.

I think we survivors are owed at least a comment from you, even if you have to hedge it with legalese to cover yourselves against fear of litigation. There’s always a way – if you want to find it. Or if that’s too much to ask, why don’t you take down your obvious connections with a sad and  awful past that has harmed so many boys. Surely the fate of those past children who went to your school – and the price they had to pay surviving abuse – must mean something to you?

The longer you leave it, the darker it looks. Your school’s past isn’t going to go away. Acknowledging it is the right and proper way for everyone – including yourselves – to have closure. 

Here’s Nosssh’s full comment, in response to my post THE IMPORTANT OF FIGHTING BACK:

I am yet another survivor of St. Jo’s. The guy responsible for abusing and controlling me is still around and I know where he lives so almost every day I have to resist that crucifix-ramming urge! Years ago though I had to blurt the words out loud, long before I understood why, that I forgave him in order to get on with my life. Maybe it’s easier or better that the most of the actual details remain blanked out (little snippets are there; that blue flecked paint used on the toilet wall, having to decide outside the gym to shut down part of my brain to deal with what just happened and get back to class after the lunch hour siren had gone and appear normal to friends…). At last I understand exactly what happened because my sister reminded me of a few details about the guy I’d chosen to forget. Anyway, survival is all about management and choosing to be better than your abuser. It’s such a shame so many have suffered at the hands of DLS “brothers” and their pedo associates (lay-teachers). Closure is massively important to all of us who’ve walked those hard years so St. Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, how about allowing an investigation into crimes committed there and do us all a favour. That word Tenacitate eh, what a bitch 😉

EVIDENCE OF ORGANISED CATHOLIC ABUSE

A reader wrote back in response to my post THE IMPORTANCE OF FIGHTING BACK. He asked for his reply to be kept private so I will respect that and call him Lee (not his real name).

Lee asked about evidence for organised abuse and the ‘Hidden Theology’ of the Church so I thought I’d share my thoughts and limited knowledge on the subject here.

The evidence that convinces me abuse is/was organised is still extensive but is a work in progress. If I cross-reference everything and quote sources and provide web links it will take me at least a day.

In the unlikely event that anyone is seriously interested in following this up, I will do so.

Anywhere, here is my summary of the evidence:

1) My own personal experience. IMHO it’s astonishing that the only three priests I knew during my Catholic upbringing were all abusers. That’s a helluva co-incidence. I’ve given outline details of the three priests in Fighting Back and could provide comprehensive accounts on all three should it ever become necessary. 

2) I think the ‘one rotten apple in the barrel theory’ is therefore unlikely and most people have surely realised by now it’s so much bigger. The staggering clerical abuse figures bear this out.

But this also begs a question – what about the congregation? That’s the elephant in the room that’s never talked about – yet.

Some congregations – hopefully the majority – wouldn’t have known. Some would have known and kept quiet. Some would have known and dealt with the priests or reported them. (I’m aware of one such example in my era)

But some members of the congregation would have participated.

Because that’s human nature. Why would it be just the priests and monks? That really doesn’t make sense if you stop and think about it. But I’m only aware of one confirmed account of organised Catholic congregation abuse. It went to court and I have the details. Just one. I did a comprehensive Google search and couldn’t find any more.

3) Now we come to the Knights who are, of course, part of the Congregation. A brief introduction:

There are the British Knights of St Columba (KOSC), the Irish Knights of St Columbanus (KOSCB) and the American Knights of Columbus (KOC). There are variations for each country, but in over-arching terms they can be treated as the same. They all belong to the same ‘parent’ group. They all strongly deny they’re masonic but that’s how most people would describe them then and now. A comparison of masonic and Catholic Knight rituals would convince most of us.

The KOC is still very secretive. Knights and Squires – young men – still have to swear a vow of secrecy about what goes on. Still. (I can quote from their official site)

The KOSC were secretive, masonic and ritualistic when I was growing up. They also had Squires in my era. This stopped towards the end of the 60s. Too late for me, unfortunately. Their original ritual nature is confirmed on Wikipedia.

I have a copy of the KOC rituals and it can be read on line. And I have some confirming similar written details of the KOSCB. So it’s reasonable to conclude all three very roughly used the same rituals.

These rituals are very unhealthy psychologically, they’re colourful, scary and use creepy role play (‘Trick’ blood etc.) They’re also tedious to read. It’s probably why they’ve never been investigated – they’re bloody boring to go through. The Knights enthusiastically admit they’re trying to screw with the heads of new entrants. And that’s utterly wrong! It’s the kind of stuff I would associate with cults like Scientology.

And, of course, that’s just the rituals in print. It’s reasonable to assume with such secretive organisations that there would be more that will always be out of the public gaze.

One of the three priest abusers I’ve mentioned is listed on an incomplete list of dead KOSC members as a Knight. The fanatically religious father of a second priest abuser is also there as a Knight. It’s reasonable to think his son was a Knight, too. Plus there’s my recollections. The third abuser priest is not listed, but given his wealthy and elitist background it’s also fair to assume he, too, was a Knight.

I’m currently researching two other relevant Knights. I have to check the info on their death certificates to ensure I’ve found the right guys before I talk publicly about them. I have their names and the dates of their deaths.  Let’s call them Knight X and Knight Y for now.

There’s also a couple of other relevant Knights, but they don’t seem as important. One of them was a convert, an ex-Anglo-Catholic, and he had long conversations with me about the gay Cardinal Newman, the Oxford Movement etc. Being a bookworm as a kid, I was very impressed. I guess that was his grooming technique: to make me feel important and perhaps to rationalise his crimes. I’m reminded of Evelyn Waugh’s famous quote – ‘Beware of Anglo-Catholics, they’re all sodomites.’ 

4) But ’Follow the money’ is usually the best way to get to the bottom of things. My expensive college fees, and my brother’s, were paid for ‘By the Church’. That’s a total of 8 years school fees (we both failed the eleven plus). Three sources directly or indirectly confirm our fees were paid for ‘By the Church’. Why? The Church doesn’t usually do that. Why did two boys qualify? We were a poor council house family, so there was nowhere else the money could have come from.

My belief is that the Knights were the Church agency that paid the fees. Knight X and Knight Y were close friends of the family. Knight X was a part-time stepdad. And later, Knight Y had ambitions in that direction which did not make me happy. One bullying abusive step dad was more than enough.

The KOSC may have paid all the fees or Knight X may have topped it up. He may have been the KOSC treasurer. He certainly had a lot of clout. A lot of it around my head. So when I started fighting back – as kids do around age 14 or 15, and saying ‘I want this to stop’– that’s when the money mysteriously dried up and I was out on my ear at age 15, my St Joseph’s College days suddenly at an abrupt end.

The KOSC was intimately connected with St Joseph’s. It was the Knights who helped finance the actual purchase of St J’s Birkfield. The news clippings I have state that it was the Knights’ long and difficult financial negotiations that resulted in the school building and grounds being purchased from the R and W Paul family.

Subsequently, the KOSC maintained their close link to St Js, and are mentioned in other news clippings – such as the St J’s School Sports Day.

So you can see how I came to my conclusions: Follow the money.

5) The Knights back in my era have been described to me by four Old Boys as ‘strange’, ‘weird’ and ‘sinister’.

‘They were too weird even for my dad’ was how one St J’s Old Boy put it to me.

It was because of these comments that I finally decided to look into them as my memories of these Knights had been bugging me for at least two decades.

Back then, the Knights were definitely the financial elite of the Congregation. You had to have money to join. As an altar boy, I witnessed this first-hand.

In St Marks, our newly-built council estate church, this elite group was gathered in a special reserved praying, or rather preying, group at the back, and they never mixed with us council estate-Catholics. They included a lawyer, a coroner, a magistrate, and a teacher from St J’s and his missus. With one exception (someone who had sons at St J’s), the elite never mingled amongst the other working-class worshippers.

Why were they exhibiting this very obvious apartheid? And why would the regular Congregation tolerate it? I knew that this elite group had previously attended the established St Pancras church in Ipswich town centre. So why slum it on a council estate? The obvious answer is for power. They got a kick out of lording it over the poor.  They needed people to look up to them.

I’m reminded again of Evelyn Waugh, another elite Catholic who agonised over sharing his upper-class religion with Irish Catholics, and is on record as describing them as ‘Bog Catholics.’ I think the Ipswich elite felt the same way about us ‘Council House Catholics’.

We were prey. Well, I was anyway. A prime example of droit de seigneur.

Back to the Knights. I’m only aware of one ritual that I witnessed. It wasn’t Eyes Wide Shut, but it was still ritualistic, unpleasant and misogynistic. I was around 13, so I doubt I really understood the finer details. But it was certainly anti-women and there was a rationale that was explained to me. It wasn’t an orgy, and I was just an onlooker, thankfully. In fact, I recall it as a kind of pseudo-serious ceremony. It seemed to focus on sneering at a stand-in for Mary Magdalene… You can possibly fill in the dots yourself. 

The rest is a bit vague at this point in time, so I’m not going to speculate or try to reconstruct it. Not least because their successors will deny it. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

Anyway, it was an example of the Inner Theology. Sorry I can’t be more precise, it was a very long time ago. However, I do remember them clearly really banging on about the duty of Knights and how they’re all there for each other. Very masonic. And  if I stayed the course,  my golden future would be ensured with them. Which, if you’re a kid on a council estate, is great news. Bring on the funny handshakes!

But if I didn’t stay the course…

I just wanted the bastards to stop – especially as I got older. To hell with the rewards, I didn’t care. I really wanted to smash the bloody Hillman Minx car of that Knight priest. I still do. Because I could never hit a priest. He’s a Man of God. 

Making it stop. That’s all that mattered.

I don’t think there was any formal and ritualistic vow of silence, which is surprising. Maybe they just took my silence for granted. My guess is I was never a formal Squire.

I know I was told in no uncertain terms to be silent on the subject from my mother, one of the priests, and his fellow Knights.

But that’s not me. I have a long and provable history of whistleblowing that continues to this day, and on this blog, of course. I think it was my defence mechanism so I didn’t become a victim. It was the nearest I could get to fighting back.  And at the age of 14, I would have been full of teenage defiance. So their various threats to shut me up got them nowhere.

Finally, one of them – I believe it was the magistrate – looked me sternly in the eye and gravely warned me, ‘If you do not keep silent, you will rue the day you were born.’

For me, that was ‘middle-class code’ for beating the shit out of me. Or worse. That shut me up – for a while anyway. And then I tried to forget the whole vile bunch.

6) So what’s happening today? There’s a lot emerging about the KOC now: a number of disturbing cases of abuse. I have the various links. And the KOCB had their well-known masonic role in Irish government. But you won’t find anything about today’s KOSC, other than the numerous good works they do – which is excellent news.

So they must have turned over a new leaf between the 60s and today. Or maybe it was just the KOSC in Ipswich that had its own strange ‘Inner Theology’? Let’s hope so.

However, about four years ago there was a disturbing local newspaper report about a KOSC member in Colchester who had used his position to abuse children. He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. 18 years. That’s a pretty hefty sentence. Serious crimes were clearly involved. But what is even more disturbing is that it was not covered by the national press. Just mentioned briefly by the local papers.

Whether there is a media blackout on certain organisations is hard to prove.  Certainly I’m aware of a media blackout by all the papers on Recovered Memories of abuse. Thus there was the American detective, Frank Fitzpatrick, whose recovered memory led to the legendary Father James Porter case. How Porter, a serial abuser,was caught by Fitzpatrick has never – to my knowledge – been reported by the mainstream British press. And there are 53 more American recovered memory cases where the abusers were banged up, but not covered by the British media. 53 cases. An authoritative academic study has confirmed their authenticity. But you’re not allowed to read about them in the British press, including the woke Guardian. Although they will write about similar American clerical abuse cases not involving recovered memories. Instead our media, including The Guardian, still promote the dubious False Memory theory from the British False Memory society, an organisation that has worrying links with its questionable American counterpart.

I know Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black (ex Daily Telegraph) and Jimmy Savile were/are all Super Knights. Savile was a Knight Commander. These Super Knights are the next level above the KOSC. They are Knights of the powerful and influential Order of St Gregory the Great. At least one KOSC Supreme Knight has become a Knight of St Gregory.

I also have one particularly significant piece of evidence that would strongly suggest there is a media black-out, but I think that’s worth going into another time.

7. Lee asked me how I thought it might all work. ‘The Church’s hidden, Inner Theology.’

The examples above give you some indication, Lee, and may lay the groundwork for others to look at this.

I’m also reminded of an account I read about an abuser priest in Ireland who was sodomising a child. A woman came out of her home and surprised him in the act. He called to her, ‘Get back in the house, woman – this is Church business.’

I see genuine Catholics, many of whom I know and admire hugely, as part of an outer protective ring of truly good people. This echoes Lee’s words that there are ‘genuinely good people’ in the Church. In the UK, Ireland and elsewhere. Of course. I have huge respect for them and I’m currently reading an excellent book about family trees by a practising Irish Catholic priest. So I’m not phobic about the Church per se.

But these good people are inadvertently and unconsciously protecting an inner core of vile individuals whose moral compass is so shot to Hell they actually believe in the ‘virtue’ of their crimes. That was my strong feeling as a boy. 

There’s enough awful cults out there whose similar crimes have been proven, to see how this could have come about.

And if you’re looking for proof, well surely the best place to start is at the top: with the three latest Popes.

I watched a reputable French TV documentary (It’s on Amazon, I have the link.) that looked at recent Catholic abuse. It highlighted – with details and witnesses – how Pope Francis had personally covered up serious abuse in Argentina.  The journalists then confronted him in St Peter’s Square. His shifty denial and the ‘caught out’ expression on his face could probably be angrily explained away by Bill Donahue. But the rest of us would know exactly what the Pope’s response means.

There’s no point in going into Pope Benedict, because surely everyone knows by now about his numerous cover-ups.

And finally there’s Pope John Paul. He has Opus Dei and the Maciel case to answer for. And more. None of which stopped him from becoming a Saint. Maciel was the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. He was a serial sexual abuser whose crimes were covered up during JP’s era.

 The Church does seem fond of Legionaries and Knights, doesn’t it?  Historically, Legionaries and Knights were evil mercenaries. The Crusades were monstrous crimes. The Code of Chivalry is an offensive lie.

The Catholic faithful need to live in an Orwellian cloud cuckoo land and believe in the current, sugary, fantasy version of the Catholic Church. Or turn a blind eye to the alternative. The grim reality is just too awful to think about, so most people – very understandably – don’t.

Alas, I don’t have that luxury. My muse insists I make my research and my recollections public. Or maybe it’s the angry 13-year-old boy inside me that’s still demanding justice.  Or perhaps it’s both of them.

Catharsis is not enough, my muse says. People need to know, she says. And I’m tired of arguing with her that no one gives a damn. ‘You should have published your recollections at least ten years ago,’ she tells me irritably. My excuse, ‘Sod the Knights –it was all a long time ago and they’re all dead now. Let’s just let it go,’ cuts no ice with her. Which is why I’m typing this now, rather than being curled up with my beautiful wife and a glass of wine, and watching telly. But my muse tells me the work must come first. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand. Sigh!

Of course the Vatican always insists: the Popes never knew about their army of sexual abusers. Denial. Denial. Denial. Despite an endless and ongoing avalanche of serious abuse cases. Historical and Current.

I know what my muse would say about that. And so do you.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FIGHTING BACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

‘Because we were interested in chemistry.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because you’re fighting back.

Boys Town

Thanks for the latest, Opus. I really enjoyed reading your recollections.

I know Homan started a Boys Town in India, so it must be the same one.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/12/joe-homan-obituary

I’ve read a most  disturbing account of his conduct at St J’s – think it was at Oak Hill. And also accounts by an investigative journalist linking him to a Body Shop scandal. Cheap labour and worse. I keep meaning to write to the journalist to ask for confirmation on a couple of points.  I also believe that’s where the notorious Brother Solomon headed one time.
So I was disappointed to read fellow old boy Chris Mullin singing Homan’s praises in The Guardian, especially as i’m a huge fan of Chris’s novel and film, A Very British Coup.
I believe these days, if someone said they were going to set up a ‘Boys Town’, they’d be locked up. Thus there was a very recent case of a paedophile who was one of the founders of  ‘Street Kids International.’
I think I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia with the school and the Brothers flinching at some of the scenes. There was an implied rape – that could have been it.  They also flinched and blushed when they took us to see Guns of Navarone and a woman’s naked back was revealed. Understandable – all these kids watching them for signs of human weakness. The pressure must have been terrible!

 

–Pat

Pat,

Whether my memories are correct or even materially fair (and I obviously think they are) is something I cannot judge.

I thought then that you might appreciate on perhaps a largely lighter note though not unsexually related my further reminiscences:

1. The new chapel had just been completed and was shortly be opened. On a morning on exiting from the dormitories, was, to be seen flying high from its spire, a pair of knickers. How the roof of the chapel was ascended (and descended without injury) and who was responsible for the prank and indeed from where the pair of knickers had been obtained remained a mystery.

2. Aside from being Head Master, Elwin Gerard was, when I was about fifteen in charge of the dormitories in the main house which was where I then resided. In a room on the ground floor was a monochrome television set and chairs for viewing. It being a Saturday night we would crowd into the room to watch whatever the BBC were providing by way of entertainment. On the occasion in question the Beeb had imported in from the United States a light entertainment series featuring the comic actor and singer Mr Danny Kaye. Some way through the show came what would surely turn out to be a comic sketch: it commenced with the camera tracking the back of a woman with long blonde hair and the accompanying music was of the type associated with strippers. The woman’s back was bare. Elwin Gerard who was watching with us promptly jumped up and switched off the television set ordering us all to bed. I will thus never know what the joke was for surely a joke which I would long have forgotten was coming and had Elwin Gerard not been so hasty I think we would have discovered that the woman was a man, Kaye himself.

3. At a time when Lawrence of Arabia was a justly popular film a White Father who was the brother of one of the monks (John?) visited the school, talked about his work in North Africa and to our great delight demonstrated how he put on his arab-style robes. I was told decades later that he was later convicted of indecent assault upon his charges whilst in India at a place known as Boys Town. Would that be right?

4. My little brother was at Oak Hill from the age of just nine commencing at the beginning of the autumn term. When he returned at Xmas my Mother said (later) that she no longer recognised him as the same happy-go-lucky little boy whom she had sent off some three months earlier.

5. I was a boomer and that meant that at that time there was by reason of increased birth-rates pressure on places in schools and thus schools could become a law unto themselves. It was also the case that the La Salles were not able to recruit sufficient men to their order and thus appear to have taken any man who was willing to join them. Certainly the calibre of many of the monks – as teachers – left much to be desired. From my point of view this was to the good such that by the time I reached the dizzy heights of the sixth-form none of my teachers were monks and (I was also studying outside the school and thus was semi-detached from it) a majority of my teachers were not even Roman Catholics. To a large extent then the Brothers faded out of my life for apart from being in Ipswich a fair amount of the week I ended my career at Birkfield living in the little lodge by its entrance where we were without any form of supervision. Neither being a Prefect nor playing in team sports (I never took to Rugby and became bored by Cricket) and by reason of one task I performed happily from the age of fourteen until I left and which gained me access daily to the lay-Master’s Common Room such that I had a good relationship with them I was by then left to my own devices.

–Opus

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

 

 

IN THE LA SALLIAN TRADITION 3

I wanted to write a new post in response to further comments on my About page from St Joseph’s old boys Nick and NW1 – thanks guys, and great to hear from you both.  I have appended NW1’s comment at the bottom of this post, because I think his story is incredibly important and I think it’s proving valuable for all of us who survived a dark period in the school’s history. Hitherto, it was unacknowledged, and I’m sure is still denied. Actually, just ignored.  But the sheer number of witnesses coming forward and confirming what happened makes a provable case.

For some of us it will be a catharsis; the knowledge that we were not alone in what we experienced or witnessed. For others it will be a resource for confronting whoever should take responsibility for these crimes and, at the very least, acknowledge them. Whether that is the De La Salle Order, its inheritors who claim they are still “in the Lasallian Tradition”, or the Catholic Diocese, remains to be seen.

I’d imagine there would be a certain amount of buck-passing and “no comment”, based on what I’ve read so far. The idea that a supposedly moral organisation that claims to care for its followers cannot speak out, on the advice of lawyers or insurers, is shocking and shameful. This would mean the Church or its relevant branches is controlled by lawyers, insurers and bankers. A fine Christian example.  I have the impression that they think if they say nothing and keep their heads down, we will all just quietly go away.

I certainly won’t. My particular viewpoint is that I believe abuse was organised and endemic in my parish in the Catholic Church in the 1950s and 1960s and presumably it went much further afield. I believe it was a way of life and, worse, it had a sick belief system to justify it. I have some evidence already to back this up and the comment by NW1 about Brother Kevin also points in that direction.

For me, the one rotten apple in the barrel idea (or in the case of St J’s, it’s about 5 rotten apples so far and counting) simply does not stand up to scrutiny.  They want us to believe this was the case – it was just one or two bad guys, whereas the rest were exemplary. Not so. Even though, of course, there were decent teachers there who we may remember with respect and admiration.  But they weren’t that decent, because they looked the other way when everyone knew what was going on. Everyone. They knew, and it’s to their shame they said nothing.  I was a day boy, so my knowledge and experience was restricted, but we still knew much of what was going on.  In a sense, the crimes of Solomon/Mike Mercado are so outrageous they obscure some of the others. The account about Brother Kevin, for example.

So, do please add your voice if you feel it will be useful to you. It will certainly be useful to me.  I’d  love to hear more from you and I’m sure that applies to other old boys who read this site.

 

Comment from NW1 on 17 September.  Read all comments on my About page (most of which are St Joseph’s related) here.

Hi there. Have just stumbled across this blog, drawn to it by a Guardian story I read this morning about child abuse in a Suffolk school, which I initially thought referred to St Jo’s but I then realised was about another Catholic order.

Just a quick comment of my own regarding St Joseph’s, Birkfield, and also Oak Hill, the prep school just down the road. I was a pupil at both between 1967 and 1974, when I was expelled mid-way through the year. As I was mid-way through my lower sixth, they allowed me to complete my studies at St Peter’s, in Bournemouth.

Many of the Brothers’ names mentioned in other posts are familiar to me and other boys used to talk about them as “homos” at the time, but I have no proof of this.

In my case, I was sexually abused by Brother Kevin, a diminutive shit who was at OakHill when I started there before transferring to Birkfield later in that year. My abuse began while I was at the prep school. Kevin was in charge of the boarders and used to summon me, as well as other boys, to his bedroom after lights out.

After he moved to Birkfield, Kevin used to come down to Oak Hill on Sundays, seek me out and try to abuse me in the biology rooms. The abuse continued when I moved to Birkfield myself and during my first year there, during which time I was a boarder in one of the dormitories in the so-called 55 Wing. Kevin, whose room looked out on one of the dormitories, continued in a similar vein as before, summoning me and others to his room after lights out.

He was transferred to France at the end of that school year (1968) but returned to St Peter’s, where I re-encountered him after my expulsion from St Jo’s. Inexplicably, he was once again in charge of the junior boarders. By then, I was too old for him, so was left in peace. I have no doubt whatsoever that he continued to abuse kids there. Sickeningly, the young boarders’ section included kids who wee six or seven years old.

About 20 years ago, I reported my abuser to the police in London and he was briefly detained, made a partial admission and was released on bail pending further inquiries. The next time he was interviewed he showed up with a solicitor and denied everything. He was never charged.

Simultaneously, I sued the Order in 1996 and after six years they settled out of court in return for me signing a confidentiality agreement which I suppose I’m breaking today. The settlement just about paid for seven years of therapy. However, the Order refused to offer an apology because to do so would imply that they were culpable. Even today, 15 years later, that refusal to admit what happened and apologise for it – despite paying me compensation – makes me feel incredibly angry.

I remember I went up to Oxford in the mid-90s to confront the order at its “Mother House”: they didn’t seem remotely surprised that Kevin was in the frame as a sex abuser. I mentioned another brother, (AKA Squealer) who I was fairly certain had abused children, although I did not have 100% definitive proof. They effectively admitted he too had been an abuser and it was suggested to me that I should consider whether giving his name to the police would be worthwhile as he now had dementia. I did name him to police but nothing happened to him either.

While I was at St Peter’s, there was another Brother – Cyril – who was in charge of the middle year boarders (3rd and 4th year). He too was talked of as an abuser by some pupils, although I did not have any personal knowledge of this. Cyril became head teacher at another school in Southsea, was subsequently charged and cleared of sex abuse.

Three years ago I was contacted by police in Dorset who had received another complaint of abuse at the hands of Brother Kevin by a pupil at St Peter’s. Dorset police managed to track down my name and other details from the 90s and I went through the another set of interviews, filmed this time, and waited several months before the CPS decided not to go ahead with a prosecution, again. My evidence and that of the other person were not considered credible enough.

I’m aware of several other kids who were abused during my time there, also by Brother Kevin. I once met up with one of them many years later. He and another lad were abused a year or so before me and I still remember him telling me that when Kevin started on me he felt jealous a being supplanted by someone else. There was also talk about several other Brothers being abusers while I was at Birkfield, including Squealer, but I have no personal evidence of that. It does make me wonder whether they had their own little circles and agreed not to poach kids from each other.

Almost 50 years later, the abuse still affects me. My entire personality has been affected by the experience and I know I will never be free of what happened. But I’m glad others are talking about it publicly here and in one or two other corners of the Web. It’s about time the Order was forced to face up to what so many of its members were doing. It should make a public apology. I would also like to all the abusers brought to trial. I’d be happy to work with anyone here to make sure that happens.