Call for inquiry into former De La Salle school

An article in the Tablet 17th September with the headline as above. Here’s the link:

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/14518/call-for-inquiry-into-former-de-la-salle-school-

Good to see the story of St Joseph’s featured in a publication read by the Catholic community. And it’s encouraging to know that the Tablet was interested.

A few details I should comment on. I was the developer of Dredd, rather than its creator.  Brother Solomon – ‘The Swinging Monk’ – actually had a pop career as a pianist, not as a singer AFAIK.

And Brother Laurence Hughes is in his 70s.

The 90 year old referred to is another individual

IS IT STILL GOING ON?

In February 2017, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer wrote to a constituent concerning abuse in the town.

His comments included this: ‘I am aware that, according to a report in October last year, Ipswich has the unfortunate accolade as being the town with the largest number of sex offenders per resident, a total of 361, living in it…’

This is also born out by the Mirror https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/towns-uk-highest-levels-sex-9137993

Ipswich, Hull and Grimsby have the highest rates of sex offenders living in the area, as numbers in England and Wales continue to rise.

There are 361 registered sex offenders in Ipswich, a rate of 308.8 per 100,000 people aged 10 and over.

The information was only brought to my attention yesterday, but it came as absolutely no surprise to me.

Ipswich was, and seemingly still is, an infamous town where children are more at risk than elsewhere.

My recollections of Ipswich in the 1960s are that it was an absolute hive of secular and non-secular abuse.  I believe there was often an important overlap between the two which is also worthy of comment.

I’m sure proven De La Salle sexual abusers – like Brothers James, Solomon, and Kevin – didn’t care whether their young victims were Catholic or Protestant or Atheist. Whoever was the most vulnerable, available and would keep silent. It just happened to be Catholic children.

Although some predators normally hunt and eat zebras, and that’s their modus operandi, I’m sure they’re not averse to antelopes, too. It’s all just meat to them.

I mention this because it took me a while to realize, as I recalled my childhood experiences from fourteen to sixteen years old, that such Catholic and non-Catholic predators mixed freely and socially at parties with each other. Sharing their common interest in prey. Perhaps naively, I had previously thought that abuse was divided along strictly sectarian lines, just like everything else with religion.

This is why important Catholic laity, Catholic professionals, and Catholic lay teachers from that era are of particular interest to me. The De La Salles may have had their boarder victims already easily available ‘on tap’, and has no need to go hunting, but St Joseph’s lay teacher abusers – and there were some from that era  who I’m not going to name today –  had to look elsewhere for their prey.

In Ipswich.

The worst town in the whole of Britain for the sexual abuse of children.

Defining what this means in practise gets me into the territory of the Catholic laity and the Ipswich Knights of St Columba, already clearly identified as covering up abuse in my ‘The Shocking Truth’ post.

Consequently, I’ve asked Catholic Safeguarding to look into both organizations both on a local and a national level.

But the confirmation that my hometown is still the darkest town for abuse in Britain set me thinking about further implications.

Like most of us, I’ve always thought – perhaps with justification – that Catholic abuse, at least, died down around the millennium and there were significantly less Catholic abuse crimes afterwards. Statistically that’s probably true. But equally, children often keep traumatic experiences to themselves, block them out (as I did) and only acknowledge or recall them in mid-life (as I did). So it’s possible that ten years from now there could be a series of allegations that could change our perception. After all, we’re told that abuse is actually on the increase, presumably thanks to the internet.

But not where Catholic abusers are concerned? Really? Does that increase apply only to secular abusers now? Have the Catholic organizations really cleaned up their act? When and why did that happen? Especially given the intergenerational factor in organized abuse, provably passed on to the next generation. That’s another question I’ve asked Safeguarding.

We can’t simply take the word of the De La Salles that they’re the ‘good guys’ now. They forfeited that right with their crimes. That’s for others to judge now, not for them.  And don’t tell me about all the supposed good they and the Knights of St Columba do today. All the wonderful work for the poor, for charity etc. So did Jimmy Savile whom the Knights admired so much that they officiated at his funeral.

It’s children at risk today that rightly take priority over ‘historic’ crimes. I fear they may still be at risk today from Catholic organisations. The precise reasons why I fear this I have also brought to Safeguarding’s attention and will elaborate on it further with them.

I would assume, rightly or wrongly, that the usual targets today are not schools and boarding schools anymore (because of the terrible publicity about them) but children abused via the internet, family victims, runaways, children bred for purpose, trafficking, institutional victims and organizational victims.

As the Catholic Church plays a key role in the last two categories that concerns me.  

Personally, I’m bemused if parents who are aware of this blog and similar sources should want anything to do with them anymore. Why take a risk with your children? Whatever happened in the past doesn’t just go away with an unemotional, meaningless apology like Cardinal Nichols https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3rgeY8ZWTc.

To me, the De La Salles and other religious organizations with a history of sexual and physical abuse have to carry the shameful cross of their crimes for a long, long time to come

STATEMENT FROM THE CATHOLIC SAFEGUARDING STANDARDS AGENCY

I’ve received the statement below from Catholic Safeguarding which I see as a positive and encouraging step forward.

“The information contained within some posts is deeply troubling.  We urge all victims and survivors of Catholic Church related abuse to come forward so that we can offer support and ensure that individuals accused of abuse can be referred to the statutory authorities for investigation.  We will take all necessary steps to ensure that those coming forward are listened to and supported, and that regardless of action by statutory authorities, risks posed by people who currently have roles within the Church are addressed. 

Please contact me at the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) via Colette.limbrick@catholicsafeguarding.org.uk or refer directly to the Police so that the appropriate action can be taken”.

Colette Limbrick, CEO, Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA)

ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE, IPSWICH – LATEST MEDIA NEWS

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/education/ipswich-judge-dredd-author-on-st-josephs-college-8314362

Excellent report by the East Anglian Daily Times. I’m really pleased it’s out there because it raises awareness about the De La Salle connection, especially locally.

Finally the modern day St Jo’s have commented:

Current school bosses say they “acknowledge the gravity of the questions being raised” adding that at the college, they are “absolutely committed to the safeguarding and wellbeing of every student in our care”. 

“As a community, we have the greatest sympathy for anyone who has been a victim of abuse, wherever and whenever it has occurred,” a spokeswoman said. 

College chiefs said that due to a change of ownership in 1996, and with active police investigations ongoing into the historical claims, they are unable to comment further. 

They said the allegations relate to a period of time “prior to the current college structure”. 

It’s as I predicted.  What I take away from their response is ‘This is nothing to do with us.’ 

So why still associate yourself with a disgraced religious order which has had a disproportionate number of serious sexual and physical abusers in its ranks?

For examplehttps://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/monk-had-streak-of-evil-through-him-5qb5wc2kz

A religious brother accused of abusing a child by attaching wires to his genitals and connecting them to a battery had “a streak of evil” running through him, a court has been told.

Brother Benedict, a member of the De La Salle order, is accused of using indecent behaviour towards a former pupil at St Ninian’s List D School at the Gartmore Estate, Stirlingshire, between 1966 and 1968.

The former pupil, now aged 66, told the High Court in Edinburgh that it made him feel numb but Brother Benedict “just sat laughing, enjoying himself”. He said he did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time.

This case above is CURRENTLY before the courts. The chances of this happening in a state school are very remote. Yet acts of sexual violence against children were commonplace in the DLS schools.  Way, way above any kind of  ‘national average’.

In short, the UK De La Salles uniquely attracted a disproportionate number of violent, evil sexual abusers nationwide, including at St Joseph’s College, Ipswich: Brother Solomon, Brother James and more.  ‘Why?’ is a question that I want an answer to. It doesn’t just happen by coincidence. There is some grapevine, some organisation, some ring that made it possible. And WHEN did it stop?

Turning to the modern St Jo’s, my guess is they HAVE to say ‘In the La Sallian Tradition’ because they are still financially connected to the DLS in some way. That it was part of some deal they made that seemed beneficial to them at the time. Certainly they are still listed as an official La Sallian school and that means SOMETHING. It would take a financial detective/accountant to unravel because it will be concealed in ways above my pay grade to understand. But that’s my gut feeling.

The DLS connection is no longer good publicity for the school and it’s going to get worse. So if I was a Suit, I’d have dumped the ‘La Sallian Tradition’ by now, so I really think they must be stuck with it.

Or it could be that the Suits –school governors, lawyers and insurers – are not up to speed yet on just how serious this matter is. Or there is some personal  connection or misguided loyalty between the governors and the DLS that over-rides their common sense.  So they still want to talk about the school’s La Sallian achievements of the past, but not the school’s La Sallian crimes except in the most remote, cold and guarded manner as above which – as a survivor – I really don’t care for. I imagine other survivors feel the same way.  

You’d imagine a Suit would factor in negative publicity and make a decision for the good of the school to acknowledge and disengage from its criminal past.  They surely know they cannot be held financially responsible for the past, so there’s no downside to cutting the connection whilst responding to survivors who shared a common heritage.

We would all be impressed by a new policy of genuine Christianity, genuine compassion for others, and genuine separation from the DLS.

The alternative is to be shamed alongside the De La Salles as the truth continues to come out.  

Perhaps it’s on their agenda to consider. I hope so.

FOUNDED ON FEAR

Peter Mulholland’s post BELOW about the tragic story of Peter Tyrrell who was a victim of the Christian Brothers who I know are different to the De La Salles, but have much in common.

I witnessed extreme violence at St Joseph’s, Ipswich, and also at my primary school St Mary’s, Ipswich, where an eleven year old boy was caned across the face by a lay teacher, Mr Crowley (the deputy headmaster).

I’m hoping Peter Mulholland’s book (Love’s Betrayal) may shed some light on why Catholic teachers were so vile. It predates the war, so it’s not PTSD. Is it sexual repression? Their frustration with a religion that represses natural feelings? Ancestral karma (epigenetics) or the legacy of harsh colonialism? A belief in a vengeful Old Testament God?

Or do these orders like the De La Salles and the Christian Brothers attract a disproportionate number of perverts and sadists and always have. The powerless who want to feel powerful at children’s expense.

That’s my own theory and – in my view – they should be disbanded as organizations with a strong criminal past and possible present, with some modern evidence to bear this out. (An academic study of transgenerational abuse)

I know everyone remembers some great Brothers who are above suspicion. Me, too. The one or two good apples on the whole rotten tree. But their legacy is too dark, too evil, their current silence and obfuscation too strong, their international activities too confirming, to take a chance when children’s lives are at stake. Better not to let them near children anymore.

Anyway, here’s Peter Mulholland:

  Senator Sheehy Skeffington’s thinking was now being informed by letters from Peter Tyrrell, an ex-inmate of a Christian Brother industrial school near Letterfrack.   Tyrrell wrote to Skeffington on 22 July 1958, telling the Senator that he had been detained in Letterfrack from 1924 to 1932, because of family poverty, and that he had ‘witnessed and suffered torture and severe beatings’ at the hands of the Christian Brothers who ran that institution.     He said the beatings were ‘not for committing any offence against the school rules, but were normal routine’. Skeffington urged Tyrrell to write a detailed account of his time in the industrial school and that account was published posthumously four decades after Tyrrell’s burned body was found on London’s Hampstead Heath. He is believed to have committed suicide by setting himself on fire.   In a piece that the editor of Tyrrell’s manuscript, Diarmuid Whelan, used as a foreword to the book, Tyrrell said he had started writing to the Christian Brothers in 1953 and then to government Ministers and Church authorities but had not received a single reply to letters describing the ‘criminal brutality, which in many cases reaches a degree of torture’.   Describing education and training in Catholic schools as being ‘founded on fear, the fear of corporal punishment, and the fear of hell’, he warned ‘society against the child who has been hurt’ (Whelan 2006: xxix, xxxv, 1, 172–4). https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3ik9ffv6dZ4C

PHYSICAL ABUSE IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

I’m indebted to author Peter Mulholland for telling me about his analysis of physical abuse which – if my witnessing is anything to go by – seems have been especially prevalent in Catholic schools.

https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/61592

The title of his book is below and makes me feel quite emotional.

Love’s Betrayal

The Decline of Catholicism and Rise of New Religions in Ireland

First, a couple of general points.

There is an attitude that corporal punishment didn’t do children any harm and they deserved it. That’s noticeably lacking from accounts on this site.  My theory is this is because so much violence went unrecorded and was so clearly out of control.  And because it was often linked to far worse matters as past testimonies show.  Notably testimonies against Brother James and Brother Solomon where their abuse was linked to sexual abuse.

One noticeable exception is Old Boy ‘Anonymous’ (see a past post)  who recently wrote to tell me that certain pupils he knew well and clearly identified were delinquent or mentally unsound and thus provoked (!!) a teacher who wasn’t aware of a particular boy’s possible special needs. But in any event they all thoroughly deserved a thrashing.  For obvious reasons I haven’t published Anon’s detailed critique, which I found quite upsetting, but I do think it is noteworthy as showing an alternative point of view to the one most of us will hold.

I used to try laughing the violence off at the time. It was always featured in comics and in the tv series Whacko! It made it all seem normal, although I always preferred St Trinian’s cartoons where the delinquent pupils hit back against authority. I even tried writing about the violence in fictional form in my stories.

But witnessing the truly vile and criminal physical abuse by Brother James left a lasting impression on me.  Perhaps more so than being on the receiving end of it. So I wrote about it in my autobiography ‘Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!’, the Secret History of 2000AD and Judge Dredd.

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

James wore a long black robe, Himmler-style, steel-rimmed spectacles, and had aesthetic, angular features. He was as menacing as Brother Solomon, from whom he took over as Prefect of Discipline.

One day he entered my classroom to find a thirteen year old boy talking. A great kid with a surly punk attitude to life that reminds me of Mike McMahon. James seethed with anger and sucked air through his clenched Clint Eastwood teeth as he sent another boy to fetch a size ten plimsoll from the cloak room. I would later directly draw on this incident for the fury of the scene in The Cursed Earth when Dredd razes the town of Repentance (!!) to the ground.

Then, in full view of the rest of us, James went to work on his victim, who was the younger brother of our English teacher and the son of the school doctor. So no favouritism there. All are equal in the eyes of the Law.

He raised the slipper high above his head and took a spin-bowler’s long run-up towards his bent-over victim, whom he had carefully positioned at the far end of the raised wooden dais. His shoes thundered noisily across the bare floorboards, his black robes flapped wildly around him, before he administered a savage blow to the boy’s posterior, raising a cloud of dust at the point of impact. Returning to his starting point, he took several more high-speed, bowler’s run-ups to his victim, thrashing him without mercy, before the poor kid collapsed in a heap on the ground, whereupon—as we watched, quaking in fear—he stood over him and rained more ferocious blows onto his crouched and cringing, sobbing form.

In correspondence with this old classmate, he has confirmed my account and revealed his defiant, punk attitude eventually led to his expulsion. That doesn’t surprise me. Neither Brother James nor Judge Dredd would tolerate defiant punks.

We should have gone to our classmate’s defence, and I still feel bad that we didn’t. The Brothers relied on terror tactics to control us, and how often do the citizens of Mega-City rise up against the Judges and give them what they also richly deserve? The Brothers and the Judges are the Law.

…………………….

A lifetime later, I guess that’s what I’m doing with this blog:  going to my classmates’ defence, as well, of course, as dealing with my own experiences. Better late than never. The De La Salles thought they got away with their crimes because they had crushed our spirits and I aim to prove them wrong.

I’m aware of a limited investigation of DLS school St Williams but NOT sufficient. The laity abusers got away with it!

Thus far.

Similarly DLS approved school St Gilberts.  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-30931421 Some (boys) were beaten and raped by brothers from the De La Salle order, which ran the institute under the direction of the Home Office.

I’ve been communicating with a survivor who says he has been fobbed off.

And so on. The list is endless.

All these matters relating to the De La Salles clearly require further investigation.

As I’ve said to Catholic Safeguarding, the WHOLE DLS order MUST be investigated.

…………………..

Peter Mulholland wrote to tell me about his research for his book.  He relates how an Irishman burnt himself to death in response to abuse.

He says:

I had similar experiences in a Christian Brother’s school in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. And, like yourself, I felt that nobody wanted to know.

So, having very happily failed O-Levels, I escaped the Brothers at the age of 16.

Decades later I went back to school and then to university in England. & Couple of years ago I wrote an academic book in which I traced the history of the 1950s-80s campaign against corporal punishment in Irish schools. Much of the rest of the book is about the origins and effects of that abusive system. Some open access reviews here: https://doi.org/10.3167/ajec.2020.290211

and here: https://doi.org/10.30664/ar.84859

PS – when researching I found a book by/about an Irishman who suffered even worse abuse and burned himself to death on Hampstead Heath. There were some who wanted to know – and many who didn’t want anyone to hear them.

MEDIA UPDATE ON THE DE LA SALLES

Thanks to an Old Boy for bringing this Tablet article to my attention

Here is the link to the story which is about 2/3 of the way down the page. Dated 30th August 2021.

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/14434/news-briefing-britain-and-ireland

Brother Laurence Hughes FSC has stepped down as head of the De La Salle Brothers, a teaching congregation, after an allegation of abuse.  A spokesman said: “The De La Salle Brothers are aware of an allegation of non-recent physical abuse involving Brother Laurence Hughes. This allegation has been reported to the police and is being dealt with in accordance with the safeguarding procedures of the Catholic Church. An independent investigation into the allegation is being carried out. As required by these procedures, Brother Laurence has stepped down from all appointments and responsibilities.” A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “We are aware of non-recent sexual abuse allegations following a third party referral made. Following enquiries, a 90-year-old male was arrested in June this year in connection with this. However, due to insufficient evidence and the suspect’s failing health the investigation is unlikely to proceed any further. A second suspect related to the non-recent same offences has deceased.”

Also:

The East Anglian Daily Times are running a relevant article this week. Possibly tomorrow Wednesday or Thursday.

ST JOSEPH’S – SUNDAY TIMES ARTICLE

Article about De La Salle Brothers, St Jo’s etc, in today’s Sunday Times.

https://tinyurl.com/46f92hab

I had to subscribe to read it, so if you don’t want to, below is the text only version of the article.

It all seems pretty accurate apart from Dredd. As I endlessly say, I was the developer of Judge Dredd, not the creator. I think the distinction is often lost on journalists. Otherwise it’s fine.

I haven’t included the readers’ responses which are a predictable mix of agreeing with the article, or defending the Church.

ARTICLE:

Abusive monks were my model for Judge Dredd

The creator of the violent comic-book lawman drew dark inspiration from his Catholic upbringing. Now he too is seeking justice

For more than 40 years a rampaging, ultra-violent lawman called Judge Dredd has stalked the pages of British comics, as well as featuring in films, novels and video games. A television series is even in the pipeline.
Yet behind the blood-spattered fiction of a ruthless enforcer lies a very different story: that of a vulnerable schoolboy who has never forgotten the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of the Roman Catholic monks who ran his school.
The man whose childhood misery inspired him to create the Judge Dredd character is now fighting for a public reckoning of his own.
As a boy, Pat Mills, a writer and publisher often described as the “godfather of British comics”, attended St Joseph’s, a private school in Ipswich that at the time was run by monks from the De La Salle order.
“Judge Dredd causes fear and terror, and those were the feelings we had around the De La Salle brothers,” Mills, 72, said last week. “Dredd was a composite bogeyman of all my recollections of fear of my teachers.”
Mills has spent years accumulating evidence from fellow former pupils who claim to have suffered sexual or physical abuse at St Joseph’s. A group of old boys is now calling for an inquiry into the way the school was run and the manner in which children were mistreated from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Appeals to Catholic authorities to take action have already resulted in the suspension of Brother Laurence Hughes, a former St Joseph’s teacher who currently heads the De La Salle order.
The Rev Des Bill, chairman of the Catholic Church’s Safeguarding Commission for Orders in Education (SCOE), said Hughes had been suspended pending an independent investigation “to ensure recommendations and actions taken are objective and not influenced by any person within SCOE or the De La Salle congregation”. The matter has also been reported to the police.
Mills says he was sexually abused by priests and witnessed the physical abuse of other boys. He believes he was targeted as the child of a poor widow whose fees were waived because he had agreed that he had a vocation to the priesthood.
“I don’t know if I really did … but they knew my life was difficult and I didn’t have a father figure,” he said. “It is easier to admit to yourself physical abuse, but sexual abuse is more intimate. I blocked that out until my forties, and then the memories came flooding back.”
He began recording his experiences on a blog eight years ago. Other former pupils have added their own stories.
Among the accusations levelled against teachers were of boys being lashed with cat-o’-nine-tails and hit repeatedly with other objects. Some of the most serious sexual charges were levelled against one teacher, Brother James Ryan, who is now dead.
Ryan was “renowned for his savagery”, said Mills. “I would draw on his anger — particularly for Judge Dredd.” When the judge set off to punish the fictional town of Repentance in one of Mills’s stories, he said, “Brother James was very inspiring.”
Mills also claims to have been abused by the school’s chaplain, the late Father William Jolly. Another monk allegedly involved in the abuse was the late Brother Solomon, who left to start a short-lived singing career as “the swinging monk”.
Founded in France in 1680, the De La Salle order has four communities in Britain, where it owned several voluntary-aided schools. Accounts submitted to the Charity Commission show that the order set aside £7.7 million in 2015 to settle a case of alleged abuse of pupils at the St William’s Institute, Middlesbrough, between 1958 and 1992.
The abolition of time limits on childhood abuse cases in Scotland has also left the order facing 60 claims, five of which have been settled at a cost of £762,000.
The order is no longer involved with St Joseph’s, which counts the musician Brian Eno and the Labour MPs Chris Mullin and John McDonnell among its former pupils.

BROTHER ELWIN GERARD AND BROTHER IVES

More thoughts on Brother Elwin from an Old Boy:

I too (and presumably lots of others) had the pleasure of the “little chat” with Bro. Elwin Gerard (or Decky, as we used to call him). It was a squirmy affair. The irony of a supposedly celibate religious giving us advice on sex was not lost on this cowboy. As ridiculous as the chat may have been, I don’t think it ranks anywhere on the abuse spectrum. Odd, bizarre, even inappropriate, yes, but not abuse. Ives on the other hand was a grim piece of work and any manoeuvre that got us out from under his sway was a good move. The only person more miserable than those of us under Ives was Ives himself; a casualty of war, Irish religious bollox, the perversion known as religious vows, and his own inadequate personality. I have often wondered if our parents, having relinquished their responsibilities as child rearers to a gang of simple-minded religious black-robes, ever doubted the wisdom of their abandonment of us at (in my case) the age of seven. Funny thing: my father never ever broached the subject of sex with his children. Do you suppose he put Decky up to it?

SAFE SPACES

Many thanks to a St Jo’s Old Boy for suggesting the link below to Safe Spaces.

I really should have known about this site, but am embarrassed to say I didn’t.

I’m talking to Catholic Safeguarding tomorrow and they may suggest Safe Spaces could look at some of the matters on this blog. We’ll see.

www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk

From their site:

How can we help?

Remote support is provided nationally through our helpline and Live Chat for as long as our clients feel they need it and it is deemed to be helpful.

We can help with advocating with authorities and other agencies, giving you emotional support, providing information (including information on church and police procedures), understanding your needs and working together on individual support plans.  If face-to-face support is wanted local to where you live, we will try to make contact with appropriate agencies depending on need.

Safe Spaces comprises a team of trained support advocates who have also undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence. The team have received additional specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse, and the particular issues affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church.