St Joseph’s and the Knights of St Columba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided it was never, ever going to happen. 

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

I reported the Knights to the police. 

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

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

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

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

Until now.

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

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

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

The ‘prodigal son’ was not so lucky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now comes the corroboration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I don’t think it’s beyond reason to assume there was /still is a co-ordinated effort to keep all this stuff buried in the past. However, having buried my own experiences there without even realising for far too long, I’m convinced now this was not simply “the culture at that time” but that DLS were part of a self-perpetuating system of perversion (unless, like many survivors, we chose not to sign up) that extended to and attracted lay teaching staff with an unhealthy interest in kids. I could name two.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you. I appreciate the warning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where do I go from here? Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s it. I’m done.

I’ll leave them to their manure.

THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT ST JOSEPH’S (MY OLD SCHOOL)

I had to pour myself a whisky after reading this survivor’s account. It’s strong stuff. Thank you so much to the survivor – who has asked to remain anonymous – for sharing. I’m going to respond in detail in the coming week or so.

Meantime, this is the most damning indictment yet on St Joseph’s College, Ipswich. It raises issues, not just confirming various sexual abuses among the teachers, but also criminal conspiracy. This is something I’ve always been aware of, but been reluctant to talk about, as other survivors at other schools have not covered this subject. It therefore makes the case for St Joseph’s being the first school where survivors have described criminal conspiracy. My own experience bears this out.

There will be much more to come from me in response to this testimony in the weeks to come.

I invite other survivors to share their experiences too. Only in this way can the true infamy of St Joseph’s College and its De La Salle Brothers finally be exposed to the healing light of truth.

Dear Pat,

You either must know me personally or certainly know of my exploits. I hung my girlfriends knickers on the newly completed chapel in 1967 just to piss off Brother Elwin because that chapel was his pride and joy and crowning achievement and he was such a pompous evil conceited man I wanted to do something to hit him where it hurt the most – his stupid pride. No one said much at the time but I am so glad to learn some many years later it is remembered by a few.

First Observation is many people seem to have only vague memories of St Josephs and lack a lot of detail – I do not – I have an excellent memory of everything that happened to me.

In September 1964 I just was 14 years and 2 months old and there was some confusion if I should be put in the 3rd Form or 2nd Form. Eventually I ended up in 2nd Form and had to change dormitories to the new block attached to the main building.
My first canning was to be performed by Brother Bernard when I dropped my trousers and he saw my backside covered in scars new and old he just told me to pull them back off again and learn to behave. That’s why I was at St Joseph’s in the first place because I had a very abusive father and some senior members of the Catholic Church had arranged a scholarship for me. Knights of St Columba sound familiar.

It would have been May 1965 just after half term my math teacher Brother James the one with the awful broad Irish Accent told me to stand outside the door of the classroom (I cant remember what I had done) and I should only come back in when the class finished. On returning to the classroom I was told I had to report in my gym kit to the gym at 1200 noon on Saturday. That was a real bummer because Saturday was when we were allowed to go into Ipswich for the afternoon.

I duly arrived at the gym expecting to have to do some push-ups or run around the track four or five times. Bra James turned-up right on time unlocked the gym told me to get inside then he followed in and locked the door.
He walked me over to the stage and told me to drop my shorts and put my head and hands on the stage. He then took a dozen steps back and ran at me with his cane – whack. He expected some sort of reaction but I just waited for the next one, as I said my own father was a very violent man and I was well used to a beating or two. The next one was from maybe 12 paces away he ran up I braced myself but nothing happened. I turned around and he went ballistic and shouted if I dare turn around again that would be another 6. Naturally I said I’m very sorry Bra it won’t happen again. He ran up again and again nothing happened but I did not turn round and then I got one hell of a blow from a stationary position.

That hurt like hell but I did not make a sound. I was well use to my fathers stupid antics trying to psych me out keeping me guessing when the next blow was coming. Bother James was huffing and puffing, I just assumed he was out of breath from running up and down the gym. I waited for the next blow it seemed to take forever then it came he got a slight noise out of me for that. He was breathing even more heavily but he had not taken a run at me this time. The next blow seemed to take even longer than before – I vividly remember thinking good perhaps the old bugger is having a heart attack or something then it came this time across the back of my legs he got a good yell out of me for that one.

Eventually having had my 6 of the best I turned around and pulled up my shorts in one quick movement only to see him madly playing with himself under his robes, his eyes were almost closed but I must have made a noise turning around and when he realized I could see what he was doing he went completely insane and I mean absolutely and utterly uncontrollable insane. He shouted and screamed at me to turn around again – I was having none of it and stupidly said I was going to report him to the headmaster (Brother Elwin). He came at me and I dodged him easily after all I was the best and fastest fly three quarter the school had ever had. I got to the double doors of the gym only to find them locked. He followed walking slowly. I turned around and I just couldn’t help myself laughing because he had his left had stuck in his robe or pocket and his dick was hanging out the center of it. He turned around and fumbled to get his hand out eventually having to put his cane down to get the other hand free and put his dick away. He was frothing and had a very weird twisted grin on his face and said “did you not forget the door was locked”. I dropped my head slightly and said I wont say anything just open the door please and let me go.

I certainly was not expecting what came next he hit me very hard indeed across my left ear and left temple with his cane. I put my left hand over my ear it was bleeding very badly. The second blow was across the back of my left hand that was protecting my ear by then and third and fourth blows across both my upper and lower left arm. I put my right foot against the glass of the doors and drove straight at him knocking him to the floor. As he tried to get up I kicked twice between the legs. He stopped breathing (as you do) and dropped his cane and put both hands over his balls. I grabbed the cane and hit him as hard as I could mostly on his upper arm and upper legs screaming at him give me the bloody key.

My adrenaline was up and after two or three more blows he said stop, stop, here take the key. He got it out of his right hand pocket and threw it on the floor. I grabbed it opened the door and locked it from the outside. My white gym vest was covered in blood all down the left hand side and I made my way over the lawn to the main building. There was hardly anyone about because the boarders were allowed to go downtown on Saturday afternoons.

I went through the main entrance and climbed the wooden staircase up to Brother Elwins Office, which was immediately above the main entrance. I did not knock I was in no mood to be polite. There was no one in his office but the door to his bedroom was ajar. I heard a kids voice saying “there is someone in the your office”
I just flung the door open and there was Brother Elwin naked on his bed with a naked kid of only about 12 sitting on his stomach.

We just stared at each other for 30 seconds. I turned around and went down the block to the showers and Laundry room. I grabbed a tee shirt from one of the lockers went to the hand basins that were just in front of the showers because they had mirrors and I wanted to see how bad I was hurt. That was a terrible mistake. I spent too long looking at the huge bleeding welt across my face and trying to clean up the blood. I grabbed another t-shirt from someones locker and held it over my ear. I knew I had to get outside the college and call the Police or and Ambulance. I went out the back entrance of the showers down the steel stairs and was walking across the rugby pitch to get to the small gate that lead to the Chantry Estate where I was sure I would get help. I was almost there when Brother Hugh rugby tackled me and brought me to the ground. He was a big man and very fit and he had completely knocked all of the wind out of me and easily picked me up and carried me back to the main building.

He carried me into the sickbay and then into a single bed isolation room at the back of the sickbay. He told me he was going to the infirmary to get something to bandages my ear. He locked the door as he left. Brother Elwin arrived in the sickbay and shouted why is the door locked, meanwhile Brother James had arrived, (I found out later there was a fire door near the stage that you could just push open from the inside) and I am sure Brothers Leo was there and one more I not sure who it was.

Brother James was screaming at the top of his voice for Brother Hugh to give him the key to the isolation room. There was a huge slapping sound and Brother James suddenly stopped shouting. Brother Elwin was next to rock off shouting “You bloody idiot haven’t you done enough already”. He then asked how bad is it?that bastard has left blood all over my office and all down the hallway.

Brother Hugh said everyone should take the conversation elsewhere and I will try to patch him up. The other left with Brother Elwin for his office I guess but I don’t know for sure. Brother Hugh unlocked the door and began with the small talk like “I guess your good looks have gone forever now still you’ll have quite a scar to impress the girls with.” He then said this is going to hurt a bit and put something on my face to clean it – damn right it hurt it must have been surgical spirit or something it burned like hell, he then put gauge and some bandages. He said I will have to give you a tetanus shot but I protested I already had one that year either way he took a syringe and a little glass bottle and put quite a lot of this water like liquid in the syringe and jabbed in in my backside. It burnt like hell and I passed out – it was anesthetic.

I don’t know how long I was out but various people came and went saying can you hear me – wake up. I just ignored them and tried to sleep.
Eventually I heard a woman’s voice speaking very softly and calling my name I opened my eyes it was Mrs Bacon the school nurse. I begged her don’t let any of those bastards come near me – she promised she wouldn’t and I was sure I was safe while she was there.

A man in a suit turned up sometime later and I asked if he was the Police he said he was a Doctor. He took the bandages off but the gauge had stuck to my face. He tried to be gentle but I screamed so badly he said he would give me something for the pain. When I came round I don’t know where I was but it was not in the school anymore that I was sure of. I was in a large comfortable bed with my wrists tied to the Iron bedhead with bandages. I waited and waited eventually a nurse came in and I asked why are my wrists tied up. She explained I had an operation and it was very important that I stay lying on my back and my wrists were tied to stop me trying to scratch my face in my sleep.

The same Doctor came back sometime later and said he was very pleased with the operation and assured me I would only have a slight hairline scar. I asked where I was he said a Private Hospital and I was safe now. Later I had to go to the toilet and the Nurse gave me a piss bottle I just said not that one the other one. I had to promise to behave myself and not pull at the bandages. In the toilet I could not resist to look in the mirror. The left hand side of my head had been shaved and I was wearing some sort of white netting over my head. A couple of days went by and I was asked if I was well enough to see a Priest. I said I didn’t feel up to it but Father Jolly just seemed to barge his way into the room and greet me like a lifelong friend. I did not want to speak to that man so when he asked me by my name how I was feeling I had a brilliant idea I said “what did you call me, is that my name who are you.” I started shouting Nurse Nurse – I do not know this man please ask him to leave. He kept insisting I knew him very well and kept asking if I remembered how I got here. I told him I could not remember him or anything else and I wanted him to leave.

The Nurse came back and was very professional indeed and told Father Jolly he must leave because he was upsetting me and she would not take no for an answer. He waited outside the door to my room and asked the Nurse what is going on with that boy quick as a flash she said someone had given him a massive overdose of anesthetic and he is lucky to be alive. Father Jolly said surely he will recover his memory in time she said there was not much hope less than a 10% chance I’m afraid he was left too long before he got proper treatment. Father Jolly left after that.

The Nurse came back in the room and gave me a huge smile and said that sorted him out. I asked her why she had lied and helped me – she smiled and said I went to a Convent boarding school and I recognize his kind a mile off and besides I have seen all the welts on your hands arms and back and I’m pretty sure I know how you got them. I must keep you safe until you recover. Later she let slip I was not the first boy she had treated with cane and whip marks when the beating had gone too far.

I recovered pretty quickly but by then it was the school summer holidays and I was very keen to get out of hospital. I was told I was not allowed outside the hospital without my nurse imagine my surprise when I found out I was in London. My Nurse promised me things are going to change for the better and I must stay calm and in the Hospital and not make a fuss. She said she was quite sure some men would eventually come with a fantastic offer to make sure I could get a good education in another school in a really really nice place as long as I played the game and stayed calm.

I asked her why was she so certain she gave me that enormous smile of hers and said how do you think I became a nurse and went to Nursing School without ever passing a single entrance exam. Well I cannot tell you the details of the deal I got but I was most insistent on one thing I was not going to be expelled from St Josephs. They agreed to everything but insisted I must never return to St Joseph’s again, guess who won the argument but with a lot of conditions attached.

Yes I returned to St Joseph’s for 3 more years, I got a fantastic education. I had special tutors to help me with some subject normally first year sixth boys (part of my deal) and Mr Sumner helped me ace my math exam. I got £1 pocket money every week (a great rise from half a crown) and I even got the Chemistry and the History prize. I’d love to say I was a model student but that would be too much, I put my girlfriends knickers on top of the cross of the new chapel late at night before the official opening and no sixth former could be convinced to go up and get them down. I was amazed that they eventually had to hire a crane and a basket to get them down.

How did I do – pure math and logic. I ran a rope around the pyramid (As I called it) got the two ends of the rope together and just gently pulled them back and forth until I worked it to the base of the cross. A bowline under my armpits and pulled myself up with the other end of the rope. The cross was more difficult. I had to throw a smaller rope over one arm of the cross then the other arm and hoist myself up. Having got the knickers secure I nearly came a cropper coming down the cross when the smaller rope broke fortunately I had the sense to tie one end of the main rope around the base of the cross It was a very long way to the bottom fortunately the rope stopped me about half way. I managed to hang on and get back up to the base of the cross untie the end and lower myself back down.
It was worth it – it was so so wonderfully worth it.

When no-one seemed to notice the next day I said to one of the third former’s “you have good eyes what’s that hanging from the cross?” He had such an hysterical laugh that everyone had to find out what he was laughing about on such a solemn occasion. He could only point to the cross because he could not speak once he started laughing – Yes young master Wallin many thanks for your help that day otherwise all my efforts may have gone unnoticed and suspicion could have easily fallen on me. Part of my deal was that I would never give anyone any trouble or talk to the other boys about what had happened.

I fought back in my own way. I returned and made those bastards squirm every-time I pasted them and cheerfully said “Good Morning Bra”. However I had one great advantage over those poor innocent boys who suffered so much. I had already been violently abused by my own father at home. I was used to cruelty and especially of showing no fear even when I was very afraid – that is what made them avoid me. The other boys had left a loving caring safe environment to go to what they thought was a cross between school and a holiday camp. They were innocent and naive in the extreme. After they were abused they were made to feel worthless and ashamed of themselves and that if it was their fault, it was never their fault and the suffering did not stop when they left St Josephs.

The worst of all abuses to those poor boys that they themselves most probably did not know about is if ever they went to Confession and in the they told Father Jolly that they had done something terribly wrong (anything about the abuse they had suffered) he reported them back to Brother Elwin. He sat in the confessional without a light on with just a mess screen. The other side has a small light – he could see the boys faces but they could not see his. He was a pervert of the worst kind constantly prompting the boys that they must tell him everything all the sordid details how may times they had masturbated otherwise he could not give them absolution.

I am nearly 70 years old now and I still have flashbacks of my early life some very pleasant some I would like to forget forever but just can not when the bad flashbacks start dwelling on my mind I snap out of it and say “Right back in the real world time for a drink I think”

To the survivors I would say NEVER EVER blame yourselves for what happened to you. Never ever feel ashamed because you were innocent of any wrongdoing and there was nothing you could have done back then when you were just a helpless little kid. Even grown men struggle to fight back.

The people that should have looked after you failed miserably they are the ones who should be ashamed of themselves I mean all the adults who knew and the Authorities both civil and religious. You cannot fight a 2000 year old organised religion especially when you don’t know who they are or how many they are. Often the people you turn to for help are the same type of people that are abusing you and will go to great lengths to protect your abuser or what is even worse they consider that you will damage their faith or their Church in some way by your accusations even if they are true. If fact they would insist for the good of the Church you must stay silent and God will punish the guilty ones in time.

The Catholic Church is like a brick wall. You can bang your head on it for as long as you want. Your head will break and the wall still stands. If you take a compass point and keep rubbing it back and forth along the mortar line eventually the mortar will give way and you can remove a brick or two but it takes a very long time.

Anyone who reads this and was there 1964 -68 will know who I am No need to put my name is there.

Pat give me a heads-up if you remember me.

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.

Magnum Opus

Thanks for the latest, Opus.

You have such great and detailed memories, I hope you won’t mind me putting them in their own blog post. I believe in full transparency, something I was personally denied as a kid by the Catholic system. So fire away without risk of censorship.

Everyone’s experience is different and, just as I have no doubt your recollections are true, I think you might assume that the recollections of others, including myself, are also true. Many of us haven’t met since school days yet our recollections dovetail with each other. And what would we possibly gain by lying or exaggerating? You only have to look at the number of De La Salle Brothers who have faced the courts for abuse to see it’s most unlikely we are fantasising or guilty of misandry. Brothers like Solomon (who you’d have missed) were so notorious there are endless accounts of him as an abuser, including when he returned as a lay teacher after your time. Thanks to Solomon I have a deep love of classical music, but – as a day boy – I luckily escaped his predations.

Like you, I have positive memories of Brother James as a maths teacher. I was so thick where maths were concerned, but he knew how to get through to dense kids like me. I admired his zeal, too, as you describe below. I think I saw him as a kind of role model, even a father figure. But there was another darker side to him, not just his well-known psychotic anger. This darker side also needs recording – particularly for those of us who experienced it.

So many survivors suppress their truth and could be discouraged to come forward by scepticism such as in your posts. I hope not. Only by acknowledging the truth does it set us free.

I notice from your previous post and this one that you’re personally very critical of Brother Elwin. I wish i could remember him better – rimless square glasses, looked like an intellectual, rather aloof? It feels like you were personally ‘burned’ by him, just as other old boys were burned by other brothers.

Because nothing awful happened to you or people you knew, doesn’t mean it couldn’t possibly happen to others. Predators often go for kids who are vulnerable in some way. That may be why you escaped and others didn’t.

I think this site and others like it are a valuable catharsis for survivors. I know this to be true from their responses to me in private e-mails. Most of the brothers are now dead or infirm, but the terrible damage they caused lives on in the survivors and this site provides a useful outlet for our anger, pain and grief.

Judging by recent private correspondence with old boys, I suspect there is much worse to come from other survivors.

At school many of us were forced to keep our mouths shut about what was really going, I certainly was. This site is a way for us all to speak out to ensure the DLS Brothers’ past crimes are well known.

However, I realise there’s also a positive and human side to many of them who, like you, I admired and this is worth noting too. So do please carry on with your critique.

–Pat Mills

The proprietor of this blog having kindly published my above and not altogether in agreement with the tenor of this blog comment and I having had the opportunity to re-read the various comments on this and other threads thought that I might trusting not to try his patience too much make a few further comments which I trust might be of general interest:

1. My own late little brother who left some lengthy autobiographical writings and who attended both Oak Hill and Birkfield as a border does not once mention violence or sexual behaviour by the monks although when as a nine-year-old he broke his collar bone whilst skating during the long winter of ’63 and doing so where he was not supposed to skate he was in mortal fear of their anger: For twenty four hours yet in great pain he failed to seek medical help for his injury and his injury only came to light when some other boy went to the monks. My parents should have sued the order in Tort for negligence but they came from a generation where any person in a position of authority was seen as beyond criticism. My brother does write that once in an Ipswich cinema a stranger (male) attempted to touch him-up. I am certain that had my brother been aware of inappropriate monk behaviour he would have written of it.

2. I refer to Brother Kevin who first taught me some French (the language, I mean). Once aged eleven or twelve I managed to overturn a desk on to my right foot exacerbating a previous injury to my middle toe. I am not sure why i did not attend sick-bay but he assisted me in his room in the 55 wing (which I do not recall as having any visual access to the dormitories – it being across the corridor). He having patched my foot and far from cross with me as he might have been for my foolishness lent me his right bedroom slipper, my own right shoe now being too small given the bandaging to my foot. He asked that I return the slipper in due course. I never did yet I do not know why i did not do so.

3. In the Sixth form I sat next to a boy whom I will not name but with whom I became friends and who joined the school following his expulsion from another local school. He did not and would not give the reason for the expulsion. We all of course assumed what that reason must have been. Is this not to the credit of the La Salles?

4. The school was very violent, yet most violence was boy on boy and it was other boys – bigger, older – that terrified me (as an eleven year old) far more than the monks. Whether it was any different from other schools I cannot say.

5. In my year there were two boys loathed and detested by the remainder of us – they should have been expelled. Both were predatory homosexuals – and I do not for one second believe that propensity was caused by the monks. As a result they were on the receiving end of boy violence. A third boy who I also much disliked was I learnt much later of the same persuasion.

6. In the media, Headmasters can do no wrong yet in the early 1970s a couple of the Dailies (the Mail and Express, I think) ran articles criticising Elwin Gerard. He, of course, doubled-down and having the support of the order ignored the criticism. I forget what it was that had incensed the press. Haircuts?

7. A year younger than me was a boy by the name of George Phillips. He was likable, slightly overweight and had just passed eleven O’levels and as such was a shoe-in for Oxbridge and probably also Head Boy. One day at the beginning of term Elwin Gerard passing him ordered Phillips to get a haircut – not that his hair was in any sense long. Phillips refused and on the spot Phillips was expelled. I appreciate that a head master can not allow his authority to be treated lightly but this was stupidity on the part of Elwin Gerard – especially as Phillips was his star pupil. Happily for him Phillips had the support of his parents who he explained to me were increasingly concerned about Elwin Gerard’s running of the school. St Joseph’s loss would have been the gain of some Six-form academy.

8. One day Elwin Gerard came into class somewhat speechless and informed us that he had just interviewed the mother of a boy named Masters and that the said mother had then accused Elwin Gerard of sexually assaulting her. None of us boys believed such an obviously insane accusation.

9. The regrettable arrival of girls at the school also produced a Nun and this nun seemed to spend inordinate amounts of time in the physics Lab with a monk – Cecil?. Were they? We thought so. On the arrival of the first batch of four girls it was only a day or so before one of the four girls found her way predictably down to one of the lodges which of course was out of bounds for females. The boys who slept there were of course blamed. I blame firstly the La Salle’s for their stupidity and secondly the girl – not the boys, the La Salle’s blaming the boys for the free actions of the strong and empowered girl.

10. I refer again to Brother James; he was my first form master. It is said elsewhere here that the monks did not care for black people. I beg to disagree: I will never forget (to cut a long story short) how in consecutive weeks I parted with my entire pocket money at James’ suggestion and encouragement (doubtless following yet another blue testimonial) for the black babies. One can never ask for change when giving charity and being shamed by James (in front of the entire class) for meanness was something I wished to avoid. In the third week when again encouraged to give reparations to the Africans I sat on my hands and have since that time avoided all forms of charitable giving. My parents did not pay my pocket money just so that it could be given away!

11. On the subject of money a perusal of the appropriate school magazine will reveal Elwin Gerard (at speech day) berating parents for not yet having purchased his new school uniform and where he implies that all parents are rolling in money as if money grows on trees. I think that revealing as to the true attitude of the (unpaid of course) La Salle monks. Catholicism frequently looks much like Marxism – an ideology of envy. My parents and especially my mother went without for the sake of what passed for my education whilst wrecking the family’s finances.

12. In one of his nightly exhortations – we were then about fifteen years of age – to us standing on and around the Birkfield staircase we were informed as usual that although we were irredeemably bad and hell bound that had we any complaint or information of which the head master should be aware it was our duty to report the matter to him. Some days later I led a deputation of boys to Elwin Gerard as some matter I now long forget was I felt of sufficient importance that it needed to be reported. They always shoot the messenger do they not and on explaining myself to Elwin Gerard I was irate-ably dismissed and informed to stop causing trouble. The hypocrite!

Men are leaving the teaching profession in droves as boys are feminised. Is not the attack on the :La Salle brothers whatever their failings just thinly disguised Misandry?

–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.

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.