BROTHER JAMES: CONFIRMATION DAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, yes, they could.

Catholic schools are not like normal schools.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again, Dave. You’re a star.

Hi Pat,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards

Dave

EDIT: Dave subsequently sent me this:

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

I’m so sorry, Dave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old boy “Anon” believes:

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

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

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

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

IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION 2

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN THE LASALLIAN TRADITION

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

Thanks, Martin.

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

 

Hi, Martin,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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