Here’s an Old Boy’s vivid account of Father Jolly’s warped behaviour in the 1960s. It substantiates my own experience of him as a serious sexual abuser. I remember being absolutely terrified by an item of erotic paraphernalia which – with a nervous giggle – he showed me at a weekend Catholic ‘retreat’, organized by the Knights. (Father Jolly is listed in their records as a Knight.) I was terrified, because he intended to use it on me. I tried finding the device on the internet, but gave up. He was definitely getting off on my fear. That’s what abusers do. It’s part of the hit for them. It wasn’t just two pairs of Dutch wooden clogs that he brought back from Amsterdam for my brother and I.
There must be many other survivors of his sexual abuse and I’d invite them to post on this site or elsewhere. We need to understand the full extent of organized sexual abuse at St Joseph’s. Who else was involved and when did it stop?
It is disturbing that today’s Catholics have nothing to say on these endless testimonies of clerical and lay teachers’ sexual abuse at St Joseph’s. By your silence, in my opinion, you are part of the cover-up.
This statement is a full account of a previous entry made on Pat’s site.
I go into great detail because it may jog someone’s memory to confirm my account. I was both cursed and blessed with a photographic memory that is a great asset for examination purposes but a nightmare for the rest of your life when you simply cannot forget the things you desperately want to get out of your head.
Although I was reasonably careful not to get in any trouble at St Josephs, I suppose it was inevitable. I used to put a towel at the end of my bed each morning which was a sign that I wanted to be woken at 0530 hrs to attend early morning mass at 0600 hrs. I never did attended mass, I used to run between 10 or 12 laps of the track which was situated to the left of the main building with the first 11 cricket pitch in the centre. I would go back for a shower when I saw the others boys coming out from mass.
The grounds man had asked me very nicely the day before to refraining from using the track the next day as he had cut the grass and run new white lines in preparation for a home cricket match on Saturday. He was a nice old man and I readily agreed. Through sheer force of habit I put the towel on the end of my bed that night simply because I forgot. I went running the next day and the grounds keeper came in about 0645 hrs as normal and saw me running and was rather upset and said I thought we had an understanding or words to that effect. I apologised and tried to convince him I had completely forgotten and said I was very sorry but he was obviously quite annoyed and reported the fact.
I had an exemption from Corporal Punishment because the school did not have parental consent for me. That is something all parents of every boy attending the school was obliged to sign. I went to see one of the prefects, a big Greek lad, because he had been tasked to set my punishment if ever required. He had one of those impossible to pronounce Greek names something like Popalopadopapoposis. He had tried to teach me how to pronounce his name in vain so as a mark of respect I suggested I just call him boss.
He strongly objected to that, so we mutually agreed I could call him Popeye as long as no one was in ear shot. Well someone must had heard me talking to him one day and for the rest of him time at the school he was known as Popeye or referred to as “the sailor man”.
The first thing he said to me was do not dare to suggest that you should go on cross country run for your punishment as he knew I liked running too much. He said he would set my punishment later. He came back later in the day with a big grin on his face and said my punishment would be to sweep out the chapel from top to bottom. The chapel was a long wooden building that had most probably seen service as an army canteen during the war. It was a difficult task because it was always in use.
I did the back half on the Thursday afternoon during the PE lessons because I was excused from attending PE (anyone that knew me would know why) and the front half on the Friday because I had a study period in the Library during RI first period. And I think the second period I skipped was Spanish or something. I knew I could get away with because Friday morning lessons were always disrupted with boys coming and going from the class to go to confession.
I was quite sure Popeye had meant for me to do my punishment on Saturday afternoon and that would be a real punishment indeed because that was the only day we were allowed to go into Ipswich. Besides he did not specify the day so I thought I could apologise afterwards if need be and get away with it.
Anyway, on the Friday Father Jolly was taking confession. I worked my way up to the altar and was busy cleaning up the altar, but I just could not help overhearing Father Jolly in the confession pumping these little boys for graphic details of their sins.
“Impure deeds what do you mean, boy? Impure deeds? You can’t lie to God, you know, if you want my absolution” and “do you mean you’ve been playing with yourself – well do you if so you must tell me” “and how many times” and “have you been playing with any other boy” and “what is this other boys name”.
I had heard quite enough, so I went to the back of the chapel and sat down and waited for the last boy to go in. When he had come out I opened the door of the confessional just to tell Father Jolly confession was over and ask if I could continue cleaning the altar. Before I could say anything Father Jolly just said “I see you have recovered your memory then.”
Now the fact Father Jolly could recognise me without me having said a word was rather exceptional because me and the Almighty were not on speaking terms anymore and I had not been in that Chapel for more than a year. Every Sunday I used to sit in the 56 block with a couple of boys from Thailand and one Chinese boy who were Buddhists and two Protestant boys. I usually did homework or read books. One of the boys was called Tony who was studying to become a Vicar in the Protestant faith which sort of makes him stand out quite a bit in a Catholic Boarding school. Someone should remember him surely.
Anyway – I said “Yes,Father Jolly, would you mind if I finished clearing up the chapel ? There are no more boys waiting.” “Carry on,” he said.
I continued my cleaning and he came past me and said , “I hope you were not here during confession.” I simply could not resist the temptation and said “I’m very sorry, Father,I can’t hear very well in that ear anymore since the incident,” and turned my head to the right and said, “OK carry on, Father.”
I was referring to a very unfortunate incidence which had happened to me a year earlier which Father Jolly was well aware of and he was visibly shaken and said in a raised voice mouthing his words “Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter.”
I just could not let that go, so I replied “A ‘Clatter’, Father? I’m very sorry, Father. I’ll try to be less noisy”.
I am quite sure he knew I was taking the micky but he hurried off to the sacristy to take off his mantle before coming out again and scurrying out of the chapel.
I always was very inquisitive and wondered how on Earth could he recognise me before I had even spoken a word. I thought I would clean the confessional booth as well, after all I had been told to clean the entire chapel so I could not really get into trouble for it. It was very dark but there was a switch on the back wall and I thought that it would give me more light to complete my task but instead it turned a small light on the penitence side of the confessional.
I could see very clearly into the penitents side.
I left the Confessors side and shut the door and went into the penitents side. You could not see anything at all through the grill. I suppose I forgot to close the penitents door when I left and when I went back to the confessors side there was plenty of light now.
I was absolutely flabbergasted to find one of those old cassette tape recorders the ones with the four or five piano keys on the front lying on the floor. It was open and the tape cassette had been removed but the machine was still very warm. I simply could not believe that a priest would record the confessions of children.
Even though I was a non-practising Catholic at that stage, I had always been taught the confessional seal was absolute and a fundamental cornerstone of the Catholic Religion and that priests were expected to die rather than ever break it. We had been given countless examples how Priests had been tortured or even burnt at the stake rather than break the confessional seal.
It was a terrible predicament I had found myself in. I had promised my sponsors, who paid all the fees for me to go to St Joseph’s, that I would never cause any trouble with the Brothers. Did this include a Priest who had violated his most sacred vow – how could he remain a Priest.
I just could not resolve this problem so I went back to the dorm and put on my running kit. And just began to run, even though I had two more periods scheduled that afternoon.
Confessions ended about midday. I did not go to the refectory for lunch that day and by the time I had completely exhausted myself running, they were serving evening cocoa in the ref, so I figure I must have run for at least 6 or maybe 7 hours. I went to bed. The next day I just could hardly walk because my legs were so sore, anyway it was liberation day – the day we were allowed to go into Ipswich.
I had been told Father Jolly was looking for me. I managed to avoid him all that day only because it was Saturday but on Sunday he confronted me after mass because he knew I would be in the 56 block with all the other heathens’ (as he liked to called the non-Catholics). He asked if I had cleaned the confession on Friday. I just said no, I’m sorry it was lunch time and I had lessons in the afternoon and asked if he would like me to do it now.
He asked me are you absolutely sure? All I could think to say is, “No, I’m absolutely sure; I don’t mind if you want me to do it now.” The sigh of relief from that man was like hearing someone let the air out of a tyre.
I again insisted I didn’t mind really, but he said that he would do it himself and complimented me on a very nice job I had made of cleaning the chapel. Then he walked away.
I had my own personal problems to deal with. I just could not get involved. I convinced myself that as I was not a practising Catholic anymore, it was none of my business. A very logical argument I am sure, but that did not stop me feeling extremely guilty.
I knew I should have done something but who should I tell, who could I trust, who would have believed my word against a Priest anyway. I just had to let it go and get on with my life – until now that is, when a good man whom I have never met convinced me I have to tell my story for all those other poor boys whose lives were shattered and still suffer so much more than 50 years later.
Father Jolly, the confessor of St Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, broke the most sacred seal of confession and was in no doubt, by doing so, according to Catholic doctrine, he had excommunicated himself from the Catholic Faith in the eyes of the same God that he proclaimed to worship and in whose name he assumed all his authority as a priest.
The recording of those boys confessions could be of no other use than to alert the Brother Director of the College – in case a victim of sexual abuse wanted desperately to be in a state of grace and obtain absolution and ease his tormented soul.
Most boys who were sexually assaulted were, because of their tender age, convinced by their abusers they themselves were in some way to blame for their own abuse.
This is not some questionable academic theory, it is overwhelmingly borne out by the multiple accounts of the survivors of those attacks.