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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO TELL THE TRUTH

BROTHER SOLOMON aka MIKE MERCADO. And MIKE KEARNEY

Below is 1967 film footage of Brother Solomon appearing on an American TV show ‘To Tell The Truth’ in the days when he was The Swinging Monk.

There have been numerous (double figures) accusations of horrible and serious abuse committed by this man. They have all been been noticeably ignored by the De La Salle order of Brothers and their proud successors ‘in the La Salian Tradition’.

As a day boy, I escaped Solomon’s abuse, but I personally know of others – in the DLS schools in Ipswich and Beulah Hill – who were not so fortunate. Their accounts of his abuse make for unpleasant reading

TRIGGER ALERT
If you were one of his victims, I suggest you pour yourself a stiff drink before you watch this video. Or even pass on it. Believe me, it is like entering a time machine. Even though he’s wearing a toupee, he’s instantly recognisable.

To Tell The Truth’. Hah! That’s the one thing the DLS brothers have never done. His fellow abuser Brother James wrote a truly glowing and lying tribute to Solomon in the school magazine – which I remember thinking (even at the time, as an eleven year old) was a complete and utter lie. This was after Solomon left mysteriously and literally overnight after complaints had been levelled against him. At the time, we boys firmly believed he went to some kind of DLS reformatory for sexual predators on Jersey, before subsequently going to Beulah Hill where he continued abusing boys. Then, some years later, he returned to St Joseph’s Ipswich as lay teacher and Housemaster Mike Mercado. St Joseph’s Ipswich would have known about his sordid past and predictably, he went on to abuse a new generation of boys before being thrown out again in 1985. Possibly heading off to Joe Homan’s Boys Town in India either before or after his return to Ipswich.

This has prompted me to re-read Mercado’s farewell letter to parents in 1985. It may be of possible interest to survivors of his crimes. He says he was ‘fully aware of what was going on with the Order’ (whatever that means) and talks darkly about intending to write an expose (which he never did, unfortunately). He says he was dismissed for ‘misconduct’ at a governor’s meeting, a charge he strongly denies..

And he laments and says it’s ‘significant’ that Kearney (‘senior lay-master whom I have known since 1958’) was not present at the meeting to defend him.Or subsequently.

That’s interesting to me personally, because it ties in with my strong recollections of Kearney as yet another abuser and also someone who never kept his promises and could not be relied upon. His ‘betrayal’ has left an annoyingly strong impression on me, so I’m not at all surprised that he did not support Mercado. That was not his style.

Today, Kearney has a school prize named after him – an example of the continuity between the current school and its dark past in the DLS days. I’m still filling in my own blanks about Kearney, who I know was very different to his public facade as a tough but fair chemistry teacher. There was a whole lot more to this guy. It’s time consuming, but it’s the only way I’m likely to get closure on him. Any recollections any old boys have, good, bad, or otherwise, about Kearney, do share. It could be helpful. Thank you.

As for Mercado, according to old boy Chris Mullin, ‘he ended his days playing the piano on a pier in a south coast resort, I believe.’

Charity begins at home?

Old Boy Chris Mullin – one of my all-time favourite authors, the author of A Very British Coup – wrote an obituary on Joe Homan, the founder of Boys Town:

Joe Homan founder of a network of villages for poor and destitute children in southern India

Homan was educated at St Joseph’s, Ipswich, and taught there later.

I’ve read several old boys accounts of Homan’s conduct at St Joseph’s. They cross-reference with each other and I believe them to be true. They’re disturbing, and seem to confirm the articles below.

The first article, The Queen of Bubble Bath, is by journalist Jon Entine and was published in Brazzil Magazine (date unknown: the date quoted is clearly incorrect). There are other related articles on Entine’s website. It is a critique of the green and fair trade credentials  of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. Here’s an extract:

In 1987, Roddick began sourcing foot massagers, which she calls “footsie rollers”, made in India at the Boys Town orphanage. In the early 1980s, when Richard Adams was head of the fair trade company Traidcraft (UK), he sourced a different Boys Town product, wood carvings. He soon discovered that Joe Homan, the project’s director, was sourcing the carvings from sweat shops and was molesting the boys. He kept the police at bay by using a slush fund kept full by church agencies that were innocently sending him money.

When Adams found out that the Roddicks had linked up with Homan, he was horrified. He immediately advised them of the problem. “I never heard back,” he says. Two alarmed members of the Catholic order which had kicked out Homan years before also visited Roddicks at their home. Still, nothing was done.

“Gordon was aware of Homan’s reputation,” writes Anne Downer, the former Body Shop head franchisee in Singapore, in a signed, legal affidavit. At the Roddicks invitation, Downer had accompanied the family in India for the dedication of Boys Town. “I slept in accommodations close to where some of the boys lived,” writes Downer. “I was approached by one of the assistants to the project. He informed me about Homan’s behavior and the sexual molestation. He was concerned and extremely anxious that I inform Gordon and Anita.

I remember Gordon saying: “We’ve heard those rumors, but I don’t believe it.” Downer continues: “He didn’t seem unduly concerned and didn’t seem to take it seriously.”

Over the next few years, as Homan went about stealing charity funds and buggering orphan boys, the Roddicks sent out glowing reports to their franchisees. One idyllic account in 1989 reads: “Joe’s work in Boys Town is ceaseless; he cares for the boys and girls and they really appreciate what he is doing for them.” The roof caved in the next year when the story broke in the English and Indian press. The Roddicks first tried to suppress the story and then tried to turn it into a public relations advantage. “This story has not hit the.press yet, but could erupt at any time,” read one memo to employees and franchisees. “It is important that you know your facts. Anita….blew the whistle on Joe.”

The second article is by James Heartfield in 2007: Anita Roddick: prophet of Green Capitalism

This is the relevant piece:

 …foot massagers were made in the Boys Town orphanage in sweat shop conditions while gang leader Joe Homan sexually molested the children (‘Joe’s work in Boys Town is ceaseless; he cares for the boys and girls and they really appreciate what he is doing for them’, said the label);

These allegations have definitely been challenged. For example, there’s this response to it:

Margaret Cianni27 September 2017 at 03:26

This is completely untrue and was proved through the courts of UK. Maybe you feel that the boys worked for little but I am adamant that there was no sexual abuse.

However, a quick internet search revealed that Margaret Cianni is in fact one of Joe Homan’s 12 siblings, so of course she would vouch for him.

I can find nothing online to follow up on this one way or another. I find that a little strange. It’s like most articles relating to this important story have been deleted. Even if a court action was won, it seems odd – Kafkaesque even – that a court victory was not reported on.

However, the authoritative Sunday Times had this to say back in 1995:

Caring Capitalism

The relevant piece:

High among the issues that Body Shop has faced is the controversy surrounding a former Christian Brother who ran the Boys’ Town orphanage in India. Body Shop used to buy “footsie roller” foot massagers from Boys’ Town. It was its first Third World “trade not aid” scheme.

After adverse press reports about Boys’ Town in 1990, Body Shop pulled out. It then resuscitated the “trade not aid” venture at a new facility, Teddy Exports, which employed local teenagers, setting up a hospital and school. But recently dozens of Boys’ Town thugs crossed the road to Teddy Exports. Eleven workers were knifed, two seriously. The woman who ran the project is now home in Ireland, afraid to return. Steve Mitchell, who owns four Body Shop franchises and has worked on both projects, says: “It’s a complete mess. Nobody knows what will happen. This is probably its death knell.”

Boys’ Town has been a long-running problem for the company. Richard Adams, the founder of Traidcraft and director of two “Out of This World” sustainable markets, remembers when he first saw leaflets about Boys’ Town at Body Shop’s stores in 1987. “I was shocked,” he says.

As a Traidcraft director, Adams had carried a different Boys’ Town product, wood carvings. After receiving poor-quality goods, he sent a manager to investigate. He was stunned by the news. “The project’s then director was sourcing carvings from child-labour sweatshops,” he recalls.

When Adams found out about Body Shop’s Boys’ Town link, he wrote to the Roddicks. “I never heard back,” he says. Over the next few years glowing reports went to franchisees about Boys’ Town. “We have the power to change people’s lives for the better,” Roddick wrote.

I have no way of knowing what the final outcome was. If anyone knows more, I’ll happily post it. Certainly The Sunday Times took it seriously. Homan’s behaviour in India – if these accounts are untrue – may well have been very different to the serious allegations I’ve read about him from old boys in the UK.

Chris Mullin is a patron of the Joe Homan Charity, which is the principal funder of the Boys Town Society, and I see its website continues to portray its founder in a very positive light.

Two things made me feel I really must post something about this. Firstly, I understand the notorious predator Brother Solomon paid a visit to Boys Town when he ‘went to work in the missions’.

Secondly, I read a recent article about a similar, modern day organisation, ‘Street Kids International.’

FORMER SENIOR UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL FACING PEDOPHILIA CHARGES IN NEPAL

It would seem that missionary work abroad with vulnerable kids does create obvious opportunities for criminal abuse by what we all hope is a minority of sick individuals. The reassuring ‘one rotten apple’ premise.

When it does occur, I feel there’s also the sense that in the developing world, ‘these things go on, unfortunately.’ It’s other. It’s ‘somewhere else.’

However, I also believe, based on my own recollections of my Catholic childhood and as a St Joseph’s old boy, that similar alleged behaviour, under the guise of charity and helping vulnerable children, also happened in the UK.

Of course I’m aware that there are plenty of media accounts of organised abuse in the UK that would easily bear this out, but this is a personal perspective.

From my own childhood recollections and my investigations into Catholic individuals in positions of authority at that time, I’d say there were a lot of rotten apples in that barrel back in Ipswich in the 1960s, that it was organised and endemic, and it had some similarities to these alleged crimes in the missions.

It was like the same ‘template’ was being used by abusers: offer education and advancement to the poor; but at a price.

Of course, as an old boy, if your dad was a fireman, a cop, an accountant, a war hero, a merchant, or whatever, you’re possibly going to say, ‘I have no idea what Pat’s talking about. I don’t remember anything remotely like that happening. I doubt very much it could have happened. In particular, organised abuse could never have happened.’

Lucky for you – because these cowardly predators would leave you alone for fear of physical or legal retribution. They only go for kids at risk, who don’t have a dad or a strong parent to protect them.

There are already on this site a considerable number of accounts of individual abuse, mainly at St J’s. Shocking as they are, they still – just about – fit the reassuring, ‘it was only one rotten apple’ scenario.

Even though, in themselves, they are still a damning indictment, a cause for concern, and surely require a response and an acknowledgement from the De La Salle Brothers that such crimes took place.

In my view, and from my research, they are the tip of the iceberg.

My research is still ongoing but I hope to update more on all this in due course.

If anyone has any knowledge or insights into organised Catholic abuse in Ipswich in my era, I’d love to hear from you.

Needless to say, it can be private and confidential, if you prefer. Thanks.

Boys Town

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

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

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

 

–Pat

Pat,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Opus

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.