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.