Also – MRS KEARNEY and a visiting Spanish DE LA SALLE ABUSER
First below is the testimony by Old Boy CS who, along with other children, was harmed by Tony Harding.
Given the relatively recent nature, it is possible Harding is still alive.
I’ve yet to contact the RLSS, the new De La Safeguarding organisation, about abusers who may still be alive.
Harding would be such a case.
I’m currently focussing on gathering evidence about Brother James but I hope to get around to Harding in time. And another teacher. Meantime, anyone affected could report him by contacting the RLSS or DLS direct – the details were on my last blog.
Or the police.
In other countries there would be mandatory reporting to the police because if he is still alive, children could be in danger.
That’s not a ‘maybe’. Police take these matters seriously.
The second testimony about Harding below also mentions Mrs Kearney and rings true to me – it tallies with a private conversation I’ve had in recent years with another Old Boy who was taught by her. He told me how she would call in her husband to whack kids which is a bit weird but not illegal AFAIK. Being a tough kid, he laughed it all off with a kind of gallows humour. But not everyone can or should laugh it off.
I’d say Mr and Mrs Kearney were well suited to each other.
The second testimony below also describes a De La Salle sexual abuser from Spain.
Once again it’s evidence of DLS crimes towards the end of their era of control. Once again this DLS abuser could still be alive.
Therefore it should be of concern to the RLSS who safeguard the DLS and I will certainly bring it to their attention in due course.
Doubtless they will dump it on Operation Hydrant/Suffolk police without reference to their own files.
But it will be noted and they will have to answer for any minimal response or recalcitrance.
My thanks to the Old Boy who wrote the Second Testimony below. I found it very powerful and moving. And important as a description of the appalling final years of the DLS at St J’s.
FIRST TESTIMONY FROM A POST MAY 2021
TONY HARDY. Lay teacher St J’s Ipswich. Era 1986 – 1990. Sexual and physical violence. One testimony in comments – see: CS commented on ROLL OF DISHONOUR:
|I attended St Joseph’s College from 86 – 90. I was at the school when David Hennesy became headmaster, he was a very relaxed guy and I liked him a lot. After our GCSE’s a few of us got our ears pierced – stupid, but hey we were crazy teenagers. We were in Birkfield house, Tony Hardy was the housemaster. He was a well known drinker and had a ferocious temper. After being told to take our ear rings out which we ignored as we were so close to school holidays we thought nothing more of it. One night Hardy had been out at a BBQ and came back after lights out, he pulled me and the other lads who had pierced their ears out of bed and made us stand in the corners of his living room. We were made to stand there when he went on a screaming rampage around the house. He came back to his quarters where we were all waiting frankly sh*tting ourselves. One by one he called each of the lads into his bedroom where he gave them all slippers. He then made me stand in a cupboard which he locked me in and then again went on another rampage around the house, when he came back then made me stand in his bedroom drop my pyjama bottoms and then took a cat-o-nine tails out of his draw. He lashed me about 10 – 12 times with it till I was bleeding. The next morning when in the showers the other lads saw the state of what had happened to me and they took me to see Mr Hennesy, when we explained what happened he sent us to his cottage on the grounds and Hardy was got rid of that day. My parents were dealt with by the school’s solicitors and unbelievably agreed that as long as he never taught there again, wouldn’t involve the Police.|
SECOND TESTIMONY. NEW POST, FROM ANOTHER OLD BOY WHO JUST SENT THIS TO ME:
Firstly, I would like to say a massive thank you to CS for having the courage to speak about his experiences. What happened to CS was not his fault, it was a criminal act perpetrated by a predatory man with a violent temper and an alcohol problem that should have been dealt with appropriately by the school several years before this incident happened. CS had the courage to speak out at the time and the courage to speak about it here. It is an exceptional thing to do. Secondly, I would like to say thanks to Pat Mills, for speaking out about his own experiences and also creating a platform for others who have shared experiences. Many people were voiceless at the time these events occurred, either through fear of speaking up or knowing that it would be swept under the carpet.
I went to St. Joseph’s at the age of eleven, starting in the 1st Year with Brother Owen. In the grand scheme of things Brother Owen was one of the better ones, in my experience. He gave out the slipper, but he was generally alright from what I can remember. He did keep a lot of contact with Mr and Mrs Kearney, which was odd given many of the comments about them on this blog. I was scared of Mrs Kearney as she had a vicious temper and would humiliate kids in her class. That may just have been standard fare in the mid 1980s at private school though.
It was the experience of going to boarding school that shook me that year though, and I had to learn to adjust and cope like many other children who had left their home at a young age. The school taught a lot of the paradoxical messages that are staple in British boarding schools, ‘It will be the making of you’, ‘the friends you make here will be with you for life’, and all the other messages about being special and elite. These messages create a bind when your experiences don’t match up to them and it is easy to assume there is just something wrong with you. They are also messages that help to keep children compliant when faced with abuse.
Tony Hardy joined the school when I was in the 1st Year as the Housemaster for the 2nd & 3rd Year at Birkfield House in the centre of the school. The dormitories were above the main building. I knew from the children in the year above that he was unstable and had a violent temper. I felt anxious that I was going up to the 2nd Year and wasn’t picked as a prefect to stay down with Brother Owen for a year to look after the new intake of 1st Years.
The 2nd Year dormitory was a large open hall packed with beds in rows. The 3rd Year dorms were smaller spread down corridors across the old building. The whole place was dilapidated and creaking.
Tony Hardy wasted no time imprinting himself on my psyche as a man who was unpredictable, with a violent temper. He rampaged down corridors; you could hear him screaming and shouting from the other end of the building, getting louder and closer until he would burst into the dormitory, slamming doors and desks. Often, he would pick on individual kids for no discernible reason, so that it was impossible to read how to best keep out of his reach. He would scowl and stare at you before deciding whether to single you out for abuse or move on to someone else. He was like this throughout the 2nd and 3rd Year. Sometimes it would go on for days, literally the only respite was when the school day began. If it was over a weekend there was very little respite. Once during my 2nd Year, the bathrooms got blocked up. He ranted for days, accusing kids of deliberately blocking up toilets, demanding the whole year went down to the TV lounge whilst he shouted endlessly, waiting for someone to crack and admit to it. The culprit ended up being a rat that had died in one of the drains.
I remember the sickening feeling, when after a brief lull in his temper, something would trigger him and he would start another campaign of berating the kids for some usually imagined discretion. Sometimes one of the kids would do something that landed them in genuine trouble. I remember two lads writing on the shower windows, which later steamed up to reveal some crude comments about the deputy housemaster Paul Andrews. They were rooted out and punished with the slipper. One of them told me how he had tried to escape Tony Hardy’s clutches whilst the slippering went on, only to be grabbed by the shoulder and dragged back into the room. It went on for ages, you could hear the sound of it and it was just sadistic. I remember seeing the horrific bruises when they the kids showered the next day. I have never seen bruises like them in my life, it was horrific.
Tony Hardy has complex personality and metal health problems, coupled with a severe problem with alcohol. He would go from being a monster to selecting kids for special treatment. At other times he would hold these weird night prayer vigils at the chapel where he would get kids singing Taize Chants by candle light. It was always paradoxical and always unpredictable.
(Note from Pat – https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/11760/-prior-admits-to-cases-of-sexual-abuse-by-taiz-brothers)
At the end of the 3rd Year, I had a year of respite at Goldrood, with Paul Begg. He got a bad rap from many of the kids but he was harmless and could be quite kind at times. It felt safe at Goldrood at least.
By the time I was in the 5th Year, a decision had been made to turn Goldrood into the house for the 3rd and 4th Years, if I remember correctly and the 5th Year was to go back to Birkfield and to Tony Hardy. I don’t know what the rationale was, perhaps Brother Hennessey, the Headmaster, and Mr John Reagan, the Deputy Head, had decided that Tony Hardy was not safe to look after younger children, but that is pure speculation. We returned to Birkfield and to Tony Hardy’s escalating unpredictability, violent temper and out of control alcohol use.
In some respects, Tony Hardy seemed to get on better with older kids, but it didn’t stop his violet outbursts. He could be something of a rebellious character, challenging aspects of the school, whilst also berating the kids. I think I developed an element of Stockholm Syndrome at that time, but was always fearful of his wrath. Unfortunately, I also had him as an English teacher and he would shout and scream at the class, flinging desks about and picking on anyone he took a dislike to in the moment. I learnt to show no emotion. Any expression on the face could lead him to accuse you of smirking, or showing some other sign of disrespect, and he would loom over you screaming. I remember the feeling of weariness that pervaded that year. It was exhausting on the nervous system.
At the same time, he would often have kids in his flat drinking with him. I remember a party after a confirmation ceremony where several teachers and us kids stayed up late drinking whisky and getting obliterated. It was wrong.
The incident that CS endured happened not long after this time. The teachers and the school authorities knew that Tony Hardy was a risk to kids. Everyone could see it and hear it. They were utterly complicit and failed to act to safeguard children under their watch. I recognise this was the 1980s and it was different then, but I’m afraid that doesn’t wash with me. Tony Hardy was psychopathic and needed to be stopped. And people failed to act in good time. I also recognise that the school preached paradoxical values about being tough and not showing emotion, as if somehow, we were supposed to put up with this stuff. I imagine some of the kids still live by these rules.
Tony Hardy’s legacy for me is one that I still wrestle with. For years after, and I left the school at the end of the 5th Year, I had nightmares in which he was stalking me down the corridors, shouting and throwing things. He was a looming and menacing presence in my dreams. I still do get dreams in which he appears, particularly if I am stressed. When I am in any conflict situation, I can feel myself locking down, my facial expressions go into neutral and I can feel myself dissociating. It doesn’t have to be a major conflict; it can be someone just raising their voice. I get a fight or flight response. It impacts on my ability to trust people and form attachments, although I accept that even a good boarding school experience can have that impact too. (Nick Duffell’s ‘The Making of Them’ is a good book to read about the whole boarding school experience).
Whilst at St Joseph’s I was also sexually assaulted by a visiting religious Brother from Spain, who had come over with a group of Spanish students. He groomed me into coming back to his flat to help him translate a book he was reading into English. For years I felt ashamed and stupid for having fallen for his ruse. It was naïve, but I had no idea. At his flat he sat groping me whilst I read the English translation, until I was finally able to get away. It could have gone a lot further but it left me angry and ashamed. I didn’t tell the school; I think I knew they would have swept it under the carpet or somehow blamed me. They certainly wouldn’t have involved the police.
A quick note on the De La Salle Brothers – they were on their way out by the time I was 13 or 14. Brother Cuthman was there, Brother Damien was retiring and Brother James was mostly out of the way keeping bees.
(Note from Pat. I’m wondering if this is the same Brother James from my era, the 1960s. It’s possible he could have returned to St J’s after some years at Beulah Hill to retire and keep bees.
If anyone can confirm this, it would be useful because it would mean that he was still potentially in contact with children at this later period.)
Brother Owen was around for a few years; he was still teaching the 6th Form. Strangely he wrote to me a few years after I left wanting to meet up. I don’t know what for or why me. I ignored it. I had better things to do with my time, like sitting in the park drinking bottles of Thunderbird wine.
Like CS concludes, there were certainly good times. I was lucky to have some good friends, although I don’t keep in touch with many people from that time now. When I left, I was scarred by the experiences and I didn’t want too much to do with the place. I had something of a breakdown as I was leaving and I knew I couldn’t go back. I do go back to Ipswich for work from time to time and it evokes a lot of memories.
I hope CS has managed to find some peace. I remember him as a good person and he didn’t deserve to be singled out that night. Nobody did.
A breakdown can be a breakthrough to a new beginning, so I hope the people get the life they are owed if they have been through tough times and are still waiting. Get help if you need it. It is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of courage and strength.