Thursday, 3 November 2011

St Gregory's Primary School

Now it is spreading further. There is a story in yesterday's Ealing Gazette concerning a girl who was molested at St Gregory's Primary school.
She was told she was a liar and when she refused to tell teachers she had made it all up, was frogmarched to Ealing Abbey in Charlbury Grove and ordered to confess to a priest.

She said: "The teacher claimed he was just comforting me because I was crying in his office but that wasn't true. I was dragged to the abbey and put in front of a priest who was very disapproving. I'd never been in a confessional box before, it was very intimidating. I kept saying 'I've not lied, I've not lied' but in the end I gave in.

"I was called a wicked child and got nasty looks from teachers for all the trouble I'd caused. I don't know why he picked me, maybe because I didn't come from a good home. My mother never took it further."
 The girl was just six years old at the time.


  1. So sad, sends shivers down my spine, is every Catholic school in Ealing corrupt?

  2. I have just been looking at the vacancies section in the Times Educational Supplement and noticed that the post of Headmaster of St Benedict's School has not been advertised yet.

    I assume that the School is waiting until the Carlile Report is published before placing the advert.

  3. So they take this tearful child to Ealing Abbey and repeatedly call her a liar. Increase the number of people standing against her. FORCE her to *confess*. Increase the pressure on her in every way imaginable and fill the little mite with fear. Business as usual for the abhorrent bastards then.

    Anyone with any care in the heart or just plain decency would have given the child a sympathetic ear - pending enquiries - and then had the matter investigated impartially.

    Instead she was dragged to Ealing Abbey. And given the flavour of the treatment she'd received regarding her allegation up to that point [i.e. calling her a liar/attempting to make her rescind], it seems a fair assumption that the staff who made the decision to bring her to Ealing Abbey to *confess* knew they'd find like-minded kiddy-fiddlers keen to shut the child up there too. Pedophile ring/nexus.

    I wonder which priest forced a *confession* out of her.

  4. Is Mr Cleugh being replaced?

  5. I was a pupil at St Gregory's from 1965 - 1969 and find this scenario very plausible - not that anything of the kind happened to me, but because of the intense links between the school and Ealing Abbey, and the sense that the school was dominated by the monks of the parish. Some of the Ealing Abbey monks were in and out of the school at any time of the day (one often passed them in the corridors) and exercised considerable moral authority over the staff, popping in to lessons apparently at will. We were walked over to the Abbey twice a week - more frequently in the year of making our first confessions and communions (which was 1967 for me). We went to the Abbey for Benediction (Thursdays as I recall) and to confession there on Fridays. The monks I saw visiting most often in those years at St Greg's were Fr Gregory Chillman, who I think taught us how to say confession, and Fr Kevin Horsey, whom I recall teaching us how to take the host at communion. Like a lot of boys in the parish, my three brothers went from St Gregs on to St Benedicts' school.

  6. I should add that my recollections of St Greg's include a feature which a number of people have remarked on about St Benedicts in that period - the constant background of violence and the threat of violence which teachers had at their disposal. Which, of course, would make questioning their behaviour even more unlikely. I did not hear of a girl being caned (although we all believed it was a real possibility) but some boys seemed to be constantly hauled up for caning. One boy in my class seemed to be favourite, seen waiting outside the teacher's office almost weekly, sometimes as soon as assembly was over (you wonder what he could have had time to do...?). Now, bear in mind that I was nine when I left the school, and he was my contemporary, so this is a small kid we're talking about. For lesser offenses, a ruler across the hands was standard. Other types of punishment by humiliation were common, and seemed to be gettting commoner, oddly, as we got older. In my final year (when I was 9) there was a male teacher who delighted in humiliating girls who dared ask to go to the loo, by timing them, and then making them stand in front of the class for the equivalent amount of time they had been out of the room. This struck me then as just bafflingly horrible in a way I had not previously encountered, but it now strikes me as downright weird - that he took the trouble in the middle of his classes to time 5 or 6 or more girls' individual loo breaks. Can't remember his name but I remember his face all right.

    1. This is so true. I remember Dom C.... W.... was a prolific user of the cane. I had to leave the school after just over a year and have been messed up ever since. I came from a friendly prep school and to be plunged into this horrific environment in the early 1970s turned me head.

    2. The constant threat of corporal punishment and the enforced cross country runs and games was in my mind abuse of young people. Not sexual abuse but sadistic use of power over defenceless boys. I was there from 1970 - n1972 and had to leave, psychologically scarred. I spent some years out of school and with child guidance help and became withdrawn and unable to trust anyone.

  7. Sarah, I was at St Greg's in the 70s. I remember that teacher!

  8. Former St Gregory's pupil7 November 2011 at 00:42

    The priest most connected to the school in those days was Father Michael Hopkins.

  9. I remember Father Michael, but if I recall his surname was Hopley not Hopkins. He was the priest responsible for the quarter of the parish I lived in at the time.

  10. I think some of the speculation is getting out of hand and over imaginative. Names are mentioned with a suggestion of guilt by association, it feels wrong to me. I am well placed to comment having attended the schools and known the priests.

  11. 23:51
    What is happening now is not speculation, it is recollection of past events. Because these events didn't happen to you doesn't mean they didn't happen, it just means that you didn't witness them.

    And if you didn't witness those events, then you're not all that well placed to comment about them.

  12. I can't say too much but I was beaten regularly in closed rooms with priests and teachers alike. Lots of us were. It was wrong but we knew to expect it. Neither I nor any of my crowd made lots of noise to scare off a priest from s sexual assault. It would have been a mad thing for the mist determined peadophile to do. These people choose their victims and locations carefully. A busy breaktime with ten to twenty boys "sent up" to see the division master for a variety of misdemeanours ranging from smoking to being considered impertinent by class teachers did not provide ideal opportunities. I am in no way defending these individuals as I was subject to bullying and beatings by teachers myself. I am just concerned that people are beginning to exaggerate what went on. It was a long time ago and easy to let suggestions by others influence your own recollection. Apologies for tyipnh errors.

  13. I also went to both Schools and have no trouble believing what went on at St Benedict’s in terms of sexual abuse and some people who have told me about what happened to them. I also had private lessons with Maestri in his flat in Eaton Rise but it never occurred to me why he did so in his dressing gown until I read about what had happened.

    However, I have no recollection of St Gregory’s being anything but a caring environment albeit with a discipline policy that would have been common to all primary schools in that era. Teachers were meant to be respected and bad behaviour was not tolerated. Unlike Sarah I actually stood under the clock on a number of occasions but was never caned or hit in any way, there was not actually a cane but a slipper. Standing under the clock and the rumours of what went on inside was used effectively to control the behaviour of the majority of the children. On the times I was inside I was told off and told if I did it again my parents would be told, which believe me, for most kids in that day and age meant one thing. You then re-entered the class probably with a little sniffle, job done for the teachers. Crude but effective.

    By the way I have not repressed anything St Greg’s as I was abused by a family friend for a number of years and had counselling in my 30’s to help me come to terms with what had happened and to deal with it as best as you can, but an element will always stay with you.

    My concern is that what was considered normal discipline back then (I am not taking about sexual abuse here which is abhorrent), has now been demonised based on some peoples revisionist views and everybody is now queuing up to point the finger at people who at that time were doing nothing that was considered wrong in society as a whole let alone Catholic schools.

  14. queuing up to point the finger at people who at that time were doing nothing that was considered wrong in society as a whole

    Sexual molestation of a little girl? There were things that allegedly happened (not mere corporal punishment) of a sexual nature there. And then there is an alleged cover-up afterwards by person/s at Ealing Abbey, which also is abusive in nature.

    I don't think anyone here is really complaining about only a spank from a teacher, though there may be a discussion about it on this blog while reminiscing about those times and how things were done.

    Corporal punishment DID happen back then, in secular schools too. I personally have no issue that it was used at any school anywhere unless it was perverted spanking, excessive, unwarranted or used to suppress abuse allegations coming out.

    As for people 'queuing up to point the finger', it's very difficult for many abuse victims to come forward (even as adults, even if they have not repressed or normalised memories) against anyone, particularly against a Goliath like the Roman Catholic church, especially and even more so if they were not believed as a child and/or were threatened or feel some kind of misplaced religious duty to the church.

    When one person finally breaks silence, those others who have been too intimidated/afraid/doubtful/confused/etc in the intervening years breathe a sigh of relief and think 'at last, maybe I too can be believed'. They may start talking and opening up about things they have not talked on for years. That's why you may get a flurry of people suddenly talking about their experiences. Including on blogs like this.

    If you were lucky enough to go to St Gregory's and Ealing Abbey and not have anything happen to you in your time there, then you are really blessed. I sincerely wish I and my sibling were in your shoes.

  15. I stood under the clock too at St Gregorys and was beaten by Mr Beckford only once as I recall. Mind you I was very young when I left there so it probably was a bit harsh to use corporal punishment on a six or seven year old.

    At St Bens I was beaten loads in every year I was there apart from the first two years of Junior School and the Sixth Form. I never suffered any sexual abuse fortunately.

    I was in Mr Maestri's flat for Maths lessons too. It wasn't Eaton Rise though but opposite the monastery entrance pretty much. Probably a flat owned by the Monastery.

    Fortunately he did not wear his dressing gown. My father dropped me off so maybe it would have looked odd if he answered dressed for bed. What surprised me was the huge amount of books he had. I never had him down as a big reader or academic type. I don't know what kind of books they were though.

    He also had nice choc biscuits which was also surprising as in school he wasn't very nice to me so the Jeckyll and Hyde thing was strange. To be honest I never had him down as having homosexual tendencies. I thought he was frustrated at having a thing about a member of the school secretarial staff who was not interested in him as far as I know.

  16. Pie in the Face

    You obviously didn't read my final paragrapgh which states

    "My concern is that what was considered normal discipline back then (I am not taking about sexual abuse here which is abhorrent)",

    There is a distinction to be drawn between abuse and discipline back then which was the point I was trying to make.

    Your response typifies what am I was concerned about

  17. I went to St.Gregory's in the early 1960s and then to St.Benedict's, leaving in 1973.

    I don't recall anything particularly unpleasant about St.Gregory's, although they were fairly strict.

    There was plenty of corporal punishment at St.Benedict's - once a boy got a reputation as 'difficult' they'd be beaten for almost anything. I kept my nose clean, but still got beaten a few times. Some teachers could be malicious, and some of the monks were unpleasant, but there were decent ones - I particularly remember Philip Lawrence, who taught us English (and was later cruelly stabbed to death).

    I don't recall any talk of sexual abuse in my time there, though not having any experience of such things, I probably wouldn't have taken rumours seriously. Physical abuse was par for the course.

  18. @ 9 November, 13.15 comment

    You obviously didn't understand my comments on your comment. Possibly my fault: perhaps I should have made my meaning much clearer. I apologise.

    Yes, I did read that paragraph of yours, but the point of this article is about alleged sexual abuse that went on at St Gregory's primary school in Woodfield Rd and how this fits in with abusers/cover-uppers at Ealing Abbey, not about corporal punishment which also happened to go on there but is not the article topic and is incidental to the whole discussion, just as reminiscences about 'standing under the clock' or the creatures on the school farm or about being taken to Mass would be.

    The woman who came forward to the Ealing Gazette is NOT complaining about being 'disciplined' by the teacher at St Gregs but is complaining about sexual abuse by a male teacher, and then being further abused by persons at the school and then at Ealing abbey seeking to suppress her story.

    I happen to entirely agree with you (which I hope I made clear) that corporal punishment discipline in any school in the 1970s is another matter entirely, and that adults should not try and say this was perverse and abusive etc now using today's politically correct lens unless it was actually perverse and abusive etc. However, that said, over use and/or wrongful use of corporal punishment MAY sometimes go hand in hand with other abusive behaviours.

    For the record, I do not consider myself 'politically correct'. The teachers at St Gregory's were strict and they used discipline more than other schools at that time did, but I have no real problem with that. But I and my sibling were both SEXUALLY ABUSED at St Gregory's and I DO have a problem with that. I'm glad you weren't abused there, really. I wish I was in your shoes. Both our lives have been severely affected by the trauma of our time at St Gregory's primary school - what should have been the 'best years in our lives' were our worst.

  19. 21.30

    "To be honest I never had him down as having homosexual tendencies. I thought he was frustrated at having a thing about a member of the school secretarial staff who was not interested in him as far as I know."

    Homosexuality has as much to do with paedophilia as heterosexuality or metro sexuality - nothing. You show an understanding of this by correctly mentioning his interest in a female member of school staff, then make your homosexual suggestion.

    As we know he is a convicted paedophile, for which the definition is: a person who is sexually attracted to children.

    It is perfectly possible that he is also one of the three orientations mentioned above. The evidence is though, that he liked women and male children.

  20. No offence but wasn't beating with rulers or even whips the norm in England in the 60s and even 70s? Why therefore are you only holding into account Catholic schools when clearly it was happening in all schools at the time?! I remember that in my country we were absolutely appalled that this "cultured" country of "gentlemen" would do this to their school kids, and on top of that regard people from out of Europe as savages....ironic, non??

  21. 20:58
    No offence but wasn't beating with rulers or even whips the norm in England in the 60s and even 70s?

    Not at the schools I attended.

  22. Interesting. I fully take that on board. I think I did read somewhere else on here that someone bumped I to mr maestri years later at Oxford and was surprised T how different his personality was. Apparently he had become very camp. I know this doesn't make him homosexual either. Although I didn't see signs of it speaking to someone who has a memory I trust completely he did like to cuddle some of the smaller boys in the Middle School. This could have been innocent celebration of winning a point in table tennis or maybe there was a fondness for boys long ago. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing.

  23. Well I went to st Augustine's want mental cruelty....send your
    child there and pay for the privilege.

  24. Jonathan, you will find that even the most elite schools, private, grammar, Catholic, non-Catholic, boarding, non-boarding had regular beatings in the 60s and 70s: Eton, Wellington, St Paul's...the lot. Earlier in this thread it was established that it was completely common in your English what exactly is the point of your answer? You are continuously pointing the blame at Catholic schools, and yet you continue to deny the reality that violence was normal in MOST schools in England in your times. I dont understand it, it's disgusting but hey apparently Britain brought civilisation to the world.

  25. If St Benedict's had just had the number of beatings that were common in those days and are now thankfully illegal, then I would never have become interested, Father David Pearce wouldn't have been convicted and St. Benedict's wouldn't now be a chapter in the history of the catholic clerical abuse crisis.

    I'm perfectly well aware that abuses have occurred at other schools. But I can't fix the whole world, so I'm going to leave it to the pupils of those schools to get together. I'm going to concentrate on the school my son attended and where there most definitely has been serious sexual abuse. I'm one person, I can't fix the whole world, but I can make an effort to improve my own local corner of it.

    If you want to go and help the victims of abuse at others schools, then that's wonderful. If you want some tips as to how to go about getting documents that will help you in your search, then feel free to write to me by email.

    If on the other hand, you're just engaging in whataboutery, then I will rapidly cease to take any notice of you. The fact that other schools have had abuses doesn't in any way excuse what happened at St Benedict's.

  26. I went to st gregorys from 1965-1971 and i only have good memorys. I certanly dont remember any coporal punishment been used.Some teachers were nice and some were not,thats life.Teachers certanly did not have private offices at their disposal.

    1. I was at St Gregs from 1961. On the whole it was great, the animals, the sheep shearing, Carmel the Donkey (who died just after a blessing by Cardinal Heenan). Mr & Mrs McCaffery were very caring but occasionally Mr McC did cane boys (I think about 3 times the whole time I was there. It was always big news when it happened). It was "Mr L" who beat boys & girls regularly & he was famous for spectacular screaming meltdowns. However it was the reception class teacher Miss M (the Bet Lynch lookalike) who was the worst. Hitting left-handers for being left handers, locking children in the cupboard in the dark, blowing cigarette smoke into kids faces to make them cough as a joke (in the days when teachers smoked in class). She told me if I couldn't learn to tie my shoelaces by the end of the day God would send a lorry to run my mummy over as punishment for my wilfulness. In the end I managed to fudge it by tying two loops together (I still can't do it any other way). She terrified me and I was so little. Woe betide any child who had an 'accident'. Also if a child broke wind she'd line us up and sniff our bottoms until she worked out who it was. I don't think this was effective (I was once shut in the cupboard for farting and it wasn't even me) and it definitely wasn't appropriate. We didn't say things to our parents because we thought this was what happened at school. Also I remember Father Philip as being the priest most often at the school, he always struck me as kind.

  27. how on earth should this sort of innapropriate way of behaviour should tolerated sureley this should of been not only brought to the attention of the childs parents the education services as the police i will be right in saying with these inexcusable goings on st benedicts and st gregorys schools at that time there was clearly no form of protection for any pupil to endure such a painfully upsetting experience just made made to feel subservient as far the both pupil and their parents were concerned

    1. It happened because of general ignorance (and collective denial) about child abuse & in particular child sexual abuse. I'll be honest, I don't think this is something that was a solely a problem with RC schools in Ealing. I doubt there are more than a handful of schools (whether State, Church, Private) in the UK from that time where nothing bad ever happened. There were some lovely, kind & outstandingly good teachers at St Gregs. I was never in Mr L's class (thank God). The only untoward stuff I experienced directly happened in the reception class.