Beatings, humiliation and a lack of self-worth: how Edinburgh Academy victims had been scarred | Personal colleges


The enormity of the abuse suffered by the hands of the Edinburgh Academy housemaster grew to become clear when the primary witness was requested a easy query concerning the second his mom left him alone on the elite personal boarding college.

John Graham, now a trim 56-year-old with a goatee beard, was requested: how did he really feel? Till then fluent and factual within the witness field, Graham froze. His face crumpled. In that second, Graham once more grew to become the eight-year-old boy who had felt “not good” that day, however with the terrible grownup hindsight of the abuse he would endure there.

“I didn’t know these individuals. I didn’t know this place. It wasn’t what I assumed it was going to be.”

Graham’s graphic account at Edinburgh sheriff court docket earlier this month, of being a toddler repeatedly assaulted, crushed and abused at Brownlee’s palms set the scene for 9 harrowing days of witness accounts which uncovered, of their phrases, a vicious sadist who relished inflicting ache.

In keeping with a prolonged indictment, Brownlee, now an 89-year-old with superior dementia, terrorised younger boys over a 20-year interval: each at Dundas Home, the place he lived along with his family alongside boarding pupils, and on the Academy’s junior college, the place he rose to the place of deputy head.

Declared unfit to face trial on well being grounds, the 36 prices in opposition to him had been heard in a uncommon quasi-trial course of referred to as an “examination of details” overseen, and not using a jury, by Sheriff Ian Anderson.

Witnesses together with Nicky Campbell, the BBC journalist and broadcaster, recounted the weapons Brownlee employed over these 20 years. These included the clacken (a spoon-like bat Brownlee repeatedly used “with a golf swing” to strike the boys’ backsides), a cricket bat, a damaged snooker cue, metallic and picket rulers generally introduced sharp edge-down on a toddler’s knuckles, his personal brogues, fists and open hand.

John Brownlee was described as having a ‘hair-trigger mood’. {Photograph}: Twitter

“He had a hair-trigger mood on him,” Graham stated. He witnessed one other boy being “annihilated” as soon as within the junior college eating corridor: “Smashed him down on the ground, simply laid into him; he was kicking him, simply battering him.”

Frazer MacDonald, 54, a former Christian missionary who arrived at Dundas Home aged eight, recalled Brownlee had a way for choking boys by inserting his knuckled fist contained in the again of a boy’s collar, and twisting as he flexed his fist. “You felt such as you had been being strangled; it occurred to many boys.”

Others testified to that method; Campbell informed the court docket Brownlee, who at turns may very well be charismatic and at others arbitrarily violent, as soon as rained blows on his head like “a knuckle dance down on my cranium”.

Giles Moffat, 51, described being locked in a backyard shed with two different boys over a weekend for a minor infraction, and being ate up bread and milk by Brownlee’s spouse. He additionally described one stunning incident the place a six-year-old had a backyard hose pushed into his anus by Brownlee as a punishment for bedwetting.

Moffat, who co-founded a help group for survivors of Edinburgh Academy abuse, was clear that for individuals who witnessed the abuse of their fellow pupils it may very well be as traumatic as being abused themselves.

“He loved the psychological torture, there was little question about that,” stated one other witness, who has requested to not be named. Throughout one assault, Brownlee slammed the folding door of a blackboard on his head “spraying spittle” as he did so. “He loved the worry, figuring out that the violence may occur at any time.”

“The ache of the beating passes,” stated Graham Macleod, a day pupil who had Brownlee as a instructor at junior college, “however the humiliation of being crushed in entrance of your friends, the category, that lasts,” he stated. “So humiliation may be very a lot a part of the expertise.”

Others described routine humiliations: chilly baths for boys who did not brush their enamel; youngsters’s underpants paraded in entrance of their friends; a metallic comb dragged painfully throughout their scalps within the morning.

Witnessed described a tradition the place violence, worry, silence and disgrace had been so normalised that bullying was “institutionalised”, as the kids turned in opposition to each other to behave out their misery.

The lack of self-worth was a recurring theme. Quite a few the witnesses have survived alcoholism and opiate dependancy; some struggled to construct careers; others know classmates who killed themselves in maturity.

Neil McDonald, a former military main, stated self-loathing drove him to reckless, suicidal conduct in battle zones. “I hate myself,” he informed the court docket bluntly. “I see myself as a loathsome piece of shit. I can’t stand being me. As a result of I used to be taught that that was what we had been.”

The witnesses had been repeatedly pressed by Andrew Seggie, the Brownlee household’s lawyer, to clarify whether or not they had informed their dad and mom about their experiences. Many stated they didn’t; some feared retribution within the college; others stated they thought Brownlee’s behaviour was regular, or that they, someway, deserved it.

Campbell, who additionally alleges different abuses together with a critical sexual assault by different Academy lecturers, by no means informed his dad and mom. “You thought, that is occurring. It have to be OK,” Campbell informed the court docket. “I should have put myself on this scenario, for this to occur.”

However the court docket additionally heard Brownlee routinely censored the weekly letters boys had been anticipated to ship dwelling: “If he didn’t like what was in, you’d be made to rewrite it”.

These males, now stout with their hair gray or receding in center age, say privately that telling their story in court docket – even with out Brownlee within the dock to listen to them – was a possibility to interrupt the maintain this man had on them. Some needed the prospect to talk for longer, however others described the psychological pressure of returning to their weak youthful selves in public.

The query of why no different workers member intervened grew to become one other recurring theme of the hearings. Brownlee’s spouse Margaret and his sons Neil and Graeme lived too in Dundas Home: did they ever intervene?

They didn’t, stated the witnesses, and as an alternative appeared for the defence to vigorously dismiss the allegations of greater than 30 former pupils as “ridiculous”, “lies” or “distortions”.

Margaret, an immaculately introduced 83-year-old, insisted that Dundas Home was “run alongside household traces”.

Her elder son, Graeme, at 56 of an age with lots of the victims, described it as “a contented home” the place he grew up “cheek by jowl” with the opposite pupils and witnessed no proof of beatings or different extreme punishments.

“The reality is you’re right here to guard your father’s legacy and you’ll by no means and may by no means settle for these items occurred,” the fiscal put to him on the conclusion of his proof.

“That’s appropriate,” he replied.

The proof uncovered a wider tradition of complicity: different lecturers had been keenly conscious nevertheless it seems none took motion, and a few had been immediately complicit in Brownlee’s violence.

Certainly, Brownlee is one in every of quite a few former lecturers dealing with prosecution for violent and sexual assaults on their pupils. Many of those prices stem from the work of the long-running Scottish baby abuse inquiry, which has recommended the work of journalist Alex Renton, whose BBC Radio 4 documentary collection In Darkish Corners about abuse in Britain’s elite personal colleges prompted Campbell to disclose his personal abuse. It resulted in a flood of different former pupils coming ahead and inspiring the inquiry to take detailed proof on the college.

However one boy did summon up the braveness to report Brownlee, to the headteacher’s spouse one night. Then about 9 or 10 years previous, Graham Macleod recalled “a really tearful dialog” together with her concerning the abuse and trauma he had suffered. “She gave the impression to be clearly distressed by it. I didn’t maintain again. My impression after that was issues did enhance, not less than for me.”

That dialog passed off in 1967. Brownlee remained on Academy workers for an additional 20 years.

Within the UK, the NSPCC provides help to youngsters on 0800 1111, and adults involved a couple of baby on 0808 800 5000. The Nationwide Affiliation for Individuals Abused in Childhood (Napac) provides help for grownup survivors on 0808 801 0331. Within the US, name or textual content the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In Australia, youngsters, younger adults, dad and mom and lecturers can contact the Youngsters Helpline on 1800 55 1800; grownup survivors can search assist at Blue Knot Basis on 1300 657 380. Different sources of assist may be discovered at Baby Helplines Worldwide


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