My name is Nick [full name removed at user's request], I was a pupil at St James school between 82 & 87, as was my younger brother. I am using my real name because I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. I only found out about this site yesterday and it has stirred many feelings. I have lived in Western Canada for eight years, and would not have heard about the process unfolding here if not for old friends.
I thank Mike Gormez for what he has facillitated here, it is vital that this process was started, and no ex-pupils had found a way. I also thank those who have spoken out about their experiences at St James and St Vedast, their testimonies say it all. I thank those teaching staff who have had the courage, decency, and integrity to speak on this public forum. It demonstrates who you are as men. I share the sentiments regarding Barrington Barber so clearly expressed by Bruce( hello mate! drop me a line!). To me he was a good man. Will Rasmussen always seemed more humane to me than some, though I did find him impossible to read! As for David Hipshon, in my experience he was intense and intimidating, but a good history teacher.
Where do I begin? After 18 years St James still evokes such strong feelings. Don't get me wrong, I am not going to claim that I was subjected to the level of abuse some suffered. But I will stand witness. I know myself to be a confident, balanced and happy individual; this inspite of time served under the regime that was St James. And this is the main point I wish to express and expand on. Many on this site have taken part in long spiritual / philosophical debates, I see this as a fundamental hangover from time served at these schools. I will state clearly that while I was at St James, and my parents were in the SES, the organisation was a cult. It manifested the classic signs and symptoms of a cult and operated in such a manner. Nothing will ever change my opinion.
The allegations made on this forum must be dealt with in an open and honest manner by the present heads of the organisation. They would, as I am sure they are acutley aware, be foolish to down play this. It would seem that many past students are vocal , organised and prepared to take this foward, myself included. They could simply deal with this situation in a decent and responsible way and show contrition for the multitude of young lives they damaged in the early days. Those who did the greatest wrongs to young children should be made to come foward and offer their most sincere apologies as a start. You know who you are. I am sure you have taken legal advice regarding this, but I ask you to step foward and take ownership of your past behaviours.
If St James School can get their act together to find my address on an island off the coast of Canada inorder to send me their magazine, they can damn well get their shit together to notify me and ALL former pupils about this supposed open inquiry. I hope my point is clear.
To the present students of St James, and members of the SES. Some of the posts on this forum, from you, seem distinctly unsympathetic, almost angry. I ask you to hold your tounges and let the former pupils speak. The very organisations you look to today are what they are because of the failings in the early days. These things happened. All the time. Do not patronisingly suggest these people move on. For many this is the first opportunity they have ever had to do so.
I, like a number of others it would seem, have spent my life working in a wide variety of social/ caring settings. I have first hand experience with many forms of abuse and the tangled web it weaves. Abuse was present in the schools. Many, myself included, left ill equipped to deal with an outside world we had been conditioned to reject. Many, myself included, were serious under- achievers, despite high levels of intelligence. Many, it would appear had problems with relationships. The schools failed us in many ways, academically and emotionally.
At best St James was an idealistic, deeply misguided, mismanaged experiment with young lives. You have all read what it was at worst. I have been told that it has changed , that things are different now. If that is the case, it is because of the price we paid, some far more than others.
It has been stated that many teachers acted the way they did because it, in turn, was the way they had been dealt with as children. The undeniable cycle of abuse. Britain is infamous for its history of physical violence in schools "back in the day". However, for anyone to suggest that during the early and mid-eighties this was still the case is total bollox. Social service agencies all over the country, and the prevailing attitude in the school system, were championing the rights of children. The cane was all but abolished. And I would highly doubt that even if beaten, these teachers as children, had to deal with the daily damping down of their individuality, self esteem and self confidence that was the insidious mainstay of SES philosophy as implemented at St James. This, for me, has always been the greatest wrong commited against the boys and girls of the school.
As for the guilt of Nicholas Debenham? I was fortunate in that he had a certain fondness for me and I was never singled out. I am not prepared to exonerate him however. He was the Headmaster, he bears ultimate responsiblity. It was his watch. It seems to me that he genuinely believes in his system of education. These outpourings must be difficult to fathom from his position. I believe, if he is the man many feel him to be, he should set a precident and address the discontent in a 'truthful' way. Nicholas, you could help many lives.
It took time for me to deal with my upbringing and the effects of my schooling. I do not claim to be a victim of accute abuse at St James, nor was it the cause of all my problems, however the experience was deeply confusing. I still feel anger at times. However I would not change my past , I am who I am because of it. It instilled within me a will to survive and a refusal to defer to any higher truth other than my own. There were moments of total hilarity, utterly unique. As when I was dangled by my ancles out of a second story window by my new classmates because I refused to divulge my 'mantra'. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me,
I wish you all happiness in your lives.