Katharine Watson wrote:
I know it must seem extraordinary, but people really did not know. My daughter were both very happy at school - one at St Vedast and one at St James. We dealt with the wilder of the batty notions they reported to us at home by laughing at them. And they got a terrific education and have since in their very different ways gone on to be happy and successful women.
Of course there must have been people who did know - parents, presumably, for a start.
You are right, my mistake was not telling anyone. But as I was caned at four, both parents were in the cult, my ideas of normality were set early on. Some people got through without ever being caned or hit when they were pre secondary school etc, they tended to fit in to theSES St James idea, or had their head down. A few pupils however were really picked on, the smallness of the classes and school made this possible. I did not, I loved most of the things SES and St james stood against. Rock music, computer games, films, TV, football, comics. I was constantly being told I was a bad influence and brought dense energy (tamas??) in the building.
Katharine Watson wrote:
And obviously the perpetrators themselves, but to some extent even they may not have registered how out of order they had become. And it's hardly the sort of thing you go telling people.
I also believe there is good evidence that Mr Debenham did not himself know what his staff were getting up to.
I am sorry you are completely wrong, and even if the rather bizzare notion that Debenham had no idea children in his school were being beaten and abused by his staff he would have been an incredibly incompetent headteacher. But this is not in fact the case.
Debenham knew exactly what went on at St James in the mid 70s onwards. Queens gate was a small building for a school and Debenham was nearly always on site prowling around or teaching 'scripture'. Chepstow villas was even smaller.
Yes i was repeatedly whacked on the backside in front of the class by Torpys (sic)
set square, Barrington Barbers gymshoes, Russels screaming fits of abuse and head whacking, backside kicking, so hard it often propelled one along the ground. (not funny). But the one person who was worse than the lot of them was Debenham. He turned corporal punishment into a kind of ritualised art of inflicting pain. It was hell. It became so bad at one point when I was caned so often the mere sight of him actually caused me to throw up. He would cane for any reason. He once pulled me into his study and caned me for something I reportedly said to someone at 'Art in Action' three weeks after the event during the summer holidays,I never knew what i was supposed to have done. I was sent out of the church opposite queensgate one time and ordered to stand in the street, (quite a thing in itself to stand in the busy street unattended for over an hour considering I was 7, they were mad). Debenham bowled up, why was I there, Talking? right into my study, whack etc etc. Caned for playing pac man after school, for being late, for drawing comics, for playing pop music on piano,Caned for reading Starwars magazines after school, for being sent out of music lessons, caned for playing 'it' in the gardens of Sarum Chase during another lunatic cult ses session I was forced to endure. By the way I must have been one of the youngest ever initiated into SES, I was the only child at those meetings and events. He once caned in the evening just before a group session was to start, I had to hang around the bloody school till 10.30, i remember the stunned look on a what i guess was an SEs group members face as I ran from his study tears streaming. the noise of the cane could be heard all the way up the building. It was humiliating to boot.
He even caned me on my ever first week of school aged four in my first ever assembly for tying my friends shoelaces. If you want to chop logic the caning was given for lying.(I denied it, although I saw he saw me do it) What kind of a person canes 4 year old children on their first week of school for such a small thing? He possibly new my parents were SES fanatics and he could get away with whatever he wanted. As I also had a lot of friends outside school (outside SES friends were forbidden) and I loved modern things, pop music, video games football etc no doubt I was considered a rotten apple.
To sum up. Debenham has no escape from any of this. He was as equally violent as the others, but in his own quiet way.
As his staff were guilty of abusing children, then he as the head of the school must take the blame and be held accountable for employing them and not checking or being aware of their behavior, and not being sensitive to the children under his care.(however his care was not 'care' at all, I remember one child who obviously struggled while being caned, Debenham must have missed his backside, because the sensitive inner area behind both his knees were deeply cut and bleeding. It must have been agony as we wore shorts, the child cried for the whole afternoon. he was just put to stand alone in the changing rooms, age 7/8).
But I need to repeat, In Such tiny schools, in such small buildings, there is no question
debenham did not know. I would go further and put it that he actually encouraged staff to be generous in their administration of corporal punishment. Also Russell really used to scream, you could hear him across the street!
A good headmaster sets the tone and nature of a school, And Debenham did this.David Hipshon writes of the feeling of oppression felt in 1982, well magnify that as you go back to the beginning. The role of St james was to spread SES doctrine into education, and like SES's fumbling attempts to merge Christianity, Indian mysticism, Platonism into what ended up as a confused verbage, the school was also a weird unique mix of undefined incompatible ideas, and at root, equally confused.
It is conceivable that the Debenham you know is a changed man, the person I knew was a monster. And not all my teachers were thus if you think I am biased and full of hyperbole, Clem Salaman was actually a kindly individual with a warm heart and infectious laugh who encouraged me to learn. Just telling you as it was.
One thing I want to leave you with. The experience of sitting on hard wooden chairs with shooting terrible pains going through ones body after 6 beatings of the cain age 8 in a philosophy class while some one sits on a chair with a beautific look on their face exorting me to realise i am not the body,please sit still and stop squirming, the absolute is constant etc is one that goes in deep, and is pretty unquantifiable.
This is the last of my posts here on my childhood experiences.
It's not worth dragging the millions of other run ins I had with Debenham and his goons. Some seem to have decided that
he is innocent of any abuse and was blissfully unaware (or in a haze of what was it, satva???? )of his staffs behavior. Amazing.