EXPERIENCES AT ST. VEDAST (now St. James) AND THE S.E.S

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
B.Barber

St. Vedast

Postby B.Barber » Fri Oct 22, 2004 3:20 pm

To all St.Vedast & St. James ex-pupils, especially Matthew Woolf and Tom Grubb.
I must first of all apologise unreservedly for any pain or humiliation that I inflicted on any boys at St.Vedast in the 1970-80's.I realise now that in the position I was priviledged to hold I sometimes must have abused my power and made boys suffer unnecessarily.At the time that was not my intention.
I was rather inexperienced as a secondary school teacher having only taught art students before. Although I had been well trained by my father and grandfather[a professional boxer in his youth] and had worked as a professional artist for some years previously, I had never had formal tutorial training although at the time my art school diploma was officially good as a teaching qualification. I was also an M.S.I.A. during my proffessional career. I was a part-time teacher at St.Vedast because I spent half my time at St.James as well.
To give you all the relevant background, I had grown up in a fairly tough time And had learnt to fight for myself through what was then quite tough junior and grammar schools in the 1940-50's, and as I was a rather puny boy I had quite a hard time. But I did manage to hold my own.
When I was asked to teach boxing at St.James/St.Vedast it was based on the idea that most boys tend to fight and it was better if they learnt a formal version than just to be left to use whatever methods came to hand. I trieed in teaching boxing to give the boys all the techniques I'd learnt in the same way I was taught. But I did try very hard to match boys of similar weight and skill as much as possible. I am pleased to say that there are still old boys that tell me that they enjoyed the boxing lessons, and they weren't always the toughest ones.I agree that some of my methods of punishment were a bit crude but I assure you that I was not motivated by the spirit of sadism. I tried to keep it to the least painful I could under the circumstances. I realise it probably didn't look like that to you, but I never gave out anything I had not been put through in my own youth. I was probably too hard on you for the times. I beg your pardon in the hope that you might allow for a different upbringing slanting my methods.
I am impressed by the tenacity with which you have pursued your investigations into the early days of the school and I agree with you that love and wisdom were not always in plentiful supply. This is not an excuse because I accept my responsibility for causing some of you unnecessary pain and am deeply mortified by any of my previous ill-judged behaviour.
I do think however I have helped to encourage and produce some first rate artist,quite a few who have been accepted in top Art Colleges including one recently at the Slade School of Fine Art.
There has definitely been a flourishing artistic development in the school and that doesn't happen by chance. I still have a few drawings from the earliest days that stand up to the best. My remit in art was first to teach drawing of a classical,naturalistic form which I think was successful.
I was impressed by your response to Dr.Hipshon's messages and have only become aware of the existence of this site and wish to add my apologies to his.If any of you wish to contact me directly my e-mail is toynbeeroad@hotmail.com. As I am now a bit elderly and am not used to using the internet you will forgive me I hope for not contributing much more to this site. However I will answer e-mails as soon as possible. You will all be relieved no doubt to know that that I have now retired from teaching and would say I sent all my children to St.James and hope that they don't regret it. I wish you all well and hope in time your pain and anger will be resolved. Matthew and Tom and Alban and friends my sincere apologies.Please forgive me. BB

Matthew
Posts: 212
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:57 pm
Location: London

Re: St. Vedast

Postby Matthew » Fri Oct 22, 2004 7:27 pm

Dear Mr Barber

Thank you, your apology is both welcome and appreciated. About 25 years too late, but appreciated nonetheless. And as they say, better late than never at all. On reading what you say, it does appear to have a tone of truthfulness and honesty about it, but to be completely assured of your heart-felt sincerity, I would ideally of course, need to meet you and hear you repeat this as I look you in the eye. Perhaps we shall meet at the forthcoming Inquiry. It is there and then that I look forward to being able to forgive you personally for what you put us through.

I welcome too the fact that, up to this point, this has all taken place on a public internet-forum such as this. Full transparency is now essential after all the years of secrecy and cover-ups. If you keep trying to sweep things under the carpet in the hope that they will disappear, eventually the pile will protrude so much that everyone starts tripping over it. It feels a bit like this is what has been happening.

I too must echo Tom's eternal gratitude to Mike Gormez for setting up and hosting this site. Thank you Mike. We would never have got to this stage if it hadn't have been for the Internet.

Matthew Woolf
Last edited by Matthew on Fri Oct 22, 2004 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Alban
Posts: 271
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2004 11:23 am
Location: London

Reply to Barrington Barber

Postby Alban » Fri Oct 22, 2004 7:31 pm

For some reason I didn't expect to hear from you Mr Barber, but I am sincerely glad that you made the effort and I thank you for not trying to defend the regime or the actions thereof. It is also very welcome to read an unreserved apology.

You see the problem from where I stand, is this. We remember the brutality, the sadistic regimes and the people who were enforcing them. We remember the vigour with which you carried out your tasks and that's how the image stays in our memories. The very simple act of apologising and admitting that you made mistakes which you now regret changes that image that has been held for so long. We remember you as believing whole-heartedly in what you were doing, and until that memory is broken, then you remain tormentors in our minds.

For my part, I accept your apology with gratitude, and hope that others can follow the precedent set by David Hipshon and yourself.

PF

Barrington Barber

Postby PF » Fri Oct 22, 2004 8:09 pm

Mr Barber,

I would like to thank you for your apology. My belief is that I am responsible for my actions and the results they have. If I have harmed someone then I really need to look at what I have done and face it. Someone once said that communication is the result we get. My sense is that you are genuinely sorry. Personally I have been moved by your and David Hipshon's apology and I feel myself letting go of some of the pain I have been holding for so long. I would like Nicholas Debenham to recognise that under his watch I suffered in a way a 4,5,6 year old child should not suffer. I personally remeber you beating our whole class once for something I had done. I remember the time well - we were in the crypt in St Albans. You lined us all up one by one and beat the whole lot of us. That was when I was 4 or 5. I am now 33 and I remember it very clearly.


I am not sure if I need to meet you - but I am glad your offer is there and I may take you up on it. Perhaps if you would like to make amends - you could speak to Nicholas Debenham and see if you can persuade him to look into his heart and see if he feels responsible for any suffering.


I wish you well. I hope Daniel is doing OK. He suffered alot at school. I still have a cartoon you did of a school trip we made to Greece.

PF

mgormez
Posts: 501
Joined: Tue Feb 04, 2003 9:33 pm
Location: Amsterdam
Contact:

Postby mgormez » Fri Oct 22, 2004 10:00 pm

Please guys, you make me blush. Enough please with the praise. I made the infrastructure but in the end it is you former pupils, current members and what not, that have filed the forum. It would be lonely all by myself here.

I am pretty safe here, without any ties to the SES group and none of them have hurt me ever (excluding a few very long emails :-) the courage is with the people who have been hurt and stepped forward and told their stories and basically made so much noise that (former) teachers of the school felt they had to step forward as well. That, too, took courage.

You people have made a differance! I am so happy.
Mike Gormez

danb
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2004 12:11 am

Postby danb » Sat Oct 23, 2004 1:22 am

All,

(I am not beholden to any connections or beliefs associated with my old school, and never have been.)

Start.

Surely life's too short to go on whinging and bitching about this past.
I too had a LOT of bad times. I finally got expelled at 15/16 (cant remember), but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was out. I was free. To do what I wanted to do... I did find it extremely hard to get into a 'normal' life for a while, but I did.

One thing I have learnt, through my sometimes ragged life experience, is that human beings have to assume responsibility for themselves, even as children. Blaming others is perhaps easy, but not the answer. (Im not going there)


I'll tell you all something as well, I love my father. He is one of the most loving individuals that I know. He cares about people. We all perhaps, fuck up from time to time - don't make us bad, does it? Sure there's some crackpots out there, but he aint one of them.

D

BTW. I hate you all as much as you probably hate me now (apologies all round). And, you can all whinge and bitch all about this post if you like, but you wont get a response from me. Leave BB out of it. He?s a good man.[b][/b]

mgormez
Posts: 501
Joined: Tue Feb 04, 2003 9:33 pm
Location: Amsterdam
Contact:

Postby mgormez » Sat Oct 23, 2004 10:39 am

danb wrote:One thing I have learnt, through my sometimes ragged life experience, is that human beings have to assume responsibility for themselves, even as children. Blaming others is perhaps easy, but not the answer. (Im not going there)


Dan, I don't agree with you and the law in the Western world doesn't agree with you. We call children 'minors' for a reason. How on earth is a child who was sent by his parents to St. Vedast, responsible for that choice?
Mike Gormez

St James pupil

About BB and the school St James

Postby St James pupil » Sat Oct 23, 2004 10:52 am

I always remember BB as a caring and nice man. Boxing was a scary sport but to this day I still have a good right hook which has saved me on ocassion. I realised that he had little teacher training but I have always looked upto him during my years at St James. Some of his methods could have been described as a little rough at times. But I strongly believe he never knowingly mean't harm and he always tried to get the best from his pupils.

I cannot unfortunately say this about all of the other teachers although I did really like many of them and still do to this day. I hardly passed any exams at St James but after attending a normal comprehensive school I pased O'levels and A' levels and went on to university and have been successful in life since. I have no idea why I didn't pass exams at St James but I remember getting laughed at in the comprehensive school for not being able to do long division.

In the SES I never really understood what I was doing there but I suppose I learnt to paint, decorate and garden at an early age. I do remember one SES member attempted to sexually assault me on about three ocassions. He was about twenty and I was about 12/13. He didn't get very far other than very forcefull attempts to fondle me once at Queensgate, once at Sarum chase and once/twice at Stanhill court. Also at Stanhill court he leaned over a bathroom partition and poured harpic in the bath I was about to get into I assume in an attempt to terrorise me. I have never told this to anyone and have no wish to do anything about this now as I feel its just something I have to live with. I was extremely terrified at the time. As far as I know this person is not involved with the schools today.

Overall its was not all moans and groans at St James school. I do remember swinging one Latin teachers brief case on a rope outside the window at Chepstow villas while he was teaching a class below and also some of the boys urinating from the top of Queensgate late at night onto the crowd waiting in the street below. Although Debenham thought he knew what his pupils were upto there was much more mischeif, petty theft, buying alcohol and ciggies while under age and other activities that he ever got to see.

Annonymous

The swimming incident

Postby Annonymous » Sat Oct 23, 2004 12:17 pm

Alban wrote:So David, please do not try and defend Nicholas Debenham, he has many things to answer for. For example, the pupil who said "I never received a punishment from Mr Debenham that I didn't thoroughly deserve." obviously wasn't one of the two classes of children he caned because someone spoke in swimming!
Alban


This is not factual. In the actual incident the two classes were going to swimming and walking from Queens gate to the swimming pool. On passing part of the university of London the two classes decided to stamp their feet on a particularly noisy part of the walkway. This was then reported and eveyone (except those not swimming) received 3 strokes of the cane followed by an hours meditation. The chemistry teacher escorting the class was mortified that such a severe punishement had been dished out and she had trouble to face the classes for some time after. In my mind it was rather excessive and not all pupils were guilty of stamping their feet. It may seem babaric in todays world to some ie. 20 years on but it didn't seem that barbaric then.

Daniel Gregory

Postby Daniel Gregory » Sat Oct 23, 2004 1:35 pm

I had Barrington Barber as an art teacher, boxing teacher and he was my CO while I was in the cadets.
I never had a problem with him and I remember him with some fondness. Mr Barber was a kind man of good judgement and I wish him well and hope he is happy.

Danny

x St James

Barrington Barber

Postby x St James » Sat Oct 23, 2004 1:57 pm

I can only speak for myself but I never had anything but respect for Mr Barber. In my mind he could be tough but he was fair unlike some of the others.
If you read this Mr Barber, I hope you are well and enjoying your retirement

St James pupil

Barry Barber

Postby St James pupil » Sat Oct 23, 2004 2:19 pm

Despite some of the very unfortunate things that happened to me in my early life. Not in any way related to Barry Barber I may hasten to add.

I will always see Mr Barber as a true friend and a good teacher and someone I trust.

Good luck on your retirement :fadein:

Daffy

Re: The swimming incident

Postby Daffy » Sat Oct 23, 2004 3:33 pm

Annonymous wrote:This is not factual. In the actual incident the two classes were going to swimming and walking from Queens gate to the swimming pool. On passing part of the university of London the two classes decided to stamp their feet on a particularly noisy part of the walkway. This was then reported and eveyone (except those not swimming) received 3 strokes of the cane followed by an hours meditation. The chemistry teacher escorting the class was mortified that such a severe punishement had been dished out and she had trouble to face the classes for some time after. In my mind it was rather excessive and not all pupils were guilty of stamping their feet. It may seem babaric in todays world to some ie. 20 years on but it didn't seem that barbaric then.


I am utterly amazed at your conclusion that it didn't seem barbaric at the time. This suggests that you weren't one of the many pupils caned that afternoon. I was one of those pupils, and this incident is one of my worst memories of a decade at St James.

I will never forget coming back to Queensgate that afternoon. It wasn't just the fact that I was caned for something utterly trivial. After my whole class received our punishment we went back to our classroom, which was close to Debenham's study. We began the usual end-of-day pretend-meditation session (and I think it was the usual 15-20 mins, not one hour). As we sat in silence, we listened to the next class being caned. The sound of three vicious strokes landing on each backside, the door of his study opening, the crying of some boys on their way out and then the pause before the next one, carried on for ten minutes or more.

The chemistry teacher (Dr MacRae), was rumoured to have been very distressed by this over-reaction by Debenham, as you say. It was all part of Debenham's obsession with Victorian values, including respect for women. Nothing wrong with respect for women, of course, but I am sure Dr MacRae didn't regard it as in the least bit respectful to her to put two classes of her pupils through this brutal treatment.

Matthew
Posts: 212
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:57 pm
Location: London

Re: Barry Barber

Postby Matthew » Sat Oct 23, 2004 4:06 pm

I am heartened to read this praise for Barry Barber. I wish I could say he was like this in the first 2 to 3 years of St Vedast. It seems he may have gone on to reform himself (or at least with some of the boys) and this is good to learn. Once again I would like to accept and thank him for his apology. On the positive side I remember him as a very talented cartoonist.

Annonymous

Re: The swimming incident

Postby Annonymous » Sat Oct 23, 2004 4:57 pm

Daffy wrote:I am utterly amazed at your conclusion that it didn't seem barbaric at the time. This suggests that you weren't one of the many pupils caned that afternoon. I was one of those pupils, and this incident is one of my worst memories of a decade at St James.

I will never forget coming back to Queensgate that afternoon. It wasn't just the fact that I was caned for something utterly trivial. After my whole class received our punishment we went back to our classroom, which was close to Debenham's study. We began the usual end-of-day pretend-meditation session (and I think it was the usual 15-20 mins, not one hour). As we sat in silence, we listened to the next class being caned. The sound of three vicious strokes landing on each backside, the door of his study opening, the crying of some boys on their way out and then the pause before the next one, carried on for ten minutes or more.

The chemistry teacher (Dr MacRae), was rumoured to have been very distressed by this over-reaction by Debenham, as you say. It was all part of Debenham's obsession with Victorian values, including respect for women. Nothing wrong with respect for women, of course, but I am sure Dr MacRae didn't regard it as in the least bit respectful to her to put two classes of her pupils through this brutal treatment.


I was unfortunately one of the persons as well and yes it was probably 15-20 mins meditation and yes we did all rush down to the changing rooms down the long stone stairs to the basement clutching our backsides to look at / compare each others marks (bare arse) and it wasn't the first time I got the cane either. I remember distinctly the study at 91 Queens gate and the black and white marble floor in the hallway etc. I suppose I'm comparing it with a number of not so nice things that happened to me during my visits to the SES which were far worse as far as I was concerned due to a particular person that was there rather than the SES itself. It was traumatic at the time and yes it did leave bruising which lasted about a week. Well done for remembering the name of the chemistry teacher I was trying to think who it was. She was very upset and shocked and I don't think theres anything she could have done at the time. Its more than 20 years ago. Mind you I could still name all the people in the two classes and also who didn't go swimming that day but I intend to stay annonymous and I respect other peoples wishes to do so also. Mr Spooner was the swimming instructor.


[quote error fixed - i'll also delete the 2 other duplicates of this post -- mike]


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