Beatings, humiliation and a lack of self-worth: how Edinburgh Academy victims have been scarred

Beatings, humiliation and a lack of self-worth: how Edinburgh Academy victims have been scarred

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

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 turned 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 folks. I didn’t know this place. It wasn’t what I believed it was going to be.”

Graham’s graphic account at Edinburgh sheriff courtroom 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 line 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 together with his family alongside boarding pupils, and on the Academy’s junior faculty, the place he rose to the place of deputy head.

Declared unfit to face trial on well being grounds, the 36 fees in opposition to him have been heard in a uncommon quasi-trial course of often known as an “examination of details” overseen, with out a jury, by Sheriff Ian Anderson.

Witnesses together with Nicky Campbell, the BBC journalist and broadcaster, recounted the weapons Brownlee employed over these twenty 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 wood 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 mentioned. He witnessed one other boy being “annihilated” as soon as within the junior faculty 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 technique 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 have been being strangled; it occurred to many boys.”

Others testified to that approach; Campbell instructed the courtroom Brownlee, who at turns could possibly 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 consumed 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 assist group for survivors of Edinburgh Academy abuse, was clear that for many who witnessed the abuse of their fellow pupils it could possibly be as traumatic as being abused themselves.

“He loved the psychological torture, there was little question about that,” mentioned 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, understanding that the violence may occur at any time.”

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

Others described routine humiliations: chilly baths for boys who didn’t brush their tooth; kids’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 have 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. Various 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, mentioned self-loathing drove him to reckless, suicidal conduct in battle zones. “I hate myself,” he instructed the courtroom 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 have been.”

The witnesses have been repeatedly pressed by Andrew Seggie, the Brownlee household’s lawyer, to clarify whether or not they had instructed their mother and father about their experiences. Many mentioned they didn’t; some feared retribution within the faculty; others mentioned they thought Brownlee’s behaviour was regular, or that they, by some means, deserved it.

Campbell, who additionally alleges different abuses together with a critical sexual assault by different Academy academics, by no means instructed his mother and father. “You thought, that is occurring. It have to be OK,” Campbell instructed the courtroom. “I will need to have put myself on this scenario, for this to occur.”

However the courtroom additionally heard Brownlee routinely censored the weekly letters boys have been anticipated to ship house: “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 courtroom – even with out Brownlee within the dock to listen to them – was a chance to interrupt the maintain this man had on them. Some needed the possibility to talk for longer, however others described the psychological pressure of returning to their susceptible youthful selves in public.

The query of why no different workers member intervened turned 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, mentioned 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 offered 83-year-old, insisted that Dundas Home was “run alongside household strains”.

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 might be 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 right,” he replied.

The proof uncovered a wider tradition of complicity: different academics have been keenly conscious but it surely seems none took motion, and a few have been straight complicit in Brownlee’s violence.

Certainly, Brownlee is considered one of quite a few former academics going through prosecution for violent and sexual assaults on their pupils. Many of those fees 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 sequence In Darkish Corners about abuse in Britain’s elite personal faculties 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 outdated, Graham Macleod recalled “a really tearful dialog” together with her in regards to 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 came about in 1967. Brownlee remained on Academy workers for one more 20 years.

Within the UK, the NSPCC presents assist to kids on 0800 1111, and adults involved a few baby on 0808 800 5000. The Nationwide Affiliation for Folks Abused in Childhood (Napac) presents assist for grownup survivors on 0808 801 0331. Within the US, name or textual content the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In Australia, kids, younger adults, mother and father and academics can contact the Children 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 Little one Helplines Worldwide

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