Inside Ireland’s boarding school for seven-year-olds
Film shines light on trials and joys of pupils and teachers at unique Headfort school
One painful moment from my childhood remains so sharply defined in my memory that it has the power to make me cry — even now.
I am a boy, aged just eight, sitting at a window in my boarding school, scanning the drive, waiting for my father to turn up and take me on an afternoon outing.
Minutes tick by. The arranged time for our meeting passes. I wait, still hopeful, expectant, excited.
Mark Stibbe, a former vicar who lives in North Yorkshire, is among those to claim to have been abused by youth worker John Smyth, who ran Christian holiday camps. As other victims waive their right to anonymity, here he tells his story in full.
She was born into great privilege, was a close family friend of Prince Charles and for a while lived a wild party lifestyle fuelled by drug abuse – not characteristics guaranteed to earn the admiration of the British public.
But Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, who has died at the age of 45, was also blessed with an intelligent, self-deprecating wit and a lively sense of fun, qualities that made her, for a time, one of the most popular minor celebrities of the late 1990s and 2000s – even if no one could quite remember what she was famous for.
In recent years, having kicked a reported £400-a-day cocaine habit after several bouts in therapy, Palmer-Tomkinson had largely sought to retreat from the public eye, vowing that she had left the party lifestyle behind for good. “I’m not the person I was,” she said last year. “I’ve gone completely the other way. I’m a very quiet person now, and I like being that person.”
After the publication of photographs of her looking frail, attracting insinuations that she had relapsed, the socialite revealed late last year that she had been suffering from a non-malignant brain tumour. Contrary to most people’s assumptions, she insisted, she had not taken drugs for a decade. But despite declaring herself more content, she had never quite found peace, she said, and continued to struggle with anxiety and self doubt.
Pity that this does not (yet) refer to the UK but rather to a school in Ireland.
At eight, I was sent to boarding school – I was heartbroken. I found leaving home very, very difficult, but once I was at school, I fitted in easily because I was so in awe of being part of the musical fabric at Winchester cathedral. But it was the end of my family life as I’d known it. I got very short holidays, as I was practising or performing with the choir during them. I enjoyed the camaraderie at school and became independent sooner than most children.
If you take a child out of the family so young, you never really recover. My brothers also went to boarding schools, but not the same one as me, so after I turned eight, we didn’t really grow up together.
The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged 96, his daughter has said.
The tear-jerking children’s classic about a group of rabbits in search of a new home after the destruction of their warren was first published in 1972.
The tale, first told by Adams on a long car journey with his daughters, turned into a best-seller.
Adams, a civil servant from Newbury in Berkshire, also wrote Shardik, The Plague Dogs and The Girl in a Swing.
Watership Down won the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction in the year of publication.
He suffered the fate of many middle-class boys of the period when he was sent to boarding school at the age of nine, where, by all accounts, he had a miserable time.
I saw it in schools; now football is the focus. The pain is the same. Alex Renton
Allegations of sex crimes against young footballers continue to emerge. For two years, the author has heard harrowing accounts from hundreds of victims of sex abuse in [boarding] schools and finds many disquieting parallels
Breaking the silence is immensely powerful and it is good medicine. But speaking up is hard. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has data that suggests one out of three people abused as a child has not disclosed the abuse and that the average victim who does waits nearly eight years to do so. Many of the men coming forward now, encouraged by the testimony of ex-footballer Andy Woodward, had never spoken before of the events when they were children.
In the past couple of years I have read or heard the accounts of more than 700 men and women sexually and emotionally abused as children in boarding schools, state-run and private. They came to me after I wrote in the Observer of the abuse at my own, Ashdown House. The stories are the grimmest reading, but what is heartening is that for so many people the simple act of speaking up is hugely helpful.
The Rurik Jutting case has highlighted the extent of unsuitable people working in UK boarding schools:
The Daily Mail and The Telegraph (not newspapers noted for their anti-boarding stance) both report details of Jutting’s schooldays
The Daily Mail:
EXCLUSIVE – Revealed, how sex offender who taught ‘psycho banker’ accused of murdering two prostitutes was teacher at top prep school where David Cameron AND Prince Edward were pupils
Andrew Sadler taught at Heatherdown school with Prince Edward and PM
Prince Andrew also attended the exclusive boarding school near Ascot
Sadler later taught at £6k-a-term Abberley Hall when Rurik Jutting was there
Sadler was also member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange
He was later jailed in 2000 for four years in Romania for sex assaults on two boys
A convicted paedophile who was caught in bed with two child prostitutes in Romania taught at schools attended by David Cameron, Prince Edward – and ‘psycho’ banker Rurik Jutting.
In an astonishing coincidence, MailOnline can reveal that Andrew Sadler, who was jailed after abusing two 15-year-old boys, was a teacher at prestigious boarding schools where the prime minister, princes Andrew and Edward, and the trader accused of murdering two sex workers in Hong Kong were all pupils.
Sadler was also a member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) – a vile web of perverts…
Rurik Jutting: From quiet Surrey schoolboy to sadistic sex monster of Hong Kong
Jutting had excelled at his Worcestershire boarding prep school, Abberley Hall, and after winning a scholarship to the prestigious Winchester College, his mother was delighted.
Jutting was a “quiet boy” during his childhood years in Chertsey – “certainly not one of the loud kids”, a former classmate said.
But his years at Winchester were not happy. He claims to have been abused at the historic school, where he was forced to perform oral sex on a boy.
Cold Feet star Robert Bathurst has blamed being bullied at boarding school for him becoming a “wary” and “very private” person.
The English actor was sent to a boarding school run by Benedictine monks at eight, and says he was bullied by staff and older pupils.
He told the Radio Times that when he was filming Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie in Ireland, he hired a car to revisit the school – but was “hyperventilating” as he went up the drive.
Robert said: “Your letters were read and if you said anything against the school, you were beaten.
“It has forced me to be very private.