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Boarding school pupil tells how beatings ‘still disturb me’ decades later

·4-min read

Former pupils of a private boarding school have recalled teachers taking “delight” in caning children and how one boy was beaten so severely his wrist was broken.

One ex-student of Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, Perthshire, told how he was tormented by a more senior pupil who threatened to brand him with a red-hot poker and stubbed out a cigarette on his bare skin.

Another, now aged in his 70s, said beatings endured from an “extremely violent” teacher “still disturb me” more than half a century later.

The evidence, most given anonymously, came during Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry proceedings, which is examining alleged abuse in Scottish boarding schools.

The experiences of former pupils of Morrison’s Academy, established in 1860 and a boarding school until 2007, were examined at the inquiry on Thursday.

Alasdair Liddle, who joined Morrison’s in 1950, described having his tooth knocked out after he was forced into a boxing match with another new student.

He told how he was plagued by an older pupil, and house captain, who “heated a poker in the stove until it was red hot then approached me menacingly until the poker was inches from my nose”.

In a statement read to the inquiry by staff, he went on: “He removed one of his slippers and took out the insole and said ‘eat that or I will brand you’.

“With this red-hot poker inches from my face I tossed this disgusting object into my mouth.

“He also stubbed out a cigarette on my bare leg under my kilt. I had an excruciating scar afterwards for a long time.

“My saddest memory was the total absence of help from the prefects, I assume they were terrified of the house captain too.”

Another boy, given the pseudonym Robert, now in his 70s, said in a statement that “some teachers took delight in punishing children”, and that he had his wrists cut after being lashed with a belt.

He told how when he was around 12 or 13, a boy in his class had his wrist broken after a caning by a French teacher who was thereafter banned from using belts for punishment.

Robert added: “He was not allowed to use the belt after that so he had a habit of picking boys up by the hair and kicking their shins.

“He was an extremely violent teacher who used a thick Perspex ruler… the beatings I took from that man still disturb me.”

Another boy at the school in the 1950s and 60s told how one of his housemasters was a former colonial policeman and “not the best choice for childcare”.

In a statement read to the inquiry, he went on: “In the 1950s there was a primary school teacher with a reputation for inappropriate behaviour who would ask pupils to stay behind after class.

“One had to be smart to avoid his wandering hands. Those were the days when children telling adults was unheard of.

“Worryingly, the teacher also became a cub master. Quite suddenly he failed to return after a Christmas holiday.

“Word got out the school had found out about his proclivities.”

He said he did not see any evidence of sexual abuse taking place.

Another boy, given the pseudonym Wallace, now 85, told how a girl got married aged 18 to a teacher at the school who was around two decades her senior, and who she had “become involved with when she was still at school”.

Last month, Gareth Warren, rector at Morrison’s Academy, apologised to all former pupils who suffered abuse “whether that be physical, emotional or sexual”.

He said: “I am fully aware of the damage that abuse inflicts on children and young adults and the lasting harm and debilitating effect it can have and the fear it creates on a day-to-day basis.

“As a school, we view the inquiry as important to give a voice to those who suffered abuse but also as an opportunity to learn from.

“It is very difficult and challenging to hear of our failings, and to understand the pain it caused.”

The inquiry, chaired by Lady Smith, continues on Friday with more witnesses related to Morrison’s.