Speaking exclusively to the Herald on Sunday, a former staff member at Loretto School has revealed the disturbing events that took place at Scotland’s oldest boarding establishment, with the school issuing a full ‘unreserved apology’ to pupils

A FORMER English teacher at Loretto has revealed details of a horrifying “culture of violence” and sexual abuse at the prestigious Scottish public school.

David Stock has spoken to The Herald on Sunday about evidence and testimony from pupils that he gathered recounting multiple cases of violent bullying and sexual abuse.

He says he informed the school’s authorities, but claims the offences were “covered up” and he was given no alternative but to resign his post. When Mr Stock left Loretto, he says, he was made to sign a confidentiality agreement ordering him to “shut his mouth” and not reveal what he had uncovered on pain of heavy financial consequences.

Loretto is Scotland’s oldest boarding school with fees ranging up to £11,900 per term. In a statement to The Herald on Sunday in the wake of Mr Stock’s allegations, the school issued an “unreserved apology” saying it “deeply regrets the distress caused”.

The alleged offences involve older pupils aged 17 or 18 carrying out violent and sexual acts against younger pupils. The alleged incidents happened in the late 1980s and early 90s. Mr Stock has given evidence about what he knows to the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. His allegations have been corroborated by another former teacher at the school, who worked at a higher pay grade than him.

Mr Stock, who taught at the school between 1972 and 1991, learned of the extent of pupil-on-pupil abuse when he set one of his classes a writing assignment on the issue of bullying.

The boys began to confide in him about incidents of violent bullying and sexual assault. Most of the incidents “took place in public rooms like showers and dormitories”, Mr Stock said.

Mr Stock, who is 79 and lives in Scone, was educated at Trinity College Dublin where he earned a first in English. He also studied at the University of British Columbia and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Among the alleged offences Mr Stock recounted was a case in which two young pupils “were repeatedly subjected to sexual attack by a sixth former. He’d get into bed with them and bite them and stroke them”.

The attacker had a belt for beating younger pupils which he called “Billy the Belt Buckle”, Mr Stock said. He added: “If younger pupils resisted, he’d use ‘Billy the Belt Buckle’.”

Younger pupils were also forced into a room where they would be physically and sexually abused, Mr Stock said, “often involving a hockey stick”.

Another young pupil was abused with a deodorant stick in front of an entire dormitory”.

One boy was “in the shower when an older boy forced his way in”. Mr Stock said: “The older boy unbuckled his trousers and was going to carry out a sexual attack. The younger lad managed to escape.”

Boys were also beaten with cricket bats. One boy was dangled out of a high window and another from a staircase. A boy was also made to rub Deep Heat into his genitals in front of others.

There were cases of an older boy “thrusting their genitals” into the faces of younger pupils. Young pupils were also made to read pornographic magazines aloud while older pupils “laughed at them while trying to make them become aroused”. One boy was “made to drink a glass of water after [an older pupil] had put his genitals in it”.

Another boy “threatened suicide because of what he’d been subjected to”, Mr Stock was told by his class. The boy later bought a knife, telling his friends it was for protection. They didn’t warn the authorities and he ended up stabbing a bully.

Most of the allegations of sexual abuse centre on one specific older boy aged between 17 and 18 at the time of the offences. However, bullying was widespread, said Mr Stock. The alleged offender went on to work in a career which apparently gave him close contact with children.

The information which Mr Stock passed to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, chaired by judge Lady Smith, centred on “four separate pupils as victims and one main culprit as perpetrator”. Mr Stock described the main offender as “a sadistic sexual pervert”. He added: “I can’t say for sure how many other older pupils joined in the abuse with this individual. However, it clearly wasn’t him acting alone. What was happening at Loretto amounted to a culture of violence.”

Other boys told Mr Stock that they “went to bed most nights and cried themselves to sleep”. There was also intense psychological bullying, according to Mr Stock. One boy said he wasn’t spoken to for two years. Another boy said he considered bullying “normal”.

“He wrote that he found relief in the idea that when he was being bullied ... that he could bully [younger pupils] when he moved up [the school],” Mr Stock said.

Mr Stock described bullying as “rife and routine”. There was never open discussion about bullying among staff, he added. “It was a taboo subject.”

He learned of one boy who was found tied by the ankles with electric flex over stair railings and left there screaming. Another boy was “suspended from an upper window” by older pupils aged around 17. Mr Stock says school authorities dismissed cases like this as “just pranks”. He said that at one point a Childline poster was put up on a notice board but later taken down by school authorities. When Mr Stock’s pupils informed him of what was happening, he vowed to fight for them. “I made a promise to them that I would get it dealt with,” he said.

He says he took his findings, and the boys’ allegations, to the school authorities expecting that action would be taken, but nothing was done. “To me, it just seems like a cover up,” he said.

His reports to school authorities about a “sexual abuse ring and culture of violence” were brushed aside. The response from school authorities was that the incidents were “just boys being boys”.

Mr Stock said it was “the duty of the school to investigate – if they really cared for the pupils”. He believes that concerns for the school’s reputation overrode all other considerations. “The school authorities didn’t do what they were meant to do which is care about the welfare of children,” he said.

He says that the writing assignment which he set on bullying – that prompted his class to confide in him – was intended to simply get pupils talking and writing about social issues. When his pupils began to write down what they had seen or experienced, Mr Stock said he was “completely shocked”. He says he knew that there was bullying at the school but was “amazed at the seriousness of what was happening”.

Mr Stock has retained notes from conversations with the boys, as well as photocopies and originals of their writing detailing the abuse.

He finds it “deeply disturbing that no boy felt they could tell any staff about what was happening”, until his class finally broke their silence. And he says he remains angry “that the boys felt nobody cared about what was happening to them”.

“After they told me what had happened, my last words to them were that I would do something about it, and I cried in front of them,” Mr Stock said. After informing the school authorities about what he had learned, he says he was “told to consider myself on holiday for an unspecified period of time”. By this stage, he says, “I wasn’t sleeping. I was just exhausted”.

Mr Stock was told by a friendly teacher that a member of the school authorities was raising questions about his sanity. “They’re trying to prove you’re insane, David,” the friend told him, just before he was ordered to take an extended holiday. He was later told that he “was not allowed on campus” anymore.

School authorities told Mr Stock that he should not have discussed issues of bullying and sexual assault with his class as “pastoral affairs were none of my concern and I was employed as an English teacher only”. He was told that an allegation had been made against him for “writing a poem” about a senior member of the school authorities. “I had written it – it was a joke,” says Mr Stock. “It was all just part of a bid to get rid of me and make me leave.”

School authorities made clear his services were no longer required, Stock says. He added: “I knew I’d no longer be able to work there. I’d no choice really but to go. What I found out led to the termination of my contract. I was pushed out. When I went back on to campus to collect my things I had to be accompanied and have a signed letter permitting me to be there.”

Stock says he had to sign a “legal undertaking binding him to confidentiality”. He was told that if he spoke out, and parents began withdrawing their children from Loretto, he would be liable for lost fees. In order to secure his pension and references which would allow him to go on teaching, Mr Stock reluctantly agreed to the sign the document.

With the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry shining a light on past offences, he has now come forward. He says: “I want Loretto to recognise the terrible mistakes that were made. I want them to accept that the children in the care of their school weren’t served as they should have been. I want them to contact the victims I know about and offer them psychiatric help and an apology, and I want an apology myself for having to leave my job under duress.

“It’s disgusting the school authorities refused to recognise the duty of care they had and their legal obligations under child protection legislation. Those involved were unfit to take part in the education of children.”

Mr Stock says that Scotland’s police and prosecution service should investigate his claims and if offences have taken place, including any conspiracy to cover up physical and sexual abuse, then there should be criminal action.

He also waived his own right to anonymity over abuse he suffered as a child at private school. As a child of around 10, his headmaster sexually assaulted him, he says.

“The anger stays with you,” Mr Stock explained. “When I learned what was happening at Loretto, I was outraged that nobody was taking notice of what was being done to these boys. I remain angry that I promised these boys I’d do something and because I had to leave the school in the way I did, they never knew I tried to help them. I’ve now been able to keep that promise, though it’s years too late.”

Mr Stock went on to teach for a few more years after he left Loretto, though he says there were attempts to sabotage his career in Scotland. After a stint teaching overseas, he gave up the profession and turned his hand to designing gardens.

It is understood that the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has taken evidence from other Loretto staff relating to Mr Stock’s allegations. The Herald on Sunday also interviewed a colleague of Mr Stock’s who worked at Loretto at the same time. They corroborated his allegations. They were a teacher on a higher pay grade than Mr Stock. They asked for their anonymity to be preserved, but said: “I can confirm that everything David has said is true. I absolutely concur with what he’s said. David has only ever acted with the best of motives.” This individual has also given evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

Mr Stock said that he would like to hear from his former pupils from the class in question in order to find out how they are faring, as well as other interested parties.

How Loretto responded

In response to David Stock’s allegations which were put in full to Loretto, the school issued the following statement: “Loretto School has made a full, open and active contribution to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry to enable the inquiry to achieve its aims. We will continue to do so. We share the Inquiry’s vision to ensure that all survivors of abuse have the right to be heard, so that boarding schools in Scotland can learn lessons from the past. To anyone who suffered abuse while attending Loretto, we deeply regret the distress caused and offer an unreserved apology.

“Out of respect to those who have stepped forward we would not discuss individual cases or specific testimony. Right from the very beginning of the Inquiry we pledged our full support for the Inquiry and will adhere to and follow any recommendations that Lady Smith makes.

“At Loretto School the care and wellbeing of our children and young people is of paramount importance. Loretto has a zero-tolerance approach toward anyone who fails to live up to these values and we have strict child protection policies and procedures with diligent and regular oversight by dedicated staff and the board of governors.”

Historical abuse cases

A NUMBER of Scotland’s private schools have apologised to former pupils abused in their care as part of the nation’s Child Abuse Inquiry. Fettes College said two former members of staff who had admitted sexual abuse were required to leave the school and it had failed to prevent peer-on-peer bullying. The school issued a “full and unreserved apology” through its lawyer.

Morrison’s Academy in Crieff said it wanted to make “a heartfelt and sincere apology to each of the individuals who have shown the strength and courage to share some of the most damaging experiences of their lives”.

Funded by the Ministry of Defence, Queen Victoria School in Dunblane was founded for children of military personnel. Its lawyer said the school recognised that instances of abuse had occurred, expressed its deep regret, and apologised to the individuals concerned.

A lawyer for Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh said that, with hindsight, it was clear that warning signs had been missed, and “with at least one former member of staff the dots were never to be joined”.

The school offered its “unreserved apology”, and said it “profoundly regrets and sincerely apologises for the fact that such experiences were endured by some pupils”.

Former Loretto pupil, the film director Don Boyd, recently told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry that he was raped by his French teacher whom he likened to Harvey Weinstein. Boyd, now 72, was abused by Guy Ray-Hills, who is now dead. Boyd said Loretto had a “frightening and brutal” system where prefects disciplined younger pupils.

As a filmmaker, Boyd produced the movie Scum, which features scenes of sexual violence in borstal.

The school told him 35 other pupils had also come forward saying they’d been abused. Three made criminal complaints. The cases didn’t go to court due to Ray-Hills’ age.

Boyd has worked with Weinstein – the movie producer now serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault. He said Weinstein was “a brilliant metaphor for Ray-Hills’ behaviour”. Giving evidence to the inquiry in March, as it began its current phase focusing on alleged abuse in Scottish boarding schools, the current headmaster at Loretto, Dr Graham Hawley, expressed “huge regret” over what happened at the school in the past.

Loretto has issued an unreserved apology to anyone who was abused in its care.

The school acknowledged pupils were abused by a teacher in the 1950s and 60s. The school’s lawyer said there had been flaws which allowed “despicable abuse” to take place, and acknowledged that the school had let down the victims.

The school has said it is now a very different place with measures to ensure pupils are protected.