Stories from my family (renamed)

Discussion of the SES, particularly in the UK.
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Stanton
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Postby Stanton » Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:16 am

What an interesting story, Ben. I could say more but perhaps it's enough to say how glad I am to have read it

Goblinboy
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Re: Introducing myself in more detail

Postby Goblinboy » Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:16 am

Thanks for the generous response Ben.

Enjoy the Tasmanian sojourn.

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ET
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Postby ET » Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:25 pm

Yes, thank you Ben for such an interesting story. Both my parents were members of that first youth group, and I hope they will soon be on here posting about their experiences. It will be very interesting to get some serious discussion going on here about those early days.

Matthew
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Postby Matthew » Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:55 pm

Great to hear from you again Ben. I will never forget the time you and your brother came round to our house in Hampstead and you performed the keyboard part to ?The lamb lies down on Broadway? (Genesis) on our upright piano at the top of the house. The piano was out of tune but it still sounded incredible how you made such a complex piece sound so beautiful, and note perfect too. It was one of those blissful childhood memories that stay with you forever.

As I?m sure you know, I?m still great friends with your brother. In fact it was he who first told me that someone by the name of Tom Grubb was looking to contact former St Vedast pupils to share experiences; and this is what motivated me to start the ?Experiences at St Vedast / SES? thread. That was 2 years ago now, and at the time, apart from a few posts about the SES there was nothing on here about St James or St Vedast, so I felt a very strong conviction that the story needed to be told.

Thank you for sharing your experiences too. It?s been fascinating to read. The story with all your loose change falling on to the floor in the middle of the philosophy class had me in stitches, only because I could relate to it so much ? the austere and emotionless atmosphere of the classes, and then the pretence of them completely ignoring the incident. It?s so utterly absurd that it?s laughable; moments like that were so commonplace, and from a young child's perspective just added to the wierdness and confusion of it all.
Last edited by Matthew on Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

sparks
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Postby sparks » Mon Mar 20, 2006 11:34 pm

Your experinces of SES predate mine by 10 years so it was very interesting to hear your account of Sunday School, youth group etc.

Reading you posting makes me think there really should be a book - not another Secret Cult, something less about cult and more about all the experiences; humourous, strange, moving or just bizare. Those who have been 'touched' by SES worldwide really do have an amazing story to tell.

A very interesting and readable read - thank you. I hope we can look forward to more at some stage.

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a different guest
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Postby a different guest » Tue Mar 21, 2006 11:24 am

ET wrote:Yes, thank you Ben for such an interesting story. Both my parents were members of that first youth group, and I hope they will soon be on here posting about their experiences. It will be very interesting to get some serious discussion going on here about those early days.


Looking forward to seeing them here ET - would be great to see two generations both posting on this site.

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Ben W
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Update

Postby Ben W » Sat Apr 08, 2006 9:44 pm

A quick update to this thread

The astute amongst you will notice a username change for me on this forum. The main reason for this is the public nature of this forum and the private nature of some of my recollections. You (i.e. the stakeholders) all know who I am and I have no problem with that.

Secondly, I have been speaking with my mother, stepfather, and my brother on a regularly basis and am hopeful that there may be postings from two out of three of these quite shortly. Unfortunately neither of my parents have access to a computer so I will probably make their postings under my name. The conversations I've had with my stepfather on this are fascinating and I sincerely hope he can put this down into his posting.

Finally, I have received a number of private messages from people who sound as though they have insightful and highly relevant (and also very painful) stories to tell. I suspect many who would post here are partly held back by the pain these stories hold and partly (in the case of those with primary responsibility for children) through sheer lack of time. Please do write if you can. I have been overwhelmed by the positive responses I have received.

Can I also take the opportunity to say that even though I have not commented against all of the threads containing personal stories, I find ALL of them of great interest, and many of them appalling. The more I hear, the more obvious it becomes that there is much more to be heard. Please keep writing.

Ben
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

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Ben W
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Posting from Sara (a mother of St V and St J children)

Postby Ben W » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:35 am

Posting from my mother - Sara

I come to this site with mixed feelings. I?m glad it has been set up and feel I should add my voice. I am very supportive of all the good work that is being done by those who suffered at the schools, and those involved with this site in helping with the healing process.

I have found it both physically and mentally nauseating recalling these experiences. They have remained hidden for so long. I very nearly called a halt to this several times but was encouraged by Ben to continue. I know there are other people who have had similar experiences to mine. My heart goes out to them.

I joined SES in 1964 for two reasons. Firstly a thirst for knowledge ? it was the 60?s and all the knowledge which is available today was not easy to find then; and secondly because the man I was planning to marry told me that Leon McLaren had said both partners must be in School for there to be a proper marriage.

So I joined up and began to take on board the teaching and School rules, and I married a person whom I thought to be mild, upright, and spiritually inclined.

The school had a very established hierarchy which I was told was necessary ? although the reasons for this were not clear. The ?material? stated that most people could not become self realised, and that many people were needed in School so that a few could rise to the top. It seemed to me that I was supposed to maintain my place within the hierarchy and constantly look up to those above me. But when I looked up I was bewildered because so much of the behaviour I saw from senior members was vindictive, irrational, and humiliating.

It was as though there were two movements within the school. One comprised genuine well meaning people. The other comprised people who took advantage and were on a power trip. The second group became stronger as the years went by.

The ?rules? told us not to be critical. Even simple assessment was not allowed. I strove to be a good member and not to criticise. However by taking this approach I found myself a bewildered onlooker.

Ironically we were constantly being criticised and put down by those more senior to ourselves. This left us feeling inadequate a lot of the time. As the wife of a tutor I was initially treated as more promising ? and others suffered more than I did.

Life at home was very difficult and everything became a strain for me. I had a growing family to care for - 6 children in all - and was not allowed any outside help (except to cover for me when I was away at Stanhill Court) nor any electrical appliances.

I have not written more about life at home. I have an ongoing acquaintance with my ex-husband and do not want to disturb this. I will limit myself to saying that life at home was extremely difficult over many years.

We were told in the ladies groups that a woman is queen of her home and that if she thinks ungenerous thoughts about her husband she spreads poison into the air which her family has to breathe. I had been dubbed as a bad housewife and constantly searched my character for defects and sought to eradicate all that I could.

If you had any problems, the instruction was that you should talk with your tutor. I had countless conversation with countless tutors. Many of them visited my home ? I think 30 in all. They were mostly sympathetic, but none were able to offer much helpful advice. Men, my tutors told me, were supposed to think rather than help physically with domestic matters. Wives should obey and please their husbands.
The particular group of men in School that my husband belonged to were described by one of my tutors as a law unto themselves.

On occasion I did involve the police and doctors, but they were unwilling to become involved. (In those days police seemed unable to intervene in domestic matters.) In any event, by that time I had been brought down so low by the School that there was very little fight in me.

When the schools of St James and St Vedast were launched, we parents were assured they were to be run on Christian principles. My children did not go straight away, however they went to Sunday school and would come to me and ask why were they not at those day schools. There was a huge amount of inference from senior levels that children who were not attending were missing out. I felt as though I was failing my children by not sending them there. I found the idea that I was holding back my children very distressing.

One of the most senior ladies in School did counsel me against sending my children there. She told me I was a very adequate mother and that was enough for them. Would that I had felt able to follow her advice. But I had by then succumbed to the pressures of recruitment. She didn?t know how inadequate I felt. I believed I was useless ? this was what I was always being told ? by now brainwashed indeed and in no fit state to combat what ensued once the children went to those schools.

I have not commented on my children?s experiences at St James and St Vedast. That is their story. What I do want to say is how sad it was to see their initial openness and enthusiasm when first attending those schools so brutally stifled. Towards the end of their time at those schools, I would stand at the front door waving good bye to them as they left at an early hour for school, and see them hesitate, going through mental torture, forcing their bodies to take them towards the place that for them held little joy and so much cruelty.

Despite my tutors continuing to counsel me to stay married, I did finally make a decision to file for divorce. SES had failed me. Following this, with the personal intervention of Sheila Rosenberg and Leon McLaren, my husband was persuaded to leave the house.

In parallel with this, the schools seemed to have received an instruction to give the children extra discipline on the basis that there was none at home, and their difficulties increased. I complained frequently to the schools and became thought of as a troublesome mother with her own ideas. On one occasion another mother I hardly knew sidled up to me with downcast eyes and said ?How did you do it, how did you get free?? She didn?t wait for an answer.

[I have more to say on the subject of my interractions with the teaching staff during this period, but I have run out of time for now. I will try to post more on this soon.]

One day one of my boys was due for the cane yet again and said to me he couldn?t take any more. He missed school on the last day of term to defer the inevitable confrontation until after the holidays. We went away to Ireland for a week and stayed a year in hiding before returning to London and remaining hidden for a number of years.

I want to end by commenting that despite the efforts of my children, I do not have direct access to a computer or to the internet. This had made it difficult for me to read much of what has been written on the site. I have had to rely on my children to show me the relevant posts, and to help me with this posting. I think many of those my age are in the same boat and will need much assistance in order to be heard.

Sara
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

Temporarily Duped
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Postby Temporarily Duped » Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:08 am

Sara

I was extremely touched by your post.

I wish you well and look forward to more of your moving posts.

Temp- Duped
Last edited by Temporarily Duped on Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:58 am, edited 2 times in total.

mm-
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Postby mm- » Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:17 am

Sara,

I wanted to thank you for contributing your experiences. If it wasn't for people like you, that have had the courage to speak out on this BB I would know no better.

I was particularly moved by your account of having to stay hidden for a number of years...it is almost unbelievable.

However, I can understand your fear all those years ago. Fear is something that I am sure, not only the children experience, but also what some parents/SES members experience to this day. The fear of leaving, fear of reprisals, fear of speaking out, etc...

If we are to believe that the SES and its schools have changed so much, what is it that still makes the SES and its schools so scary? I am at a loss trying to understand this particular side of things.

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:53 pm

Sara,

Thank you so much for your courageous and moving post.

Tom

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Postby a different guest » Thu Apr 27, 2006 7:34 am

Sara,

I too was moved by your post. For some reason one little snippet in particular stood out, I think because of Ben's avatar it reminded me of a line from a Pink Floyd Song.

On one occasion another mother I hardly knew sidled up to me with downcast eyes and said ?How did you do it, how did you get free?? She didn?t wait for an answer.


I wonder what happend to the woman.

the song line? "quiet desperation is the english way"
Relatives with long-term involvement in the SES / SOP/ SoEP

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Ben W
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Response from Sara

Postby Ben W » Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:03 pm

Dear All,

I've just spoken with Sara who over the last 24 hours has been flying back to the UK after spending a few weeks with us here in Melbourne. I told her that I had posted her words which made her nervous, and that she had received four responses which increased her nervousness no end.

I then read the responses out to her. After each one she expressed amazement and elation that she had been understood and affirmed.

I can't remember hearing her as happy as she was when I put the phone down.

Thank you.
Ben
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

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a different guest
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Postby a different guest » Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:15 pm

I can't remember hearing her as happy as she was when I put the phone down.


So glad to hear that Ben - I know this board can be a bit confronting, but it has proved cathartic for so many.

Give your mum our love and best wishes.
Relatives with long-term involvement in the SES / SOP/ SoEP

Matthew
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Postby Matthew » Mon May 01, 2006 11:58 am

Sara wrote:I complained frequently to the schools and became thought of as a troublesome mother with her own ideas.

David Boddy said
This is the first time the Governors had heard of all of this...They only became aware about past complaints against the Schools in 2004 via an Internet forum.

David Boddy - you're a bare-faced liar, and you know it.

I have lost count how many times over the last 2+ years I have read statements just like Sara's above on this BB. My own mother once complained directly to Debenham only to be shouted down by him. Similarly I recall reading here that Leon's mother was physically assaulted by Lacey for daring to do likewise.

David Boddy's predecessor, Nicholas Debenham used to beat us for uttering the pettiest of lies. As current Headmaster, what kind of a role model is he now being to St James pupils for stating a major one? He is on public record as saying this, even going so far as to state it on national television, (& since been broadcast on the www). Perhaps he needs to go too.

Sara, welcome and thank you for your very moving testimony. I have many happy memories of coming over to your house and playing with your children. You were always kind to me, but even as a young child I clearly remember what strains you were under back then.


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