Following the reports by Andrew Norfolk in The Times this Tuesday on abuse at Colet Court and St Paul’s School, including by director of music Alan Doggett (see my blog post from earlier this week for details and links to the text of the Times articles) a new article (Andrew Norfolk, ‘Boys punished for telling of abuse by teacher’, The Times, March 28th, 2014 – behind a paywall – full text can be read here) reports many former pupils of the schools having contacted the paper after reading the first article. In particular, several have helped to provide further information about the activities of Doggett, as follows:
Several ex-pupils described Doggett’s routine “fondling” of boys in their beds. Three said they were abused by the choirmaster, who was conductor on the first recordings of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Doggett resigned after his abuse was exposed in 1968, but it is understood that St Paul’s did not report the allegations to police or to education officials, which was required by law.
He went on to teach at City of London School and became director of an acclaimed choir before killing himself in 1978.
Stephen (his surname is withheld), the pupil who ended Doggett’s Colet Court career, said that he and a friend decided to speak to the school’s headmaster, Henry Collis, after Doggett indecently assaulted both 11-year-olds as they sat on each side of him during a televised football match in May 1968.
“It was the Manchester United v Benfica European Cup Final. We were sitting on the floor and Doggett’s hands were groping inside our pyjama bottoms.
“He wouldn’t leave us alone. He’d already had a go at me in the dormitory on quite a few occasions,” Stephen said. After the match, the two pupils decided that “he’s got to be stopped”. They informed Mr Collis, who was headmaster of Colet Court from 1957 to 1973 and served as chairman of the Independent Preparatory Schools Association.
Stephen said: “When I next went home on exeat that weekend, the school had telephoned my father to complain that I’d made up terrible stories about Doggett. Dad asked me what had been going on. When I told him, he said he believed me and I’d done the right thing in speaking out, but when I got back to the school the two of us were summoned to Mr Collis’s study.
“I can still see us standing in front of his desk on the Monday morning.He was furious. He said we were wicked for making up such awful lies. Mr Doggett was so appalled and embarrassed by the disgraceful things we’d said that he’d decided to leave the school. We should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. He gave us detention.”
Stephen said that another boy in their year suffered far worse crimes at Doggett’s hands: “He had one particular favourite who received regular visits in the dormitory at night. He’d abuse the poor boy without seeming to care that we could all see and watch what was happening.”
Other ex-pupils spoke this week of open gossip among the boys that “half a crown” was the “going rate for a session with Doggett”. One said that his year group even coined a new verb: to be “Doggoed” was to be groped and fondled.
Doggett’s resignation was one of several occasions when St Paul’s allegedly failed to inform police after concerns were raised about sexual misconduct by teachers. (Norfolk, ‘Boys punished for telling of abuse by teacher’)
In Norfolk’s article from earlier this week, the testimony of another boy, ‘Luke’, who had been abused by three teachers at the school before the age of 12, recalled how:
A far worse fate awaited another boy in his dormitory, a year younger than Luke, who was angelic in both voice and looks. He was Doggett’s chosen one, summoned far too often from their dormitory to spend long hours at night in the choirmaster’s bedroom. (Norfolk, ”The teacher sat us on his lap until his face went very red”).
The Manchester United/Benfica match in question was the 1968 European Cup Final, at Wembley Stadium, which took place on May 29th, 1968, thus just two-and-a-half weeks after the second performance of Joseph in Westminster Central Hall (detailed in my earlier account of Doggett’s life and activities – a revised version of this in light of the new information can also be read here). Eight weeks after this performance (thus in mid-July 1968), Doggett made the recording of Joseph for Decca at Abbey Road Studios, and in November of that year gave a further performance at St Paul’s Cathedral. Assuming that ‘Stephen’ made the complaint soon after the abuse during the cup final, this means that Doggett was continuing to conduct a choir of boys for recordings and performances after he had left Colet Court. More widely, this opens up the disturbing possibility, if not likelihood, that the choirs singing on the first recording of Joseph (and quite likely Jesus Christ Superstar as well) were being systematically abused at the time by their conductor.
Furthermore, if ‘half a crown’ was ‘the going rate for a session with Doggett’, then child prostitution of boys of ages around 10-12 was going on flagrantly at the school. And for Doggett would come into a dormitory and abuse a boy in front of the others is itself a form of abuse of all the boys in that dormitory.
There seems no little doubt to my mind that, if these allegations are true, that Colet Court and St Paul’s School were during this period a haven for serial abuse of boys below the puberty, sadistic punishment for sexual gratification of teachers, child prostitution, and intimidation and blaming of victims by the shameful headmaster, Henry Collis. This is a shameful history for any school, but alas it would seem as if Colet Court/St Paul’s were far from alone in many of these respects.
That these sorts of unspeakable things have remained hidden for so long is itself an outrage, but I hope that some can take consolation from the fact that the truth is finally able to come out, and their experiences be recognised.
Others who studied at these schools and now hold prominent positions – such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (who was after Doggett’s time, but may have known some of the other abusive teachers) and Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC (who studied at the school when Doggett was a teacher) – should themselves be demanding action and proper investigation into how such abuse could be allowed to happen. Tim Rice wrote the following in his autobiography:
The only previous time in ten years that Andrew and I had come across such rumours concerning Alan, the allegations were proven to be exactly that, as the time and place of the supposed transgression clashed precisely with a recording date at which all three of us were continually present. It has been known for young boys, and more commonly their parents, to manufacture or exaggerate incidents when they know and (understandably) disapprove of a teacher’s inclinations. (Tim Rice, Oh, What a Circus: The Autobiography (Coronet Books, 1999), p. 401).
It would be informative to hear what Rice’s thoughts are on these new allegations, also those of both Julian and Andrew Lloyd Webber, and of Ian Hunter, Doggett’s colleague and successor as Director of Music at the school (who later became Head himself). How much did anyone know about this abuse at the time?
I will update my long article on Doggett later to take account of this new information, and will continue to update it with any subsequent information which comes to light.
One thing is for sure: Colet Court and St Paul’s School need to do everything in their power to help and support the boys who suffered as a direct result of the school’s negligence and complicity, as does every other school where similar things occurred. If these means some must close, so be it.