H-h-h-holy Joe!

Friday, March 5th, 2004

Mum just rang with news of an old teacher, news which really didn't surprise me at all.

I won't mention his name, as I don't want to be responsible for the first known case of contempt of court via Google. But let's call him Holy Joe – because that's what we called him at the time, what with him being a vicar and all. Deputy headteacher and head of the lower school too.

Pillar of the community. Every year he'd take a party of first years on a school trip to north Wales for a week and we'd squeeze into the church there to hear him deliver a sermon. He was something of a visiting celebrity there, I think.

Holy Joe always made us uneasy. He had a way of standing too close to you sometimes, a way of looking at you too hard. One of his favoured punishments – apart from lifting a boy up by his ears – was what he called 'booking your seat'. He'd have you on your hands and knees on his desk, in front of the rest of the class, and hammer you smartly on the behind with a large and dusty textbook. He found this highly comical, but I think we all sensed he also found it exciting. Something to do with the way his eyes gleamed. Being sent to his office was something no-one liked, and was the occasion of much nudge-nudging and oh-hoing from your friends beforehand.

Now – aged 69 and presumably long-since retired – Holy Joe's been got. He's due up in court next month charged with offences alleged to have been committed between 1976 and 1979 (coincidentally, the year I started school and first saw him book a seat). From what I can gather they're not hugely serious offences, but neither are they for breaking hosepipe bans…

If we were suspicious of him then, why has it taken this long?

Different attitudes towards that sort of thing, I think. Nowadays abuse is at the front of everyone's minds. Then I suspect the attitude was that if he provided boys with a good education (which he undoubtedly did) a little bit of that sort of thing was a small price to pay.

One might even harbour a little sympathy for him having to face a courtroom about it, a quarter of a century later.

One might. I don't.

Gotcha.

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