Goodbye, Mr Fake: Teacher forced to quit Bedales after exposure as a serial fantasist

Danielle Demetriou
Wednesday 18 February 2004 01:00

With his lilting West Isles accent, fluent Gaelic and penchant for tweed trousers, Dr Scott Peake had perfected the role of the quintessential Scottish gentleman.

Tales of his Hebridean childhood in a remote island near Skye and caps for representing his country at shinty and cricket merely cemented his position at the heart of Scotland's cultural establishment.

As a result, his exposure three years ago as a fantasist who fabricated a tissue of lies to disguise his upbringing in a south London council estate came as something of a shock.

But having fooled one of Scotland's leading cultural societies as well as two schools who gave him teaching jobs, few believed Dr Peake would attempt the same audacious trick again.

But yesterday, in the latest chapter of the Walter Mitty-style saga, it emerged that Dr Peake had resigned as head of classics from another top public school amid claims that he had once again lied about his background.

His resignation from Bedales School in Hampshire marks the fourth occasion in three years that Dr Peake has reportedly been caught out in terms of his fabricated identity.

It was shortly after he had won the hearts of the Scottish establishment in 2001 as the newly-appointed director of the Saltire Society, which promotes Caledonian culture to the world, that his bogus identity emerged. But throughout the following three years, Dr Peake has stuck to his story, and maintained his Scottish lineage is true.

He has maintained that he was born on Raasay, off Skye, that he attended the local primary school and even that he published a number of papers in eminent historical journals.

As well as the Saltire Society, the charade duped staff and pupils at the Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire, where he was classics professor at the time he was outed as a fraud. Despite the furore over his unmasking and subsequent dismissal from the Saltire Society, he was allowed to continue teaching at Dollar because he was so highly regarded by both staff and pupils.

The following year, undented by the row, he successfully applied to be head of classics at Ley's School in Cambridge. However, before he had even started his new position, he was forced to pull out of the job over discrepancies relating to his age and birth certificate.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Bedales School. As Dr Peake's resignation from the elite institution was announced, the family of a former 14-year-old pupil claimed that he had once again been duping staff and children into believing his Scottish tales.

A family member who did not wish to be named, said: "He told the pupils an extraordinary web of lies about who he was and where he came from and what he had done. It was an awful shock for the boy when he discovered on the internet that almost everything he had told him had been exposed as untrue in the past.

"He was a very popular teacher and trusted by pupils but this obviously shows that he was hardly a good role model. It is cause for concern among parents that due diligence has not been given to [vetting] teachers appointed by the school."

Meanwhile, staff at Bedales, whose alumni include Minnie Driver and Daniel Day-Lewis, issued a statement in which the departure of Dr Peake was described as being motivated by "personal reasons".

"During his four terms at Bedales he quickly established himself as an enthusiastic knowledgeable and energetic teacher of classics. He was also a popular and successful tutor and games coach."

It added: "Bedales understands that Dr Peake will be pursuing a career outside teaching."

Yesterday, Dr Peake had returned momentarily to his roots and was seeking refuge at the modest two-bedroom semi in Woolwich, south-east London, in which his mother, Vera, had lived until her death in 2002.

While he will be the only person qualified to reveal his motivations, when asked why he had lied repeatedly, he claimed that his resignation was due to poor health rather than his background.

"It's a health thing," he said, the lilting Isles brogue still very much in evidence. "I can't talk about it because I'm mentally shot.

"They have ruined everything, 'they' being the media. They have ruined all three careers I have had. My departure from Bedales was not connected to what happened in the past. People are just putting two and two together and assuming."

The start of Dr Peake's love affair with Scotland is believed to have stemmed from his time at St Andrews University, from where he graduated with a PhD in ancient history in 1991.

But although many have questioned why Dr Peake felt compelled to distort details of his background when he was a popular and competent teacher, his desire to embrace all things Scottish has baffled even those who would have been in a position to know him best.

As his late mother told journalists nearly three years ago: "I cannot understand any of this. It's extraordinary. I don't know what he has been up to. This is totally out of character."

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