Spurned teacher at Fettes College made my life hell, woman tells abuse inquiry

The former pupil was giving evidence Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

Dan Barker
Thursday 02 December 2021 16:05
Fettes College (Danny Lawson/PA)
Fettes College (Danny Lawson/PA)

A woman who attended the same private school as Tony Blair has told an inquiry that a teacher helped make her life “a living hell” after she spurned his advances.

The woman, who remains anonymous and was referred to as “Ellen”, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Thursday that her teacher at Fettes College, Edinburgh made her go to his flat at the school under the guise of tuition, but then touched her knees and legs.

She told inquiry Judge Lady Smith he was “slobbering” on her neck, and added: “It was not unusual for masters to have relationships with girls.”

Judge Lady Smith (Nick Mailer/PA)

Questioned by inquiry counsel Andrew Brown QC, she said she had been attacked by boys at her previous school before moving to Fettes in the 1980s.

When she was about 16, “Ellen” said, she and a group of pupils went to their tutor’s flat in the school grounds for the first time and he asked her if she had a boyfriend.

“I said no, it made me feel quite uncomfortable,” she told the inquiry, adding it made her “recoil”.

She was invited again, but when she got there nobody else was present, she said.

“It was a very, very uncomfortable situation,” she told Mr Brown. “I just thought, ‘I want out of here’.

“I was not self-assured enough to say that so made polite chat and just wanted it to stop.”

Another time, the inquiry was told, she locked herself in her house and turned off all the lights in the hope that she would not have to go there again.

I was very well trained not to say a word knowing that saying would not help me

'Ellen'

But the teacher asked another pupil to escort her to his house, she said.

When she got there, she was alone with the teacher and he sat beside her and tried to kiss her on the lips, she told the hearing, and that was when she decided to speak out.

“Imagine how bad it was – I was very well trained not to say a word, knowing that saying would not help me,” she told the inquiry. “Imagine how … awful it was it was to be brave enough to speak out.”

She said she had tried to make the teacher see she was not interested, but he was “sending people to my door to get me”.

The inquiry was told that Ellen told the housemistress, who was “horrified”, but was “squashed” and the complaint was not dealt with.

Instead Ellen was forced to attend his classes where he would “humiliate” her, tell the class about her apparently making up stories, and make fun of her.

They had to grind me into the ground

'Ellen'

“How could I possibly thrive and learn under that circumstance, when all I could think of and be reminded of on an almost daily basis was what was going on?” she said.

She told Lady Smith people stopped speaking to her and the ordeal affected her performance at school.

She said that once she had reported her concerns people at the school seemed to try to make her life a living hell.

“It’s not even they were inactive, they were active negatively. They went out of their way not only to silence me … that was not enough – they had to grind me into the ground,” she said.

“Bobby”, in written evidence, told the inquiry that some youngsters would hang fellow pupils up by their underpants on clothes hooks, and some were forced to run around the school grounds and were given early morning wake-ups so they could warm up toilet seats for prefects.

They compared it to prison, telling the inquiry: “You don’t hear anything or see anything. It just didn’t happen because otherwise you would be ostracised.”

The inquiry in Edinburgh continues.

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