Former St Ambrose pupil tells of Alan Morris abuse – and says teachers should feel “shame” for not stepping in

Peter attends St Ambrose College in Hale Barns
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A former pupil of St Ambrose College has said his former teachers “need to have a long hard look at themselves” for ignoring the abuse that led to Alan Morris being jailed for nine years yesterday.

Morris was finally brought to account for a long campaign of physical and sexual abuse at the Hale Barns school, which started when he joined the school as a chemistry teacher in 1972 and lasted until the early 90s.

Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court heard how he would dole out corporal punishment using a variety of instruments – including a leather strap, cane and a bat he called a ‘paddywhacker’ – and while beating pupils in a small room in his chemistry lab would also indecently assault them.

And David Nolan, who praised the old boys who came forward to give evidence against Morris as “heroes”, told Altrincham Today that the abuse by Morris and other teachers began within days of him starting at the school in 1972.

“I started there when I was seven, and within the first week I’d seen a lad being beaten with a walking stick, and nine years of craziness duly followed. Anyone who went to the school would know that the beatings were just the way it was.

“They treated you like animals, even using a sawn-off cricket bat. Who hits a little kid with a sawn-off cricket bat?

Below: Alan Morris’s police mugshot

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“I left the school when I was 16 and I didn’t even collect my O-Level results. I’m not just singling Alan Morris out here – there were many teachers involved – but there was not even the vaguest attempt on his part to disguise the utter pleasure it gave him.

“I look back now, as a nearly 50-year-old, and other than having a big sign over his head flashing on and off saying ‘friends and colleagues, please stop me I’m up to no good’, I don’t know how obvious it could have been.

“Every single teacher needs to have a long hard look at themselves. They just chose not to do anything about it – shame on them. I don’t buy the argument that they couldn’t do anything – they just chose to look the other way.”

Nolan, now a respected documentary maker and writer, withdrew his right to give evidence in court so he could tell his story – and last night an 11-minute behind-the-scenes report of his experiences was broadcast on Granada Reports.

He gave an insight into how the fear invoked by Morris’s abuse allowed him to continue for so long – and even go on to become a deacon at neighbouring Catholic church, Holy Angels.

“He told us that if anyone ever spoke about what he did he would leave the school and take our teeth. I was 13 when he said that – don’t now ask me to feel sorry for him, you’ve come to the wrong place for that.

“I went to the school on a grant, so my place was paid for by the local authority. I was a working class kid from a terraced house, so for me to go there was akin to me being given the keys to heaven as far as my family was concerned. That’s why you never spoke out against it.

Below: An exclusive picture of Morris from a 1992 school photo

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“You only need to look at the statement released by the school when news of the case first came to light – it mentioned something about it being an investigation into a teacher who left the school 20 years ago. But he was on the school grounds, and the church was on the school grounds. He could have gone to any church on the planet, but he chose the one on the school grounds.”

Last night’s report showed Nolan confronting Morris outside court during the case, during which he recounted the school’s motto to his former abuser – ‘Vitam Impendre Vero’, which translates as ‘Life Depends on The Truth’.

Recalling the day, Nolan added: “I won’t dress it up, my hands were shaking, especially as I had to wait for nearly an hour and an half. I’ve been a journalist since the day I left St Ambrose, I’ve covered hundreds of murders, riots, and they never bothered me, but that was on a different scale.”

He refuses to consider himself a victim, however. “I have never ever used the word ‘victim’, I am not anybody’s victim. It was not my fault that the person who was beating me was getting off on it. I am not giving him the pleasure of that. I’m a better person than he will ever be, as are all the lads that came forward. They are heroes and they have my absolute regard and respect.”

As to why he decided to document the case for Granada Reports, he said: “I could have given evidence but we sometimes forget as journalists that we have a great deal of power and opportunity. It became obvious to me that if I could agree to get the police to be filmed and some of the other lads to talk, it would demystify the process.

“I’ve been in court 1,000 times, I’m not frightened, but some people haven’t had so much as a parking ticket and the idea of going to court is daunting. It was a way of showing that it’s hard but doable, and also show you will be treated well by decent people.”

Below: David Nolan confronts his former teacher outside court

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He said he had been “blown away” by the positive messages he had received since his report was broadcast, and had already received messages of support from as far away as America and the Middle East. “It was an absolute privilege to do it,” he added.

Nolan said he was now “much less furious” than he once had been about his experiences at St Ambrose, and said it had in some way inspired him to his successful career in journalism, which has seen him make over 100 documentaries and write 10 books including biographies of Bernard Sumner, Tony Wilson and Damon Albarn.

“It made me want to go far away and do something to prove to them that I wasn’t hopeless or stupid,” he said. “Alan Morris wrote just four words on my final report: ‘the battle is over’.”

Morris, 64, of Rivington Road in Hale, faced 16 offences of indecent assault and three of inciting gross indecency with a child. A further 28 offences involving 18 boys were ordered to lie on file.

After the trial, police said that two more teachers at the school would “likely” have faced similar charges if they were still alive.

Ten former pupils claimed they were sexually assaulted by one of the Christian Brothers who had run the school, while four other former pupils said they were also sexually assaulted by a second teacher.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: “Detectives established that both teachers were dead and had they not been would likely have been charged with serious sexual offences.

“A number of other pupils made reports to police about the inappropriate use of corporal punishment.

“Again, it was established that many of the teachers named were dead.”

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