Is Paedophilia really rife in boarding schools?

Just heard the last of 4 parts of a programme about past paedo teachers in the UK, some of whom came from South Africa and about the efforts to bring some of them to justice.

I haven’t heard the whole series and only parts of this one but it sounds from what I have gleaned that it was commonplace at certain times.

It surprised me because I spent almost 6 years at a boys boarding school and, although one teacher seemed a little effeminate and there were private jokes about him, I never ever heard of anything like that going on.

There were no showers at the boarding house, just large bathrooms with 3 baths, and each dormitory had 2 dedicated bathnights a week. No partitions and always a house master, including the above mentioned, in periodical supervision, but absolutely no suggestion of anything untoward.

At the school (as opposed to the boarding house) there were Belfast sinks on the floor of the changing rooms after rugby till the big day came when a single shower was installed. Totally unshielded, the first person to use it was the games master. Again, no suggestion of anything but the normal even though it was the first time any of us had seen an adult naked.

I was reminded of that years later when I saw the film ‘Airplane’ I think it was with Peter Graves as the pilot. In those days visitors were alowed in the cockpit and he the pilot had invited a small boy to visit. He (Graves) kept making suggestive comments to inappropriately arouse the boys attention, without success, the boy ignored him. Also a boss I had told a similar joke about a man giving a lift to a young boy and similarly propositioning him. The boy had found a pair of welders’ goggles and was constantly playing with them, seemingly ignoring the driver completely. Finally, fed up with all this suggestive talk he turned to the man and said’ I’m not a real welder you know’. The innocence of youth blessedly ignorant of the nature of the barrage of questions.

So I did wonder after hearing this programme. Was such a thing rife? And if so, how did we avoid it completely? Maybe just lucky perhaps. :smiley:
Any ex-boarders here? :thinking:

I suspect they were and still are rife through society generally, and will tend to go where ever there is potentially access to children. 2 of the schools I went to had at least one master each whom one learned to avoid, and they were inclined to ‘cop a feel’ given opportunity. However I’m not sure that they took things any further than that, and they may have even seen it as ‘harmless fun’.

There are many snidey remarks in some parts of society about priests and pedophilia, but the truth is that people seeking that particular sexual gratification will tend to seek out roles that will give them access to and authority over children. They’re just as likely to be scout masters/mistresses, football trainers and athletics coaches.


Never went to boarding school, but looking back on various adult Scout leaders (from two different scout groups in different counties) some of them were definitely disturbed and their behaviour wasn’t normal. I suspect it didn’t go further than it did, because not all the leaders exhibited the same traits.

Begins to look as if my final comment might be true. We were lucky. :smiley:

Late 80’s to early 90’s I think it was… I remember we got instructions “from on high”… never to allow ourselves to be alone with a child in our care.

As I regularly gave a group of kids a lift on the way to my own home … there was obviously going to be one who would be last… and thus alone with me.
I contacted the parents and explained the situation. I asked them to think about it and if they were happy for me to continue dropping the kids home… all well and good… if not… please make other arrangements.
Nope, they all seemed happy, but I was very sensitive to the warning vibes coming through Press/TV whatever… and took great care to be as open/above board as anyone could be…

1 Like

Paedophiles are rarely effeminate, many male paedophiles prey on young girls and those that prey on boys usually deny they are in any way homosexual. It is apparently a very different motivation.

I was (briefly) at a boarding school and was sexually abused by the male English teacher. Although I didn’t really recognise it as such at the time. I was flattered to have the attention of the coolest teacher in the school.

OH was abused by a catholic priest as a young lad.

Yes, things that were not thought about years ago are always at the front of the mind now. I watched a film last night and near the end the main character had to sit by the river before he left with the young teen boy who had been central to the theme. At the final farewell the man put his arm round the boy’s shoulder and his head leant into the man’s neck. A very touching moment but slightly spoiled for me because I had this modern thought in my mind of it not being appropriate. Of course they weren’t really alone, there must have been dozens of crew out of shot but it shows how our thoughts are led these days.

Sports coaches, teachers, social workers, priests, police, doctors… sadly, the list goes on and on… and more and more comes to light.
Within all groups… there will be people who have/will abuse others in one way or another …


Abuse was rife in Ireland, physical, sexual, boys, girls, unmarried mothers and their babies. Carried out by priests, nuns, Christian Brothers. It was a free for all with cover-ups guaranteed. .The Catholic Church in Ireland was a foul organisation which, like any monopoly, abused it’s power. And would again if given half the chance.

Here’s a photo of the bastard, Archbishop McQuaid, who presided over all that and ruled Ireland with a rod of iron from 1940 until 1972. The idiot paying homage to him is the President of Ireland at the time (1962).


Poor old Ireland escaped the clutches of the Empire only to fall into those of the Catholic Church. It took the death of McQuaid and joining the EEC in 1973 to set Ireland on the road to recovery and becoming the successful, secular state it is today.

Strangely, my calls for McQuaid to be disinterred from his tomb in the pro-cathedral and dumped in Dublin bay in an act of national catharsis has yet to gain traction :thinking:


Or even insurance premium collectors (the “man from the Pru”, as he was known). Definitely no boarding school connections there, unless he happened to have been to one.

We had a ‘man from the Pru’ but he didn’t seem to be interested in us boys.

I was at a boys only prep school, then a boys only public school, both involved full time boarding in the UK, from the age of 8-18. I never heard of even the slightest hint of paedophilia. This comment is obviously limited to my own experiences, and no guarantee there wasn’t anything of that nature going on, which may differ from boarders experiences elsewhere. However, I would have thought boys would have gossiped if there had been suspicions.

Not to trivialise things, but plenty of other ‘sins’ of course, eg (fortunately relatively minor) bullying, smoking, expulsions for drugs, under age gambling (nothing to do with me, ahem), and drinking. Oh… and fagging* (mercifully abolished during my final year at the public school).

*junior boys were summoned at any time by a particular shout from senior boys, the last one to arrive was given some menial task like taking personal messages to a friend of senior boy in another part of the school, collecting food from tuck shop for senior boys etc.

One of our teachers disappeared from my primary school in 1953. I really liked him and was very upset. My mother explained that he had problems with little boys, which I just accepted but didn’t really understand.

Unlikely. A common theme running through witness statements and articles about this is the secrecy. Paedophiles being expert at manipulating kids not to talk. Had this not been the case then much of the abuse would have come to light earlier.

Mine wasn’t a public school, it was an assisted fee paying Grammar, but it couldn’t have been more different from the Public schools I read about in books.

The only transgressions I engaged in myself, and my immediate friends, were occasional smoking (how anyone could afford Peter Stuyvescent is beyond me), and girls.

Girls were very strictly forbidden. Even seen in public talking to one was an offence punishable by ‘gating’. This meant not being allowed to take the preferred walk through the village to the school for a time. Fortunately, girls too have legs ( :joy:) and needed little persuading to attend rdvs in the woods that surrounded the large grounds.

So that was it, hardly any bullying and certainly nothing which could be described as paedophilia, though the possibility of preventing homosexual activity was obviously in the minds of the Masters. We were even puzzled by the frequent question of whether there was any ‘bed visiting’ in our dorm. We simply could not understand why they were so obsessed with stopping us chatting to each other after hours. :rofl:

@JaneJones I don’t agree totally, I am sure we would have known of something untoward. Grouped 24/7 together I doubt any secrets could have remained so. One example of this was when an incident did occur, but not at the school. One of my year was invited to tea at the mansion of a local Lord, and to bring a friend. The tea party turned sour when the old man showed his true colours at which they left immediately. Although to my knowledge it wasn’t reported to authority, we all knew about it and no-one ever went there again.

Ex husband was at Downside and there was plenty of kiddy fiddling. Horrible.


Ampleforth and Stoneyhurst too.

1 Like

Things that I now know are paedophilia cover a huge range that I would never have described as paedophilia then - even if I knew what the word meant. Cat describes it as “kiddy fiddling” which I recognise from my childhood - fondling, touching, patting and stroking little children went completely unremarked on. And for older children I didn’t have the language to identify , let alone complain about, the English master sticking his hand up my skirt and in my shirt at age 16. He was a cool teacher, so what he did couldn’t be wrong.

I think if one has never experienced it, it’s hard to imagine how totally mundane it was. No spooky music or big drum rolls, just adults abusing their power quietly and calmly.


Aged about 12… I had a much loved Uncle “fondle” me quite unexpectedly…
I was so glad to see him… I simply flung myself into his arms and… well… his response took me by surprise and I ran from the room in embarrassment…

Never felt comfortable with him again… and made sure we were never alone together… but I never mentioned it to any adult… not sure if I felt it was possibly my fault…

1 Like

My French master at prep school was a brilliant teacher of FR. Today, 65 years later, the grounding I had in FR from 8 to 12 has seen me well set. The next 4 years were equally as good but without the downside.

He was a homosexual paedophile sadist.

Leaving aside the sexual aspects of this man’s behaviour he had a sadistic habit of padding silently up behind ones desk and, out of the blue one would receive a stunning blow, either to the back of the head or, much worse, over the ear with a cupped hand.

He would then reach down with a finger and point out " … add ‘e’ to the masculine’ or similar.

These elementary mistakes - add ‘s’ to the singular/‘e’ mute no change … were ‘red mark errors’,
Three red mark errors and one was obliged to attend Mr. Williams’s room for ‘correction’

On one occasion, when told to drop my shorts I said “Mr. Willaims, I don’t think you are allowed to do this. If you do I will tell my parents”. Aged +/- 11 I did well.

I never had any more of this stuff from Mr Williams again. Doubtless otheres did.

At my Public school, in the era before it included a girls’ 6th form ‘college’, an assemblage of 450-odd teenage boys, hormones and all, induced the inevitable result. There were homosexual liasons.

In my 4 1/2 years there I did not know of any that involved a master. No master left the school while I was there, which would certainly have been the case if one was found to be in a sexual liason with a boy.

There was a ridiculous habit of showing off the ‘prettiest’ of an intake of new boys. When I became a house prefect the head of house, who was also the Head Prefect of the school, held a prefects’ meeting.

At one point there was a timid knock on the door and a very small boy came in. He passed over the note he had been given by his house head prefect. This was passed round among us. It read “Here’s one of our pretties. Let’s see what you’ve got. Send over one of yours.”

It was at that meeting that the head prefect said, “I want all the new boys beaten at least once in the first fortnight, to show them what’s what here.”

This fool was one of the last who had an attachment to the s & m version of public schooling inculcated in the 19thC. He went on to become a House Master at Harrow.

Myself and two friends who had also been made prefects declared that we would not only not fulfill this absurd dictat but that we would never beat anybody, ever.

It was 1968. A copy of ‘Time’ magazine was in the Day Room featuring the poster for ‘Hair’ on the front cover. Things were changing, even in the depths of the Yorkshire Dales.

There are now women teachers. There is a girls’ 6th form. The boys wear long trousers from the off. I believe places like this and Gordonstoun have now caught up with current mores and are probably even more able to provide an Oxbridge class - highly privileged - education.