Dancing on the graves of the dead…

“Hatred needs scorn. Scorn is hatred’s nectar!”                                                                    

– Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly -‘The Crimson Curtain’

I don’t really do genuine hatred; it’s just not in my nature.  I also find it hard to engage with the idea of hating something abstract like ‘Poverty’ or ‘Fascism’ and have always taken the view that people, not ideas, are evil.  Having said that, I can only think of two people in my life who I have genuinely hated.   In both cases my hatred stemmed from a sense of helplessness – these two individuals had slithered their way  into positions where they were able to exercise  a perniciously negative influence over my life and at the time, there appeared to be little or nothing  that I could do about it.

My relationship with the recently-deceased Margaret Hilda Thatcher, the Grocer’s Daughter whose legacy is such a hideous stain on the recent history of this country was a distant one, but she succeeded where years of well-intentioned left-wing friends and left-wing politicians had failed.  Her success was in making me consider the nature and substance  of her rhetoric and, thereafter, in making me shift my political allegiances substantially leftwards.  Not that I ever became a  joined up apparatchik of Foot or Kinnock or Smith’s left, let alone a Blairite (soft) centrist.  But Thatcher, so we were told,  was a ‘conviction’ politician and it soon became my conviction that this dreadful harridan with her hectoring, booming, bullying foghorn of a voice was without empathy or compassion or very many positive human qualities.  She clearly had no understanding of any class except her own, so if you were Gay or Black or Northern or a Europhile, let alone a Leftist, you were going to get short shrift from her and the posse of Tory worms that hid behind her and applauded whilst she decimated large tracts of British life.

Margaret Thatcher drove a double-decker bus through the polite conventions  that govern British political life.  After what she did,  one of Tony Blair’s biggest errors was surely in not pushing us towards the written constitution that we need to keep the likes of Thatcher in check.  After the Falklands War, when she was basically in a position to do anything she wanted, she had essentially unlimited power.  Once the Miner’s Strike began, she basically perverted the laws of this country and used the police as storm-troopers to defeat Arthur Scargill and his supporters.

Battle of Orgreave

Orgreave 1984

These were long and miserable years.  At the beginning I was working in record retailing in Manchester, in the middle years,  I lived in Newcastle as the Falklands War & the Miner’s Strike unravelled and by the bitter pyrrhic end, I was here in Birmingham.  Throughout that period,  Thatcher’s malign matriarchalism was like a cloud of toxic fumes that never seemed to disperse.

And, yes, I certainly hated her.  She divided communities, destroyed the lives and health of tens of thousands of ordinary British people, twisted the law of the land to suit her own purposes, played footsie with fools like Reagan and war criminals like Pinochet and tried to impose her hausfrau values on the rest of us.

She was loathsome and thoroughly evil and whilst I didn’t commemorate her passing by getting thoroughly hammered.  I would certainly spit or dance on her grave if I ever happened to be in its vicinity and would feel no need to apologise for such behaviour.   She deserves nothing else, frankly.

Demolition

“It is surely evil to destroy whole communities so that profit can be made for the few. It is surely evil to support and harbour war criminals, it was surely evil to order the attack on the ‘Belgrano’, it was surely evil to give cops a free reign to batter and bruise ordinary people who were just trying to save their jobs and their communities. Her policies have led us directly into the current climate of fear, greed and a lack of community spirit.

 She destroyed hope for several generations and her ideology of wealth = good, poor = bad has left the environment in a terribly precarious state. She supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa; she allowed hunger strikers to starve to death in Ireland and went to war so she could win an election. Do we really need to ask whether she was evil or not?”

Craig Murphy, quoted on ‘The Guardian’s‘ website

Three vignettes:  firstly, I am in Newcastle on the night Thatcher announces the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands and the imminent departure of a military ‘task force’ to kick them out.  Local news later covers a story about the wholesale ransacking of a Spanish restaurant in nearby Sunderland.  That’s a Spanish restaurant……so much for bringing harmony instead of discord – and so much for the Mackems.

Secondly, I am travelling south by car from Newcastle to London during the 1984 Miners’ Strike.  Somewhere in Nottinghamshire on the A1, we are diverted off the road and aggressively grilled about where we were headed by heavily-armoured police at the top of the slip-road.   I have no doubt that had we challenged them, we would have been ‘pulled over’ and detained for several hours until someone could be found to demonstrate for our benefit that their behaviour was totally above-board and legal.  We kept quiet and the stormtroopers finally allowed us to continue southwards.

Thirdly, on the Firth of Clyde just outside Wemyss Bay, there was a power station at Inverkip, though most of it has now been demolished for new housing.  The station was built in 1970 and became  Scotland’s only oil-fired power station.  Inverkip was hardly used because of the hike in oil prices during the mid 1970’s and was effectively mothballed due to the prohibitive cost of running the place.  I wonder if any of you clever people out there can guess the only period during which Inverkip operated at full capacity?

Inverkip InverkipInverkip

Inverkip Power Station – full blast during the 1984 Miners’ Strike

The second person I hate – though the first in chronological terms – was actually one of my teachers.  His name was Douglas Young and I feel that I can name him partly because he is long dead and partly because he deserves to have his name and misdeeds out in the open.  Young spent most of his adult life teaching Maths and Religious Instruction to the boys of Northampton Grammar School – largely in the Lower School.    He was also a  pervert and a groper of little boys and everyone at the school knew it.

When I went to the school in 1964, he was well-established as the paterfamilias of the Lower School.  On our first morning he ‘welcomed’ the entire ‘first year’ intake before sending us off to our individual form teachers.  My first misfortune was to be in his class.  His classroom was across the road from the main school buildings in the ‘School House’ – the Headmaster’s  ‘Pied-à-terre’ –  where he lived and where a couple of the surplus rooms had been co-opted to house Young’s first years and also a sixth-form class.  Nice and quiet if your tastes ran to a little adolescent buttock-fondling.

Young taught me Maths as well as Religious Instruction.  I recall him as a small, rotund, grey-haired man in squeaky, highly-polished black shoes and a dark double-breasted suit.  His vocal delivery was slightly wheezy in an asthmatic kind of way and he had a habit of hurling wooden board-rubbers at anyone he suspected of not giving him their full attention.  Once he had the class working, he would call individuals out to the front where we would have to stand at his side whilst he went through our work – and our trousers.  Boys in the First Year were expected to wear a school cap and grey flannel shorts.   The latter provided quietly questing hands with easy access to thighs and buttocks.  All we could do was to stand there and pray that he would soon be done with us and move on to the next victim.

Doug Young with new batch of victims

A wolf in the henhouse. Doug Young (on the left) with a new batch of victims at Northampton Grammar in 1954. 

Maths was never my strong suit and on one occasion I made a royal mess of some homework and was informed by Young that I would have to stay back after school and do the work over again.  He left me to get on with it and disappeared, returning to the now-deserted classroom about 20 minutes later.   The stupid thing is that I knew why I was there and also that my presence had nothing to do with any Maths homework.  He called me to the front, and without much preamble, bent me forward across the front row of desks and slippered me with an old tennis shoe.  He never even looked at the re-done homework.

 Walking home, I felt cheated, violated and angry.  This fucker had used his position of authority to pursue his own squalid desires at my expense and even at the age of 11, I knew that anything I said to my parents or anyone else would be treated with amused disbelief.  In any case, what could I say?   My Dad – himself a teacher – actually knew Young through professional circles.  Also, the fact was that in 1964,  any polite vocabulary of perversion was not uppermost in the minds of 11-year olds.  The words I knew for what Young intended would not have gone down too well with my elders and betters.  I said nothing and – generally – considered myself fortunate to get through the rest of the year without ‘falling foul’ of his wheezy attentions again – though there were many others in my class who were not so lucky.

Through the next 5 years I progressed through the school without having much to do with Young.  Then, in my first year in the Sixth Form, the school – for some reason – decided that us strapping 17 year-olds needed some more Religious Instruction and I was allocated to a class where we were subjected to his flesh-crawling attentions once a week.  Having said that, he knew better than to try it on with us now that we were all pushing 6 feet tall and wearing long trousers.  Even so, his oily personality was a factor you couldn’t ignore and we were all heartily glad to get our weekly dose of Creepy Religion out of the way.

NGS

Frontage, Northampton Grammar School

I lived quite near the school and during the Easter Holiday of that school year, I was walking into town with 2 mates along the main arterial road that leads from Northampton Town Centre out to the school.  My mate Andy was in the middle of a particularly racy story about a group of Swedish nuns in their vegetable garden and as he came to the punchline, Young drove past as we all exploded in laughter.

You have probably figured out what comes next.  Later that day, my Dad told me he wanted a word.  He informed me that Young had been on the phone to him and had said that I had “hurled foul-mouthed abuse” at him as he drove past and that unless a letter of apology was forthcoming in short order, he would have no option but to refer this sorry affair to the Headmaster once school resumed.  You can perhaps imagine my sentiments but I felt much, much worse once I realised that my parents were going to back Young and not their only beloved son.  In the end, I wrote the letter but my relationship with (in particular) my Dad took the best part of 10 years to recover and I never really forgave him for believing a depraved paedophile instead of me.

So, in some respects, I hate Young far more than I hate Thatcher, if only because his corruption and his evil was small and furtive and based on his misuse of his position of authority.  Hers was a malignancy on a far larger scale , but in relative terms,  I only perceived it at a distance.  Which was the lesser of the two evils, I wonder?

One thing is for sure, the world is a better place without both of them…..

Loach Thatcher

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28 responses to “Dancing on the graves of the dead…

  1. Wholly familiar territory for me also at NGS,similar epoch to mine,I was living in the Selby area during the miners strike and this also strikes a sensitive note

  2. Chris Dilworth

    I enrolled 1963 at NGS. Douglas Young targetted me too. Your blog entry brings this vividly back.

    • Sorry, Chris – didn’t mean to exhume any unpleasant memories, but speaking personally, writing this piece offered me a certain degree of catharsis and I hope reading it did the same for you. Should say that I remember your name from the mists of NGS history…seems like Young had a plethora of victims….

  3. Chris Dilworth

    Gosh that was quick. I am gratified by the honest recollection.Thank you.I have sent you an email.

  4. I was in Dougie Young’s First Year class in 1952: across the road from the main school. I remember his propensity for putting boys across his knees and smacking their bottoms. It struck me as odd, but nothing more. One day after school he invited a friend and me to his house, and showed us in to,his bedroom. I certainly had no idea what was going on. After what seemed a long time he reappeared, and said we should go home. Again I thought it was odd, but thought no more about it – until a few years later. I still remember the double bed and dressing table in front and to the right, near the door, and wondering what was going to happen. Fortunately nothing did.

    Half way through the year we moved to Sheffield, then to Glasgow for many years and now retired in Kirkcudbright. My most important memory of Northampton is Mr Moore, the marvellous teacher at Kingsthorpe Grove who got all 45 of us through the 11plus: either to the Grammar School or to the much-missed Tech.

    • Thanks, John. I seem to be becoming a clearing house for this sorry saga……not quite what I had in mind but there you go. Thanks anyway for sharing your memories of this dreadful man.

  5. I came from Manchester in 1953 and attended the Grammar School where I was immediately targeted by the miserable excuse of a human being.I wasn’t sure what was happening,as I was young and naive,but I did know that whatever it was wrong.I am pleased to say that kicking him as hard as I could on the knee caused him not to come near me again.He got his revenge by reporting me to Nettleton for made up offences.with hindsight,I wish I had kicked him in the bo*****s rather than the knee.
    I am not normally vindictive,but I hoped he died a painfull death.

    • Thanks for this Tony. I think a lot of those responding to this post wish that they had kicked him too! I know I wish that I had. Good for you that you struck back, though I can imagine that you were made to suffer for it subsequently….

  6. I suffered at Young’s hands also. I was in the very last 1Y, school year 1973/4, and its taken over 40 yrs to accept and process this abuse. It has been in some ways cathartic to learn that Young was a serial offender. Like many victims, I assumed it was only me. I’d like to thank you for sharing your own experiences. Here’s hoping the seedy little bastard suffered before he went…
    Steven Foulds

    • Chris Dilworth

      Thank you Steven for writing your story…I know that the few, including myself, are a small bunch who are acknowledging the events which we experienced…It does help and I value the fact that agentcoop keeps this webpage open for people…Thanks agent coop.

  7. Amen to your final comment Steven!

  8. While idly googling school names, I ventured Dougie Young’s name — thank heavens for the internet, so that we each no longer think “I must have been uniquely picked on” back in 1957, in form 1Y —

  9. Taxus Baccata….1957 – 2017…60 years of thinking …. A long time to carry on regardless of the past events…We have survived and hopefully all thrived in spite of what is thrown at us in time gone by….Thanks for adding a thought to this timeline on Agentcoop’s webpages….One never knows who is out there in need of some recognition and acknowledgement that they, too, were not the only ones….Thanks Taxus Baccata

  10. Reading this initial post was an amazing experience for me. Bad memories, yes, but fortunately I am certain that I have not let these experiences damage the rest of my life.

    In my case this was an early case of grooming (of parents) of a 10 year old in the mid 1960s.

    Saturday morning ‘extra maths’ classes in his house in Lloyd Rd., Northampton. As an example of the process, difficult algebraic equations were set and if I solved these wrongly, punishment with a branch of an apple tree followed. Nothing else physical but it was very clear to me even at that young age that the man ‘enjoyed’ my distress.

    The last thing he did in my case, as I recall, a couple of years or so after this influence started, was to go through my exercise books (even though he was not my form master). He was looking for untidy work which, when located, would result in my being told to go to his room after school.

    On this last occasion I went straight home after school; even then I thought I was doing something wrong with this refusal. I told my parents what ‘extra maths lessons etc’ had actually meant and I am sure they did not know how to deal with this information. They did, though,support me in my desire to end these experiences. After that I went to see the man and told him I would no longer go along with his requests and, for me, the problem ended.

    In later life I was asked to contribute to a publication dealing with my experiences at school. The article was heavily ‘edited’ before publication and my comment that “some of the behaviour of one or two teachers would today be seen as ‘abusive” was removed from my contribution.

    Thanks for the posting – I hope it helps others who may have thought they were alone.

    • Thanks for your contribution, Michael – and for your candour. It’s not easy, I know, to be so open about these issues, even though we ourselves were purely victims, not just of Young himself, but also of the oppressive ‘culture’ that sheltered his behaviour from the public eye.

      I am glad that you managed to secure the backing of your parents; I can well imagine their confusion and incredulity when you brought this story home. As my original piece attests, I was not so lucky in this context and, as a result, my relationship with both of my parents suffered for many years after I had left NGS behind me.

      I think the problem for me is that NGS was a key element in the aspirational landscapes my parents were starting to move into during the mid-60’s. Or to put it another way, they were snobs. My Dad had bought a car, been promoted to a Deputy Head-ship in Duston and they could even afford for my Mum to stop working. Dad had his season ticket at the County Ground and Mum started to go to London and to Stratford in order to indulge her passion for live theatre. I was at the Grammar School and apparently settling in nicely and both of them had escaped their working class roots to live in a nice house in Abington.

      I think my Dad felt that, even in a small town like Northampton, he was starting to mix in the right circles and meet the right people. He met Young at the ‘Teachers Centre’ on the Kettering Road and because he himself had been a scholarship-winning ‘Day’ pupil at Wellingborough Public School, he readily bought into all that ‘Alma Mater’ bullshit that pervaded the school and all who were connected to it. Oliver clearly wanted to re-invent the place as a minor public school, so Young’s depravity found easy purchase. My parents totally bought into the whole thing; having a happy, shiny 12-year old at the best school in town was just another step away from the working class roots they were so keen to leave behind them.

      Before I leave the topic, I have said in the original post that Young was ‘a pervert and a groper of little boys and everyone at the school knew it.’, which leads me to the following train of thought…In later years, my Dad wound down his career as a club cricketer of reasonable quality by playing for a team that also featured Trevor Ford, one of my ex-teachers, who taught History at NGS.

      Trevor had always struck me as being a fundamentally decent bloke, a slightly gritty northerner who always came across as someone who paid lip service to the values of the school but was never going to be part of the ‘inner circle’ of donnish intellectuals with their bat-like gowns and cut-glass diction. My impressions of him were reinforced by seeing him around the clubhouse and the bar at the cricket club. He seemed like a funny, approachable and thoroughly decent guy…..which begs the question: how much did he know about Young’s antics? How much did the staff in general know? Did they see this kind of thing as being standard behaviour or were they simply too intimidated by the prevailing culture of the school to raise their heads above the parapet? Maybe they were scared to open Pandora’s Box and were just looking to hang on to their jobs.

      It’s striking how this blog is now essentially archived except for this one topic. Every few months, a new contributor will appear out of nowhere and post something awful and fascinating as you have done, Michael. Makes me wonder how many other people are out there who read all this stuff but decide to move on without posting their own particular horror story.

      In addition, there are also, clearly, people who keep a watchful eye on it for any new posts and it has been pointed out to me that a Facebook page dedicated to Northampton’s past has now ‘discovered’ this site and this topic, so maybe the whole thing is about to explode into life again. On the aforementioned Facebook page, someone expressed the view that they were convinced that the whole Douglas Young Creepshow had been covered by the ‘Chronicle & Echo’ around the time he retired in 1974. I was out of town by then and I doubt that my parents would have told me about it for all the reasons you can probably imagine. Anyone got any knowledge of any such coverage?

      As I have often said, I never intended this post to act as a clearing house for all those negatively affected by Douglas Young, but I know that blogging about my own (admittedly less serious) experiences has undoubtedly helped me to come to terms with a nasty episode from my past and it has also – as you have said – re-assured me that I was not the only victim of this vile man. So, for as long as WordPress keep the doors open and Google keeps throwing up links to this post, I’ll continue to field any comments that arrive. I have had contact with others whose experiences were clearly more oppressively horrible than mine and who have not posted on this site – or not yet anyway. Maybe one day they will do so and achieve some kind of closure. Under the circumstances, keeping this going seems the least I can do….

      Thanks again for your post.

      • Michael Hermann

        Thanks for the very considered response.

        I will do some research into the potential 1974 Chron reports and let you know if I locate anything.

  11. There was never any doubt in my mind that the whole of the teaching staff were aware of the actions of this perverted little dwarf.I was lucky in the years that followed, to have played rugby with some of the staff-on many occasions his actions were discussed in the bar and as I recollect,most of the guys were reluctant to speak out against him for fear of losing their jobs.

  12. Keep this running “thread” going — more people will find it and add their stories. I too was given hard maths problems at his house, and received rulers across the hand and bare-bum beatings, followed by hugs and kisses and a glass of orange juice; and the devious closure: “You wouldn’t want me to tell your parents how bad you are?” And as others have said, “everybody knew”, just as even today in different settings, everybody knows about a creep but nobody wants to shop him, and he is always very ‘respectable’.

  13. Michael Bellamy

    We seem to have a lot in common. I lived in Grantham and worked in Mansfield and Worksop during the miners strike. I then went back to work in Mansfield and Alfreton around 2001-2003. The damage that Thatcher did to those towns was heartbreaking. Many miners hadn’t recovered during the intervening years and they we’re simply hollow and without purpose.
    I also attended NGS from 1971-1974 (when the family moved to Grantham) I vividly recall Dougy Young and was molested (albeit briefly ) by him. He seemed to have a distinct fondness for smacking backsides. I dreaded the walk up Billing Road every morning.

    • If you lived in Grantham, you’ll probably recall that restaurant or cafe called ‘The Premier’? I wonder how many bricks they had through their windows over the years….

      If you were at NGS from 1971-4, you would perhaps recall Young’s retirement? I would imagine that a few senior figures at the school breathed a sigh of relief when that day rolled around.

      The ‘smacked backsides’ you refer to were just the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid. There were plenty of schools in that era where routine corporal punishment went on, but it I think it was more the concomitant grooming and emotional blackmail for which Young can be held responsible that concerns so many who have posted here.

  14. Tony Boullemier

    Dougie Young was indeed around whilst I was at NGS from 65-72. He did indeed have a reputation as alluded to by others but personally I never had any problem with him whatsoever. Perhaps I was fortunate not to be in his first year form, I was in IM with Mr Maw.

    • Thanks Tony. I think that you probably had to be taught by Young and/or in 1Y to be on the receiving end of his ‘special measures’. I am quite sure that there are thousands of blokes of (roughly) our age out there who were at NGS but never fell foul of the man. Lucky for them, I’d say…

  15. Tony Boullemier

    The only corporal punishment I ever received was from HJCO which dare I say was administered in a ‘correct’ manner.

  16. Pupil at Northampton Grammar school 1955-1962,and Duggie was my form teacher.Experienced all the abuses mentioned.Most boys knew D.Y. for what
    he was but kept their experiences to themselves, or found it amusing if not
    directly implicated.My parents always considered him a good teacher.
    Friends and relations today did hear about his activities but were not aware
    of all the horrible details.I have never able to describe them to anyone.
    This man should have been given a long prison sentence.I am feeling
    much encouraged and relieved by all the comments made.
    I have been a successful teacher all my life and have been aware of the
    Duggies in my profession and reported them.Unfortunately,a bit too late for
    D.Y!

    • Hi Alan – Thanks for your contribution. Reading your comments about not being able to discuss this matter with nearest and dearest, it does strike me as odd that when I first wrote this piece, I felt able to ‘confide’ in the wide-open spaces of the Net whereas I might have found it difficult to be as open with a friend or a family member. Now that really IS a a little perverse!

      I can only echo virtually all of what you say and I think regular readers of this post will also be nodding in recognition. In one way it’s a bit sad that it’s taken us all so long to get to this point, but then again, at least we got there in the end.

      As ever, I’m glad that you found the post and – more to the point – that reading it has, to some extent, lifted some of the load you’ve been carrying for all these years.

  17. Chris Dilworth

    Alan Redman…Thank you for your contribution to this very revealing narrative of the exploits of Douglas Young at NGS…Gives me some strength that my impression of the whole culture of the times at this school was fairly accurate…Closed and secretive …And if you did not fit the stereotypic male role model of sports, macho and masculine with the total sense of entitlement of your status as ‘top dog’ in society then somehow you were less of a man…Doug Young operated in this environment and took advantage probably knowing that the he was somewhat ‘protected’ by this closeted culture which would have ‘protected’ him rather than safeguard (a word not used then, but very much so now in schools) the victim…He was an opportunist and relished his access to a steady stream of young boys over which his steely eyes could muse and then he could manipulate and take his pick of the bunch….Thanks for everyone who is posting…And to the guardian of this website page please make sure this is safeguarded and saved…Backed up so that the story of these events are not lost…I am afraid it is a document of a dark secret of a school. The school has morphed into Northampton Boys School which has an outstanding record of achievement yet I wonder whether they are aware of this post or even acknowledge the historical relevance…Has the school been contacted? And is there any plans to do so? Because the testimony of the people on here is becoming a loud ‘shout out’ to the school that all was not well in the state of Northampton Grammar School during the reign of this man…Douglas Young…A reply about the questions raised would be gratefully received…Thank you again for keeping this revelation going and I hope we all can feel that bit more satisfied that we were not ‘going mad’ or somehow were ‘less than perfect’ in not feeling at all safe at the ‘Best School in Northamptonshire’ in the 1950/1960s….

    • Thank you for your excellent article.I just hope that many more will write concerning their experiences with D.Y.as it will provide evidence of how wide
      his involvement was at the School.I had a complete lack of confidence at the G.S. as a result.Fortunately, I recovered and have a daughter who is a doctor and a son who is a police officer.i did tell them about D.Y.but not all the details as it all seemed too late when they became adults.
      regards, Alan.

      • Chris Dilworth

        Breaking the silence around destructive and abusive behaviour by people in positions of power can be very hard as you have been ‘told’ to keep the secrets and the punishment for ‘betraying’ this silence is ‘shame’ ‘guilt’ and ‘abandonment’ …Takes courage to break the taboo …But once done it can be a most liberating of experiences because ‘they’ told you a massive ‘lie’…About your future…And the proof is in your real life of friends and family, free from the shackles of the past…Thank you for the reply…Much appreciated….Chris.

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