BBC Wales Today’s Rebecca John looks back on her own school days – and uncovers a dark story of a paedophile teacher and his victims.
The names of two men who were abused by art teacher Clive Hally have been changed to protect their identity.
Their allegations contain descriptions of child sexual abuse which some readers may find upsetting.
Clive Hally: The miner’s son from Maesteg who studied art. He lived in the family council house all his life and looked after his mother until her death.
To some, he was a respected and helpful colleague and teacher, to others a petulant bully and a paedophile hiding in plain sight.
In the 1980s at Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend, Hally had a formidable reputation as one of a minority of male teachers who’d developed their own legendary brand of fury.
I know, because I was a pupil there at the time.
He was fine with me, but I learned formative lessons at a merciful distance from him – and a few other alpha males – about toxic masculinity and the unquestioned dominance of male power.
Brynteg, a former grammar school with a proud reputation, was obsessed with rugby to the point of mania.
The first 15 ruled the school and their achievements would be lauded in daily assemblies. The school – which has produced more British Lions than any other in the UK – honed a peculiarly narrow definition of pupil success.
Despite many kind and talented teachers, it felt like a time before girls’ achievements, and those of the quieter, creative, less confident boys, had been invented.
I’ve been back several times over the years and it feels like a healthier, more inclusive place to me now.
When I was a pupil, some boys who knew they’d never play for Wales wanted to excel at art.
For many artistically-gifted pupils, Hally was an important mentor: An excellent art teacher with results to match, who nurtured their talent and expanded their horizons.
Certain boys in particular were always welcome in the art room, where they could drink tea and listen to cool music on the cassette player.
A ‘cult of Clive’ developed around him: There was an unwritten art room manifesto, where he imposed his musical tastes and political leanings on the art room boys. And they were always boys.
It was a fun place to hang out most of the time, but Hally was a master manipulator who exerted undue influence over their developing minds.
Those who crossed party lines got it with both barrels. I know now that there were other, criminal lines, which Hally himself would cross repeatedly.
I have discovered over the past month by speaking extensively to the two men who reported him to the police that Hally made full use of the locks on the doors of the art room, the storeroom and the photography darkroom to abuse them.
He encouraged pupils to help him build and paint the darkroom, which was where Mike’s abuse started when he was 15.
He talks of the confusion as the door would lock and Clive would get uncomfortably close to him in the dark, hugging and kissing him repeatedly, saying to “keep it between us”.
Mike, who’s now 48, said it felt like an out-of-body experience.
He struggled to process what was happening, while worrying about processing the film at the same time.
His ordeal got much, much worse and lasted until after he left school at A-level.
He was made to perform sex acts on Hally and receive them. The abuse would happen on the premises after school and during the holidays.
“I don’t remember me wanting to get undressed. I think he did it to me, and lots of awful things would happen,” he recalls.
“I didn’t want to touch him. He was a big man and there are things that kind of bring it back, like the smell. There’s like a male smell, and he’d always be very close, so I would try and block it out.
“I didn’t want to do any of this. But you’re in this position and you don’t know what to do. I can remember being naked and lying on a wooden counter, a sort of desk, where he kept lots of paper.
“I just wanted it to end really quickly.”
“It would happen at random times whenever he kind of felt like it. He’d take you off to a cleaners’ cupboard or something, or like one of the old disused toilets up in the upper school,” he said.
“And they’re all pretty awful places, so you end up remembering the cleaners’ polish smell, or the kind of mustiness of these rooms where they haven’t been used for a long time.
“And it would happen whenever he wanted it to happen. So it wasn’t something that was in my control.
“I tried to say ‘no, no, I don’t want to do this’ and sometimes it worked, and other times it didn’t. And of course, I’d get very upset.”
“I can remember one year where we were painting murals and we were there for two weeks straight, so 10 days, 12 days, and it was a brilliant project.
“Really enjoyed the project but we’d be in the storeroom every day. You’d go to school and you’re doing something in the holidays that you’re enjoying and suddenly you get pulled into the storeroom, you then get abused, then I’d go home for dinner.
“My mum and dad would say ‘how was school, what were you doing today?’ And you’d end up having to talk about projects and my face would be red, ’cause Clive always had kind of stubble, and he’d kiss or he’d rub his face in your face and you’d have a stubbly, raw face and that red rash wouldn’t disappear, so you’d have to make some kind of excuse up about that, and that would happen pretty much every day for the whole holidays.”
David is now 50. He was mortified when Hally would undress in front of the boys at art club after school, to put on his old clothes for painting.
The boys would have to do the same, changing out of their school uniform in the art room, trying to cover themselves up.
David was a sensitive 12-year-old in the first year and says Hally would deliberately upset him in front of the class, so that he could console him afterwards in the store room.
It started with Hally hugging and kissing him and culminated in an act of sexual touching on David, when he was 13, which left him deeply shocked and unable to tell anyone.
Even after that, the unwanted and inappropriate physical attention continued for years. David gave up photography after a glowing school report, written after the sexual touching.
Hally also groomed David’s family, sending his parents a thank you note for being so generous with their son’s time, accompanied by photos he’d taken of him. He sent David’s mum a Christmas card every year, as recently as last Christmas.
Hally would get invited to David’s house for meals and out would come the best china and crockery.
“All of my family were expected to attend, so for my mum and my dad it was a big old thing. The teacher was coming to dinner – what a coup!” said David.
David and Mike say they feel sorry for their parents and don’t blame them for not knowing.
Hally taught the boys to lie and keep secrets, so they would have denied it, had they been asked. Their parents believed the best of people, especially respected teachers.
Hally even got invited to David’s graduation because he’d done so much for the family.
Hally would regularly take chosen boys on their own on trips to London to museums and art galleries. It was exciting, as Bridgend didn’t have a museum.
Mike and David both went to London with Hally separately and other boys followed over the years.
His pattern of behaviour, of inappropriately close relationships with male pupils, didn’t change during his 36-year career. He kept in touch with most of his favourites after they left school, as these postcards to Mike show, who was at university by then.
It took 30 years for Mike to start finding the words to talk about what happened to him.
He began counselling in his early 40s after the smell of polish at his own children’s parents’ evenings gave him flashbacks to being sexually assaulted in the cleaners’ cupboards at Brynteg.
After years of counselling, he reported Hally to the police late last year. David also came forward earlier this year as part of that investigation.
They didn’t know the other had been abused until the past few months.
The grooming was so thorough, that even after reporting Hally to police more than 30 years later, they worried about how he’d be coping.
Clive Hally never faced his day in court.
His police file was with the Crown Prosecution Service when his body was found floating on the edge of the Cwmwernderi Reservoir near Maesteg on 18 May, ending the possibility of a prosecution.
There were no suspicious circumstances and his inquest will be held in November.
“Did he drop you home in a taxi afterwards and did you get fish and chips?” David and Mike ask each other now.
They’d be dropped off with bewildering speed after the abuse – they suspect to deny them any thinking time on the way home.
Hally always used the same taxi firm, for all those years.
I wonder which other boys’ homes they went to?
I wonder which other boys got dropped off by Clive, with a bag of fish and chips, on a Friday night?
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