Smell of toast gives former pupil ‘nice feeling’ about abusive priest

A former boarding school pupil has told how he “can’t explain” why the smell of toast makes him feel affectionate towards a priest who would strip and beat him.

The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was speaking at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry about his time at Fort Augustus Abbey in the Highlands during the 1970s.

He told how one priest would call out “boy, come here” during the night and he would have to go to his room for a naked beating or to eat toast.

It was heard there was no “rhyme or reason” as to which scenario would unfold.

The witness, now in his 50s, said: “He used to shout ‘boy, come here’ and you knew you were in trouble – you couldn’t avoid him.

“I would have to take my clothes off and asked to bend over, my hands were on the chair or the desk.

“He used to just rub my backside and then I used to get the cane.”

It was heard the priest would at other times call him in to his room for toast and a chat.

The witness added: “I can’t explain it, but I still have a lot of affection about that, I guess I thought it was special.

“Even today the smell of toast and butter is a nice feeling.

“It was relief and happiness, I think.

“It’s hard to explain – I still have a lot of affection for him because of the time with the toast.”

The inquiry was told the witness could not act emotionally and had to write notes to himself reminding him to hold his child’s hand.

He blamed his time at the Catholic-run school for his inability to process feelings, saying it had been the cause of two failed marriages.

It was heard the witness had not considered himself to have been abused until he watched a BBC documentary, Sins of Our Fathers.

The witness added: “Then it dropped that actually what I went through wasn’t normal, that actually it was an abuse – that it wasn’t fair.

“That was a complete shock to me.”

He also said he did not hate the abusive priest and directed his anger at people and the church for allowing it to continue.

Another witness, who also cannot be named, told the inquiry about his time at Carlekemp Priory School in North Berwick, East Lothian, during the 1960s and 1970s.

The man, now aged around 60, described being asked to “thank” a priest for beating him.

He said: “I hated that, I tried very often not to say thank you because he was trying to justify what he was doing was for my own good.”

The inquiry was also told about a “public flogging” of a number of boys in front of other pupils in the school hall.

It was heard the ordeal had left them “confused” as they never received an explanation as to why they were being hit.

He said: “I hadn’t seen anything like that before.

“It was a ritual, they were sending out a symbolic message.

“There was never any explanation as to why this was happening. We felt confused and hurt because we couldn’t piece it together.”

Both schools were run by the English Benedictine Congregation.

The inquiry before judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh continues.