Pupils at exclusive Perthshire private school suffered ‘mass beatings’ and sexual abuse

Pupils at the exclusive Morrison’s Academy in Crieff were subject to horrific beatings and even sexual abuse, a senior judge has ruled.

In a new report published by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, Lady Smith found children were physically and emotionally tormented at the school.

Former pupils of the school, where Hollywood superstar Ewan McGregor studied, gave evidence to the inquiry about their experiences.

The probe examined the fee-paying academy between 1945 and 2007 – when it ceased to be a boarding school.

Lady Smith found that while the abuse was predominantly of a physical and emotional nature, there was also evidence of sexual abuse.

Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Image: Nick Mailer

This included a teacher in the 1950s, with one former pupil, “Bill”, a pseudonym, telling the inquiry: “He would ask pupils to remain behind after class, and one had to be smart as well as resilient to avoid his wandering hands”.

Corporal punishment was used excessively and inappropriately by staff, Lady Smith said, and on occasion took place even in advance of any misbehaviour taking place.

On occasion, teachers also “indulged in mass beatings”.

The report concludes abusive punishments, sometimes amounting to assault, were meted out by teachers as well as older pupils in the boarding houses.

Seniors boys at Morrison’s Academy ‘sexually abused younger children’

This included bullying and physical abuse – often a result of the common practice known as “fagging” – as well as corporal punishment, physical violence and emotional abuse carried out by prefects

The report by the inquiry, which recently heard evidence about schools in Dundee, says: “Some senior boys in the boarding houses engaged in sexually abusive behaviour towards younger ones.

“Further, children were subjected to and witnessed emotional abuse.”

Lady Smith ruled that all three of the main boys’ houses — Academy, Dalmhor and Glenearn — were places where physical and emotionally abusive cultures were “allowed to flourish” for lengthy periods between the 1950s and the 1980s.

The chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “Children who boarded at Morrison’s were exposed to risks of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

Ewan McGregor
Hollywood actor Ewan McGregor attended the school. Image: PA

“For many, those risks materialised, and children were abused. That abuse had long-term impact.

“For decades, Morrison’s harboured a culture of violence and emotional abuse. The abuse was primarily physical and emotional, but there was also sexual abuse.

“Some members of staff at Morrison’s abused children, both in the school and in the boarding houses.

“Morrison’s response to excessive and inappropriate corporal punishment was inadequate.”

After 1995, and in particular from 1999 onwards, the report says improvements were made and child protection processes strengthened.

Gareth Warren, rector of the school between 2015 and 2021, told the inquiry he accepted that between the 1950s and 1990s, and most probably beyond these dates, there were “very real problems with a number of the boarding houses at Morrison’s”.

In a statement to The Courier, Morrison’s Academy said it accepted the inquiry’s findings in full.

David Glen, chair of the Board of Morrison's Academy. Image: Supplied
David Glen, chair of the Board of Morrison’s Academy. Image: Supplied

David Glen, chair of the Board of Morrison’s Academy, said: “Morrison’s Academy sincerely apologises to all those affected for the historic failings during its time as a boarding school.

“We accept the findings of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in full.”

Mr Glen also thanked those former pupils who came forward with evidence, saying the school was “deeply saddened” to heard their accounts of historic abuse.

He added: “Morrison’s Academy is committed to learning from the past and ensuring the continued welfare and safeguarding of pupils.”

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