Police, Fire & Court Schools

“Tell the truth and shame the devil”: Former St Ambrose College pupil calls on teachers to come clean for book about Alan Morris trial

By David Prior at

An ex-pupil and victim of Alan Morris, the former St Ambrose College teacher jailed for nine years last month for decades of abuse at the Hale Barns school, is to write a book detailing his behind-the-scenes experience covering the trial.

David Nolan withdrew his right to give evidence in the trial so that he could fulfil an unpaid opportunity to document the lead-up to the trial for Granada Reports, with the resulting 11-minute film shining a rare light on the process that witnesses in such a trial had to go through.

Now Nolan, a journalist, writer and documentary-maker, has called on ex-pupils to come forward to tell their stories – and for teachers who knew about Morris’s behaviour to “tell the truth and shame the devil”, also the title he has chosen for the book.

The book, to be published in early summer 2015 by John Blake Publishing, will take a broader look at the highly topical issue of abuse victims and the court process, through the lens of his experience covering the Morris trial.

He told Altrincham Today: “Since the Granada Reports film I’ve been overwhelmed with ex-pupils getting in touch with me saying ‘I’ll help’, including lads who didn’t feel able to come forward to the police at the time.

David Nolan

David Nolan

“So I’d appeal for those lads and others who have not yet come forward to come forward, take part in the book and make sure their voice is heard. I can guarantee you, it will help other people, and maybe it will help you too.

“Secondly I would appeal to the other teachers who were there at the time – I know there’s two teachers still at the school who were at the school when Alan Morris was there. But also those older teachers who would be in their 70s, maybe their 80s.

“A phrase that sticks in my mind, that the Christian Brothers would say to us when we were kids, was ‘tell the truth and shame the devil’. That’s what they would say to us, and that’s what I would say to those teachers now. This might be your last chance to put this right – you knew, and for whatever reason, maybe perfectly valid reasons, you didn’t do anything. Now’s the time to tell the truth and shame the devil.”

Nolan gave up a considerable amount of work to take part in the film, which aired on August 29th, the day Morris was jailed for nine years for a campaign of physical and sexual abuse that started when he joined the school as a chemistry teacher in 1972 and lasted until the early 90s.

Jurors at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court heard how he would use a variety of implements to dish out corporal punishment – and would also indecently assault pupils in a small room off the school’s chemistry lab. Judge Timothy Mort said it was “a shocking abuse of trust and incredibly arrogant behaviour”.

Nolan said he’d had “hundreds and hundreds” of messages since the film, during which he had dramatically confronted Morris outside court mid-trial and quoted the school motto to him: ‘Vitam Impendre Vero’, or ‘Life Depends on The Truth’.

He said the process of making it had helped him. “It’s been an amazing experience, and that’s what the book is about, it’s an opportunity for a people to get a few things off their chest, be they pupils or teachers.

“I don’t mind saying that I’ve done this for my benefit, to make me feel better, and by God it has. If as a by-product it can make other people feel better, great. I left the school in 1981 and since then I’ve driven past it 1,000 times, 10,000 times, and every time I’ve stuck two fingers up at it. But in the last few weeks I’ve stopped doing it.

“I start the book with the first thing Alan Morris told us when we were 13 – that he would take our teeth out if anyone ever spoke about him to anyone. It will follow the case through and ask why he was able to get away with it, why didn’t we feel able to speak, how have things changed now, and what is it like to be inside of that.”

Pupils or teachers looking to get in touch with Nolan can contact him on david@mediaexpertise.net.