'I've been talking to grown men crying on the phone'
The hunt for new evidence in sexual abuse claims against Formby High School, plus the rest of the weekly briefing
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing. We speak to the solicitor acting for 25 men who say they were abused by a headteacher at Formby High School between 1975 and 1992. Plus, details of a weekly sketching club aimed at connecting communities in north and south Liverpool, and a recommended first-person story from a teenage girl who just moved to Liverpool for university.
On Saturday, Mollie wrote a very moving piece about food shopping with a single mother from Bootle as the cost of living crisis bites. Caroline (not her real name) has been trying to save each week to feed her three children healthy and nutritious meals. Since her housing allowance went down, she wrote to her work coach:
“I'm struggling to feed my children as it is and bills each month and now I've been receiving even less, which means I'm always going to be behind and chasing my tail. It can't be right that people have addictions and things, fake mental health, and get more money than I can as a single mother of three.”
Later that day, she wrote in again: “This is why people kill themselves, because they can’t provide for their children.”
Her work coach wrote back: “Hello Caroline, the payments are based on the local area and what the entitlement is. These vary to different areas resulting in housing allowance being different.”
One commenter wrote: ‘A devastating account of working class life in Britain 2022.’. And on Twitter, a reader said:
mollie simpson @molssimpLife in Bootle the week of the cost of living crisis, by me for @liverpoolpost https://t.co/lnyW7Tw0YU
Read that piece here. In last week’s members editions, we published a feature about a support group for pre-teen girls and their mothers in the Wirral, and a piece about how the city centre has changed. Laura Brown writes: “If the pandemic has changed us, it’s also changed the city we inhabit and our relationship to the city centre. As we return to our daily routines, it’s worth asking: what do we want the city centre to be? Who is it for?”
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🌥 This week’s weather
The big story: Historic sexual abuse claims at Formby High School
The top line: Sefton Council is facing legal action. 25 men have come forward saying they were sexually abused by Ian Farquharson, the head of the lower school at Formby High, between 1975 and 1992.
Farquharson often took boys out of class for extra help with reading and writing, and held an after-school club to collect stamps for Blue Peter badges. His alleged victims were boys between the ages of 11 and 12.
He was suspended in 1992 after a pupil came forward and said he was raped. A few hours later, Farquharson drove to an isolated spot in north Wales and killed himself via carbon monoxide poisoning.
After his death, the school made a plaque in his name and there was a special school assembly in his memory. Some boys were made to go to his funeral in their school uniform.
The response: Formby High School’s current headteacher said the allegations were “appalling”, and added that “no-one was at the school then is there now”. The council has declined to comment.
Solicitor Katherine Yates from Andrew Grove and Co, who specialises in obtaining compensation for people who have suffered sexual and physical abuse at institutions, told The Post she’s never seen a case like this. “I’ve been talking to grown men crying on the phone,” she says, saying some of her clients have attempted suicide and had breakdowns. “What I’m trying to dispel is this myth that he was a wonderful man.”
Two men asked her for help in January. When she said yes, “they were over the moon, because they thought nobody could”.
Since then, a total of 25 men have come forward.
Yates is urging anyone who might know anything more to come forward. She says:
We have been advised there was an earlier criminal court case against Farquharson in 1980 where claims were made about him. If anyone has evidence of that, or kept news cuttings from the local paper, they can contact me on email@example.com.
Context: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse spent years investigating sexual abuse in institutions and found cases of historic sexual abuse at other Merseyside schools. Children at St Aidan’s school in Widnes and St Vincent’s school in Formby, both managed by the Roman Catholic organisation Nugent Care, were subjected to sexual abuse. One man was sentenced to four years imprisonment for assaulting children at St Aidan’s between 1978 and 1981. After Merseyside Police investigated abuse at St Vincent’s, two cases were taken to trial and at least one was convicted. It took more than 12 years for claims to be concluded, and one investigation is ongoing.
Local news in brief
Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham led England’s first mayoral-led trade mission in Ireland last week to discuss opportunities in renewable energy. A four-way agreement was signed by Dublin, Belfast, Liverpool and Manchester for further energy collaboration. More here.
The Everton and Warbreck by-elections take place this Thursday. Voting is open between 7am and 10pm on Thursday. Last month, we wrote about 23-year-old Ellie Byrne, the Labour council candidate in Everton, who inherited her father’s council seat and was the subject of whispers about her age and photos of her drinking cocktails on nights out. Read that piece here.
Appearing in Liverpool Crown Court via video link this morning, 19-year-old Rio Jones denied the attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl in Toxteth, who suffered devastating injuries after being shot at a bus stop on her way back from school. He will face trial at Liverpool Crown Court in October. More here.
Sam Walker, a Liverpool man serving time in Forest Bank Prison in Salford on drugs charges, sparked a Ministry of Justice investigation into contraband phones in prisons after his YouTube channel was discovered. His videos document prison life and accuse judges of being “paedophiles who give drug dealers longer sentences than rapists”. YouTube has refused to take his channel down and has demonetised his videos. More here.
TransPennine Express services in Liverpool will be brought to “a complete standstill” by strike action every Sunday, plus Easter Bank Holidays, until 5th June. Conductors are highlighting the discrepancy in pay between conductors and other rail staff. More here.
Covid-19 cases are now falling again. The case rate for LCR is 701.6, down 19.3% from the previous week. England’s case rate is 699, down 21.5%. Cases are highest in the Wirral, lowest in Liverpool.
Home of the week
This five-bedroom Victorian semi-detached house in Garston has stained glass windows, parquet floors and a beautiful fireplace. It’s on the market for £350,000.
🎶 Our favourite find this week is a night of live, authentic French Cajun music at the very popular pub The Plasterers Arms in Hoylake, which just had a post-lockdown facelift. Tonight from 9pm. More here.
🎪 The spring makers market is back at Lark Lane this Sunday afternoon. There will be vintage clothing, handmade arts and crafts and homemade food. More here.
🪑 An upcycling group meet every Friday afternoon at Calderstones Mansion to bring old furniture back to life. You’ll get plenty of help with your project if you haven’t upcycled before, and you just have to ring ahead to book a place. More here.
✍️ There’s a weekly sketching club beginning this month which aims to connect communities in north and south Liverpool. It’s organised by Dead Pigeon Gallery, a roaming art gallery who set up exhibitions in unexpected places. The club meets every Wednesday at 11am, and this week’s will be at the community garden in Speke. More here.
🍜 We will be going along to Liverpool SOUP on Thursday night, a networking event where you’ll get some homemade bread and soup and hear about inspiring projects in the city region. At the end, there will be vote for which one you think is worthy of winning the funding pot prize. Join the waiting list here.
🎨 Escape the rain by visiting Meet Me At The River, a new pop-up exhibition at the International Slavery Museum, which has a wide range of displays from photography, to performance poetry to workshops. It’s created by a network of activists and campaigners for a fairer and more just migration system, and aims to inspire engagement and debate. More here.
🎙 There’s an open mic night tomorrow night at West Kirby Arts Centre. It’s just £4 entry, and first-time performers are welcome. The second part of the evening features booked artists. More here.
🐑 One for the families: there’s a free Easter trail hunt in Bootle Strand this month. You have to find 23 hidden sheep in shop windows to reunite them with their flock. More here.
🎸 The post-punk band the Psychedelic Furs are performing in O2 Academy Liverpool this Friday. Book here.
A couple celebrating the sunshine by wearing matching pink, by our regular photographer Hannah Cassidy.
Our favourite reads
Three moving first-person stories in The Times, where we hear what it’s like to be a teenage girl in Britain today, alongside some beautiful portrait shots. Rumaithah Noorgat, a student at the University of Liverpool, talks about the difficulties of talking to your parents about mental illness, social media and moving to a new city. “Finding friends here definitely has been a struggle. On Instagram, seeing people going out does make you feel like, ‘I’m missing out on so much.’”
A great piece in Big Issue North about The End, a popular 1980s independent Liverpool magazine which published poetry, music, opinion pieces and sports reviews. It ran 20 editions in between 1981 and 1988, and was known for a “no-holds barred” approach which once accused the local paper of siding with the Tories. “We wanted to make it funny. It was a despondent time and we wanted to take the piss,” a founder says.
A lovely review of Let The Song Hold Us, the new exhibition at FACT, in the Guardian. The exhibition features an Arabic language opera, a fusion of Palestinian and European music practices, and a photography series exploring the changing cultural identity of the Windrush generation on Merseyside. Hannah Clugston writes: “When it does get noisy again, and I start to listen to music on the train home, the songs from Let the Song Hold Us stay with me, adding a new dimension to my previously mindless consumption, questioning the narratives I am absorbing and the world I’m approving.”
Writing in the FT, Costas Milas, a Liverpool professor of finance, argues the uncertainty amidst the cost of living crisis should mean policymakers make economic decisions carefully. “Research by my colleagues and I at Liverpool University supports the conclusion finding that a rise in uncertainty depresses UK economic activity for up to 20 months.”
Letters from readers
Yet another highly readable and enjoyable edition. Good to have the personal and sensitive articles like 'Girls in Liverpool are more anxious after the pandemic. Can a support group break the cycle?’ I also enjoy the photos. Liverpool is a very photogenic city, Stuart Richman
An excellent article that sums up the current issues of Liverpool night life ‘Who is the city centre for?’, Shelagh
Having been born in Bootle in December 1950 and managed, through a good education, to make a decent living and retire on a good pension: I was incredibly moved by the posting from the young mother from Bootle. I am aware, from previous postings, that The Post — like me — is critical of the Echo's negative click bait strategy. Please continue your policy of credible, challenging, constructive articles focused on making things better! ‘This is why people kill themselves, because they can’t provide fo their children’, Frank Nelson
That is exactly the kind of local publication I've been hoping to find for years now and I look forward to reading your work, Fraser
It’s wonderful having good journalism and stories of interest. It’s far removed from the click bait journalism of our alternative local press, Ted