Listings

Radio Review: 'I don’t want their blood in my system, but it is'

Different with Nicky Campbell, Radio 5 Live

Last July, when broadcaster Nicky Campbell claimed he had both witnessed and been the victim of abuse at Edinburgh Academy, he opened the floodgates for past pupils’ stories.

The accounts were harrowing. One email stood out. It was from the daughter of an alleged abuser who is now dead.

Jenny Pearson’s father was teacher Hamish Dawson, who is accused of both physical and emotional abuse of young boys.

Pearson is a therapist and she said if anyone wanted to get in touch, she would speak to them.

“I felt morally compelled,” she said.

She did speak to past pupils: “We spoke the same language from different perspectives.”

For his podcast Different, Campbell met her in person.

Firstly, she wanted to apologise. He told her clearly that she had nothing to apologise for.

It’s rare to hear the voice of a close relative in cases such as this.

Last July, when Campbell spoke out, she said she felt “vindicated” but furious that her father was dead.

“I was drawn to you and raging at him.”

Dysfunction was not a big enough word for her childhood, she said. She grew up living in the Edinburgh Academy boarding houses from the age of seven until she was 18.

Her father was absent.

“We never saw him,” she said. “It was always ‘He’s with the boys’, leaving us with a screaming banshee, my mother.”

She said her mother was “hideously narcissistic and mentally ill” and that she screamed, cried and blamed everyone else.

Pearson said she felt appalled by her father.

“I have spent my whole professional life fighting for the rights of children and young people,” she said.

It was an emotional, difficult conversation for interviewer and interviewee.

But Pearson's desire to connect to others is intense and her disgust is heartbreaking. She would have a transfusion if it would get her father’s blood out of her veins, she said.

“In photographs I can see both of my parents in me. I don’t want to look like my mother. I don’t want to look like my father,” she said.

“I don’t want their blood in my system, but it is.”

Edinburgh Academy has said it was appalled by reports of historical abuse and is continuing to work with Police Scotland and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry as they investigate.