Highlands & Islands

Former Fort Augustus Abbey school priest denies being 'a monster'

Father Benedict Seed
Image caption Father Benedict Seed has given evidence in his trial at Inverness Sheriff Court

A former priest has denied he was "a monster" who "exploded with temper" as he punished pupils at a former Catholic boarding school at Fort Augustus.

Father Benedict Seed, 83, is charged with assaulting eight pupils in the 1970s and 1980s. He denies the charges.

Appearing under the name Thomas Michael Seed, he has given evidence in his trial at Inverness Sheriff Court.

He told the court that caning pupils at Fort Augustus Abbey school "was very rare" and belting was "pretty rare".

The jury in his trial has heard from five former pupils that Father Benedict Seed would cane or belt them until they bled, with one accusing him of using a spiked golf shoe.

Another said he was repeatedly punched, kicked and hit in the private parts with a hockey stick because he refused to go to sports as he was ill in bed.

The witnesses each described how they would be punched or kicked and sometimes dragged along floors or down stairs to Father Seed's study where he would inflict corporal punishment.

The boys, now adults, were aged between 11 and 15 at the time, and claimed the priest was excessive in his use of the cane and/or tawse. They also accused him of being "in an uncontrollable rage".

His defence counsel John Campbell QC asked Father Seed: "You have been characterised as an intemperate, quick to anger, aggressive and disproportionate with your punishment man - a monster on the loose who explodes with temper.

"Does that ring true for you?"

Father Seed replied: "No. It is not me. I could have been impatient or mistaken. None of us are perfect all the time."

But the former priest conceded: "I think there may have been some times that I could have been excessive but not all the time. That is not my general character. No."

'Bad boy'

He said that after he had been a housemaster at the school, he was promoted to headmaster.

He said: "The housemasters gave corporal punishment. The headmaster did not.

"Another monk told me that I was the one who abolished corporal punishment at the abbey. But I don't remember that."

He added: "Caning was very rare, belting was pretty rare."

A police interview given by Father Seed, who was himself a former abbey school pupil, was read out to the trial earlier.

In it he revealed that when he was a pupil at the abbey, he was a "bad boy" and got caned for 40 successive days.

He also told officers that when he became a housemaster he tested tawses on himself.

He also insisted that the pupils preferred the "short sharp punishment of the tawse" rather than the alternatives of lines, detention or physical labour like weeding or going for a half-hour walk.

Details of the allegations being made against him by the former pupils were given to the priest and he denied knowledge of all of them but one.

In the case of Paul Curran, who was the first to tell the trial that his wrists bled after a belting, Father Seed denied he had been excessive.

Mr Curran told the jury that he was belted until his hands bled and the monk was in "a rage".

The former priest said he remembered Mr Curran, that he had belted him and said he was "high-spirited" but "a good influence on the school".

However, he denied that he had lost control.

The trial continues.

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