Nicky Campbell: Long Lost Family star Nicky Campbell says he was abused at Edinburgh school

Edinburgh-born TV and radio presenter Nicky Campbell has claimed that he was the victim of abuse at a private school in the Capital during the 1970s.
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The 61-year-old broadcaster said witnessing incidents of both sexual and physical abuse at the Edinburgh Academy had had a “profound effect on my life”.

BBC star Campbell, who has also been a presenter on ITV's Long Lost Family since 2011, made the claims for the first time on an episode of his podcast Different on BBC Sounds, released on Wednesday.

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During the episode he discusses his experiences with journalist Alex Renton, creator of the radio programme In Dark Corners, which explores abuse at Britain’s private schools.

Nicky Campbell has claimed that he was the victim of abuse at a private school in the Capital during the 1970s.Nicky Campbell has claimed that he was the victim of abuse at a private school in the Capital during the 1970s.
Nicky Campbell has claimed that he was the victim of abuse at a private school in the Capital during the 1970s.

Campbell will later tell BBC Radio 5 Live: “I was badly beaten up at school by a teacher who was a leading light in the scripture union.

“My mother took it as far as she could and got a grovelling apology from (the man involved), but was essentially stonewalled and it was hushed up by the school.

“Those were different times and that has stayed with me all my life.”

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Campbell also discussed witnessing more serious sexual abuse, allegedly enacted on his school-mates at the hands of another man at the institution.

“I cannot describe it here and I can never un-see it,” he will tell 5 Live.

“This man was known to us all as a predator and a sadist but we never told anyone.

“My school friends and I talk about it now with each other with again – contempt, disbelief and incomprehension that sort of thing happened in plain sight and nothing was done.

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“And why didn’t we as little boys tell anyone in power what was happening? I don’t know.”

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It was also revealed to Campbell by Renton that the alleged abuser is still alive, but has not been named for legal reasons.

Speaking on his own podcast Campbell says the reason he has chosen to come forward is to bring the man to justice over the alleged abuse.

In a statement provided to the BBC, Edinburgh Academy said it “deeply regrets” the alleged incidents and “wholeheartedly” apologised to those involved.

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“We have worked closely with the relevant authorities including Police Scotland with their inquiries and would like to provide reassurance that things have dramatically changed since the 1970s,” the statement read.

“The Academy has robust measures in place to safeguard children at the school with child protection training now core to the ethos of the Academy.”

Neil Mcintosh, NSPCC Scotland’s Assistant Director, said: “It can be extremely difficult to speak out about experiencing or witnessing child sexual abuse, no matter when it took place, and Nicky Campbell has shown real courage in publicly talking about what he suffered in the very institutions that are meant to protect young people.

“The safety and welfare of pupils must be the primary consideration for all institutions and it is vital they send out a clear message that any abuse will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly. This includes initial concerns, escalating where necessary and working with local child protection partners to ensure there are no missed opportunities and abuse cannot continue.

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“Children and young people must know who they can speak to in a school setting about any concerns and have the confidence they will be listened to and that all allegations will be investigated.

“We understand that changes have been made in recent years to better protect children in schools. However, it is crucial that all learnings that come out of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry are fully taken onboard by all institutions and acted upon quickly, if changes are needed.

“We hope that Mr Campbell is receiving the support he needs and that by speaking out, it will encourage others in a similar position to do the same and reassure them that they are not alone and people are ready to listen and help.”

Different With Nicky Campbell is available on BBC Sounds.

Campbell was adopted at just four-days-old, leaving him with a “fragile” identity growing up and at times feeling he was “living a lie”.

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He was born in Edinburgh April 1961 and adopted four days later by city couple Frank and Sheila Campbell.

Campbell decided to track down his birth parents in 1989 while in his 20s.

His biological mother Stella Lackey, who has sadly passed away, was an unmarried Dublin Protestant.

Stella travelled from Ireland to Edinburgh to escape the shame being an unmarried mother carried at the time.

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Although she sent Christmas cards for the first five years of his life, they didn’t have any direct contact until they met in a Dublin hotel when Campbell was 29 in 1990.

Just 18 months before he was born, Stella had given birth to his half-sister Esther and also given her up for adoption.

Campbell started to trace his biological father, Joseph in 2002, while researching for his 2004 ­autobiography, Blue-Eyed Son. He discovered that Joseph was an Irish Republican from Belfast and also claimed that his grandad fought alongside IRA leader, Michael Collins.

In July 2021, Campbell said he spent two days in bed with depression following “really vicious” comments from satirist and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker.

Campbell said the remarks left him at a “low ebb”.

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Brooker, 50, wrote in a 2004 newspaper column that Campbell, 60, is “the Antichrist”.

An episode of Screenwipe, Brooker’s review show broadcast on BBC Four, featured a recap of Campbell’s career set to satanic music.

Campbell referenced other jibes which he said took a terrible toll on him.

Speaking on the My Time Capsule podcast, he said he has suffered from “terrible depression” since he was a teenager and has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder type 2.

Campbell said he spent two days in bed after hearing the remarks.

“It sent me into a really, really low ebb and I was suffering at the time, badly, anyway,” he said.