Nicky Campbell speaks with alleged abuser's daughter on new BBC podcast Different
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BBC presenter Nicky Campbell has had a candid chat with his alleged abusers daughter on his BBC podcast, Different. Hamish Dawson worked at Edinburgh Academy in the 1970s and was accused of multiple instances of both emotional and physical abuse on young boys.
Last year Campbell, 61, who attended the Scottish private school during this time, alleged he had both witnessed and been the victim of abuse. He named Dawson, who died in 2009, as one of his alleged abusers. Now, he has spoken to Dawson’s daughter Jenny, who reached out to him after he made his allegations public.
On the podcast, Jenny said: “Knowing that I am the daughter of a paedophile – it’s repulsive, it’s shameful. It’s disgusting. I’ve spent my whole professional life fighting for the rights of children and young people, and he was doing that. I feel we’re the antithesis.”
Campbell asked her how she felt when he had made his accusations, saying: “Were you angry with me?” She answered: “Absolutely not. I was rejoicing. It’s a huge vindication of the terror I experienced growing up. It’s finally not just me saying it... There are no words to describe my parents, individually or collectively. They were an abomination.”
When talking about her relationship with her father, she added: “[he was] absent. He was always with the boys every evening. [...] we never saw him. He left us with a screaming banshee, my mother. She was mentally ill for as long as I can remember. [...] She blamed the boys for our dysfunctional family.”
Jenny told Campbell she didn’t know the extent of her father’s abuse - but was aware of his violence. She said: “I knew he used to hit the boys, because he used to walk about with the slipper. I know he used other things, but from 14 to 17 I never saw him. As an adult, I also had a series of weeping phone calls from my mother. I can’t remember if this is after he died, but a whole load of horrific stuff was found on his computer at their home. It was related to women in slavery.”
Since some of the alleged abuse at Edinburgh Academy became public, Jenny has been contacting the survivors to try and offer them solace and closure to their trauma. She said: “I went into overdrive, and felt morally compelled to do something. They were extraordinary conversations. It sounds bizarre to say, but they were wonderful. We spoke the same language, but from different perspectives. We probably could have spoken for hours.
“But they also re-awakened memories, some of which were very graphic. It’s also made me need to join the dots up differently. Things that I thought I made sense of. This also happened under the roof I was also living. There’s so much new stuff I didn’t know about.”
Campbell spoke more about his time at Edinburgh Academy, saying: “We were not particularly encouraged to be polite to each other. We were feral and brutalised. What was your experience of the boys when you were living there?” Jenny said “at the time I thought the boys were unprincipled. I loathed them… There were lots of boys and I always felt so exposed and vulnerable.”
Campbell asked “Do you think they were the products of that brutalisation?” Jenny said: “That’s one of the many things that I now see differently. Because they must have loathed me and everything to do with my family. Of course they did. But I didn’t know that at the time. I was just a girl. I’m not saying it was conscious on the boys’ part, but I felt violated, teased, belittled. There wasn’t a safe adult to go to.
“I was shocked about how sick my father was, how long he got away with it and the part the academy played… These abusers never work in isolation. I believe there was collusion; that somebody, even if it was just one other person, must have known. I don’t ever miss my father. I don’t want to look like him. I don’t want his blood in my system. But it is.”
A spokesperson from the Edinburgh Academy said: “Like any right-minded person, we are appalled by the reports of historic abuse. Schools should be safe places for children and we encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse to contact the police. We continue to work closely with authorities such as Police Scotland and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry as they investigate what has happened.
"They are rightly leading on establishing the facts and what action may need to follow. We will respect that process by not commenting about their ongoing work. The wellbeing of children is at the heart of our school ethos today and we have robust measures in place to safeguard every student entrusted to our care.”