Hamish grew up in regional Western Australia in the 1950s. Father Fergus was the family’s parish priest and when Hamish started high school at a Catholic college, Fergus ‘used to wait for us after school in his little [car], outside the school gate, and then give us all a lift home’.
Hamish told the Commissioner that he remembered ‘it was like, “How come he’s dropping me off last” … I used to get the hand on the leg and the “You’re my favourite boy. Don’t tell the others”, you know? And I was so chuffed that God’s representative on Earth has chosen me as his favourite boy, and it was such a privilege … and there I was reciting at school, “The priest is God’s representative on Earth”, and I’m his favourite boy … Basically … his little game’.
Father Fergus ‘never touched me up badly in the car’, but while Hamish’s mother was preparing scones and tea in their kitchen, ‘I’d get groped and his bloody gob rubbed all over me … he’d rub his mouth all over me … I didn’t like it, but it was like, you know, it’s God doing it, and I’m his favourite boy, and it’s what God wants to do’.
Hamish found it bewildering that Fergus would do these things to him while his mother was in the next room. ‘And that happened a lot … And he’d have the old hands up the leg of your pants, playing with you and Mum’s there, you know … and yeah, so it was quite strange really, and that was really the extent of my abuse from him.’
Father Fergus started a Scout group and took the Scouts on a camping trip. Hamish didn’t attend but heard that Fergus told the boys that if they got scared during the night, they could come into his tent. ‘One boy was scared … and apparently he got the full treatment, and there were rumours then.’ Straight after this camping trip, Father Fergus disappeared.
A couple of years later, the boys at school had the opportunity to speak to the college chaplain, one on one. Hamish decided to tell Father Michael what Fergus had done to him, ‘and he basically abused the shit out of me and just said, “Don’t ever let me hear you speak like that ever again. Get out of this room” and I still remember walking back to class. I was shattered … I kind of felt … like I’d committed some bloody crime, you know’.
Hamish had been a good student prior to reporting the abuse to Father Michael. He came second in the class in Form 2, but then his grades started to go downhill, and although he hadn’t done anything wrong, Hamish was asked to leave the school in Form 4.
‘The biggest impact for me, if I look back on it, academically, I probably would have achieved better … I’ve done well and worked hard and everything’s fine, but you know, I possibly would have … gone to uni, so that’s … I think that’s probably the effect it had on me … I kind of felt like a bad guy, you know … Even if [Father Michael] had’ve said, “Really? Come and tell me about that”, instead of this fit of rage …’
Hamish has tried to make light of his abuse over the years. ‘Whenever the subject comes up I go, “Oh yeah, and a Catholic priest’s had his hand up the leg of my pants” … that’s just my way of dealing with it.’
Hamish was prompted to approach the Royal Commission when he spoke to an acquaintance. ‘He was in an orphanage, and the things they bloody did to him … Guys like that, those guys, they had a bad time. What happened to me was minor you know … and the worst part about it was that arsehole, Father Michael not listening to me … It almost would have been healed …’
Hamish told the Commissioner ‘The bigger crime in a way, was not being believed when I spoke up about it, you know … Talking to you guys and talking to that first guy I spoke to on the phone. That was the first time … That’s how it is, isn’t it … Telling you guys about it, is kind of good. I feel like you believe me, so that’s number one … It’s good to tell my story and be believed’.