Edinburgh Academy abuse survivors to climb Mount Everest for charity

Former Edinburgh Academy pupils hope to help future generations

They have endured unconscionable suffering and overcome the gravest challenges. Now, another mountain stands in their way.

A group of former pupils at Edinburgh Academy are preparing to climb Mount Everest in order to highlight the abuse they suffered during their schooldays and raise funds for a leading children’s charity.

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The band of ex-pupils at the private school have travelled to Nepal as they gear up for a gruelling 150 kilometre trek at ultra-high altitude on the world’s highest mountain, an endeavour that has been described as “part climbing, part fundraising, part therapy.”

They include Giles Moffat, who attended the school in the 1980s. He gave evidence at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in Edinburgh last year, where he told of how a teacher beat pupils with a snooker cue, and locked him in a shed, feeding him bread and water.

He also recently gave evidence during an examination of facts at Edinburgh Sheriff Court involving former Edinburgh Academy teacher, John Brownlee. Last week, a court ruled that Brownlee, 89, had inflicted “cruel and unnatural acts” on pupils, including assault with implements such as a cricket bat, a clacken, and a leather strap.

Now aged 51, Mr Moffat wants to turn the abuse he suffered into a positive force by raising money for the NSPCC and awareness of the impact of abuse.

“Childhood abuse causes mental health problems, addictions, self-harm, low self-worth, anxiety, relationship and work problems throughout life,” he explained. “We want to use our own negative childhood experiences to help other children who have been abused, and those who may be at risk, and raise awareness of the wide-ranging and long-lasting impact of childhood abuse.

Giles Moffatt said the team wants to use their negative childhood experiences to help other children.Giles Moffatt said the team wants to use their negative childhood experiences to help other children.
Giles Moffatt said the team wants to use their negative childhood experiences to help other children.

“We can’t change our past, but we can do something to prevent other children from experiencing the horrors that we endured. We want a zero-tolerance of any form of abuse of children and hope to inspire others to have the courage to speak up and seek support.”

In preparation for the inquiry, Mr Moffat, an experienced climber, set up a survivors’ group which now has over 70 members, and when he said he would like to climb Everest to raise money for the charity, several members came forward to join him in what will be a significant physical and mental challenge.

At the time of writing, they have raised more than £35,000, with a target of reaching £100,000. Nicky Campbell, the veteran broadcaster and former Edinburgh Academy pupil, who encouraged other abuse survivors to come forward after addressing the child abuse inquiry, is among the supporters of the expedition. He has publicised the event on X, writing: “So proud of these guys and proud to call them friends.”

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The 12 strong-band of men and women, known as Team Uprising, will trek over nine days to Everest’s base camp, before Mr Moffat and his fellow Edinburgh Academy abuse survivors, Neil MacDonald and Neil Russell, together with their friends and supporters, Andy Leslie and Mitch Smith, undertake an ice climb to the 6,119-metre summit of Lobuche.

Members of the team have been training in Scotland ahead of their Everest expedition.Members of the team have been training in Scotland ahead of their Everest expedition.
Members of the team have been training in Scotland ahead of their Everest expedition.

Mr Moffat and Mr Leslie will carry on even higher through the heart of the Himalayas with legendary mountaineer and guide, Ang Tshering Lama, who has climbed Everest five times, with the aim of reaching the summit of Everest by the end of May. Along the way, they will have to contend with altitude sickness, the treacherous Khumbu icefall and on summit day what is referred to as the mountain’s ‘death zone’, where there is not enough oxygen to survive, and they will carry specialist equipment to assist them.

Mr Russell, 67, also gave evidence at the child abuse inquiry last year, going on the record to detail his experience of physical, sexual and emotional abuse when he was a pupil at Edinburgh Academy. The main perpetrator of his abuse was Hamish Dawson, who died in 2009. At the inquiry, Dawson was accused of multiple instances of emotional and physical abuse on young boys at the fee-paying school, some of which Mr Russell experienced and witnessed.

“Dawson would beat all the boys if something happened, and no one confessed,” the retired accountant said. “The incidents of abuse by Dawson have haunted me and tormented my mind throughout my life. The habitual and extreme violence have stayed with me. It took me two years of psychotherapy before I was even able to say his name.”

Other former pupils taking part in the expedition include Frazer Macdonald, Graeme Sneddon, Adrian Blakemore, and Niall Mackinlay. They are also being joined by friends and family, Cat Bolten, Rachel Leslie, Andrea Christensen, and Jacob Christensen.

The funds they raise will go towards supporting NSPCC services, including Childline, the charity’s free counselling service for children, and Speak Out Stay Safe, an initiative which aims to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

Around 500 people have donated to their cause to date, offering messages of support and encouragement. One donor, Sheila Michie, wrote: “Your courage is liberating people from some dreadful pain of the past. You have my admiration.” Another, Susan Owen, said: “Good for you for speaking up and working to protect other children from abuse. Good luck on your climb!”

Any adult concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline by calling 0808 800 5000 or emailing [email protected]. They should call the police on 999 straight away if they think a child is in immediate danger.To donate to Team Uprising’s expedition, visit https://www.justgiving.com/team/uprising



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