Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Email Exchange Between the Principal Dr Marina Hitchen and the Ex-Trustee Rev. Charles Bonsall - March to May 2011

The following is an email exchange between the Principal; Dr. Marina Hitchen and the former school Trustee Charles Bonsall. Although it was originally decided to honour the request of Charles Bonsall not to publish his correspondence in full so as to protect Pat Clague's reputation, this decision was reversed when it was discovered that Bonsall's testimony could not be fully relied upon and that he had lied over his signing of the 1995 Trustee appointing letter, which can be found here: A Letter Purporting to be From a Meeting of the Trustees in Which New Trustees Were Appointed - 7th June 1995. Any future correspondence between Dr Marina and Charles Bonsall will be added here as it becomes available.


Dear Sir,

I thought you would like to look at the archive file we have set up for Unity High School and its history. I know you have all worked very hard to preserve documents in Durham University but they are not accessible to all those interested in the school. Here is the link that will get you there.

http://unitykhartoum.blogspot.com/p/introduction-to-unity-archive-1902-to.html

I am leaving at the end of this year and probably Steve too so we would like to get it as complete as possible. Would you like to contribute any photos or interesting documents?

It was really interesting seeing how the trustees had somehow disappeared and that a Principal had managed to revive them. Seems you could have been at the meeting in London when the new trustees were appointed or did you just witness the document which appointed them? As it was such an important event with trustees being needed for the continuation of the school and being missing and then re-appointed maybe you have a photo or an official document (other than what we already have) of this.

I also found a letter written by you about Pat Clague to someone called Julie. It seemed very sad that she left with all that pressure on her and we want to make sure her name goes down well in history (of course I will not post your private correspondence on the web) but any positive comments about her would be nice I feel.

The school is very wealthy now and this was all due to your (and others like you) efforts and we would not like to miss anyone out. Should I contact anyone else who could contribute?

Thanks in anticipation

Dr Marina Hitchen

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Reply from Charles Bonsall
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Dear Marina,

If I may, it was good to get your email and also the accompanying information. Somehow I missed your email in the flurry of work and so many other emails but I am glad that in looking back  I did not miss it altogether. A very brief account of my own involvement with UHS is as follows.

I went to Khartoum as Embassy and Anglican Cathedral chaplain in November 1972. I left Khartoum in 1983.

Pat Clague was the principal of Unity High School when I arrived, and in line with tradition I became Chair of Governors and also a Trustee of Unity High School for Girls as it was then. When Pat Clague had become principal, the school was at a very low ebb. It was only thanks to her hard work and enthusiasm and indeed faith that the school was turned around. The problem had been that before her becoming head, standards had dropped which was OK for a while but in the end the school was getting the reputation for being a school for those who did not pass exams very well. Lest we blame those who preceded her, it is important to say that there was a coup and a counter coup in the early 1970's and the school was in danger of being closed, if only because so many of the expatriates whose children came to the school were forced to leave Sudan altogether. Be that as it many, Pat who had had experience of an English grammar school worked hard to follow those principles. It was a long hard battle but she undoubtedly was the one who saved the school when humanly speaking it could well have collapsed.

I ought now to tell you something which you need to know but which ought not to be trumpeted from the housetops, for very obvious reasons. Indeed I tell in strictest confidence.

When Pat had first come to the school she was very much a part of the Church Missionary Society family. As time progressed she distanced herself more and more from the CMS and became involved with a  rather exclusive Christian group which tended to think of themselves as having all the right answers.  She recruited several teachers who were also members of this group.  They were all splended hard working ladies of that there is no question. The school prospered. When I returned after a two year gap 1977-79 I was slightly shocked to discover that Pat did not really accept that trustees should have any kind of power. What mattered was that if God spoke to her then she must be obedient to his voice. We went along with this as well as we could. In her battle for excellence Pat once told me that one night she never went to sleep but looked over all the reports written by her staff correcting many of them because some of the reports had been badly written.

 She insisted that one of the members of staff should be dismissed because she had been knitting  as the children were writing their essays. As trustees we bent over backwards to please Pat but there came a point at which we as trustees felt we had to say "Sorry Pat this is a step too far". The significant issue was to do with a lovely Christian Egyptian in whose house Pat lived. He did seem to have quite a strong influence over Pat. We appreciated all he had done for the school. But when Pat said that ten years on, now that the school was beginning to flourish, we as trustees should give this man a very large sum of money for everything that he had done ten years before, we realized that for several reasons this was a step too far. She insisted that we as trustees must not go against this divine command.

 We realized that to follow what she was requesting was for several reasons quite wrong. For us this was a bridge too far. She said that if we did not do what she wanted then she would resign and the school would collapse. Well she did resign and took with her the lovely teachers she had recruited from this very exclusive "sect". I hesitate to use that word. Without going into details other decisions made by that group were really quite unjust and when I heard about them later I was disturbed.

Without going into detail, with her resignation, as the ball was in my court, I needed to pray as never before. There were a lot of miracles. I could go into detail if you wanted. The upshot was that for the first time in the history of the school we appointed a male principal, Michael Partington and far from collapsing the school doubled in size. There was some magnificent teachers and the school  flourished.

Of course I could go into significant detail and also produce evidence. Some of the trustees are still alive.

 I myself was deported from the Sudan in 1983 for rescuing an English woman who came to me for help after being badly beaten by her powerful husband. That is another story.

If there is any other way in which I can be of assistance to you, please let me know.

Charles Bonsall
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Reply from Marina Hitchen
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Dear Charles

Thanks for this about Pat. I knew she worked really hard so we can just make sure we leave the rest off the archive.

I attach a copy of a document with your name on it. I do not even know if you are aware of this document. The upshot is that this document effectively was used to disband the trustees by making the Council and the Trustees the same body.

Whilst I appreciate your involvement with the Church and would not really want a scandal for them I know you also care very much for this school. As you know the Archbishop and his successors must always be Trustees but this has been totally abandoned. There is now no check and balance. I know Ruben is still alive and in Sudan. Obviously there is an Archbishop. are there any more Trustees alive who are still Trustees by virtue of being in Sudan? I think not.

We would very much like to restore the school to its proper structure of Trustees and Council before we leave. this is what Bishop Gwynne wanted and I do not want to leave this school at risk so any help on this would be appreciated.

If you do not want to put anything in writing send me a phone number and I will call you and we will see what we can do.

Best wishes

Marina
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Reply from Charles Bonsall
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Dear Marina,

Thank you very much for your reply. How amazing that it should have come so quickly. When I first came to Sudan you would wait several weeks at least. I did sign the document you sent. It must have been when Reuben came to the UK.  At that point there was serious worry that since there was only one trustee still in Sudan there could have been a takeover by who knows who. I think that one of the stipulations was that trustees should be resident in the Sudan which was why at that time I was disqualified together with Bill Williams. So it was obviously important that control should remain with those living in the Sudan. When I was there, there was a much wider council with representatives from all the various religious groupings in Khartoum, such for example as the Copts  and the Armenians to mention but two. Although the Anglican Bishop Butrus of Omdurman was I think chairman of the governing body, this group met only relatively infrequently during the course of a year, if I remember rightly and were really not involved with the day to day running the school at all. To be frank, in those days most did not really have the ability with the exception of the school lawyer Mr Kronfli who was hugely significant in helping us to negotiate legal matters. He has long since passed on.

As you will be aware after the coup and the counter coup of 1972 huge nummbers of  expatriates left Sudan altogether. In order to stream line matters when I was there the executive committee was much smaller. In addition to the trustees, myself, John Barff and Bill Williams and the principal there were few others who joined the group. One of these was the treasurer. Finding someone of calibre was often very difficult. An American banker proved to be so hopeless that in the end I tried to encourage someone to come out from England. That did not work but eventually an Englishman, Victor Knight, an Oxford graduate, working in Wad Medani took over the role for quite a few years. He was excellent and I can only say an answer to prayer. But he was not a trustee. I do not think that the Archbishop, based in the south, was ever a trustee or indeed had anything to do with the school at all (That was in my time and things might have changed).  In early days Bishop Allison was involved as also was the last English provost of the Cathedral. The Sudanese Provost with whom I worked, Ephraim Natana, had little to do with Unity. At least I do not remember that he did. There had always been a close link with the Cathedral which at that time stood close to the Palace in Sharia Gamaa.

In my time the Sudanese Archbishop, living down in the south had no formal link with the school. If in later years that was changed I do not know. I suppose that with the division of the North from the South there are questions to be asked on that matter now. If I could help further do please let me know. Christine Perkins (email address supplied) had a significant role in the school as also of course did Michael Partington. Bill Williams is still alive although well on into his eighties but I think very much with it. He had been involved with the school for many years. If there is any way at all in which I could help dot a few more "i's" do let me know. If you have time too, it would be so good to hear how things have gone and to know that you are positive about the future.

With best wishes

Charles
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Reply from Marina Hitchen
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Dear Charles

Thank you so much for your prompt and detailed reply. You can imagine that I was concerned because the paper you have signed does not really look like a legal document. Especially as I know that you are quite a stickler for getting things done properly and you did not appoint John Barff as intended because the legalities were not done. I take on board that this would have been urgent because only one trustee was left. (Ed note: John Barff was appointed as a Trustee at a later date).

I think William Strath (a former Principal) was also concerned and I believe he also contacted you in the past for clarification. I feel better now that you have told me you did sign this.

Anyway enough of that. I will get back to you if I have any more questions but you have cleared up that little mystery at least.

The school archive is a really flourishing thing and I would love you to contribute any pictures you may have especially of Pat Clague for whom I have the greatest admiration. Such a pity she went away from CMS to the other group.

The school is doing really well and we have no financial difficulties and I believe I have in some way contributed to its success. I do have concerns for the future because we still have the same problem of very few Council Members really playing much of a role. The school is big now with a strong academic record and is not very easy to run these days with all the pressures from parents to achieve continued excellent results. Anyway Unity has always pulled through difficult times so we all should hope for a bright future.

Christine Perkins is still around and in fact came to our school play yesterday so I can always speak to her about anything else that I find confusing but your help has been much appreciated. Hope to keep in touch.

Marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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Hi

What happened to the donation from Princess Anne?

How did you lose the boys school that is now KIPS?

Who is this Egyptian Christian and did Pat ever manage to get him any money at all? These are all unanswered questions and I am sure you know the answers and have the evidence. Let me know  or maybe we can meet in UK to discuss. Otherwise things are fine but we need to sort out all these things if the school is to survive on a legal footing and the Church is not going to get hit on by the Government who seem to be looking into these things right now and seem to have evidence of their own.

Thanks

marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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Dear Charles

I had hoped that you were a man of some integrity and would support the school and restore it to what it once was. This is not the spirit that Bishop Gwynne intended nor De Payer or even Pat Clague. You know full well that The Archbishop of Sudan and Egypt and their successors in office are always trustees. If you signed this so called document (which I personally still have doubts that you did) then you also knew it to be illegal. It was never in the best interest of the school to turn the Trustees and Council into one body. If you felt that the school might have been taken by who knows who then you felt it because it happened before. It can never be taken if you uphold the original trust document because the Archbishop was always there to stop it. Now you have all opened the door wide open for the Ministry. So why are you supporting this document? If it is to save your fellow Church Members you cannot do it. Their tax frauds and systematic looting of the school are now well known to National Security and even the Government. Why did you try to factor out the Archbishop? When he suggested other trustees you all declared that he had no right to say anything.

It seems like the land registry also know about these fake trustees now.

I am not an idiot Charles. I have a PhD (a real one ) and my own businesses in Egypt. This is not about me. This is about a school that my countrymen built for the people of Sudan and Gwynne himself never fully trusted the Church.  His Trust Document tells me this as it is pretty watertight. I do not have all the evidence regarding what happened in the 70s and 80s but I have some and I will get the rest. Even you refer to a huge sum of money that Pat wanted to give away. Because the school was flourishing? I do not think so. I have the log books and Pat wrote down her financial position every term. The school was surviving and no reserves were there for anyone from the school income itself. I suggest you come out now and tell us because it is just a matter of a short time before we find out from elsewhere. Peoople are already talking.

I do not want the Ministy to take the school but nor do I want the Council to continue in this manner. I intend to inform the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop of Bradford and Bishop of Salisbury and Princess Anne (who is personally known to me from my horse days) for a start and then hit all the aid agencies donating to your corrupt Sudan Church Association. I am not a member of Your CMS trying to protect my friends. I am a woman with ethics and integrity and I do not give a damn about your church. I care about my kids in that school. Does this somehow make me less of a Christian than you? Believe me Bishop Gwynne will be turning in his grave watching you all fight for self preservation. I thought the English were better than that. Try to extricate yourself from this now and protect the groups in Sudan who are genuinely using donations correctly.

Dr Marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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Hello

I enjoy writing to you because I know you are reading although you never reply. Its like a diary. Enough of all the scandals anyway its just never ending. I found some of Pat Clagues correspondence and I think she is still alive so I will see her if possible in the Isle of Man. I don't think she was quite as unbalanced as you are suggesting. This religious fervour was definitely increased by the stress she was under and after all she had 14 years of it not just five like me. She never asked for any money for anyone unless she thought it was justified. Her friend had helped the school and she thought he should be repaid. Why? Because she saw money going to all the wrong places. Trying to buy her off with seven months leave or then resorting to big salary increase when she was already leaving as a kind of bribe? She saw through all of that.

Intimating in your correspondence that there was something amiss with her to get everyone onto the wrong track. Very easy to do when she was writing all that stuff about messages from God thinking she was Joseph or Abraham or whoever from whatever biblical story applied to her situation.

 You never did exonerate the cashier and the Reverend who left Khartoum so suddenly in 1979. Never did find the missing accounts. All buried now. It's OK but I do not think intimating about Pat Clague with your mysterious innuendos is actually very nice. Michael Partington was not exactly the great saviour was he? It took you six years to get your numbers back to where Pat had left them and only then when you brought in primary and boys. Poor Pat:- she did so much.

I see it was around then when the Council members and Trustees got merged into one. Only made official in 1995. By the way I found a letter from David Treagust stating that Ruben was still the only Trustee in October 1995. He had suggested trustees to him when he saw him in London in Partnership House but never did get him to agree so he was having another shot 4 months later.

I can never be as good as Pat. I am leaving with the spoils and leaving the lost souls behind. You must have read that final letter she put into the Council about this. I would love to leave the same letter 30 years on as the situation is almost identical but she was a much better person than me.

So we leave Unity to its fate. Another 5 year set back and then possible recovery.  All for what? Greed? Or arrogance? My dad warned me never to get involved with anything run by the Church, so never again.  I am writing a book so I will let you know when its published.  Otherwise goodbye and good luck.  If I keep rambling on you will think I have lost it like you think Pat had (or did you?).

 Marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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Hello

I really thought you needed to know how upset the Bishop of Khartoum is over the illegal trust document you signed (or did you?).

This effectively took the school away from the Church and landed it in the lap of two Coptic/Syrian gentleman who seem not to have had the most honourable of intentions. Did you actually know this pair when you were witnessing this document? Did you inform The Bishop or Archbishop? They had no idea they were being cheated and seems you knew all along (or did you?).


If you did not witness this document you better come clean and tell the Bishop and Archbishop who are currently trying to establish legal trustees and having a problem as they have been running illegally for the last 16 years. You already wrote to say you signed it which is not exactly in their favour now is it?

I am in the middle of this as they cannot terminate my contract now as there are no trustees and their Constitution is totally illegal. I am trying to extricate the Church from this mess and get the hell out of Khartoum as fast as possible. Seems like the Bishop was under the impression I wanted to damage the school when you lot had already done it years ago. Anyway he is over that now and is looking for some evidence to support his case. Do I tell him you signed as per your confession or do you want to admit that you told a few porkies?

Is this how Churches normally conduct their business? Seems like this trustee and Bishoprick business is pretty profitable so maybe I should look into it.

Letters of Pat Clague are making great reading by the way. She says God is going to punish you later (you personally I believe she means).

Good Luck with your future Church business and we all hope to meet up with you when we get to the UK. (Just for a few final details because we all have the evidence that you have now).

Marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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Hi

I am not an accountant so I get confused a little when I study these things. So maybe I am missing something but it seems you have some contradictory statements here.

Firstly Pat Clague did her books up until March 1980. She presented these figures in her last letter to you. (only 35000LS) Yet she continually warns you about looking after the money.

Her balance was 35000LS (not a very large sum).

In the next Council meeting you don't appear to have any money at all YOU are the Vice Chairman. You know Pat Clague had her own accounts so you could have cleared this up easily.

Minutes say:

The previous Treasurer Rev C Blom had left at the end of the school year. He had submitted a report up to March 1980. The VC said that shortly before C Blom had left the Sudan there had been something of a shock. Mr Ashok Henchard who had been working in the office and been responsible for the school finances for the two preceding years had suddenly disappeared. It was discovered he had gone to Cairo. Unfortunately what he left behind in the safe and in the books was a mess. All that could be said of the previous year that there had been a small excess (less than 5000LS) No accounts were available for 1979-1980 but from what existed in cheque books and vouchers it should be possible to reconstruct what had actually happened.

You said he took nothing and it seems there was nothing to take (or this is what you imply).

In your letter to me you write:

"But when Pat said that ten years on, now that the school was beginning to flourish, we as trustees should give this man a very large sum of money for everything that he had done ten years before, we realized that for several reasons this was a step too far. The upshot was that for the first time in the history of the school we appointed a male principal, Michael Partington and far from collapsing the school doubled in size. Of course I could go into significant detail and also produce evidence. Some of the trustees are still alive."

So now we have a VERY LARGE SUM OF MONEY. Its not there by the next term is it? Pat Clague didn't take it. She already gave back the salary increase you gave her. Ashok didn't have it (well thats what you say).

The school halved in size not doubled. This must be a terminolgy problem from you because as you know we never recovered the same numbers until 1986 when we had boys and primary.

In your leter you also write:


"When Pat had first come to the school she was very much a part of the Church Missionary Society family. As time progressed she distanced herself more and more from the CMS and became involved with a rather exclusive Christian group which tended to think of themselves as having all the right answers. Pat did not really accept that trustees should have any kind of power. What mattered was that if God spoke to her then she must be obedient to his voice."

I think she left CMS because she didn't trust them. She also didn't trust the Trustees. She was dead right since you (an ex trustee) are party to signing dodgy trust documents (well thats what you say anyway). She had no one so she started listening to God. Better bet in my view than these trustee crowd.

I am sure you have an explanation for all of this. Just seems not to add up to me.

Good Luck

Marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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Well Charles in 1973 Winifred Hill attended the Trustees meeting as a Trustee. In 1980 you discount her totally. In Oct 1990 she says she was never a Trustee and in November she says she is resigning as a Trustee (seems like your mate Christine persuaded her that it would do no harm to resign if she had never joined in the first place).

The Archbishop tries to appoint a totally different five people in the early 90's to your gang of 1995. This group does not include any of your five apart from Bishop Boulos. Kondo is not on the list. 1995 Safwat and co choose their own gang. 1997 and 1998 the Archbishop and Reuben revert to the Archbishops earlier list of the early 90's but replacing Hilary with Kondo as Hilary has left Sudan. too late for Kondo though as he already went with your gang (what a shame!).

Ashok Henchard seem to keep pretty good accounts. Pity his last one went missing. Still an expat audited it due to the secretiveness of the administration (Kronfli's comment not mine).

You must know what happened at Clergy House. You were a Trustee there too. Quite a profitable business this Trustee business isn't it?

On a more serious note you as a Churchman and as a Brit must know the seriousness of Trust deeds. So how can you allow them to be taken so lightly? Why could they not find the Trust Deed all throughthe 80's? You have one. Where did they finally dig one up from?

I was born around the same time as Bishop Gwynne died. I am no serious churchgoer but I believe it is my bounden duty to redress the wrongs committed by those calling themselves upholders of the Trust and set the school he founded back on the correct and true path. Where are Gwynne's ashes by the way?

Did any of you care at all about those early pioneers of education and their struggles to keep the school alive? Gwynne is not sleeping easy is he? Are you?

Marina
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No reply from Charles Bonsall
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1 comment:

  1. I think he is confusing the word doubled with the word halved. It took almost 10 years to get the numbers back to what Pat Clague had. The introduction of boys and primary students came first.Only then was it achieved.

    ReplyDelete

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