Interview given by Eric Cullen to BBC religious programme Moment of Truth
This interview with Edi Stark appeared first in a 30-minute version on 8th February 1996 and then in an extended 45-minute version on 7th May 1996.
The programme also included background material and interviews with Eric's friends. The interview with Eric was conducted in a single indoor setting, apart from one passage halfway through, which took place in a countryside setting above Rutherglen (probably Cathkin Braes).
Although much of Eric's interview was in the longer version but not in the short one, the passages shown in italics occurred in the short version only.
[Transcribing this interview, incidentally, really brought home to me the way that Eric spoke in one long continuous machine-gun rattle, without apparent pauses for breath. I spent hours going back over sections of tape, thinking "There has got to be a natural paragraph-break in here somewhere..."]
"The adoption never actually bothered me when I was growing up, because I kind of always knew that I was adopted... I grew up with it. Mum said she used to, to push me in the pram and tell me that I was very special because, you know, they had actually chosen me, and I was very special because I had two birth certificates.
"My father was a groundsman at Hamilton College, in Hamilton, so we had a tied house, and I grew up in acres of land, with no other houses in sight, with tennis-courts and swimming-pools, ski-slope - so I had a very happy childhood, a great play-area."
"When I was seven they found out I was achondroplasic, and, the Social Work Department turned up at my Mum and Dad's door and offered to take me back and put me into a children's home."
Edi Stark: "How did your parents react to that?"
"I think they were horrified; horrified that - that they could bring up a child for seven years, and suddenly someone would turn up and say 'Well, we'll just wipe out those seven years and, and take him back'."
When he was just thirteen two traumatic events occurred. First, at just 4'4" he was told he would grow no further. Then, he was sexually abused by a relative.
"The most upsetting thing was that - this man who was - raping me was a man who I trusted, was a, a family member, someone who, who I loved - and now he was hurting me, and that was very difficult to comprehend as a child - and he told me that, that I must never tell anyone, and if I ever did tell I would be put back into a children's home..."
Edi Stark: "What were your feelings at that time?"
"I felt terribly guilty about the whole thing, because he had told me that it was my fault, that, that I had asked for it, erm - and I was very confused because, suddenly, love became not the support and love from my family but the, the love that, that I was experiencing meant hurt, 'cause every time he would assault me, he would tell me that he loved me.
"I remember sitting in class at school, and just staring about the classroom and, and wondering if what was happening to me was actually happening to, to other people in my class - but then thinking, 'Well, perhaps it's normal: perhaps this happens to everyone'; erm, and also thinking that I was a bad child, and I thought, at that point, that it must be a punishment by God - that God was punishing me by not letting me grow."
Edi Stark: "Were you looking for physical relationships like other people your age?"
[With dreamy, reminiscent grin] "I fell in love when I was fifteen, I have to say, with eh, a girl called Lorna Green at school, and threatened to jump off the school balcony if she didn't go out with me - but she didn't go out with me and I didn't jump off the school balcony - but, other than that, no I had no relationships at all - I was denied that, er, by my abusers.
"I, I began to desperately want to make people laugh, er, I wanted to be the comic because that, that detracted from the abuse that was happening to me. So I began to, to carry on, and, and play and, and take the mickey out of teachers at school and became quite riotous, erm, and then when I was fifteen I began to drink, and - my behaviour became such that, that it was not normal, and - when I got to about fifteen and a half they decided to send me to a, a Special Needs Unit, because I was a slow learner and suffering from behavioural problems."
Edi Stark: "What sort of relation did you have with your parents at this point?"
"Oh, a wonderful relationship. They knew nothing about what was going on, and, it's - "
Edi Stark: "Were they worried about you?"
"They were worried, yes, uh-huh, because of the height - they knew nothing about the abuse. But - I think they put down all my behavioural problems, and all my difficulties, in the fact that I wasn't growing, and perhaps that was why - I was being affected as I was being affected.
"But then, when I got to about nineteen, I remember - a very precise moment where, suddenly, I could see light, and, and I, I wanted to, to push on and go forward and, and try and achieve something - er, and within one year I gained four Highers, and a place at Glasgow College to study for Social Science."
... He was cast in a brand-new BBC comedy [i.e. Rab C Nesbitt].
"I remember the night that it went out, and the next day walking down the street, and suddenly people were, were not saying 'Oh look, there's a wee man going by' or 'Look there's a, a dwarf' or 'There's a midget'. Suddenly people were saying 'Oh, there's that guy from the telly', and that made me feel wonderful."
Edi Stark: "Did you want to be famous?"
"Yes, yes, it was an escape for me - erm - complete escape..."
Edi Stark: "How could be-being famous be an escape?"
"Because, I felt safe, I felt - that all these people loved me, suddenly all these people wanted to know me, erm, and, and that was a, a - I loved that."
But far from being a safety-net, fame made Eric Cullen vulnerable. His abusers returned with a different purpose now - blackmail, for like many an abused child he had been compromized.
Extract from British Independent TV news programme Scotland Today for 2nd September 1993, showing Eric speaking about the police-raid on his house two days before:
"I can't deny, and I will not deny, any more, that my experiences as a child led me, me into areas of - that I wish I had never been led into."
"The day the - police raided my home they, they came along at about eight o'clock in the morning, and - they chapped on the door and I went downstairs, opened the door and invited them in, and they said that they had information that a large quantity of obscene material had been left in my house - to which I immediately said yes it had been, because six weeks previous one of my abusers, Francis Currens, had left pornography in my house. But he hadn't just done it to me - he had done it to, to other victims of his.
"It was difficult because when the police came, all I did was - become hysterical, and tell someone for the first time about what had been going on and showed them immediately to where the pornography had been left, and they took it away and left at that."
Edi Stark: "But they might have interpreted that hysteria as guilt?"
"Well - my hysteria was surrounding my abuse, and - perhaps at that point I sounded guilty because I felt guilty; because, I felt, I was to blame for everything and, that is probably - perhaps he did interpret it, as guilt - but, I immediately named the people who were involved."
...The leaking of details of the police raid was... to have serious consequences for Eric personally.
"Suddenly every man in the street could read about me, could read about what had happened to me, and the rumours and lies that were going about about me - I think in the first six weeks, when I was in limbo and hadn't been charged yet, I found it quite horrifying - although I didn't read that much of what was being written - in fact I ended up in a psychiatric hospital because of it, because I couldn't cope with the horrendous headlines."
Edi Stark: "You went from being 'Wee Burney' to 'Wee Pervy'..."
"Yes, and that was, that was quite horrific. All I could think about was the abuse I had suffered, and the reasons behind the things that had happened, and suddenly here they were commenting on me and judging my life without knowing the facts."
Bill McFarlan: "... my wife bumped into Eric at the shops within a couple of weeks of all this publicity breaking..."
Caroline1McFarlan: "I think he was very scared when he saw somebody walking towards him, and I think when I put my hand on his shoulder he was even more terrified - but basically I just asked how he'd coped and how he was feeling, and he said it had just been a living nightmare for him and, could we meet for coffee?"
"Suddenly I met someone who was a complete stranger, who - then became my listening-board, became someone who I could turn to, someone who I could voice - everything that I'd wanted to voice for fifteen years."
[Scene switches to open-air, countryside setting]
What Caroline1McFarlan heard was the story of Eric's hidden life of abuse. She listened as he told of being passed on like a commodity from one paedophile to another. His abusers included Francis Currens, a convicted paedophile now serving fourteen years in prison. When Currens first raped him in these hills above Rutherglen Eric was just fourteen years old, and the height of an average eight-year-old.
"It was the first time that I was actually left alone with someone else, a complete stranger, and - all the way driving up here in his car I kept asking him where he was taking me to."
Edi Stark: "Did you know that something terrible was going to happen?"
"Yes, I had a, a terrible sense of dread, knowing that, that I was going to be hurt in some way - erm, but I wasn't quite ready for what was about to happen. He parked the car and he told me to get out, which I did, and he then led me to, to an old shed and, when we got into the shed he became very angry and I was very frightened and - started to cry, um, and he got extremely angry and started to hit me - and - that was the first time that I'd ever actually been hit in my life. Although I'd been - been abused before by my relative I had never been hitten by him, and - and I was terrified and scared and wanted to run away - and I think at that moment in my life, it was the first moment that, that I really wanted to die - erm, 'cause I couldn't escape, I was so frightened, so terror-struck, erm, and I had nowhere to run to in the shed; I had nowhere to escape to.
"He then undid his trousers, and - forced me to, to perform certain sexual acts on him, and - that was very very difficult, because I was struggling so much, and I wanted to be sick, er - but he kept pulling me by the hair, um, and kept forcing me down, er, and wouldn't let go of me."
Edi Stark: "Did he get pleasure from your fear?"
"Yes - yes. I look back now, and I, and I, I think that my crying - made him actually worse - er - because he enjoyed it - um - and I think he got, he got deep satisfaction from making me suffer.
"He then started to, to beat me again and - I lost my glasses and, er - and I couldn't see anything 'cause I, I'm - pretty blind without my glasses. And, um, I remember whenever I have nightmares about it, that's what I remember, I remember not being able to see anything, um, just being, being beaten and, and flung about this shed, and, and not being able to see through the tears and, and I managed to, to, to get into a corner of the shed and, and I, I managed to try and force myself into a corner to try and get away from him hitting me, um, but no matter how hard I pushed myself into the corner I couldn't get away, um - he then - forced me to take off my clothes, where I was lying on the, on the floor, and, he then sodomized me, and - I felt that my whole insides were on fire and, and I wanted to be sick, and I was now screaming but - but there was nobody about to, to help me.
"I think all I wanted at that moment in my life was my Mum - um - but - "
Edi Stark "But you could never tell her?"
"No. I would never have wanted to - to hurt my Mum - erm - I could never have told her, 'cause I never wanted to - to be taken away from them - er - and I was very frightened of that."
[Scene switches back to indoor setting]
"I had been brought up in a world where you weren't allowed to speak about it, and you were told do not tell anyone, because you will be punished, and you will get into trouble. And suddenly here was someone who was not punishing me for the things I had to say - who in fact was telling me that, that I should have spoken up sooner, that, that - they were - sorry for what had happened to me and that, they were saddened by what had happened to me."
[Scene switches back to countryside setting]
"I can't say that - the abuse got any easier - I think if one thing, in, in the shed, I think - I lost the will to fight - um, because I struggled so hard up here, to try and stop it, to try and get him away from me, and I think I, I gave in, I think - some part of me died that day, em - and I just gave up the fight, and decided that it was - probably easier just to let them - brutalize me, um, and say nothing, than to keep fighting it."
[Scene switches back to indoor setting]
"You're always frightened of being judged, so, when I was telling Caroline1about the things that had gone on in my life, I was constantly watching her, to - for any signs of judgement, for any signs of shock, for any signs of disgust, but - I never got that; all I got was compassion, sympathy, and an ear."
...Although he agreed to plead guilty so that the case would come to court more quickly, no-one expected a custodial sentence...
Dorothy Grace Elder: "... he'd been so broken on the wheel that he would literally have pled guilty to anything..."
Caroline1McFarlan: "... we never suspected that this would happen for something that, that just had never been his fault - for he only had ever been a victim."
"I remember standing in the dock, and - and not quite understanding why I was there - and then hearing the sentence being passed, and reeling forward and holding onto the, the bench in front."
"I was then taken down and put into a cell, and for the first time heard - the cell-door close with a bang."
"I was taken in and - suddenly, when I went into the reception-area, there was about a hundred people standing, and, prisoners and staff etc., and suddenly all eyes stopped, and stared at me, and, and I was frightened, I was terrified - and then, one of the most traumatic things that occurred was that they stripped me, and photographed me naked, and - that was part of the reason all this has - happened to me, was because I had been stripped and photographed naked.
"I considered suicide, because I thought it would be easier on my family, and easier on Bill and1Caroline, and easier on my friends, if I - simply did away with myself - and, then the problem would end, and I wouldn't need to - to hurt anybody any more."
"I've never lost my faith, but it's been shaken, and, I've had many questions to ask God. One of them is, is why God would allow me to be abused. But meeting the people that, that, that I have met in the last two years has, has definitely - strengthened my belief, because I believe that they were placed in my life by God."
Edi Stark: "What do you think would have happened in your life if the police hadn't raided your house that morning?"
"I think the situation would have got worse. I think - the blackmail and the beatings that I was suffering would have got worse. And in many ways, there are many good things have come out of the police coming to my house, because my abusers are no longer in my life, and it's given me a chance to - to clear the cobwebs of my life away, and to begin to understand what my life has been about."
"What they've done for me is to teach me what the word 'love' means; because it's something I had great difficulty with beforehand - but now I know that, that I can be loved, by other people, and that I can also love, and now I hope that I can go on through therapy and, and find some happiness, and some contentment because - I've always wanted a place where I can feel at ease and be happy, and content with the memories that I have of my abuse - I mean I really think that, if it hadn't been for Caroline1McFarlan and Bill McFarlan then I would be dead, I think that I would have actually committed suicide, because I had lost the will to live.
"There is nothing I can do or say to thank them enough for, for saving my life."