Did you sing in this 1960s boy-abuse choir?

Did you sing in this 1960s boy-abuse choir?


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2014

Campaigner Ian Pace is appealing for anyone who sang in the London Boy Singers in the 1960s to contact him. Its director Alan Doggett, who went on to work with Andrew Lloyd Webber, is suspected of being an active paedophile. He worked with more than 1,000 boys.

The police will reopen his file if enough fresh evidence is available. If you have recollections of that period, please contact Ian.


photo: The Times


  • Calling it a “boy-abuse choir” is a bit rich while the allegations are untested, don’t you think? These allegations were apparently raised long ago, according to the article linked to above, and Doggett was solidly defended by no less than his close friends and former charges, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, for whom he conducted the inaugural performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. Obviously this has to be investigated, albeit posthumously, but if the allegations are true, then he managed to pull the wool over a lot of high profile eyes, and it’s a bit difficult for him to defend himself since he is long dead.

    • Agreed 100%. Declaring the LBS a “boy-abuse choir” is a pretty extreme example of prejudging guilt. Plus, mentioning Andrew Lloyd Webber in the initial article, for no reason than that Doggett “went on to work with” him, is perilously close to guilt-by-association.

  • Thank you for posting this Norman.

    It saddens me a great deal whenever I hear of any child who has been abused by a musician who is in a position of Power and authority.

    Ian Pace has done (and continues to do) stirling work on behalf of the victims of abuse. Yet at the same token there is great debate over what material it is appropriate for children to perform.

    On one of your other threads, the one about the young Dutch girl who has made an album including Operatic Arias, I have voiced my opinion about this matter believing it to be wholly inappropriate for young Girls whose voices have yet to reach maturity to sing such material. Not only does this potentially cause physical harm to the children concerned whose voices are ill-equipped for such material, but often the subject matter is completely inappropriate.

    Yet there are others who think I am over-stating the argument. Then something another incident of abused minors come along.

    It doesn’t matter whether the young person in question is a young man or young woman. Getting children to do things that their bodies, their minds or their psyches are not ready for is child abuse. One can try to dress it up as “cultural”, or “artistic” – the same argument can be made of pole-dancing. It is wrong.

    Doggett may be dead. Others have been convicted of harming young people. Where does child-protection come in?

    I feel very sorry for those who are subjected to false accusations, and pray that they are acquitted of any misdemeanour. To “cry witch” – to use the Salem Witch trials in attempt to draw an analogy is also wrong.

    Yet Ian speaks as one who has been abused. He knows what it feels like. He is not interested in punishing innocent adults, but he is prepared to be an advocate for those whose vulnerability has been exploited.

  • Thank you for the links Ian. Both articles are well balanced, stick to the facts and so very tragic.

  • Malcolm James says:

    How reliable might allegations be which are made up to 50 years after the alleged events, have been solicited by an announcement and which are made against someone who is dead and therefore will never be subjected to scrutiny in court?

  • Faye says:

    Yet another man accused and declared guilty before any trial has taken place. I am pretty much appalled at the slanderous tone of the headline, seems a bit too much even for a blog.

    • Ian Pace says:

      It’s not impossible that the allegation which led to Doggett’s being dismissed from Colet Court in 1968, that which led to him being charged in 1978, the allegations made to Andrew Norfolk at the Times, and the information garnered by various Lloyd Webber biographers, is *all* false, I suppose. But I believe there is a very real possibility that much more may have gone on – at the very least, more people coming forward who worked with or studied with Doggett would help to clarify. Though I also know plenty of people wish these things could remain swept under the carpet like much other abuse has.

      Doggett cannot be tried since he has been dead for 36 years. Nor can Savile.

    • Ian Pace says:

      It’s not impossible that the allegation which led to Doggett’s being dismissed from Colet Court in 1968, that which led to him being charged in 1978, the allegations made to Andrew Norfolk at the Times, and the information garnered by various Lloyd Webber biographers, are *all* false, I suppose. But I believe there is a very real possibility that much more may have gone on – at the very least, more people coming forward who worked with or studied with Doggett would help to clarify. Though I also know plenty of people wish these things could remain swept under the carpet like much other abuse has.

      Doggett cannot be tried since he has been dead for 36 years. Nor can Savile.

  • Doggett was never convicted as he conveniently took his own life on a railway line before his trial.

    • phil says:

      ‘Doggett was never convicted as he conveniently took his own life on a railway line before his trial’.

      Not sure how ‘convenient’ that was for him! Rather I would think it was the ‘ultimate possible inconvenience’ for a person. Maybe it was a fitting fate, if it’s true that he did all but destroy the lives of many victims, though he did not kill any as far as we know. Regardless of guilt, these examples of the accused topping themselves really do add to whole dreadful taste of the subject. It says to me loud and clear that the accused is a victim too, whether for his own early life or the sheer irredeemable ruin he knows he faces. At the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart criminal-sympathizer, I think this does need pointing out. It was ‘convenient’ in the satirical sense it prevented a fulsome investigation, I guess. I just think everybody concerned, plus the baying public, needs to ask themselves careful questions what they want to get out of it (investigations). If it’s for questions to be answered (on how it could happen and to prevent it happening in future), that’s fine, but if it’s for revenge or compensation I’m not so sure. Would that do anybody any real good?

  • What gets me about this case is that because there is no conviction (as the defendent committed suicide) there are those who believe that the tenet that “Innocent until proven guilty” must prevail. Why did Doggett take his life? Was it because of guilt?

    There can be no guilty verdict as Doggett was dead before a trial could take place (and in the UK we do not try people Posthumously). The same is true in the case of Jimmy Saville. Did he commit all of those atrocities -almost certainly, but their can be not guilty verdict as Saville is dead. In both instances, it does not change what may have happened to the young people concerned.

    What Ian is attempting to ascertain is: Are there any people suffering as a result of Doggett’s actions. If this is the case, their trauma is real and that needs to be addressed.

    • Suicide isn’t an automatic indicator of guilt. For example the Australian judge David Yeldham committed suicide after being outed as a homosexual by MLC Franca Arena in the New South Wales Upper House, with connotations of pedophilia that were completely false. The public disgrace of merely being named was enough to make death more attractive than life, and he left behind a wife and family after gassing himself with carbon monoxide.

      Another high profile Australian figure, lawyer John Marsden was defamed by Channel 7 television as a pedophile, and but for his forensic rebuttal with hard evidence and rock solid alibis that established it was a complete fit-up, he might have gone the same way. He was awarded a million dollars in damages, but died soon afterwards of stomach cancer, a vindicated but utterly ruined man. Disliked teachers are likewise easy prey for vexatious allegations by students.

      I had never heard of this choirmaster Doggett until this scurrilous headline named an entire choir as a “boy-abuse choir” on account of unproven allegations against its director. Allegations that are 50 years old, that haven’t been subjected to legal scrutiny before a court become hearsay, and can be magnified and distorted with every retelling. There is a very good reason why we have courts of law and due process, and that is to make sure the innocent stay out of prison, and that only the guilty are sent there.

      Court cases require a crime to be established as having been committed in the first place, convincing evidence including testimony from living and present persons, corroboration and motive. Without burden of proof, the number of people who can claim that so-and-so committed this crime or that is truly without limit, as Mark Antony’s iconic speech about Brutus and his “honourable men” so effectively illustrates.

      None of this is to say that Doggett was either innocent or guilty, I don’t know anything about the man or his life other than what I have read through this page. I am all for collecting evidence about his alleged illegal activities, even posthumously, but trial by media has a nasty habit of working against the interests of justice.

    • Ian Pace says:

      Furthermore, as Doggett was a member of PIE, information about him and his activities could prove important in terms of that about others, some very much still around.

      • It is important to establish guilt or innocence not only for the sake of historical accuracy, but more importantly, if there were children sexually abused by Doggett who are alive today and have had their lives damaged by it, then they may entitled to victims’ compensation or to sue the organisation he worked for, if it can be established his employers knew about abuse but failed to act.

      • PS my concern is that this be handled forensically by police or properly constituted authority, not through witch hunt, albeit posthumous. The truth may be found at the bottom of a well, but it must be sought nevertheless.

        • Ian Pace says:

          In this and other cases, the fact of some alleged abuse being made public is a major factor in encouraging others to come forward.

          I know that a substantial number have alleged that Doggett abused them, often in horrific ways, whilst they were boys below the age of puberty at Colet Court School. From what I have read about numerous studies, very few abusers just stop their activities, and I think the average number of victims for any abuser is very high indeed. Unfortunately, as Doggett worked with well over 1000 other boys *after* leaving Colet Court (after which time there were no stipulations preventing him from continuing to work with young boys), I would say there is a significant likelihood that he may have abused others from the London Boy Singers. And if indeed this is the case, I hope some of them will feel that at last what happened to them will be taken seriously.

  • Derek, I’m not stating that because Doggett committed suicide under these circumstances he has to be guilty, merely that guilt is a motivator for suicide.

    As Ian has pointed out, Doggett was also a member of the PIE, and we do not try people posthumously in this country, the balance of probability is that he did abuse children. This is not a criminal level of proof. and your concerns are noted.

    I am also anti-witch hunts. Given that Doggett is dead, and can’t give his own side of the story, the truth may never be found. However, if there are victims of abuse at Doggett’s hand’s out there, they need to be supported. One can support the living. It is very difficult to do anything positive on behalf of someone who is dead.

    • I agree belonging to “PIE” is very damning, if it’s proven not only that someone called Doggett did belong to it, that there was no-one else of the same name that belonged to it, and that he actually committed the alleged offences against his charges. It doesn’t look good for him, but again, these alleged offences are half a century old, and must be subjected to investigation by properly constituted authority.

      • Agreed Derek, and As Mr Doggett is not around to speak for himself hard to ascertain. That the (alleged) offenses are over half a century old does not (necessarily) mean no on going damage is being done.

        Where we agree again, is these allegations need investigation by a properly constituted authority.

      • Ian Pace says:

        I know that at least a dozen former Colet Court pupils have come forward to testify that Doggett abused him. PIE was not founded until 1974, six years after he left Colet Court, but he was still working with hundreds of young boys during this period. There is no doubt that the Doggett who was in PIE was the same person – there were two articles about him in Magpie, the journal of PIE. Most of this is documented in my updated article – http://ianpace.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/updated-alan-doggett-first-conductor-of-joseph-and-jesus-christ-superstar-and-the-paedophile-information-exchange/ – to which there will be more additions of information soon.

        Again, it’s not *impossible* that all twelve or more people who claimed that Doggett abused them are lying, but I think the chances of that are pretty slim.

        • @ Ian -I’ve already stated that the balance of probability is that Doggett abused at least these 12 people and maybe more.

          However as there can never be a trial, save there being some sort of posthumous judicial inquest (ala Hillsborough) there will never be a criminal level of proof either for or against.

    • Pedophilia, an offence against society’s most vulnerable, is regarded as amongst the worst crimes you can be accused of. Being named as a pedophile would therefore be a motivator for suicide regardless of guilt or innocence, because a named individual could never recover his/her reputation intact. They would be stood down from their employment during the investigation, and moreover, there have been miscarriages of justice, that took years to remediate.

      • Here I think you’ll find we agree more than disagree too. Being accused of being a Paedophile when your whole life’s work has been involved with children’s music could be enough to tip a sensitive individual over the edge.

        Where there have been false allegations it takes ages (if at all) for the accused to regain their reputation. One only has to note the strain on both Bill Roache’s and Dave Lee Travis’s faces following their recent trials to realise that.

        Guilt, and a fear of being caught tend to lead to more drastic action being taken than when the accused is innocent, and where there have been miscarriages of justice, it is not just the accused that suffer, but their whole family and circle of friends.

        There was just something about the speed from being charged to going under the train that made me feel he had a guilty conscious. It was the same day. Had he been innocent, my thoughts are that he might have mulled things over a bit more before killing himself. Of course I could be wrong.

        • Ian Pace says:

          Bear in mind that there is usually a long delay between someone first being *arrested* and their being *charged*. The latter only happens when the CPS have decided that they think there is a realistic chance of a successful prosecution. Doggett would have been arrested long before he was charged on February 8th, 1978.

          • Ian, the CPS went ahead with cases against Bill Roache and Dave Lee Travis. Bill Roache has been cleared, and Dave Lee Travis has been all but cleared. The only operation Dewtree Case where there has been a conviction has been on Stuart Hall. Both Bill Roache and Dave Lee Travis were accused by a number of different people and yet they were cleared.

            Where this case is different is that the original charges were made in 1978 within a reasonable time-frame from the alleged offences. There also had not been a media storm brewing immediately preceeding his original arrest.

  • Self-rightous Moi? You obviously don’t know me very well!

    There are issues that I care about a great deal – the abuse of children, and the exploitation of young singers.

    Please understand however, I am the first to admit I have motes in my eyes and am far from perfect. This does not however mean I do not have the freedom to express my concerns about these two very important areas.

    • louise says:

      Joanna Debenham you are so right in what you say about the mindset of somebody who will be so affected that he would allow himself to be run over by a train.

      As a teenager, I knew Alan Doggett for two or three years in between his time at Colett Court and his death. I can remember in 1978 reading a small article in the local paper and feeling stunned, shocked and saddened by the whole story. I found it extremely difficult to believe and chose to go with Tim Rice’s original theory that there was a strong vibe of jealous parents lurking whose young sons had not been chosen for the original Joseph recordings. There is quite a lot of information missing about Alan Doggetts life and the close friendship he shared with Tim Rice and Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber who seem to be, sadly, steering clear of getting embroiled in the whole episode this time round. Loyalty is obviously not top of their agenda.

      No media has even mentioned to date that Alan Doggett was Head Music Teacher at a state girls grammar school for several years in West London…. a school that both Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber visited in 1974 to give a talk and share their experiences to the sixth form of that year. I know because I was peeping through the glass doors of the assembly hall where the class was taking place and feeling excited that these two ‘famous’ people that we’d heard so much about from Alan Doggett were actually at our school. Many memories….

      • Ian Pace says:

        Louise – that is extremely interesting – re the state girls grammar school; would you be prepared to say which school it was?

        Lloyd Webber and Rice have issued a statement (see Norman’s other thread on this for that).

  • Nick Barnett says:

    Why the 1960s, Norman, when Doggett wasn’t associated with the choir until at least 1971?

  • Val woolford says:

    I was taught by Alan Doggett at St Marys Grammar School. I recall him vividly as an odd character who obviously stood out in an all Girls school with all female teachers. Having read about his offending and subsequent suicide some years ago I had been trying to find mention of his time at St Marys where I was a pupil during the late 60s / early 70s . It seems that when he left Colet he may well have then applied to St Marys. Of note however is that directly next door to us was the St Nicholas Grammar School for Boys. Unsure as to whether he was working there as well at the same time or had contact with their pupils. It is something I have often thought about and worried about.

    Trying to work out the time line

    Thank-you Ian for the work you are doing here.
    ( I later worked for the LB of Islington in the 80s in the Childcare department. An appalling and distressing high profile case as you will know which continues to reverberate – the cover-up continues )