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Byron Shire
February 24, 2024

Hamster racing and home brew at King’s school

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John Casey says his time at Gordonstoun was a strain on his mental health. Photo Tree Faerie.

A local man who believes he was the first and possibly the only student to be expelled from the school of the King’s youth, says Charles’ opinion that Gordonstoun in Scotland was ‘Colditz in kilts’, was accurate.

John Casey who now lives at Shelley Beach, started high school at Ku-ring-gai in North Turramurra before his family moved to the UK and he ended up at the school that educated three generations of royals of including Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and his son Charles III.

Foreign and out of place

Even amongst hundreds of students Joh Casey said he often felt alone.

Casey said he always felt foreign and out of place at the prestigious school and he decided on arrival that he wasn’t having cold showers or a hair cut. He recalls a time that he and ‘Spud’ Coleman made home brew and he and another student built a track for rodents and ran regular hamster races and started selling illegal alcohol to the juniors.

‘My hamster always won – he was fed on coffee beans from Jamaica. We also started a disco out the back of the stables.’

Other things happened in the stables including a liaison with the 2IC’s daughter and though the gambling and alcohol were given as the reason for his education at the school being cut short, Casey says it was his romantic antics that saw him expelled.

Didn’t have a great attitude

At times young John Casey wondered if life at Gordonstoun was what his life would be like.

Casey admits he didn’t have a great attitude toward the school. ’I couldn’t understand why we had to study Henry the 8th. I told them, “I don’t want to remember him – *eff* off!”. They thought I was crazy.

‘I wouldn’t take the exams. I didn’t want to know about English history and they thought that was very strange. They sent me to a shrink and he said I was fine but that my parents were the mad ones, after I told them how I said to my dad that I was cold and he sent me a bottle of Drambuie to keep me warm.’

A trip to Balmoral

But high school hi-jinks aside, Casey says it was a trip to a royal castle that had the worst effect on him. ‘They got all of us foreign kids – from Australia, Canada, India, half a dozen of us – and took us on a trip to Balmoral. On the way back I wanted to kill myself – I was overwhelmed but this traditional heavy school. To me it was crazy. I was stuck feeling so isolated and thinking that “this is my life” and I’m stuck with it.’

Casey says he can understand why there is so much your suicide. ’Sixteen,17, 18-year-old children tend to have in their brain the life they have is the life they will always have – this is the life is going to transpire forever.’

John DID survive his two-year stay at Gordonstoun, a school that helped shape the King. He says the school made a very negative impact on him. ‘I was just happy to survive. It obviously affected my life greatly. It cemented the thought patterns that I took on for years and years.’


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