Colston's Girls' School ex-pupil reveals 'inappropriate' rituals to slave trader

6 January 2022, 17:34 | Updated: 6 January 2022, 18:03

By Tim Dodd

Former Colston's Girls' School pupil Katie Finnegan-Clarke tells LBC pupils were made to honour the former slave trader with "inappropriate" birthday rituals including singing at his grave, wearing his favourite flower, and eating his favourite bun.

Katie Finnegan-Clarke is co-founder of the grassroots group Countering Colston and led the petition to get Bristol's Colston Hall renamed.

Her comments come after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told LBC "we can’t have mob rule as the way forward", as he condemned the pulling down of the Edward Colston statue, after four people were cleared of causing criminal damage.

Shelagh asked Ms Finnegan-Clarke: "When you were at the school, was it deemed controversial then, the name of the school?"

"No it wasn't really," she replied.

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"It wasn't just the name, we had statues of him around the school. On his birthday we would go to his grave and sing at his grave. We'd wear his favourite flower which is a golden chrysanthemum, and eat his favourite bun - a type of pastry.

"So we're not just talking about a name, we're talking about a whole honouring of the man who was Edward Colston.

"We were just told he was a philanthropist. We didn't really know what that word meant to be honest. It was a friend of my parents who mentioned it one day when I was about 13 or 14 years old - how he actually made his money - and that just blew my mind at the time."

Colston's Girls' School was last year renamed Montpelier High School following a consultation with staff, parents and pupils.

Read more: Colston Four say 'we rectified history' as they're cleared over statue toppling

Ms Finnegan-Clarke continued: "What we've always said is we're not trying to erase history. I think that honouring him is erasing history.

"Actually what we're trying to do is put him in the right context.

"It was inappropriate for the school to be getting the schoolchildren to do that kind of thing."

In response to a request for comment, Montpelier High School referred LBC to a webpage on how their school changed name from Colston's Girls' School.

On the webpage, it states: "Our annual Commemoration Service, which once honoured the slave trader’s philanthropy as the benefactor of the school with students wearing Colston’s favourite flower as a gesture of respect, has changed and evolved over the years. Now, ‘Commem’ focuses wholly on the celebration of our diverse and inclusive community and includes no mention of Edward Colston whatsoever."

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