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Pupil abuse allegations 'absolute nonsense' says teacher's wife

The wife of a man accused of beating boys at a private school over a 20-year period has told a court he was not aggressive.

John Brownlee, 89, is alleged to have physically assaulted Edinburgh Academy pupils between 1967 and 1987, including the broadcaster Nicky Campbell.

Margaret Brownlee, 83, told an examination of facts hearing that the allegations against her husband were "absolute nonsense" and that she had never seen him hit any boys.

Mr Brownlee has been deemed unfit to stand trial, with the hearing taking place in front of a judge and no jury.

The hearing had previously been told of a number of allegations against Mr Brownlee, who was a teacher at the school and Dundas boarding house master for 11 years.

Mrs Brownlee stated that he did not abuse the boys in any way and she never saw him hit any boy.

Asked if he was annoyed when boys went to the toilet in the night she replied that was "nonsense" and when asked if he had once thrown a new boarder into the common room she said that claim was "lies".

She said no boy was ever punished for their appearance, for wetting the bed or for having asthma.

Asked if she'd once taken bread and water to a boy locked in a shed for the weekend she replied ''No. Never. It's a total fabrication. This is a figment of a child's imagination.''

She said many things were being twisted.

When it was put to her that he sometimes beat boys with a clacken stick [a wooden paddle used in a ball game], she said it was "absolute nonsense."

She added: "None of that is true. It didn't happen."

'Ludicrous assertion'

Mr Brownlee's sons also gave evidence to support their father.

Graham Brownlee said Edinburgh Academy was ''a very happy school'' and that the boarding house had ''a great atmosphere''.

He didn't see beatings in the prep school at any time and no-one spoke to him about it then or since.

He said ''corporal punishment would have been the final sanction after repeat offending'' and that the idea of his father walking around with a clacken stick delivering excessive corporal punishment attacks was "ridiculous."

He said he had never seen his father lose his temper.

Younger brother Neil described the boarding house as a ''wonderful place to grow up''.

He had ''a great time'', ''loved it'' and had ''fond memories of it''.

He added it was a ''ludicrous assertion'' to say his father had locked boarders in the shed and that ''it didn't happen''.

Valerie Henderson, a former matron at the boarding house , said she felt there was "nothing of concern."

She said the mood was fine and the only grievance was that many of the boys at the boarding house would rather have been at home.

She accepted she did not see Mr Brownlee interact with the boarding boys often or discipline them.

Three former pupils also spoke in favour of Mr Brownlee's character.

They described him as firm but fair and intimidating but never abusive, while saying he was a very dedicated teacher.

The hearing continues.