Father quits Teachers commune

The Guardian, October 10 1981

A father of two has left the London commune run by The Teachers to renew efforts to remove his two children from the commune’s Welsh farm where they are undergoing a course of education, discipline, and ‘mental hygiene’.

Mr Mark Hastings and his family, whose real names cannot be given for legal reasons, joined the commune in April and pledged all their property to it. Mr Hastings rebelled when he realised that he was expected to have no contact with his children, aged five years and 12 months.

At the end of July he left, and, with the help of the police and solicitors, removed them from The Teachers’ farm at Sling, near Bangor. Two days later, he changed his mind and returned to the commune with the children.

He said yesterday that he had now left for good and was staying at a secret address. “I don’t want them turning up on my doorstep,” he said. “Some times they go after people and try to get them back. Maybe with me they will feel that I have never really become involved.”

Mr Hastings said he did not know how much of his property he would recover. He and his wife, who is still an active member of the commune, sold their house and offered The Teachers the £6,000 profit from the sale as well as their new cooker and car.

The Teachers’ commune, which is registered as a charity, was founded in 1972 by a computer programmer, Mr Kevin O’Byrne. He has developed a philosophy and a new language and says that parents often interfere in the development of their children.

Mr Hastings said yesterday that he had not even seen his children since he returned to the commune in July. “I want to see them. But I wasn’t even allowed to discuss them.”

He said he intended to take steps to see his children as soon as he was able. He had no intention of returning. “The psychological aspect of it is very strong. It’s only by spending a lot of time away from the place and talking to other people that you are able to see it. If you are there all the time, you end up sinking.

“They don’t argue a point with you. They just make you knuckle under. If you are in a room with half a dozen other people and you are the main point of attack it’s much harder than someone just coming up and telling you what to do. They put you down and put you down, and you are so low, and they slowly let you up in their mould.”

Mr O’Byrne was not available for comment last night.