John McCarthy with sixth formers
Last Thursday, journalist John McCarthy, who was held hostage in the Lebanon from 1986-1991, visited Stonyhurst College, where he shared stories of the physical and mental torture endured at the hands of his captors.
John spoke about his moments of reflection, his coping strategies during the darkest moments in captivity, as well as the physical and mental torture he endured with the Sixth Form pupils of the college.
During the first few months, he was kept in solitary confinement in a cramped, damp cell no larger than six foot by four. John was then moved to a larger cell where he met the man who was to become his saving grace in coping with the rest of his time in captivity - Brian Keenan. John talked about the things they did to stop the onset of insanity.
Conversations between the two men from two very different backgrounds guaranteed good heated debate! They shared detailed stories of their different experiences, people they had met and stories about family and friends. John went on to explain how humour played a huge part in coping with the mental and physical torture they endured.
"For one and half years we had no natural light or fresh air," he told us. "We would talk about the things we would do once released and the places we planned to visit together. This was our way of keeping hope and remaining optimistic."
Despite these unimaginable experiences, what astounded the pupils and staff most was his lack of bitterness towards his captors.
John explained how the years in captivity had taught him to respect himself as well as the others around him, even the guards. Incredibly he takes the positives from his experience and now, through his public speaking, hopes to teach others that even in the face of adversity we have the capability to find the strength we need to cope with anything, whilst remaining dignified and respectful to others.