- Down With St. Desmond’s! – Bunty: first published 1977
- Reprinted – Bunty: #1604 (08 October 1988) – #1625 (04 March 1988)
- Reprinted as Out to Ruin St. Roslyn’s – Lucky Charm # 10
- Artist: Robert MacGillivray
Carol-Anne Brabazon arrives to St. Desmond’s (or St. Roslyn’s in the reprint) in a wheelchair and is befriended by Shelagh and Lorna. But Carol Anne is not all she seems, it turns out she is only pretending to be disabled and is actually there to ruin the school and get revenge on the people she believes wronged her mother 20 years previously. Her mother, Carol Annan, was accused of stealing, cheating and general bad behaviour leading to her expulsion. Apparently just after Carol Anne was born, her mother died broken hearted about her past. So Carol Anne tracks down a photo of the 1950 lacrosse team that her mother was part of and starts to take her revenge on the team-mates she feels are responsible for her mother’s death. Pretending to be in a wheelchair allows her to get around unsuspectingly and she is given a room of her own on the ground floor. She starts to damage the school’s reputation and stirs up trouble with the pupils.
Her first target is Miss Broadley, an ex-team mate of her mother’s and now the school librarian. Carol Anne, steals a valuable book, sells it off and frames Miss Broadley for it, getting her fired. She then causes the daughter of another team-mate to fall, and she loses her chance to play with the county. Mrs. Tranter the tuck-shop owner has suspicions about Carol Anne and as a long member of the school she also remembers Carol Annan. She tries to help Miss Broadley offering her a place to stay and enquires about C.A. s records. Carol Anne overhearing her questions, destroys the files in a fire. When Lorna finds muddy shoes in Carol Anne’s wardrobe, she also gets suspicious of her and isn’t convinced by her stories. Carol Anne can’t have Lorna nosing around so manages to get Lorna suspended for cheating. Which serves two purposes as Lorna’s mother is one of the people on her revenge list. Lorna’s not the only person that has noticed something strange about Carol Anne, Miss Gowan the games mistress is also beginning to investigate her.
When Lorna later returns to the school with her mother, they along with Tranter, Broadley and Gowan discuss their suspicions. They are too late in stopping Carol Anne getting the head girl Diane expelled, with the help of a hypnotist. They ask Shelagh for help to try and expose Carol Anne. Shelagh isn’t convinced that Carol Anne isn’t as nice as she seems, but when her trap backfires she sides with Lorna and the others. Diane and her mother joins the group in trying to expose Carol Anne. She says that Carol Annan is still alive, and Carol Anne angrily jumps out of her chair in denying this. Although she is now exposed as a fraud, she still isn’t going anywhere. She threatens to sue the school if they expel her and after all the trouble they’ve had, the school wouldn’t be able to survive it.
The old girls set up a lacrosse match with the old 1950 team, including Carol Annan. Carol Anne is shocked that her mother is not only alive, but was never falsely accused of the things done at the school. It turns out her father didn’t want to tell her the truth, that Carol abandoned her and was afraid that he would lose Carol Anne if he told her the truth. The match goes ahead but at tea in the tuck shop afterwards, the ground gives away and an unexploded bomb is discovered leaving them trapped. Carol Anne with help from her father (formerly part of a bomb disposal unit but now with damaged hands) defuses the bomb saving the school. She leaves the school dismissing her mother on her way.
The plot could be summarised as “a girl pretends to be somebody she is not, to bring down the people she believes wronged and caused the death of a parent” and that same summary would fit fine with the current popular American show “Revenge”. Even the protagonists crossing out the faces on a picture as she destroys someone is used in both. Certainly this type of story isn’t new and has been done a lot but it goes to show that it is still as popular today as it was back then.
This is a good revenge story, there are some stretches of belief needed such as the use of the hypnotist and the bomb, but it is well done. I like how Clare Ann brings people down in the similar ways she believes her mother has been wronged, for example her mother was accused of stealing a book and that is how she frames Miss Broadley. I also like that when she is found out, she stays on in the school being openly antagonistic. That was well done instead of trying to wrap everything up at once, like most stories do when a troublemaker is exposed. Although I think the school would be better off risking being sued than keeping her around!
While she does save the school in the end, she never actually turns around and apologises for her previous actions, which is also good to see her not have a complete change in personality. She comes across as a complex character and there is no sudden magic way to make her nice after all the hate and resentment that she she built-up over the years. She does show she had some affection for her friends, when Lorna nearly discovers her secret Carol Anne is tempted to keep her quiet with violence, but she quickly reconsiders as Lorna has been good to her. It is a really good story and well executed, there is a nice build up and the ending isn’t rushed after her exposure. MacGillivray’s art is as good as always, particularly with Carol Anne’s expressions.