Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 10 — Carriglea

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Physical abuse


In any large institution, discipline and control are intrinsically linked with the quality of leadership and management. For most of the period under review, Carriglea was badly managed, with too few Brothers accepting the mantle of responsibility for running this large industrial school. Four Brothers held the position of Superior throughout the 1940s. Two of these Brothers were elderly, Brs Pryor3 and Bryant4, and should not have been appointed to manage a school of over 250 boys.


Throughout the 1940s, numbers in Carriglea exceeded the certified limit of 250 boys. Boys were admitted from the age of six and, between 1940 and 1954, 76% of the children were between nine and 12 years old.


Added to this mix of ineffectual management and the high proportion of young children was the fact that there was simply nothing for these children to do outside school hours. There were no organised games and nowhere for them to play. The gymnasium was converted to a fuel store in the late 1930s. The only trades operating in Carriglea were tailoring and boot-making, with only a small proportion of the boys involved in trades training. Woodwork training had been abandoned in the early 1940s, despite the presence of qualified teachers and a fully equipped room. Until the 1930s the School had an admirable band, consisting of some 30 boys, but by 1938 the band was no longer operating. Also around this time, the practice of sending the brighter boys to the local Christian Brothers’ secondary school, to further their education, ceased. This system had previously worked well, with the industrial school boys outshining their peers from the outside national schools, and the Congregation could not explain why this practice was discontinued.


The Visitation Report of 1936 gave an early indication of the problems that were to dog the School until its closure. The Report spoke highly of the Superior, Br Rene5, but expressed concern that he was over-burdened, as he appeared to be running the School single-handedly. Br Rene asserted that, out of a Community of seven Brothers, only two were ‘active members’. The Brother appointed as Disciplinarian was entirely ineffective and was unfit for the task. As a result, it fell to the Superior or one of the lay staff to perform this function. On the few occasions on which it fell to the Disciplinarian to perform his role, the result had been ‘incidents and acts of insubordination on the part of the boys’, which the Visitor attributed to lack of tact on the part of the Brother. Despite the lack of involvement by the majority of Brothers in the Institution, they took umbrage when the Superior appeared to attach more weight to the opinions of the secular staff.


Matters improved somewhat the following year with the arrival of a new Sub-Superior, Br Vachel6, who relieved the waning Superior of some of the daily burdens involved in running the Institution.


The Visitation Report for 1938 again referred to the weak and ineffective staff and, in particular, identified some of them who were able and capable but were just too lazy to assist in teaching. It referred to the fact that only one Brother was engaged in teaching, whilst two of the Brothers, who replaced the lay teachers, took a half-hour class of religious instruction three days a week and did no further work in the School.


In 1939, Br Pryor was appointed Superior, and Br Rene assumed the role of Sub-Superior. The new Superior was 72 years old. He was described in a Visitation Report as being ‘an out and out industrial school man’. He had spent a number of years in Artane, Tralee and three separate periods in Carriglea. He had previously held the position of Superior in Carriglea in the late 1920s.


Relations between the two senior figures were strained. The Sub-Superior was ‘of a hasty and unstable temperament and somewhat erratic’. He had strong ideas on how the School should be run, which did not always coincide with the Superior’s plans.


The Visitation Report for 1939 noted that the new Superior had ‘done much to restore the discipline which had become relaxed. Good order and good conduct among the boys have been re-established’. This was attributed in part to the fact that he had changed the class schedule back to three school sessions per day. The previous schedule based on the one in ordinary national schools meant the School closed at 3pm. The 1936 Cussen Report had recommended that teaching in the evenings cease. However, teaching in the evening was now re-introduced. The latter was an initiative introduced by the previous Superior. The fact that the teachers left at 3pm every day had only served to weaken discipline. The Visitor once again criticised the calibre of staff in the School: The staff on the Brothers side is neither a strong or capable one. The Superior who is in his 73rd year has found it necessary to keep charge of the discipline and general supervision of the boys in dormitories and playground. None of the Brothers are capable or assertive enough to act as disciplinarian. Br Rene’s nerves have got a bad shake and he had lost confidence in his powers to control the boys.


This theme was repeated in the Visitation Report of the following year. The Visitor noted that only the Superior and Sub-Superior were capable of supervising the older boys in the dormitories. This meant that a disproportionate burden of duties fell to them, and the Superior, in view of his age, was not fit for his many responsibilities. The Visitor noted: The boys make a very good impression and I was told that the standard of goodness among them is high. At the same time there are always some with weak characters and these will avail of any opportunity that presents itself to act wrongly.


With only two Brothers in a position to supervise the older boys’ dormitories these opportunities presented themselves all too often.


The Superior established a system of appointing monitors from amongst the senior boys as part of the solution to this problem. They helped with supervision in the refectory, playground and dormitories. However, as the Visitor noted in 1941, ‘the success of such an arrangement depends entirely upon the selection of reliable boys to act as Monitors’. The new system failed to prevent a number of boys from absconding in 1942.


Br Jolie7 was appointed Superior in 1942, with the outgoing Superior being appointed Councillor. The dynamic between the Sub-Superior and Councillor continued to affect relations within the Community, with the new Superior having to abandon Council meetings and confer separately with his two senior colleagues.


The Visitation Report for 1942 queried the discontinuance of training in woodwork, despite the presence of two Brothers qualified to teach the subject and a fully equipped trades room. The reason given was a difficulty in obtaining timber, which even at the time was regarded as spurious. Only 37 boys out of a total of 257 were engaged in trades. The Visitor also criticised the disbandment of the band, and noted that the instruments had been left to gather dust. The play hall was in a hazardous condition. He urged the School to organise games for the boys, he even suggested card games, in an effort to occupy them and avoid ‘danger to morals’.


Similar criticisms were made during the Visitation the following year, in terms of the lack of suitable activities for the boys. The Visitor was disturbed to see the boys ‘sitting or lying on the concrete yard for long periods when they could be playing in the field if games were organised for them’. Supervision of the boys was too lax and they could slip away all too easily with the result that ‘a few were caught acting immorally some time back in the garden’. The Visitor suggested that monitors be placed in the toilet area and that a tighter rein be kept on the boys. It seemed the task of supervision was left entirely to one Brother, namely the Sub-Superior, Br Rene, who was at this stage under considerable pressure. The Visitor was oblivious to the toll this was taking on Br Rene, as he noted that Br Rene ‘seems to enjoy it and does not ask for any relief’. It was also clear that Br Rene exercised a favourable influence over the boys, as ‘the nice, friendly spirit of the boys is attributed mainly to his influence on them. The ex-pupils appeal to him too when they need a friend’.

  1. 121 boys in Carriglea who had been committed through the courts were transferred to Artane (106), Upton (8) and Greenmount (7). There were 55 voluntary admissions and they were transferred to Artane (16), Tralee (20) and Glin (19).
  2. As in the case of Letterfrack .
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  9. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter for a discussion of her role and performance.
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  11. Br Ansel was also sent there for a few months around the end of 1945.
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  22. Review of Financial Matters Relating to the System of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools, and a Number of Individual Institutions 1939 to 1969.
  23. Córas Iompair Éireann was a State-owned public transport company.