Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 10 — Carriglea

Show Contents

Physical abuse


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’.


In fact, the Visitation Report of 1943 painted an extraordinarily grim picture of the ability of many of the Brothers in Carriglea to carry out any duties at all. In a Community of eight Brothers and two Coadjutor Brothers, five Brothers were identified as too old or unwell to regularly carry out their religious observances. Of the remaining five Brothers, the Superior was identified as being unwell and was replaced the following year because of ill-health. The long-suffering Br Rene was indeed almost alone in running this large Institution.


The one area of the School that appeared to work well was the farm, which was consistently praised by Visitors and which was in the charge of Br Destry8 from the mid-1930s until the mid-1940s. He did not offer training in farm work, except for 10 to 12 boys who were needed for the efficient running of the farm. In this respect, Carriglea differed from many other industrial schools, as it did not use the farm as a means of keeping boys occupied.


In 1944, Br Bryant was appointed Superior. He was 67 years of age. The same complaint regarding the lack of purposeful activities for the boys was once more repeated in the Visitation Report of 1944. The problems had been identified before and yet nobody, either in the Institution or in the Provincial Council, was prepared to address them. In the meantime, the Institution was heading for a complete breakdown in order.


By 1945, Br Rene had spent 24 years in Carriglea, holding the position of Superior for three years and Sub-Superior for a further six years. He requested a transfer to a day school, and was moved to a school outside Dublin.


Br Rene was deeply unhappy in the Congregation and requested dispensations on a number of occasions, all of which were refused.


It would appear from the documents that a request for a dispensation precipitated his transfer from Carriglea, and that the transfer was regarded as a solution to the problem. Whilst still in his next post after leaving Carriglea, Br Rene made a heartfelt plea for a dispensation in October 1946. He was at this stage almost 50 years old and had spent over 30 years with the Christian Brothers. Having spent most of his life with the Congregation, this could not have been an easy decision for him. He stated in a letter to the Br Superior that he had remained with the Congregation for so long to comply with his late mother’s wishes. He wrote: Success in striving towards our salvation is incompatible with unbroken unhappiness and agony of mind. This has been my condition so long that I can’t endure it any more and I am convinced that a complete mental breakdown is not far off. The strain is unbearable. Your reference to my work in Carriglea is kind. It is true that charitable people give me credit for what I can lay no claim to. I spent years at a work for which I was as qualified as a dock labourer – in fact probably less so. It is well known that only the useless ones of the Congregation found a place in the industrial schools. Therefore I can make no claim to merit because of the time I was there. In fact the years I spent there are an additional cause of regret to me due to my total unsuitability for a work requiring very special qualities of mind and character. Despite the opinions of at least some kindly people I know myself to have been a hopeless failure and one who should never have been placed over such unfortunate boys for whom only the best is good enough.

  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 .
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. Br Ansel was also sent there for a few months around the end of 1945.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  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.