Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 10 — Carriglea

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Physical abuse


Br Ansel14 was transferred to Carriglea from Tralee in December 1945. He spent less than three months in Carriglea, holding the post of Disciplinarian before being transferred to a day school. Br Ansel had a reputation for being strict. He had spent five years in Artane. When the Resident Manager in Tralee had complained that his current Disciplinarian was not sufficiently strict, the Disciplinarian in question was replaced and, 12 months after that replacement, Br Ansel was transferred there. He later sought and was granted a dispensation in the mid-1960s. Br Octave,15 who was in Tralee at the same time as Br Ansel, described him as the best Disciplinarian and Principal. ‘He didn’t tolerate disobedience in word or act. Returned runaways had to “walk the line” for longish periods until they were broken’.


Br Eliot,16 another Brother with a tough reputation, was drafted into Carriglea in March 1946, replacing Br Ansel as Disciplinarian. He had spent 11 years in Artane and held the position of Disciplinarian for most of this time. Br Hardouin stated in his evidence to the Investigation Committee that he understood that Br Eliot ‘was brought in purposely to restore law and order’. He went about establishing a strict regime of discipline which Br Hardouin found at times was ‘a little bit over severe on some individuals’.


This changing of the guard and introduction of Brothers who had records of enforcing discipline brought immediate results. In the Visitation Report of 1946, the Visitor noted ‘a marked improvement in the moral tone and outlook of the pupils’. However, he also commented on the fact that there had been no additions to the trades taught as previously recommended, nor had the band been resurrected.


Br Tavin17 was appointed Superior in 1947. Improvements continued to be noted by the Visitor that year and were attributed to the new Disciplinarian, Br Eliot.


By 1948, the band had finally been fully restored, a fact which had done much to ‘enliven the general atmosphere of the institution’. A knitting shop was now in operation, to keep the younger boys occupied. The key areas of manual trades and organised games were not addressed, however.


While the remaining Visitation Reports did not comment adversely on the boys, it was telling as regards the general atmosphere of the Institution that the Visitor noted in 1953 that ‘none of the Brothers speaks very highly of the boys. They are said to be “tough” and secretive and to require a firm hand but discipline on the whole is good’.


The Christian Brothers in their Opening Statement referred to the crisis that came to a head in 1945. On the one hand, they conceded that: When a strengthened staff was put in place in 1945 it may be assumed that the reform brought about by the new arrivals involved a certain amount of firm measures that would have been viewed with reluctance by the boys.


They elaborated on this statement by adding: As the Brothers concerned may be said to have ended a situation regarded by the boys as one of freedom they would have been unpopular and their actions likely to have been exaggerated.


During Phase III of the Investigation Committee’s inquiry into Carriglea, Br Nolan referred to events that culminated in 1945. He stated, ‘the regime that followed was very like Artane, it was quite regimented and staff taking responsibility rather than monitors’. He conceded that ‘certainly, strong measures were to be taken after 1946. There is some evidence that that did happen’.


The Investigation Committee heard evidence from four witnesses who made allegations of physical abuse. According to their testimony, physical abuse was pervasive and was used as a response to a wide range of misdemeanours.


A witness, who was in the School from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, recalled being beaten with a leather strap embedded with metal. He also gave evidence that boys were hit over their fingertips with a wooden stick for not knowing their schoolwork.


Another complainant who was in Carriglea in the late 1940s and early 1950s gave evidence that he was regularly punished for not knowing his schoolwork. This practice was specifically prohibited by the Christian Brothers’ and the Department of Education’s Rules.


This complainant also alleged that Br Vic18 inflicted severe punishment on the boys while he supervised them in the washroom. This Brother was one of seven Brothers transferred to Carriglea in 1946, in an attempt to restore law and order. The witness stated: When we used go up to the wash house at night-time in the young dormitory, we used go up to the washroom and he used to have a whistle thing. It was like a military thing. “Everybody go to the sinks, wash their hair”. When he blew the thing he said stop. And if you were last to come back into line again he gave you a good walloping. He was physical with anybody who was there, he would get you back in line again. Between the two dormitories there was an alcove there and if he was giving a young lad a good slapping, the young lad would be screaming and we would be all standing in the wash house saying, “we hope he doesn’t come back in for us”.


The leather strap was normally used to inflict punishment but a witness who was in Carriglea from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s alleged that a T-square was also used. He described how Br Luc19 inflicted punishment with this implement: He would tell him to bend over the stool. He used get the T-square, T-square that you had on the thing. Then he would pick out a match that was played that particular weekend, and it would always be the hurling, always the high scoring games used to with in the hurling in them days with the Tipperarys and the Corks and the Wexfords and all that, what he would do he would take the T-square out and he would ask the class what was the score of the game yesterday. It was 2-3 to 1-15 or whatever it would be where you got – he used to – I don’t mean just tap you, he used to just swing it like a hurley stick at the boy’s backside and he would give him a smack for every point and three for a goal. Now, that’s what it was.


This complainant absconded, and recalled that, when he was eventually caught, he was beaten severely and his head was shaved. Part of his punishment also entailed having to stand outside in the bandstand for an hour each day and read the catechism. It was winter and particularly cold. He said that he suffered this penance for three weeks.

  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.