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Chapter 11 — Glin

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Physical abuse


The Department did not interview Mr Dubois as part of their investigation. They did not investigate further whether Mr Dubois retired due to health reasons, as stated by him, or was dismissed for insubordination, as asserted by the Manager. It does not appear that they conducted any spot checks, as suggested by Mr Dubois. The Department acknowledged internally that Mr Dubois’s criticisms of the clothing, food and sleeping accommodation were ‘true in the main of many industrial schools’. Mr Dubois’s concerns regarding the inexperienced chef and the often absent nurse could quite easily have been addressed and rectified. Neither were enquiries made about Mr Dubois’s predecessor who, it was alleged, regularly wielded a heavy leather strap and terrified the boys.


The Department wrote off Mr Dubois’s complaints as the outpourings of a man with a personal grievance. As a result, no thorough investigation was carried out. A proper investigation of the complaints required that Mr Dubois should have been interviewed. Such an interview was needed, not least because the Resident Manager had suggested a malicious motive for writing the letter and Dr McCabe should have established whether this was the case. Even when the Department did make findings, it did not explain where the facts came from. For example, there was no information as to how the Department concluded that ‘there may be some slight grounds for a charge of occasional severity’ and, similarly, what investigations led them to the conclusion that the boys were administered ‘an occasional slap or cuff’. The Department acknowledged internally that three of the four charges he made were ‘true in the main of many industrial schools’ and, by implication, they were true in respect of Glin. In other words, the boys were poorly clothed, and had no winter underwear, the food was meagre, poor and badly cooked, and the sleeping quarters were ill-equipped and unheated. They seemed to believe nothing needed to be done simply because such conditions were not peculiar to Glin but were quite widespread in such schools. Despite the cursory nature of their inquiries, the Department was nevertheless prepared to inform another Minister in the Government that the Minister for Education ‘has had searching inquiries made’ and that there was ‘no convincing evidence to support the accusations made by Mr Dubois’.


Br Jules taught in a number of industrial schools: Carriglea, Artane, Tralee and Glin, where he held the post of Superior for five years during the 1950s.


At an early stage, Br Jules developed a reputation for being tough on his pupils. In the early 1930s, he came to the attention of the Provincial Council because of his harsh treatment of a pupil in Tralee who had a physical disability. This incident has been dealt with in the Tralee chapter. He was initially rejected from taking his perpetual vows. He was, however, allowed to take his vows the following year by a vote of three to one, notwithstanding a report describing him as: too exacting in school: little devotedness to study: “troublesome, crossgrained”; has not had good record – doubtful candidate.


The Superior General, Br Noonan, wrote to Br Jules congratulating him on taking his perpetual vows. In the course of the letter he stated: You incline to the harsh side in school both in language and in inflicting bodily pain. Pupils hate sarcasm and they have a keen sense of what is just and fair in punishment. If you would secure respect for yourself and for your teaching be kind and just towards your pupils. It is said you are a poor student yourself. Perhaps it is due to your failure to make preparation for your work as a teacher that your pupils are made to suffer doubly.


During Br Jules’s tenure as Superior of Glin in the 1950s, the visiting Brothers consistently complimented him on his management and dedication to the boys, and Brothers who were interviewed by Br McCormack for his report confirmed that a kinder regime was introduced following his appointment.


In his questionnaire for the Congregation, completed in 1999, Br Jules stated that, ‘There were no written rules regarding discipline. There was simply a general understanding of rules passed on from year to year’. Despite holding the positions of Superior, School Manager and Disciplinarian, he conceded that he had never seen the Rules and Regulations for Industrial Schools. He had no recollection of pupils being severely beaten. He dealt with absconders by making them feel ashamed of what they had done. He did not punish them.


He explained how he introduced new boys to the School: when a new pupil came he would often be very upset. We had to point out to him that he was not wanted at home and convince him that life had not been that good at home; that we had taken him in, that he would be better off here.


Br Coyan, in an interview with Br McCormack, recalled that Br Jules did punish absconders by giving them a ‘baldy haircut and the kids didn’t give a damn or they might be deprived of some privilege or other for a week or so’.


Br Marceau already had a bad record of violence towards boys when he was assigned to Glin in the early 1960s. He worked there for almost two years, between periods of service in Tralee Industrial School. Investigations have revealed a paper trail of documented cases of physical abuse by Br Marceau in day and residential schools in which he taught. Accounts of Br Marceau’s conduct in the other institutions is dealt with in the Tralee chapter.


Prior to his time in Glin, Br Marceau worked in Tralee and, before that, in a day school in Clonmel. During his four and a half years in Clonmel, there were four serious allegations of physical abuse against him. Three of the incidents resulted in the parents of the children complaining to the Superior, and the fourth incident was witnessed by another Brother, who was so concerned over what he had seen that he warned the Superior to keep a close eye on Br Marceau. When confronted in respect of complaints, Br Marceau either minimised the seriousness of the incidents or emphatically denied that they had happened. He was issued with a Canonical Warning in the early 1960s. When the Superior of the Community received the fourth complaint from a parent later that year, he wrote that he was simply not prepared to deal with any more irate parents complaining about the ill-treatment of their children at the hands of Br Marceau. He regarded Br Marceau as a danger to the boys and simply unfit to be in charge of them. He begged for Br Marceau to be removed from his school. Br Marceau was transferred to St Joseph’s Industrial School, Tralee.


The first Visitation Report following his transfer to Tralee recorded that this Brother did not seem to be ‘quite normal and would appear to be deteriorating mentally’. He was ‘lacking in good sense’. The follow-up letter to the Resident Manager noted that he ‘may perhaps be inclined to be rather too exacting’ and, accordingly, the Manager would have to ensure that his ‘zeal’ for the children’s progress did not get the better of him. The Brother was transferred to Glin later that year, where he remained for approximately two years, after which he was sent back to Tralee.


In the year following Br Marceau’s arrival in Glin, the Visitor remarked that Br Marceau was still upset over the Canonical Warning he had received. Br Marceau was convinced that there was a vendetta against him and had tried to have the Canonical Warning rescinded, but to no avail. The Visitor noted that, in Br Marceau’s view, the warning was ‘too severe a penalty for faults that were grossly exaggerated by a Superior who was prejudiced against him and in fact was out to get him, as he put it’. He was bolstered in his opinion, having sought the advice of three priests on the matter, who unanimously agreed that the punishment did not fit the crime. The Visitor urged him to accept the situation and concentrate on his work in the School. He surmised that he was ‘not a vindictive type of man’ and noted that Br Marceau was very well regarded in the Community.


It was not long before Br Marceau once again came to the attention of the Provincial Council. Almost two years later, the Resident Manager wrote to the Provincial notifying him of an incident that had recently taken place. Br Marceau learned that a pupil had referred to him as ‘madman’. He took the pupil to the Superior and the boy admitted the offence. The Superior slapped him on the palm of the hand in punishment.


Later that day, the boy reported to the infirmary with a pain in his jaw. His face was noticeably swollen and, when questioned by the Brother in charge of the infirmary, the boy reluctantly admitted that Br Marceau had struck him on the face before he had brought him before the Superior. Br Marceau denied the allegation. A week later, the swelling had not subsided and the local doctor examined the boy on his weekly visit. He recommended an x-ray as a precautionary measure, and it was discovered that the boy had a fractured jaw. He was detained in hospital for observation.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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  6. Fr Flanagan was an Irish priest who lived and worked in the United States. He opened his first boys’ home in 1917, which later moved to another location and became known as ‘Boys Town’. He became an acknowledged expert in the field of childcare. He visited Ireland in 1946.
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  8. For a full discussion of Father Flanagan’s visit to Ireland see Dáire Keogh ‘There’s no such thing as a bad boy’: Fr Flanagan’s visit to Ireland, 1946, History IRELAND, 12, 1 (Spring 2004) 29-32 and the discussion of his article by Eoin O’Sullivan and Mary Raftery in the letters section of History IRELAND 12,4 (Winter 2004)
  9. Fr Flanagan was influenced by Walter Mahon-Smith’s book, I did penal servitude, published anonymously.
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  11. 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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  18. This is the English version of Mr O Siochfhradha
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  20. This is the Irish version of Mr Sugrue
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  22. Note there is no indication from the correspondence dealing with the matter that anyone was sent down to investigate the matter. The discovery indicates that the matter was dealt with entirely by correspondence.
  23. ‘Strong hand’ in Irish.
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  26. Provided in the research paper produced by John McCormack cfc.