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Chapter 11 — Glin

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Physical abuse


Br Buiron refused to apply for a dispensation and appeared before the General Council. A vote was taken but, instead of sending him for trial as predicted by the Superior General, it was unanimously agreed that Br Buiron should be retained in the Congregation. He was given ‘... the first canonical warning, threatened with expulsion and given a penance. The daily recital of the Miserere’. The Superior General wrote to the Provincial informing him of the outcome of the vote, which was taken ’after very mature deliberation’. He continued: I told him that you would send him the official warning when writing to him and giving him his location (which will be very difficult I fear.) He shows signs of the greatest repentance. He told us he was not sure [of the boy’s name] and that he told him after the first offence that he (Br B) would now have to leave the Brothers.


Br Buiron was immediately moved to Cork, where he remained until he was transferred to Glin.


Br Piperel taught in Glin for six years during the 1940s. He had previously served in Letterfrack and Tralee. Following his time in Glin, he was transferred to Salthill.In Letterfrack, he was the subject of a serious complaint that he was sexually interfering with boys. A full account of the case is contained in the chapter on Letterfrack. An allegation against him was investigated, but only to the extent that he was asked about it by a Visitor, and subsequently gave a lengthy written account by way of letter. The explanation offered by the Brother ought to have given rise to increased unease rather than to have allayed suspicion. He later taught in Cork, where his conduct in relation to young girls caused him to be removed urgently and relocated in retirement in the Midlands.


These Brothers were sent to Glin after complaints or suspicions of sexual abuse in other industrial schools. Given the risk of such behaviour being repeated, it was reckless to transfer them to a residential school, where the children were particularly vulnerable as they had no recourse to their families.

Neglect and emotional abuse


In 1938, the Visitor commented on the boys’ appearance: Nobody can fail to remark the contrast between an Industrial School boy in his everyday rig and the appearance of even the poorest boys attending our Day Schools. The Industrial School boy seems to have no appreciation of personal cleanliness and tidiness of dress.


The following year, the Visitor recorded that the School had received a favourable report from the Department Inspector, but he found the top class weak in arithmetic, handwriting and letter writing. In addition, the Brother in charge of this class had unilaterally decided to abandon the teaching of Irish. The Visitor remarked that he ‘ought show more zeal for their welfare’. He noted that one of the other two teaching Brothers was also a poor teacher. The Visitor was critical of the boys’ clothing, some of which was simply unfit for use and should be discarded. He complained about the heavy boots the boys wore, which were badly repaired, making them ‘unsightly, unwieldy things’. He was pleased to see that the boys now had good shoes for Sunday.


In June 1940, the Visitor said that the yard was surfaced in coarse gravel which made it unsuitable as a play area. He found only one of the teachers, out of a complement of five, satisfactory. He observed, ‘the teaching staff here, as in the other industrial schools I visited this year, is weak. The type of boy in the industrial schools needs to have devoted, zealous and self-sacrificing teachers’. The treacherous condition of the schoolyard continued to receive mention in the Visitation Reports and Department Inspection Reports, but it was not until 1955 that the necessary work was undertaken.


The 1941 Visitation Report listed repairs and improvements that were necessary, including the faulty hot water and heating system, the play hall was ‘cold, unsightly and dilapidated’ and needed to be replaced. The teachers, once again, came in for criticism, with only one of them regarded as satisfactory. Br Young was not impressed by the standard of work in the two trades being taught, namely boot-making and tailoring. The workshops were unsuitable and, in some instances, dangerous.


In 1942, the Visitor approved of the new spacious play hall which had been built for the boys. Water pipes continued to present problems, resulting in an insufficiency of water to the boys’ lavatories. The teacher in charge of the two junior classes had 59 pupils in his class, which made it very difficult to teach effectively.


Two years later, the Visitor found that ‘the literary side of the boys’ education is somewhat over emphasised to the neglect of practical work’. He drew attention to the fact that the only trades taught were tailoring and shoemaking. He noted that the boys’ sanitary facilities were ‘entirely inadequate’ and he was also critical of the laundry which required renovations.


The boys’ lavatories came in for criticism once again during the Visitation in 1945. The Visitor noted that the ‘Boys lavatories and bathroom are very primitive; there are no cisterns in the lavatories and boys have to carry water three times a day to flush them; I found a bad smell from them, they had not been flushed the morning I saw them; it was about 11am. It would be advisable to attend to both lavatories and bathroom in the near future’. Of the overall population of 214 boys, there were 190 on the School register. The remaining 24 boys were employed for more than six hours each day on the farm or in the workshops. This group received 30 minutes of instruction in religious doctrine daily. He advised: It is desirable that an hour a day extra should be afforded these boys to continue their education, especially as some of them had very little at the age of 14 years when they left off school work. Subjects such as English, Private Reading, Arithmetic, etc should interest and be useful to such boys.


In May 1946, the Visitor observed that the premises were badly laid out for the purposes of an industrial school, and that many repairs and alterations were necessary. The boys’ bathroom came in for particular criticism, as it was too small and badly fitted. The yards and approaches to the Institution were in very bad condition and posed a hazard. Some of the wire mattresses required overhauling, although he appreciated the difficulty in obtaining wire. He predicted that a sizeable sum of money would have to be expended on the School before long. The recurring theme of the inadequacy of trades training and education was once again aired. He observed: It is very difficult to place boys in the trades when they have to go out and many who have been trained to shoemaking or tailoring have to go to farm work. These are much handicapped and are not a success. The trades or farm boys do not receive any education when once they begin their respective trades. This is unfortunate, as they soon forget much of what they have learnt.


He noted complaints that the School was understaffed, and recommended that a Brother who could undertake some school work would be useful.


In December 1946, Dr McCabe visited the School and recorded that the premises were clean and in good condition and that the children were well cared for and happy.


However, she noted a major deficiency which was subsequently set out in a follow-up letter from the Department to the Superior in December: It is reported, however, that a number of the boys have not gained in weight and that a few have actually lost 2 or 3 lbs during the year. These boys who do not put on weight normally should be specially watched and they should be given such additional or special food as the School Medical Officer may prescribe. 1.Porridge should be served at breakfast. Each boy should be allowed at least a quarter of a pound of meat at each meal at which meat is served. 2.The boys everyday clothing should be improved. 3.The sanitary annexe should be kept in better order. 4.Rubber aprons and wellington boots should be provided for the boys in the laundry. 5.There is need for the provision of a new bathing annexe. 6.The dampness in the walls of the dormitories should be attended to. It is understood that you will arrange to have this matter attended to during the summer of 1947.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. 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.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
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  18. This is the English version of Mr O Siochfhradha
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. Provided in the research paper produced by John McCormack cfc.