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Chapter 11 — Glin

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Physical abuse


The Minister for Justice wrote to the Minister for Education commenting that Mr Dubois appeared to be an intelligent, well-meaning person and, if what he said was true, it revealed a very serious state of affairs. He asked to be kept informed of the results of any investigation.


Mr Sugrue of the Department of Education visited Glin and wrote a memorandum in Irish recording what happened. A translation is as follows: Glin School I visited this school ... and had a long conversation with the Resident Manager about the complaint made by Mr Dubois in relation to school matters. I read the letters written by Mr Dubois to certain boys in the school, to a maid in the school and to men employed in the school. The Resident Manager had all these letters. According to the letters, it would appear that Mr Dubois took a keen interest in the care of the boys at the school in the matter of food, clothes, etc. The Resident Manager told me that Mr Dubois was wont to come downstairs at night and carry bread from the Brothers’ refectory to the boys in the dormitories. From their appearance it would seem that the school shows great kindness and consideration to the boys.


Despite the fact that Mr Sugrue had previously drawn Dr McCabe’s attention to the specifics of the complaints made in Mr Dubois’s letter to the Department of Education, and that more detail had been furnished in the letter to the Department of Justice that preceded his visit to the School, no detail is provided as to the quality of care given to the boys.


When a reminder was sent from the Minister’s secretary, asking whether a report was yet available, the matter was taken in hand by a senior official, who reported to the Secretary of the Department: Runai, Glin Industrial School. Complaint from Mr Dubois, ex-night watchman there, to Minister and to Minister for Justice, re treatment of boys. The charges made by Mr Dubois may be listed as follows: — (1)The boys are poorly clothed, and have no winter underwear. (2)The food is meagre, poor and badly cooked. (3)The sleeping quarters are ill-equipped and unheated. (4)Employees are permitted to beat the children with straps and even to strike and kick them and to treat them otherwise cruelly, and even some of the Brothers are careless or unkind or given to beating the children with small cause. Dr MacCabe and Mr O Siochfhradha20 have both visited the school and their findings, herewith, may be summed up thus:- The facts reported under charges (1), (2) and (3) are true in the main of many Industrial Schools, but they are, of course, not matters of deliberate intent and so the light in which they have been put by Mr Dubois is false. As may be seen from the File, Dr MacCabe has been pressing the Manager on these very matters for some years, and he has made efforts at improvement as far as his resources permit. With regard to charge (3), viz. that the sleeping quarters are ill-equipped and unheated, Mr O Siochfhradha informs me that it is a moot point among present day experts whether heating of sleeping quarters is desirable. He, for his part, however, is gradually prevailing on the authorities of the Girls’ Schools to provide heating for the dormitories, but many Boys’ Schools, including Artane, do not provide it. Mr O Siochfhradha considers the sleeping equipment at Glin fairly good. The inspectors found no evidence of harshness or cruelty on the part of the staff or employees, and Mr O Siochfhradha has stated to me that he is absolutely satisfied that it would not be in character for Br Warrane or any other of the Brothers to treat the children unkindly. Dr MacCabe reports that the Manager has informed her that Mr Dubois was dismissed from the post of night watchman in the school for insubordination. The impression given to me by Mr Dubois’s letters and the Inspectors’ Reports is (1)that Mr Dubois grew to like the boys very much and to resent their being administered an occasional slap or cuff, (2)that there may be some slight grounds for a charge of occasional severity, but that as regards clothing, food, etc. Mr Dubois is probably unaware that the sole and entire income of the School was up to the present only 19s. capitation grant per week. Our Inspectors are perfectly satisfied that that sum is stretched to its utter limit, and as far as they could see, the boys are happy and cheerful, (3)that Mr Dubois is a confirmed letter writer, as is evidenced by the number of letters he has written to the boys in the School and by the fact that his turn of English is unusual in a night watchman. Incidentally, such phrases as “in the poor children they see Christ himself” seem, to me at least, too glib for their not particularly charitable context. I would guess that Mr Dubois is a well-meaning person of rather unreserved character, and would advise taking no further notice of any missives he may forward. The Inspectors, however, intend to visit the school for some time more frequently than is customary, and it would seem well to do this.


Senior civil servants drafted and approved a letter to be sent by the Minister in reply to his colleague, who had moved in the meantime from the Department of Justice to the Department of Defence. Consideration was given as to whether it was more appropriate for the Minister to write directly to his colleague or for the respective private secretaries to communicate. It is not clear which course was adopted. The draft as prepared said: that the Minister has had searching inquiries made and can find no convincing evidence to support the accusations made by Mr Dubois. The fact that the financial resources of our industrial schools are in general rather limited makes it impossible for the authorities to supply other than plain food and clothing or to install equipment of the most up to date quality. With regard to the charge of harshness, unkindness and ill treatment of the boys, the Minister is assured that it would not be in character for the Brothers to permit such to occur, much less to be guilty of it themselves. It has been arranged, however, to inspect the school more frequently for some time to come.


The Christian Brothers’ Submissions on this matter comment that the length of the investigation (approximately eight months) and ‘the number and seniority of the officers involved indicates that complaints were taken seriously by the State and that final decisions were not made lightly’. They contend that the first letter sent by Mr Dubois ‘set in motion a typical investigation by the Department involving unannounced visits by Dr McCabe and the local school inspector’. The letter to the Minister for Justice, they maintain, ‘lent urgency to the investigation’ which eventually involved the secretary of the Department, the Minister’s secretary and the Minister for Education.


There was nothing to suggest that the visits of Dr McCabe and Mr Sugrue were unannounced. Neither was it correct to say that the investigation was protracted. In the case of each visit, it followed reasonably promptly on the receipt of the letter from Mr Dubois. What was delayed was the response in the form of any action by the senior officials of the Department of Education, which only came about when a reminder was sent from the Minister.


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.

  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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  17. This is a pseudonym.
  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.