Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 14 — John Brander

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In the course of the Garda investigation in the mid-1990s, Fr Derek was interviewed. He said that no parent approached him about Mr Brander’s conduct, and the memorandum of that interview continued: The first he knew about problems in Walsh Island NS was when Fr. [Colm] told him that he was going to the school to get Mr [Brander] to resign due to ill treatment of a boy. He, Fr. [Colm], had a document prepared for Mr [Brander] to sign. Mr. [Brander] was gone from the school overnight. Nobody in Walsh Island NS wanted to talk about the situation. I.N.T.O.11 came down to see Fr [Colm] ...


Despite the circumstances of his removal, Fr Colm, the parish priest and School Manager, furnished Mr Brander with a glowing reference: Mr [Brander] B.A. H. Dip in Ed. has been Principal Teacher in a four teacher school in this parish for the past three years. I would find it impossible to speak or write too highly of Mr [Brander’s] complete dedication to his professional duties. To visit his classes was a refreshing experience and his splendid qualities of head and heart were reflected in pupils, parents and the people of the community. His attention to even the tiniest detail was indicative of his love for and devotion to his work ... [He] engaged in extra curricular activities of inestimable value to the pupils, the youth, and the parish in general. Mr. [Brander] at his own request and greatly to my personal regret leaves to devote his wonderful gifts to the Secondary branch of Education. He brings with him my gratitude for his wonderful service to the pupils and ... the parish, my best wishes for his continued success in the higher branch of education ...


Fr Colm ended his letter with an expression of his willingness to be of any further assistance to Mr Brander if he should need it.


It has been suggested by a number of people that a Garda file opened at the time of the investigation in the late 1960s has disappeared. The Committee has been furnished with an affidavit of discovery sworn by a Detective Superintendent as to the extensive efforts made to locate any documents regarding this investigation. He concluded that any such documents would have been destroyed in the normal course pertaining at that time. Presentation Convent Castlecomer Co Kilkenny, September 1969 – July 1975


Following his removal from Walsh Island NS and armed with his reference, Mr Brander took up his first secondary teaching position in Castlecomer.


Three witnesses gave evidence of his behaviour while in this school: Sr Giuliana,12 former school principal; Mr Stegar,13 a young teacher who was very involved with Mr Brander in organising the games; and Mr Gadd,14 a junior teacher at the time.


Sr Giuliana in evidence described how, with the introduction of free education in the late 1960s, gradually more boys enrolled in the school. Mr Brander was employed by her predecessor, Sr Donata.15 She was not aware whether he furnished a reference for the position.


Sr Giuliana became principal of the School soon after and at some point after that appointed Mr Brander as vice-principal.

Physical abuse


Mr Brander was regarded as an excellent teacher, the students in his classes got good results. In fact, a lot of pupils were anxious to get into his class. He was well respected by the other staff and by the members of the Congregation. He was very charming and came across as a genuinely nice person. He also cultivated his status in the wider community.


However, he had extraordinary methods of discipline and often assaulted children. He was particularly harsh with girls to whom he gave excessive and unusual punishments..


Mr Gadd said that he gradually became angry at Mr Brander’s behaviour: What I recollect most clearly about that is that his attitude towards girls in the School left much to be desired and one heard stories that he was prone to give physical beatings to the girls, that he was prone to beat girls about the face ... I came into a classroom one day and I found that he had a senior student on her knees at the front of the class. I am not sure if he hit her though about the face, I think that he possibly had.


He added, ‘he certainly... mistreated girls in the School’. He described how his hostility towards Mr Brander grew as he became aware of his use of force and beatings against students, male and female.


In his statement to the Investigation Committee Mr Stegar stated that Mr Brander ‘believed in the power of the fist for boys and girls’. In evidence he further described how, if a girl misbehaved in the classroom, Mr Brander would make her kneel outside the classroom for the duration of the class. When Mr Stegar raised the inappropriateness of this punishment with him, he was told to mind his own business.


Physical assaults were committed openly and in public settings. Sr Giuliana gave evidence that: well it was mostly at the games as far as I can recollect. I do know a few instances, well, now I can keep two in mind, where a couple of boys got black eyes because he was strict with them on the games field.


On the second occasion that she heard he had given a child a black eye, she decided to ‘bring it to his attention’ and registered her displeasure. She took no further action. The parents of the children concerned do not appear to have complained and she did not contact them to advise them of what had transpired.

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  4. He was again transferred to another primary school St Michael’s CBS Inchicore. He remained here for one month and then moved to CBS James’ St.
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  11. Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
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  22. Irish for ‘This is a very good teacher: he has qualifications in Irish’.