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Chapter 14 — John Brander

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When it was confirmed that Br Brander would seek a dispensation, he was transferred to a Community residence in the west of Ireland to await completion of the formal process of dispensation. Br Gibson, giving evidence on behalf of the Congregation, said that he could not shed light on the reason for his transfer to this Community or say whether this was an unusual occurrence. He said that it might perhaps have been to get him out of his environment or to keep him away from his ministry.


The application for dispensation was ultimately granted by a bishop, in whose episcopal jurisdiction Br Brander was now resident. By this means, Br Brander was able to leave the Congregation apparently of his own volition and with an unblemished teaching record.


Mr Brander took up the position of principal of Lanesboro NS, Co Longford on a Monday, having been dispensed from his vows the previous Friday. The question arises as to how he was able to secure this position, and who aided him in obtaining it. No documentary evidence was available to the Investigation Committee, in the form of a written reference or otherwise, to throw light on this disturbing matter.


The Congregation was aware of the criminal nature of such assaults and that the Christian Brothers ‘could not allow him in future to have any contact with boys’, but did nothing to prevent him doing so and continuing to teach. Neither the Department of Education nor the Gardaí were informed of Mr Brander’s sexual abuse of children. By not informing the relevant authorities, the Congregation facilitated his access to more children. Lanesboro NS, Lanesboro, Co Longford , May 1957 – September 1960


Mr Brander remained principal of Lanesboro NS for over three years, until he moved to take up a position in Ballyfermot NS, Dublin. No documentary material is available to explain the circumstances of his departure from Lanesboro NS but, at his sentencing following his second trial, Mr Brander admitted abusing boys in this school. In addition, a Garda statement made by a former pupil contains allegations of physical and sexual abuse against Mr Brander while a teacher in this school. Ballyfermot NS/ Banrion na nAingeal, Ballyfermot, Dublin, September 1960 – January 1964


Mr Brander was appointed to Ballyfermot NS initially as third assistant teacher and, later, as vice-principal. In a letter to the Department of Education, Fr Harry,6 the school manager, sought approval for the recruitment of additional teachers, and advised that Mr Brander had the highest qualifications and would be an excellent vice-principal when the numbers justified such an appointment. Mr Brander left the school in the mid-1960s, having been absent due to illness for two months.


A letter from solicitors acting for a former pupil, some years following Mr Brander’s last conviction and addressed to the Board of Governors of the School, complained that while this man was a pupil in this School in the 1960s he suffered an indecent assault by Mr Brander. The letter stated that a complaint was made to the school authorities at that time, and no action was taken other than Mr Brander was moved from his class. The solicitors were advised that there was no record of this complaint or of any investigation.


An affidavit of discovery sworn on behalf of the Board of Management for the purposes of this Inquiry states that there were no documents recording any contemporaneous complaint. Rath Mixed NS, Ballybrittas, Portlaoise, Co Laois, January 1964 – June 1966


Mr Brander took up the position of principal at this national school in the mid-1960s. A parent complained to the Department of Education about Mr Brander’s excessive corporal punishment of her children: Dear Sir, I received a letter from your office ... accompanied by the regulations concerning corporal punishment in primary schools. I did not at the time send you any more details regarding the infliction of unnecessary punishment on schoolchildren as I really thought that matters would improve after the Manager ... had spoken to the principal concerned. Now I regret to say I have reached the end of my patience [I have five children attending Rath NS] their ages ranging from 13 yrs to 5 yrs. The three oldest aged 13 yrs, 11 yrs & 9 yrs are at present in the classroom attended by Mr [Brander] (Principal) and I do not hesitate in saying that my heart is broken simply trying to get them to go to school at all. This state of nerves on their part has been brought about through fear. Last week my eldest son ... returned to school after being absent 8 days as a result of severe flu when his temperature reached 104 degrees. Against my better judgment and the advice of our family doctor I sent him back to school and on his second day back he was subject to a severe beating on the head, and to day he has come home from school with the top of his small finger on the left hand showing definite bruising after being given 6 slaps with a hazel stick. Last week I made a complaint to the manager and he promised to talk it over with the teacher. All I can think now is that he hasn’t honoured his promise. During the end of last year it would be roughly around early December my little girl received 19 slaps from Thurs to Tues inclusive and also the side of her neck had severe bruising after which I wrote a letter to Mr [Brander] asking him not to have it happen again, however this request also seems to have been ignored and in my opinion it is time something was done to improve conditions for the pupils at Rath NS. It is not one of my principals to make trouble for anyone and I regret very much having to set down those complaints at all, but as I have already said something will have to be done about the aforesaid conditions. To conclude I can safely say that I am not the only mother who is having the same trouble, however it is up to the others to make their own complaints. Thanking you in anticipation and trusting there can be some amiable agreement reached on the subject. Yours ... [P.S. May I add that all this punishment is being given for mere failure at lessons which to me seems most unnecessary as I myself spend almost every evening from tea-time to bed-time helping the children in every way possible and I always make sure that all homework is duly done by them.]


She included in the letter the name and address of the local doctor.


Her complaint was acknowledged by the Department and forwarded to the School Manager, who was the parish priest, for comment: I am directed to enclose for your information extracts from a letter received from [the mother] ... regarding the treatment of her children pupils in the above-named school, by Mr. [Brander] principal teacher in the school. It appears that [she] has already brought the complainant to your notice. Please say if [she] has presented her complaint to you, and if so, please state what action, if any, you have taken or propose to take in the matter. I am also to request you to be so good as to obtain from Mr. [Brander] a written statement in regard to the matters referred to in [her] letter and to forward the statement, together with your own observations thereon, to the Department. Mise, le meas,


The School Manager responded as follows: Dear Sir, I am forwarding Mr. [Brander’s] report on the case of complaint by [the mother] of cruelty to her children. I think her complaint is very much exaggerated & Mr [Brander] is a very good and conscientious teacher. Signed ....


Notably, he failed to make any comment as to whether he had previously been approached about the matter or whether other parents had similar complaints.


In Mr Brander’s report he said that the letter was: the first I heard of 19 slaps and as it happened last December I cannot recall. But it is typical of the atmosphere of that house that they are being counted and questioned. At that time I had a rod, 9 ½ inches long, still have it. It was a joke that each slap was only a quarter. So 19 divided by 4 would be more honestly accurate. However I did receive a letter from [the mother], 15th December last, saying that the side of her child’s face showed blue marks and that her hands were swollen. I looked the very moment I received the letter, but saw no trace of any blue marks and I said “show me your sore hand”. “They are not sore” was her reply. Her remark “this request seems to have been ignored” is typical. I have not punished this child unduly since (even though she admitted often not learning her exercise). If I did, her mother would have facts, figures and relevant data. She intimated in that letter too that she had “the address of the Department” – had even told other parents that she would give it to them – and “that I was not allowed to give corporal punishment for mere failure at lessons”. I have therefore been especially careful not to violate regulations re her P.S. where I am wrongfully accused. With such a mother’s attitude how could children co-operate or how could one believe “that she always made sure that all home work is duly done by them”. Regarding [her eldest son] and the “severe beating”. Firstly I state that “severe beating” is not defined – because she could not. Else she would. On the morning in question, as customary, between 9.25 and 9.45 I was correcting scholarship sums (homework). I was sitting at my table with two girls on my right and two boys on my left, [her son] being nearest to me. I was thus able to see the three copies, as [her son] had no sums done. He was not punished for this. But I asked him some question. Answer was merely “multiply” and when he failed I remarked “if I had known you were such an ass at arithmetic, I’d never had entered you for the Scholarship”. All I did was to give him a few, not more than four, little raps with my knuckles (left arm not even extended as he was close beside me) on the back of the head. No rod used at all. This was the “severe beating”. There was no trace of ill effect during the day and as I heard before 9.30 am the following morning of [the mother] reporting the matter and of her going into neighbours’ houses “to back her up”. I could distinctly recall [her son’s] very vigorous football playing during lunch hour on that very day. I’m thoroughly convinced that the acquired pain in the evening was for exercise evasion. [The mother] did not state that [her son] did not get half a dozen slaps from January to March and I’d swear, not even a dozen from September to December. “Today” referred to, is the follow up of the above incident. I distinctly recall the day’s happenings as I had heard of the “severe beating” being reported to the Rev. Manager and that she had informed neighbours that she was writing to the Department. A day or two after [her son’s] return (kept away as a reprisal for my severe beating) I gave three sums for exercise. He had one done wrong; one half attempted and one not done. I had often and often not given him punishment deserved due to exercises not done, “forgot”, down right carelessness, inattention and lies re exercises, but I gave two this morning as he expected “no more slaps”. Two more during the day on the same hand. In the evening for cod-acting during spellings he got two more. He held out the same hand but I said “other hand” – the left. Lucky for me. I’m convinced he would have been glad to have had other hand sore going home. Those were the only two slaps on his left hand. How two ordinary slaps from a light 14” rod could have caused a bruise beats me. Those were the first slaps he had got for weeks – for his own good (only 12½ years) as I seldom or ever punish 6th or 7th class. Every tittle tattle is reported at home on encouragement I’d say. There was one in 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd Class when I came and I could see that each was boss in his/her domain ... Due to the... family being gifted I was especially interested in them. I have treated them more fairly than any other family. No family gets less of the rod. She has mentioned these two isolated cases. Rest assured that if she had more concrete evidence it would be produced. Her’s is a personal vendetta. [The mother’s] letter has certainly done an injustice not only to me but to her own family.


An inspector from the Department of Education visited the school as a result of the complaint. While effectively dismissing the complaint, he noted that the Manager had advised him: that the teacher tended to be somewhat hot-tempered, that he had spoken to him about this and that he had promised not to be impatient in future. He also said that he was very satisfied with the teacher’s work in the school.

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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’.