Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 16 — Marlborough House

Show Contents

Physical abuse


When questioned by the Justice about the allegations he had made, the boy named two officials. Judge MacCarthy then asked for the two officials to be brought before the court. The garda in charge of the case was reported to have said, ‘I don’t imagine that the punishment was very severe’; to which the Judge responded, ‘You don’t imagine, but you were not there’.


The Judge then turned to the other boy and asked him whether he had got enough to eat in Marlborough House, to which the boy replied ‘Yes, Sir’. He then asked him whether he was punished. The boy replied that he had been punished with a stick for tripping. The officer in charge expressed his surprise that there was any punishment for boys in Marlborough House. The two were remanded on bail for 14 days, and Judge MacCarthy stated that he wanted the Superintendent of Marlborough House to be present at that time.


The Superintendent, Mr Grange,5 who had taken up his appointment two weeks before this, was informed of the events by the Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools Branch, and Mr Grange made contact with the officer in charge of the case. He was told by the detective that the boys had made no allegations before the court hearing.


In a report prepared for the Inspector by Mr Grange, he stated that he had investigated the matter thoroughly within the Institution and was ‘quite satisfied that no such incidents as alleged took place’. He further stated: ... during the period these boys were detained here, I had on an average of thirty-four to thirty-eight boys here, as well as a number of workmen who were employed by Messrs Dockrell renovating the Boy’s Quarters. Due to the number of boys who were within full view of these tradesmen and that myself and the Attendants had to be on the alert all the time I wish to point out that these incidents could not have happened without being noticed.


He provided statements from four older boys, signed by the boys and witnessed by Mr Grange. All the statements are dated on the same date in 1956 and are similarly worded. They each maintained that they never saw either boy being ill-treated in any way by any of the attendants. They were allowed to walk around the recreation grounds and were treated well by the attendants. They stated that they got plenty to eat in Marlborough House.


Statements were also given by two permanent attendants and two temporary attendants. These statements were also taken on the same date in 1956 and witnessed by Mr Grange. In the case of the permanent attendants, each of these had been employed in Marlborough House for six years, and they claimed the allegations were untrue. They were assisted in their duty rota by a temporary attendant. Statements were provided by the temporary attendants, both of whom were in their first week of employment in Marlborough House when the alleged incidents occurred. They denied that they saw anything untoward during their duty periods with the senior attendants.


It is not clear from either Mr Grange’s report, or the statements taken from the four staff members, whether any of these were the persons alleged to have beaten the boys, but it is likely that Mr Grange would have been in a position to ascertain who was on duty during the week that the boys were detained.


A few weeks later, the Evening Press reported that Mr Grange attended court, where the boys again repeated their statements and named two attendants. Mr Grange told the court that he had made inquiries and believed the charges made by the boys were unfounded. He also told the court that he had since questioned another boy in the centre, who told him that he had overheard the boys the night before their original hearing planning to tell the Judge that they had been beaten in order to be dealt with leniently.


The boys were remanded on bail for two weeks, to see if their school attendance and behaviour improved, and no further action was taken on the allegations made by them.


Towards the end of 1968, a Probation Welfare Officer reported two incidents of physical abuse of boys in Marlborough House to the Department of Education. The first incident, which he witnessed in September 1968, was ‘a brutal beating of one of the inmates’ by an attendant, Mr Lombard. He stated: This beating consisted of numerous punches with his clenched fist, which reduced the boy to a whimpering mass. The concluding portion of this incident was witnessed by Mrs Grange,7 the matron and the complete incident took place in the presence of all the inmates at the time. May I say that I considered this a savage, uncontrolled beating, accompanied by expressions from the attendant, of which I could plainly hear “dirtbird” being mentioned on quite a few occasions.


The second incident was reported to him by a former detainee in November 1968, who alleged that he was ‘hit by a lamp on the lips, arms and other parts of the body’ by the same attendant, Mr Lombard. The boy did not make a complaint to the authorities at the time as ‘he was afraid of Mr Lombard and because he was convinced that he would not succeed in any complaint he would make’. The following day, the Probation Officer informed Ms Justice Eileen Kennedy, who instructed him to get the Probation Administration Officer of the Department of Justice to contact the Department of Education to have the matter investigated. He spoke to the Probation Administration Officer on 11th November, and was requested to submit a report on the two incidents, which he did on 13th February 1969. Mr MacConchradha, the Probation Administration Officer, referred the matter to the Secretary of the Department of Education on 28th February 1969.


An official from the Department of Education investigated both of these complaints, and filed a report on 6th March 1969.


With regard to the first complaint, he reported that the boy had been a ‘troublesome detainee in [two other industrial schools] and Marlborough House and is considered to be an unfit subject for all three places’, but did not make any finding as to the veracity of the allegation.


In respect of the second complaint, he stated that he believed that the boy ‘was assaulted on the night in question, but I feel that he has exaggerated in his account’. He also referred to the fact that the Gardaí in [the boy’s local Garda Station] had told him the boy and his mother ‘are notorious liars’ and that ‘[he] is pretty violent and is frequently in brawls’. The official from the Department concluded that the attendant, Mr Lombard, ‘should be advised to exercise restraint when provoked, but deserves praise for his interest in and kindness to the boys’. He also pointed out that the work of the attendants ‘would be much simpler if indoor games and suitable reading material were provided’.


The Department considered the matter and, in a letter to the Kennedy Committee of 22nd May 1969, which had sought information relating to complaints generally in institutions, it referred to these two incidents and stated that: The attendant undoubtedly contravened the regulations governing the treatment of the detainees in Marlboro House and the fact that both these boys proved violent and provocative under detention cannot be accepted as a defence of his conduct in these cases. The reports furnished in regard to the incidents in question are still under consideration ...

  1. .The Department of Education was negligent in the management and administration of Marlborough House. Its unwillingness to accept responsibility for the Institution caused neglect and suffering to the children there and resulted in a dangerous, dilapidated environment for the children.
  2. .The employment of unsuitable, inadequate and unqualified staff resulted in a brutal, harsh regime with punishment at its core.
  3. .There was no outside authority interested in the welfare of the children in Marlborough House. No concern was expressed by Department officials at the appalling treatment and care they knew the boys were receiving. The concern at all times was to protect the Department from criticism.
  4. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It later changed its name to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. (ISPCC)
  5. The average cost of keeping a prisoner in Shanganagh Castle in 2002 was €169,450, the second highest in the state outside of Portlaoise
  6. Department of Education & Science Statement to Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19th May 2006, p 220.
  7. Correspondence cited in Department of Education submission, p 223.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is pseudonym.