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Chapter 16 — Marlborough House

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Physical abuse


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 ...


Mr MacConchradha, Probation Administration Officer at the Department of Justice, was informed by memorandum dated 3rd June 1969 that: There is no doubt but that a Supervisor, on two occasions, infringed the regulations which are laid down. The reports that the Officer of the Department provided are still being considered but the matter must be researched further.


A further complaint was made against the same attendant. In early 1969, a welfare officer reported that a boy who was resident in Marlborough House had received ‘a walloping’ from this attendant.


Despite these complaints, the attendant continued to be employed, and was promoted to attendant in charge of Marlborough House in 1970, less than one year after the findings of the internal Department of Education investigation into his behaviour. According to an internal memorandum from the Department of Education, he sustained injuries when he was attacked by boys in May 1970, which necessitated a spell of sick leave, and that ended his tenure as attendant in charge. He was eventually removed in 1971 because ‘it was felt that he was a source of tension amongst the boys, due to a temperament aggravated by high blood pressure’.


Each of the witnesses that gave evidence to the Investigation Committee made allegations of physical abuse, particularly against this attendant [Mr Lombard]. One witness recounted being hit randomly with his walking stick for no reason. He said Mr Lombard would take him out of bed in the early hours of the morning and would ‘wallop you, strip you, hit you with the stick’. This happened on two or three occasions where he was taken out of bed ‘and just walloped for no reason whatsoever’. He recalled a particular occasion when Mr Lombard took a boy out of the bed next to him and ‘hit him so hard and where he missed him there was holes in the walls from the top of his walking stick were he actually missed him with a few blows’. The atmosphere he felt was one of fear: It was degrading there, there was tension there all the time, a terrible atmosphere. If you were hit you actually felt better because you were not going to be hit for a day or two. You never knew when it was going to happen to you.


He added: ‘You weren’t treated as a human being at all in there, you had no control over anything there, none’.


Another witness referred to the early-morning beatings by this same attendant, which he first received on arrival: ... it was perhaps about 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, I can’t remember exactly what time it was, when the bedclothes were taken back off me. This man, whom I now knew to be Lombard, held me down with his left hand on the back of my neck here, he had the blankets back and he beat me half a dozen times with the walking stick, across the back, the buttocks and the back of my legs. Full force. This was the first night I was there.


This happened on four occasions within the first month that he was there, where Mr Lombard would beat him with his walking stick: ‘He would always give you half a dozen whacks of it’. He also said that Mr Lombard beat the boys for no reason, and he pointed out that there ‘was always a smell of alcohol from his breath’.


A third witness complained of being beaten by this attendant who ‘would hit you whatever way he wanted to’. He would punch with his hands, ‘Around your body, you could be in your bed and he would come in and punch you’. He referred to the atmosphere created by this man: ‘when he was in your presence you would have fear. He’d have that about him, he brought fear’.


In May 1969, a Probation Officer reported an assault on a boy at Marlborough House to Judge Eileen Kennedy. The boy had been hit in the eye with an aluminium mug by the Matron, Mrs Grange, which resulted in a black eye, and he was slapped twice on the left-hand side of his face by her. He was seen by a doctor the following evening but he ‘was afraid to say anything against Mrs Grange, as she was present while the doctor saw him, and he was afraid he would get a beating that night’. He had been a week in custody and, when brought before Judge Kennedy on remand, he had a black eye. Judge Kennedy brought the matter to the attention of the Secretary of the Department of Education on the same day, and said that she was of the view that the ‘complaint is one deserving of investigation’.

  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.
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