Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

Show Contents

Physical abuse


This letter was sent to the Resident Manager together with a letter from Mr Ó Síochfhradha, Inspector, Department of Education. He advised the Superior that a boy’s father had called to the office that morning, complaining that his son had been ill-treated by Br Verrill. He wrote: He alleges that Brother Verrill took the boy out of bed and beat him and that the boy, when on a visit home last Sunday, “had the remains of a black eye”. He also stated that the boy appeared to be going deaf as a result of the treatment he received. In this connection I am to enclose an anonymous letter received in this Office some time ago.


He enclosed the handwritten note quoted above. Mr Ó Síochfhradha asked the Resident Manager for his observations on the parent’s allegations.

Physical abuse


The Resident Manager replied that, having investigated the matter, he was convinced that there was no truth in the allegations. The boy concerned had advised him that he had given backchat to a member of staff in front of other boys. The member of staff concerned did not punish him at that point. He was told to report the incident to the Disciplinarian, who was directly in charge of the conduct of the boys in the School. The Resident Manager went on: The boy says that he went off to bed quickly that night immediately after tea without having reported this matter and that when Br Verrill sent for him he got up again. He was told that his offence was rather serious especially on account of the bad example he had given to the other boys [The boy] himself has told me that the only punishment he got was a few slaps. He is definitely sure that he was not ill-treated in any way and that at no time was he struck on any part of the head or face. He is also sure that he never had a black eye or ear injury. The boy says that he had forgotten all about this business until he went on a visit home on the 17th ult. On account of what his father said to him, he believes that whoever took the story to his father must have told lies as his father seemed to have a very wrong impression about the whole affair.


The child concerned prepared a statement at the time. It read: In about the middle of October I gave back chat to [a Brother] and I also took up a bottle and let on I was going to hit him with it. I was told to report to Br Verrill about this. I did not report it. When I was in bed at about 8.30 Br Verrill called me and he gave me some slaps but he did not hit me on the face or ears, or eyes. I had everything forgotten till I got out for the day on the 17th of Nov.


There was no Department of Education pupil file available for this boy. There was no further correspondence from the Department in the Congregation’s discovery.


Notwithstanding these complaints, Br Verrill was later commended in a Visitation Report for his work as a Disciplinarian: Tribute was paid by many to the success of Br. Verrill as Disciplinarian. The elimination of the tougher element has resulted in a much more manageable type prevailing. The strict rigidity of previous years has disappeared. The boys appear quite orderly and are obviously friendly towards the Brothers.


Br Verrill was singled out for positive comment in another letter, written to complain about three of his colleagues, in which the writer stated that her grandson had no difficulties under Br Verrill’s care.


A number of complainants gave evidence in relation to Br Verrill. A resident in Artane in the 1950s said, “I don’t know what he didn’t like about me but he used to beat me ... I told my mother about it ... and she said I must have been up to no good”. He alleged he would beat him for not concentrating in school. He said that he had his trousers pulled down in front of the boys and was walloped with a black leather on his buttocks. He added: He had his hand on my back when he hit me with the leather he put the leather down and had his hands on my testicles, squeezed me, took his hands away and got the leather and walloped me again ... Verrill used to wallop me across the face sometimes. Verrill was the worst, I was scared of the man, I was absolutely scared of him. Anytime I seen him I used to run away or walk away, I was so frightened of the man.


He alleged the Brother would call him names such as ‘soiler’ and ‘slasher’ for wetting the bed. He also called him a dunce in school.


Another resident in Artane, for seven years during the 1950s, complained that Br Verrill caught four boys smoking and beat them with a leather strap and cane. He then put the boys up in front of the whole school and they had to apologise. He said that his little finger was split as a result. He went to the infirmary and his finger was bandaged.


A resident there for five years in the 1950s said of Br Verrill, ‘... if he happened to be in bad humour or if you were passing by him, he would hit you a clatter ... I had boils on the back of my neck and he hit me on the back of my neck’. This was with the strap and he would do this to other boys. When asked whether he complained about this, he said he didn’t know to whom he would have complained.


— The cases cited above are an example of the consequences of a failure by the authorities to stop abusive behaviour by a Brother. Complaints were not investigated and breaches of the rules were overlooked. The dismissal of written complaints supports the assertions of ex-pupils that they could not complain about their treatment to anyone in Artane.


A Visitation Report in the late 1950s criticised two Brothers for excessive use of corporal punishment. It wrote the following about one Brother: Br Vailant31 was reported to be rather severe on certain boys, troublesome ones, and to be exceeding the permitted limits of punishment. I spoke to him about this and he promised to be more careful in future. He has excellent control and should not have to resort to corporal punishment at all.


It then made the following criticism about Br Deon:32 It was also stated that Br. Deon was too severe. When I spoke to him about it he said his attention had never been called to it and that he would amend.


One complainant claimed he had been struck by Br Vailant so hard that he had to be treated in hospital as an in-patient in 1959. The blow was known as an ‘electric jowler’, struck downwards across the face. The Brother who attended the oral hearing was asked if he was familiar with this phrase, and replied, ‘Yes, they called it a jowler ... it was being struck on the face like, I suppose, like getting an electric shock‘.

  1. Report on Artane Industrial School for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by Ciaran Fahy, Consulting Engineer (see Appendix 1).
  2. Rules and Regulations of Industrial Schools 1885.
  3. Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System 1934-1936 chaired by Justice Cussen.
  4. Dr McQuaid and Fr Henry Moore.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym. See also the Tralee chapter.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. Br Beaufort had previously also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym. See also the Carriglea chapter.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. From the infirmary register it appears that while the boy was not confined in hospital he was due for a check up the day his mother called to see the superior so he may well not have been in the Institution when his mother called.
  24. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  25. It was in fact the Minister for Education who used those words. See paragraph 7.117 .
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.
  36. The same incident is referred to in the Department’s inspection into the matter as ‘a shaking’.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. This is a pseudonym.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. This is a pseudonym.
  42. This is a pseudonym.
  43. This is a pseudonym.
  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. This is a pseudonym.
  46. This is a pseudonym.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Dr Anna McCabe (Medical Inspector), Mr Seamus Mac Uaid (Higher Executive Officer) and Mr MacDáibhid (Assistant Principal Officer and Inspector in Charge of Industrial Schools).
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. This is a pseudonym.
  55. This is a pseudonym.
  56. This is a pseudonym.
  57. This is a pseudonym.
  58. This is a pseudonym.
  59. This is a pseudonym.
  60. This is a pseudonym.
  61. This is a pseudonym.
  62. This is a pseudonym.
  63. This is a pseudonym.
  64. This is a pseudonym.
  65. This is a pseudonym.
  66. This is a pseudonym.
  67. This is a pseudonym.
  68. This is a pseudonym.
  69. This is a pseudonym.
  70. This is a pseudonym.
  71. This is a pseudonym.
  72. This is a pseudonym.
  73. This is a pseudonym.
  74. This is a pseudonym.
  75. This is a pseudonym.
  76. This is a pseudonym.
  77. This is a pseudonym.
  78. This is a pseudonym.
  79. See General Chapter on the Christian Brothers at para ???.
  80. He went there after many years in Artane.
  81. Dr Charles Lysaght was commissioned by the Department of Education to conduct general and medical inspections of the industrial and reformatory schools in 1966 in the absence of a replacement for Dr McCabe since her retirement the previous year. He inspected Artane on 8th September 1966.
  82. See Department of Education and Science Chapter, One-off Inspections.
  83. The fact that they were tired is noted in many Visitation Reports.
  84. Council for Education, Recruitment and Training.
  85. This is a pseudonym.
  86. This is a pseudonym.
  87. This is a pseudonym.