Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


The Investigation Committee heard a total of 48 former residents. They tended not to complain about punishments that were justified, even if they were severe. As one witness said, ‘I didn’t mind being beaten if I deserved it’. Many witnesses often qualified their accounts by saying they had deserved the chastisement. One Disciplinarian was consistently described as a very strict but very fair man, because he did not punish unjustly.


The former residents did complain, however, about unjust punishments. Unfair, capricious punishments created a climate of fear because they were administered for little or no reason, and therefore could not be avoided. Examples include failure at lessons, writing with the left hand and bed-wetting.


They complained about punishments so severe they breached the accepted standards of the time. In particular, the punishments given to absconders were cited as excessive and cruel.


Another major cause of complaint was the method by which punishment was administered. One or more complainants before the Investigation Committee recounted the following kinds of punishment, which were often idiosyncratic to certain members of staff, and included: Being beaten with a hurley, fan belt, pram tyre, and sticks of various kinds. A deceased Brother admitted in a Garda interview that he used a fan belt to strike boys. Being beaten on the bare buttocks or other parts of the body. Being hit by the open hand or fist on the face or other parts of the body. Being kicked on various parts of the body. Being lifted by sideburns or the hair at the temples. The use of various methods to make the punishment more painful.


Many complaints were about the timing and circumstances of the punishment. For example, boys were taken out of their beds to be punished, or the punishment would be deliberately delayed to cause anguish about what was to come.


The Investigation Committee was struck by the number of witnesses who cited one particular long-serving Disciplinarian, Br Cretien, as being strict but fair. As Disciplinarian, he had to administer corporal punishment frequently, but the witnesses were almost unanimous in saying he used it only when it was deserved and it was never excessively severe.


In contrast, there were many complaints about Brothers who used corporal punishment unfairly. One witness, who was in Artane in the 1940s, was accused of stealing when in fact he had just performed an act of kindness. The complainant used to deliver potatoes to the wife of a staff member, and she would give him a piece of bread and jam as a reward. On one of those occasions he was subjected to a beating by a number of Brothers who had become suspicious of his having the bread and jam. He said that was taken into Number 6 classroom and beaten. He told the Committee: I guarantee you if you were lifted by the locks enough times you will say you done everything. It doesn’t matter whether you done it or not, you will own up to everything. I owned up to everything bar eating the bread and jam. I didn’t realise that that’s what I was getting bet for. I never owned up to eating the bread and jam. I was lifted up and beat. I got no tea that day.


He said that every Brother who was there punched him: The old men were teaching the young men which was worse still when I think about it now. The old men that should have sense teaching the young men how to effect punishment.


Later, he said that he was positive that the Disciplinarian was the man who showed the other Brothers how to beat him. The strap was also used on this occasion: At that time I don’t think I should have been beat. That’s why I am so much hard against that. I don’t think that them men should have hit me that day for nothing at all.

Physical abuse


He could not forgive them for it. He was visibly upset when talking about this incident, and said that this resentment about the injustice of it all had hurt him all his life. Recalling another incident when he was sent to town and went to a shop without permission, he drew the distinction between deserved and undeserved punishment: I don’t forgive them men because I really do not forgive them because I really think that they beat me unnecessarily. Doing a good turn and they come and bash you ... I don’t think I should have been bashed up. I could have been bashed up for taking children to the bus and I might have been accepting it because I didn’t go in a straight line, I didn’t go from Artane back, I went to Woolworth’s instead. I know I was wrong there. I should have been bashed up for that. But I don’t accept being bashed up for the bread and jam.


Another witness, at the School from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, said: You don’t seem to understand, the place was built on terror, regular beatings were just accepted. What you’re hearing about is the bad ones, but we accepted as normal run of the mill from the minute you got up, that some time in that day you would get beaten. The last two out of the washroom got beaten. The last two out of the boot room got beaten. The last two down to the piss pots got beaten. Everything was timed and everyone that was last got beaten. We accepted that. We didn’t even regard that as cruelty. That was the way the regime was run.


Another witness, at Artane from the late 1940s to the early 1950s, was punished for trying to stop a Brother hitting his younger brother. He described the incident: [My younger brother] knew nothing, he was only 7, as you know, and I cannot exactly remember what he chastised him for but he started hitting him anyways so I said “leave him off, he is only a boy”. I was only a boy myself. He just laid off and he laid into me then. I just remember vaguely, that was my first impression of that particular Brother, you know.


Another former resident described how he was hit for bed-wetting: I used to wet the bed and try and hide it, try and make my bed dead quick. Then after a few days they used to come around the dorm and pull it back, probably because of the smell of piss. Then when they caught you, you just got a whack around the head, you know. You were told ... to take your sheets and put them up in the corner and when you came back at night you would pick them up.


A witness who was there a decade earlier insisted that, in his day, the bed-wetters were given the strap: They were called out of their beds, yes, while everybody was in their beds doing the things they were doing, reading. The sound box wasn’t on every night but it seems on these nights it would be off and he would call out, the teacher would call out the bed-wetters and they would have to line up and they had a strap, I seemed to think that the strap was about 14 to 15 inches long. It was about two inches wide and it was about half an inch to three quarters of an inch ... They had to hold their hand out and they would have to pull their sleeve up so there is no chance of the sleeve taking some of the pressure, so you would have to pull your sleeve up and you would have to hold your hand out and the rule was you didn’t pull your hand across, you didn’t pull your hand away ... If you pulled your hand away and the Brother got it on the knee, he would just hit you anywhere, the strap would land and you would have to roll yourself up into a ball to try and minimise the areas where this bloke could hit you. You would have it on the head and you would have it on your hands because your hands would be on your head. And used to have it on – he would wallop you on the back. Many times they would go into a bit of a frenzy while doing that. So you had to find the courage of not pulling your hand back and it did take a lot of courage to leave your hand there. The second rule was that you weren’t allowed to cry. They did not like boys crying. So when the strap landed on your arm, just about halfway up your arm, it would leave a mark on your arm and your hand would go numb. It was only when you got into bed that you could feel the life going back into your arm. It was difficult to be brave on those occasions.


A man described the beatings he received in the 1940s for writing with his left hand: I was born left-handed, and I learned to write at school left-handed and I was told that the devil was in me that’s why I was left-handed and they decided to stop me. They would come from behind, I wouldn’t know and they would come down with the side of a ruler or a cane on my hand to stop me using my left hand. They beat the devil out of me, that was the saying. I had to use my right hand to write. To this day I couldn’t cut a piece of bread with my right hand, I still do it with my left hand. I butter my bread with my left hand I can’t do it with my right hand. But I write with my right hand.

  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.