Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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Physical abuse


One witness described a punishment chosen to fit the crime. The witness was in Artane from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, and he described one incident: I was given my own suit, as I say. The very first Sunday I was there, that was the first time I wore it because that was when we wore our best suits. During the Mass I had terrible runs. I ran down the passageway to the door and Br Cretien blocked my way. He said “You can’t go. The host is exposed”. I had to wait until the Host was put away and then I made a beeline. The latrines were a good 100 yards from where the chapel was. I never made it and I soiled my pants. In those days, in 1945, they didn’t have flush lavatories. It was a box with a bucket underneath. The paper was newspapers cut up. I done my best to clean my pants. We didn’t have underpants in those days, we had lined trousers. I did my best to clean myself and wipe it but I stunk. After breakfast when I went to the dormitory I had to report to Br Boyce he was in charge of dormitory five then ... Everybody was busy doing their scrubbing and he told me to take my clothes off. They never had hot water in Artane, the cold tap was put on, I stood in it naked and he got the lads who had the big long scrubbers to scrub me. They weren’t very strong and he didn’t think they were doing a bloody good job anyway. He got the hand scrubber and he said, “I will show you”. (Indicating) He scrubbed all my buttocks and legs down. I was red raw after it. He threw me out. I had to dress there and then. No drying off or anything. That was my only experience with Br Boyce.


Witnesses described having to wait before the corporal punishment was administered. Some were taken out of their beds at night to be punished. Boys sent to the Disciplinarian had to wait facing the wall until he was ready to deal with them, which led to an increase in anxiety about what was to come.


Bed-wetters were often the victims of delayed punishment. A boy who was there in the 1950s described the procedure: [If you wet the bed] the next day you might have to – it depends on what Brother would be on – strip down your bed. You would try and hide it but if you couldn’t hide it then the next night you would have to face the wall up in the dormitory.


Facing the wall meant having to stand in the dormitory, wearing only a nightshirt, when the other boys had gone to bed. Boys remained facing the wall for one or two hours before being allowed to get into bed.

Physical abuse


Some complainants described how the pain of corporal punishment could be intensified through techniques of delivering the blow, or simply through failure to take account of the physical condition of the boy. A resident in the 1940s complained: When beatings were applied, whether by a leather or strap, no account was taken of whether you had chilblains or you didn’t. You just got it and you took it and who were you to complain to, there was no one to complain to.


A former resident from the same period explained: Another Brother, if you are talking or doing other things in the dormitory that you weren’t supposed to be doing, he would make you go in to the washroom and put your hand into very cold water, because there was no hot water in Artane, and he would make you put your hand in the cold water for about ten [minutes] to quarter of an hour. Then he would call you out and while your hands were still wet, he used to make you put your hand, palm upwards, on the iron bedstead and he had a foot ruler and he used to slice the top of your fingers. It was only afterwards when the blood returned to your hand that you actually got the pain that was involved. Speaking here, it doesn’t seem to imply that being hit at the top of your fingers was a great punishment but it certainly was. The pain afterwards was more than the actual striking of the fingers.


Another technique was to get the boy to hold his hand over a hard object; the same witness explained the procedure: There was one teacher, and if he needed to smack you with the strap, would make you hold your hand possibly about an inch or two away from the desk and then he would smack you with this strap ... and when they walloped you on the front of the hand, your hand came down on the desk, so you got it on the front and the back of the hand.


Another witness, there in the 1950s, described a similar procedure. He said, ‘You would put your hands out and if he missed he would make you put your hands on the wall ... so you couldn’t pull your hand back’.


A resident from the late 1940s described how a teacher would punish boys who got something wrong: If you didn’t get something right in class, if he asked me a question or whatever it was and I can’t remember what it was, if I didn’t get it right, he would come along and he would take your ear. He said “this part of your ear is no good, it won’t do any harm”. He pierced the side of my ear with his nail and dragged you to the board to write the correct answer on the board whatever it was that you got wrong. He would escort you back the same way. You would have to pray that you didn’t get something wrong the next day because although your ear was sore with a scab on it he would still do the same thing with the same ear.


He then added, ‘Outside of that he never used the cane. I never saw him raise the cane to anyone’.


One of the functions of the rules and regulations for corporal punishment was to ensure that chastisement was carried out only for serious offences, so that the punisher knew how and when to punish and the wrongdoer knew what to expect. One effect of these other forms of punishment was to remove predictability about physical punishment. Uncertainty about what was going to happen next contributed to the climate of fear described by many of the complainants.


Some witnesses complained that the punishments they received sometimes resulted in serious injury. A former resident from the 1940s described an incident on the playing fields: [The Brother] was, I would say in his time, a great hurler. He always carried a hurley with him no matter where he went. When I was on the hurling team, when I was fighting to get on it, I was put in goal and I was dropped and he then said, “I will teach you to be a good goalkeeper”. He beat – he hit balls at me, I am not sure you know how hard a hurley ball is. He hit hurley balls at me one after the other. One of them hit me on the eye and my eye came up (indicating) really, really large. He apologised. The other balls that hit me on the body and head quite badly. He was the one in actual fact who hit me on the knees ... with the hurley. A day later my knees came up like balloons ... It was deliberate because I wasn’t doing what he wanted me to do. I wasn’t being a good enough goalkeeper. I wasn’t stopping enough balls properly ... The next day my knees came up like balloons. I couldn’t walk and I was taken down to the infirmary. There was a lady looked after me. I never saw a doctor all the time I was there. I don’t know how long I was there, I can’t remember to be honest with you, he came to visit me when I was there ... I was in a while but I can’t remember how long.


In their Opening Statement given before the public hearing, the Christian Brothers outlined the rules, regulations and guidelines that governed the use of corporal punishment in industrial and in national schools. They also give an outline gleaned from internal documents of the policy of the Congregation in relation to corporal punishment. A more detailed analysis of the rules, regulations and policy documents of the Congregation are discussed in the Christian Brother General Chapter.


These regulations setting the acceptable standards of the day were often broken. Moreover, the Brothers often broke the two main provisions about corporal punishment in the Christian Brothers Acts of Chapter, namely that proper comportment, gravity and propriety should be observed in administering corporal punishment, and that the only form of corporal punishment authorised should be a leather strap on the palm of the hand.


Most of the witnesses did not complain of being punished if they had done wrong and deserved chastisement. Their main objections were to unjust, capricious punishments or excessive punishments that were administered without ‘proper comportment, gravity and propriety’, or where the experience was either cruel or humiliating.

  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.