Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

Show Contents



In 1959, the Provincial wrote to the acting Manager and told him that he had visited the Resident Manager who was convalescing, and complained to him about the small quantities of porridge which the boys were provided with, and the fact that the boys had three meatless days in a week. Br Ruffe told the Provincial that he believed it to be only two days a week without meat. The Provincial asked Br Malleville, who was Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, to inquire into this discreetly and discover whether the boys had been having three dinners of bread and tea over a long period. He also said that the issue of the meat was one that required an immediate remedy. This internal inquiry found that the boys received meat every day, and the only days they would not have meat was during Easter and fasting days.


Br Malleville’s word appears to have been taken and no further enquiries were made about the extremely serious situation described by the Visitor.


The 1959 Visitation Report that criticised the boys’ food said of the Brothers’ diet: The Brothers food is very well cooked and neatly served. It is also ample. The Brothers were all very satisfied.


In that same year a complaint was received from a parent about the quality of food and clothing in Letterfrack. A letter was sent on 5th August 1959 from a TD to the Minister for Education describing how the woman’s son was one of five boys who had absconded from Letterfrack, broken into two other schools and stolen food from one of them. The boys were recaptured, charged and sent to Daingean. The mother said the boys complained about the food they were getting in Letterfrack. The Resident Manager was written to on 20th August and he responded on 25th August 1959: The food supplied to the boys in the school is always plentiful, fresh and wholesome; [The boy’s mother] visited the school on a number of occasions while her son was here and made no complaints ... Dr McCabe visits the school, unannounced, periodically and she always sees the boys at their meals and she has never made any complaint about the food served. The boys’ menu is:– Breakfast: Porridge or luncheon roll, tea, bread and butter or margarine Eggs one morning each week. Lunch: Tea, Bread and Jam Dinner: Fresh beef or mutton, potatoes vegetables (cabbage, turnip, parsnips, carrots,) soup and dessert (3 times weekly) Tea: Tea , bread and butter or margarine With regard to butter and margarine the boys have their choice. At tea also the boys have sausages (fresh) twice a week.


Dr McCabe was in complete agreement with the Resident Manager that the food was ‘plentiful, fresh and wholesome’ and, in a handwritten note to the Inspector, she stated that she did not agree with the statement made by the mother about the food served.


Also in 1959, an Englishman visited the School and noticed that the boys were playing football in their bare feet. This gave rise to a critical article in a Sunday newspaper, which identified inadequate funding of industrial schools as an issue of some concern. Representatives of the Congregation met with Department officials who were anxious to refute the article. The Christian Brothers sent a letter to the paper, explaining the lack of footwear as being due to an exceptionally hot day and stating that ordinarily boys wore boots or sandals.


The Congregation did not avail themselves of the public interest in the matter to confirm their own view that industrial schools were inadequately funded but rather went to some trouble to support the Department of Education’s contention that funding was adequate.


The Department received another complaint in August 1959. (Details of this complaint are dealt with above in connection with food as the main complaint related to food.) The mother concerned also complained, inter alia, about the clothing supplied to the boys. The Resident Manager responded to that portion of the complaint in the following terms: The boys’ clothes are kept clean as far as is humanly possible. The boys’ day shirts, singlets and trunks are washed weekly and inspected in the dormitory each morning. Clothing for the year 1958 totalled £1,235 – 17 – 4, which gives an average of over £12 per boy for the year.


Again, the Congregation defended the clothing provided instead of taking the opportunity to further advance their case for increased funding.


In 1961, the Congregation Visitor noted that the boys’ food had improved markedly of late and that it was now ‘well up to the standard of similar Institutions’. The Congregation Visitor noted that a good variety was served and that the boys were better fed than in the past. He also noted in the Visitation letter that there would be greater variety when the funding improved.


Later in the year the Department Inspector noted that the boys’ food had improved, stating that better cooking facilities were now in place. She made a general observation that the boys were well cared for, despite the adverse conditions. The Brothers were doing their best in very difficult circumstances and in very primitive conditions. There were 111 boys in the Institution at this time.


Throughout the 1960s, the report about food continued to record that the food had improved in Letterfrack.


The Interdepartmental Committee on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders visited Letterfrack in December 1962. Rather surprisingly, the Working Party did not see a meal being served but was prepared to accept the Resident Manager’s word that the food was good.


The Committee Secretary described the clothes and footwear provided as sufficient, although he criticised the absence of overcoats for the boys, which he saw as a serious deficiency. However, the Committee accepted that additional income would be necessary if adequate clothing and footwear were to be provided.


Following the Committee’s visit the Resident Manager wrote to Mr McDevitt in the Department of Education on 31st December 1962, saying that a new oven had been purchased and that ‘I have already purchased about 50 tweed and gabardine overcoats for the boys and I hope to have one for each boy in the very near future’.

  1. Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  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. See also the Tralee chapter.
  13. This is a pseudonym
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym
  24. This is a pseudonym
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  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. See table at paragraph 3.20 .
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.
  36. This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.
  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. This is a pseudonym.
  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. Electricity Supply Board.
  59. See table at paragraph 8.21 .
  60. This is a pseudonym
  61. Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.
  62. This is a pseudonym.
  63. This is a pseudonym.
  64. This is a pseudonym.
  65. Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.