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Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Physical abuse


The first of these letters was written in the mid-1930s. Br Jules was sent a letter congratulating him on being admitted to perpetual vows. The letter also stated: You incline to the harsh side in school both in language and in inflicting bodily pain. Pupils hate sarcasm and they have a keen sense of what is just and fair in punishment. If you would secure respect for yourself and for your teaching be kind and just towards your pupils. It is said you are a poor student yourself. Perhaps it is due to your failure to make preparation for your work as a teacher that your pupils are made to suffer doubly.


This letter was sent to Br Jules whilst he was in Artane. He had previously worked in Tralee for a number of years, where his behaviour had also come to the attention of the Provincial and a Visitor.10


While in Tralee, Br Jules wrote to the Provincial in response to an inquiry made relating to ‘a special physical training’ given to a boy whose ‘bodily structure’ was ‘abnormal’. The Brother explained that the Industrial School Inspector had advised him to give the boy in question special physical training. The boy failed to perform the exercise on this occasion, though formerly he had been capable of doing so. He went on to say in the letter to the Provincial: Appealing to him several times I found that there was no improvement whatsoever. Not understanding what was wrong with the boy I gave him a few slaps whilst he was in this bent position (about four slaps). After this punishment I again asked him to perform the exercise. He then started to cry and said it hurt him to bend as his back was sore. On further inquiry he told me that he had been beaten on the back by the teacher, and that he got a kick from one of the boys whilst at play. He received this injury on the hip. Had I known that this boy was suffering in this way I would have not asked him to perform this drill exercise much less punish him.


Less than a month later, the Visitor commented on Br Jules’s methods of discipline: Br Jules has his boys in a state of terror. He maintains a harsh, unnatural discipline. His boys show this. At times he has been very severe and has treated individual boys in a cruel manner ... Were it not for the occasional outbreaks of severity on the part of Br Jules and his general harsh manner in dealing with them, the school would hold a high place amongst our Institutions.


This Brother had been due to take his perpetual vows that year but was rejected. The following year, it was noted that he had been ‘too exacting in school’. He showed ‘little devotedness to study’ and was ‘troublesome, crossgrained’. It was concluded that he ‘has not had good record – doubtful candidate’. He was, however, ultimately allowed to take his vows a year later.


Br Jules moved from Tralee to Artane, where he stayed for over 15 years. He later worked as Resident Manager in Glin in the 1950s. Br Jules is considered in the reports on Artane and Glin. His tenure in Glin as Resident Manager was marked by a less harsh disciplinary regime than had previously been in place. Documented cases of physical abuse: Br Sebastien


In a letter to Br Sebastien written in the late 1930s, confirming that he had been admitted to perpetual vows, there was a reference to ‘two rather serious faults’. One was his ‘severity to the boys’, which was described as ‘indefensible’ and ‘in every way against the canons of the teaching profession’. It went on to state that ‘Punishment in a moderate way is allowed; but severity is altogether to be avoided. It injures the boy’s feelings and never produces real improvement’.


This Brother worked in Artane in the 1930s and in Salthill in the early 1940s, followed by Tralee for two years. He did not teach in any industrial schools after leaving Tralee. He did, however, continue to teach in day schools until the late 1960s. Documented cases of physical abuse: Br Beaufort


A letter, written in the late 1930s, confirming to Br Beaufort his admission to perpetual vows, warned him about his temper: A still more dangerous weakness in you was mentioned in the suffrages. You are passionate in your dealings with the boys. In fact at times you show so little control of your temper that you are in danger of inflicting serious bodily harm on the boys by your manner of correcting them. Watch yourself and pray to God to give you some of His meekness and forbearance. Never punish a boy in any way except what is permitted by Rule. Forgive easily the small failings of your pupils and in this way more good will be done than by harsh treatment.


This Brother was in Tralee from the mid to late 1930s, having previously worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s. One Visitation Report during that time made the following reference to him: The main defect in Br Beaufort is his violent temper which on some occasions vented itself on the boys, but he is sorry afterwards and I am satisfied that he is on his guard against this defect and is striving to correct it.


The letter warning Br Beaufort about his temper was sent to him less than three months later. Notwithstanding that warning, his temper was again mentioned by the Visitor less than six months later. The Visitor referred to him as having at times ‘an uncontrolled temper’. The Visitor also noted that both he and Br Eriq (mentioned above) had been warned of the ‘possible evil consequences to the reputation of the school and to themselves personally’. Both had expressed regret about their behaviour.


Br Beaufort moved to Artane after leaving Tralee. He stayed there for 15 years, and the Committee heard complaints from ex-pupils of Artane about severe and abusive physical punishment by him. Documented cases of physical abuse: Br Millard


In the late 1930s, in a letter to Br Millard confirming admission to his sixth annual vows, there was reference to his being ‘unduly severe’ with his pupils: You are most devoted in school, but unduly severe with your pupils. You give them too much home-work and this necessitates much punishment when it is not completely done next day. The slapping starts, so it is stated, very early in the morning and often the time for recreation due to the boys is curtailed. Now, we ought to practice moderation in all things and not allow the great virtue of zeal to degenerate into a fault by overdoing our duty. I appeal to your own good sense to remedy what is complained of. With God’s help you can do it.


Br Millard worked in Glin in the 1960s and returned to Tralee for the last few years of its existence as an industrial school. During this time in Tralee, he responded to a complaint made by a TD in relation to punishment meted out by him to a boy.


In the late 1960s a boy, William,11 absconded from Tralee, and was apprehended and severely punished by Br Millard. He informed his parents who complained to their local TD, who in turn wrote to the school and the Department of Education.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter, Vol. IV.
  2. The Visitation Report for February 1960 records the total number in the primary school as being 119 and the Visitation Report for May 1961 gave the total number of boys in Tralee as 130, with 107 boys on the roll in the primary school.
  3. The 1969 Visitation Report refers to 35 boys being still in the School, and the Opening Statement says that by 30th June 1970, the School had closed.
  4. Prior to leaving, the Visitor gave the Resident Manager directions as to certain matters that should be attended to without delay including cleaning the entrance path and flowerbeds, employing a woman to take over the care of the laundry, teaching the boys table manners and providing them with washing facilities before dinner and tea time. These were reiterated in a follow-up letter to the Resident Manager, without the reference to the paths and flowerbeds.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. He said that he thought it was probably another Brother (Br Cheney, the Principal at that time) who made the decision that he was to be kept away from the dormitories but he ‘would totally agree with that’.
  7. ‘Strong hand’ in Irish.
  8. The two Brothers referred to were Br Mahieu and Br Cheney.
  9. The letters to Br Sebastien, Br Millard and Br Beaufort mentioned below.
  10. He had also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. The school annals note that the Brother resigned from the post due to ill-health.
  13. One of the others was Br Rayce. The complainant did not know who the third one was.
  14. Br Aribert accepted that this was a fair summary of Br Lafayette.
  15. Brs Archard and Kalle.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. ‘Senility’ was subsequently changed to ‘septicaemia’.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. He confirmed also that it was not the general rule that you would be punished if you failed in your homework or schoolwork at class.
  20. Professor Tom Dunne, ‘Seven Years in the Brothers’ Dublin Review (Spring 2002).
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This Brother worked in Tralee from the mid-1960s to 1970.
  23. There were three Resident Managers during Br Lisle’s time in Tralee: Brs Sinclair, Millard and Roy.
  24. Br Sinclair was Resident Manager for a period of six years in the 1960s.
  25. Question Time was a radio programme
  26. The annals refer to ‘this tax’ ceasing to be paid when Br Dareau came as Resident Manager.
  27. This is borne out by the Department Inspector’s Reports, which until 1950 categorised the food and diet as ‘satisfactory’. The 1953 Report said that food and diet was ‘much improved’ and, from then on, was always described by this inspector as very good.
  28. A later Visitation Report noted that there was no evidence of the pilfering of food that had taken place before this Brother arrived in Tralee.
  29. The 1940s Visitation Reports only commented on the standard of the boys’ clothing in 1940, 1941 and 1943, and then only in positive terms.
  30. ‘The School has improved out of all recognition’ and ‘excellent manager’.
  31. This complainant was in Tralee from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.
  32. One complainant told the Committee about how the boys had to creosote the floor in hot weather, and without any gloves or goggles. ‘It was a very nasty job because it would get into your eyes and all over your hands and everywhere else’.
  33. There was a profit of £98 mentioned in the 1937 Visitation Report, and a profit of approximately £395 mentioned in the 1953 Visitation Report.
  34. According to the Opening Statement, the main recreational facilities were the hall, schoolyard, football playing pitch and the band room. When the primary school closed, the classrooms were converted into sitting rooms, with TV etc.
  35. The 1949 annals referred to Mr Sugrue, the Department’s Inspector, having made his first visit to the School and having spoken freely to staff and boys.
  36. This Brother to whom the shotgun was taken was the Brother who had the long history of physically abusing boys and spent two separate periods in Tralee.
  37. He also said this of Br Toussnint and of a lay teacher.
  38. St Helen’s was in Booterstown.
  39. 67 in 1945, 70 in 1946, 90 in 1947, 90 in 1949, and 45 in 1952. In 1960, the annals note that families were willing to take boys for three to four weeks, but there was no evidence of this actually happening that year. 68 boys went on home leave in 1968.