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Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Physical abuse


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.


In his letter to the Resident Manager, this TD outlined how the father of a boy in Tralee had made ‘rather startling allegations against your community which I am inclined to take with the greatest reserve and, indeed, disbelief’.


He went on to say that the father claimed that a strap had been put around his son’s neck and was ‘pulled tightly so that his neck “was in an awful condition”’. The father claimed two other boys saw the condition of his son’s neck and that one Brother put the boy’s head between his (the Brother’s) legs whilst another Brother held his hands behind his back and he was punished whilst in this position. The father also said the boy had a black eye when he came home from the School. A copy of this letter was also sent to the Secretary of the Department.


Br Millard had been appointed as Resident Manager as successor to Br Sinclair. He only lasted a number of weeks in that position, and was recorded as having resigned ‘due to ill-health’, days before the incident with the boy.


The appointment of his successor, Br Roy, as Superior dated from four days before William absconded. Br Millard had been Superior for a total of 18 days. Although the letter was addressed to the Resident Manager, who by then was Br Roy, it was Br Millard, the perpetrator of the alleged abuse, who dealt with the matter. He wrote: Dear [TD], Unfortunately Br Sinclair, to whom you addressed your letters has been absent from St Joseph’s since the beginning of the month. As Brother-in-Charge when the incidents mentioned by you were supposed to have taken place, I take the liberty of replying in his stead. It alleged by [William’s father], that his son received excessive punishment, in fact what could be termed brutal punishment, from certain members of the Staff, when he was returned to the School after absconding on the morning of the 10th of this month. I categorically denigh this charge because it was I personally, who took him into custody from the Gardaí at mid-night on the same day on which he absconded. It was I also who administered the punishment which was meted out to him on that occasion, in the presence of another Brother who happened to be with me at the time. It is true, I used a leather strap as the instrument of correction. I used it on his bottom because I maintain that that is where nature intended it should be used in such circumstances. There is no ... question of the strap having been put round his neck or anywhere near his neck for that matter. I might add here, that since the arrival of your letters, I have examined the boy’s neck and can find not the slightest sign of any mark or bruise which would indicate that he suffered the treatment that he complained about. Neither have I any knowledge of the black eye he is supposed to have received. One would imagine, that following such alleged treatment, the boy would be slow to take to the roads again. Still, on the 18th inst., he and a companion again made off and this time persuaded another lad to join them. Believe me, Sir, that is not the normal behaviour of a boy who had been excessively punished for previous misdemeanours ... ... Since his coming here he has absconded on five separate occasions ... Since this last episode, they took to the roads once more. It was on this occasion that they succeeded in reaching Cork and painting the picture of excessive punishment and of brutal treatment in which we are ... supposed to have indulged. Just half an hour before the arrival of your letter on yesterday morning, I received a ’phone call from Inspector ... of [town] seeking advice as to the advisability of having young William committed to Daingean on account of his persistent thieving and general misconduct. I advised against it because of his age and asked the Inspector to do everything in his power to keep the case out of the Court for the lad’s sake. In view of the cruel allegations brought against us by his father, I am beginning to wonder if I acted wisely in asking the Inspector to be lenient with the offender. Maybe I should have allowed the law to take its course. I fully appreciate your position in this matter and hope the above account will help to clarify a nasty situation.


The letter turned around the allegation that the Brother had excessively punished the boy, by arguing that he had in fact been too ‘lenient with the offender’. It also justified Br Millard replying to the criticism by saying that he was ‘the Brother-in-Charge’ at the time of the incident. The Congregation records showed that this was not the case.


The TD sent the same letter of complaint to the Department of Education, and it was replied to with an undertaking to look into the matter.


Seven weeks later, the Department wrote to the TD as follows: Dear Deputy ... I refer again to your representations regarding William ... who is detained in St. Joseph’s School, Tralee. The Matter has in the meantime been investigated by an inspector of my Department, who interviewed Br [Millard] who inflicted the punishment and Br ... who witnessed it and also young William himself. The inspector’s investigation has established that the facts of the case are substantially as stated in Br Millard’s reply ... to you and that account was confirmed by young William and his companion in absconding, who bear no resentment to the Brothers for their treatment.


No documents, such as interview notes relating to the investigation conducted by the Department Inspector, were discovered to the Committee. Notwithstanding the fact that the punishment meted out was clearly in contravention of the Department’s own rules (in that it was not punishment on the hand but on the buttocks), there was no evidence of any action being taken against the school for breaking these rules and regulations.


Although the Department of Education addressed this incident in its Phase III Submission, it did not clarify the nature of the investigation that resulted in the exoneration of the Brother.


It was accepted by Br Seamus Nolan during the Phase III hearing that the punishment meted out to this boy was an impermissible punishment. He did, however, point out that it was partly within the rule, insofar as the punishment was administered in the presence of a witness.

  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.