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Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Sexual Abuse


Br Piperel taught in Tralee for a year in the late 1930s. He had been moved there from Letterfrack where he had been the subject of a serious complaint that he was sexually interfering with boys. At the time of the complaint, Br Piperel had been in Letterfrack for some eight years and he continued his career there for another four years. Thereafter, he served in other industrial schools for almost 10 years. The records contained complaints about the Brother’s work and attitude in these institutions, but did not record incidents of sexual impropriety.


The Christian Brothers have acknowledged that one Brother, Br Garon, ‘behaved in an inappropriate manner in the boys’ showers’.


Br Garon was almost 60 years old when he arrived in Tralee, where he worked for almost 20 years from the early 1950s.


Three witnesses recalled inappropriate behaviour on the part of Br Garon.


The first of these witnesses was in Tralee in the mid-1950s. He said that Br Garon regularly took a shower with the boys. He would wash them and get them to wash him including his private parts.


The second witness said that he was aware that this Brother had showers with the boys but he said it ‘didn’t interfere with me in any way’.


The third witness recalled washing Br Garon, who used to get into the showers with the small boys. The boys used to wash each other’s backs and Br Garon used to do the same. This went on for ‘a while’. He said that they thought it was ‘the norm’.


In a Garda statement responding to allegations made against him, Br Marceau acknowledged that Br Garon used to be in the showers with the boys. He said: On one occasion I had reason to look for Br Garon who was in the showers with the boys and he and the boys were naked. I was shocked and never approved of that.


A second Brother, Br Lisle,22 made a supplemental statement in January 2006 in relation to alleged sexual abuse by Br Garon. In it, he recalled that boys had made complaints to him about this Brother. The solicitors for the Christian Brothers informed the Committee in a letter dated 27th January 2006 of the information given to them by Br Lisle. The letter explained that, during the course of a meeting between Br Lisle and the Deputy Provincial of St Helen’s Province on 16th January 2006, Br Lisle disclosed that, when he was in Tralee, a number of boys had made ‘allegations of sexual impropriety’ against Br Garon, and that he had told the Resident Managers of these allegations at the time. The Committee was also advised that, insofar as the Deputy Provincial knew, this was the first time that the Brother had made these allegations.


In the statement made four days later, on 31st January, Br Lisle explained that about four or five boys between the ages of nine and 16 complained to him that they were reluctant to go for showers because Br Garon would ‘interfere with them while in the showers’. They said that Br Garon would shower them and request that they wash him also. Br Garon would be naked with them in the showers. The boys also told him that Br Garon would take a boy from the yard for an ‘individual shower’ every day.


Br Lisle went on to state that he had relayed the complaints to three Resident Managers,23 and he had assumed they had reported them to the ‘relevant people’. He now realised that that was not the case, and that was why he was bringing the matter to the Commission’s attention.


When giving evidence to the Committee, Br Lisle said that the allegations against Br Garon had not come as a great shock to him, as Br Garon himself used to take boys off the yard, telling him that he had to ‘bring this boy for a shower’.


When this happened, he reported it to Br Sinclair,24 the first of the three Resident Managers. His complaint was dismissed and he was told, ‘Oh don’t mind that man, sure, he was in China for years’. He could not remember the word used by the first boy when complaining to him, but he believed it was something like ‘fiddling’. He did not recall if he went to Br Sinclair with complaints more than once, but it is possible that he did, since several boys would be talking about it. His view at the time was that he had done enough by telling Br Sinclair because he would ‘let him look after it’. He did not go back to the boy to follow up on it. Br Garon, however, kept giving showers.


When that Resident Manager was replaced, Br Lisle reported the matter to his successor, Br Millard, who was only Resident Manager for a matter of weeks. He cannot remember what that Resident Manager said to him, but he accepted that he must not have been happy with his predecessor’s response. Br Lisle also told the Committee that he was with Br Millard on one occasion when a boy came up and said that Br Garon wanted him for a shower. He turned to Br Millard and told him that he thought there was more than just showering going on. It was crystal clear what was being alleged, but, according to Br Lisle, the boy probably still went for the shower. He said that his understanding was that the boys did not ‘like it and that they were trying to have it stopped, they didn’t want to be interfered with, as they said’. He thought Br Garon took these showers with the boys when they were taken from the yard, as opposed to during the normal Saturday night showers.


When the third Resident Manager, Br Roy, took over, Br Lisle again reported the boys’ complaints about Br Garon’s activity in the showers. He did not know if Br Roy did anything, but he now knows that the information did not go to ‘headquarters’.

  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.