Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 9 — Tralee

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In 1870, the parish priest, Dean Mawe, asked the Superior at that time, Br Vincent Hayes, to open an industrial school in Tralee, and it was decided to build it on the site of the existing national school. To make way for the industrial school pupils, the two classes from the day school were transferred to the Christian Brothers’ School in Edward Street, Tralee. A building programme, part-funded by public contribution, was then undertaken to provide additional accommodation. A further 34 acres of land were acquired, and the School was subsequently certified for 100 pupils.


Within a year, in March 1871, that number had been increased to an accommodation limit of 150 and a certified limit of 145. A series of land acquisitions throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, culminating in the purchase of 16 acres in 1951, increased the size of the land available to 76 acres. A Visitation Report for 1970 recorded that, of the total 76 acres, 9 acres were Diocesan property and the remaining 67 were Congregation property. The buildings stood on the Diocesan property. The property was sold by the Christian Brothers to the Urban Council for what it was hoped was a ‘realistic price’, apart from 15 acres which were retained as playing pitches for the Green Secondary School.


The Investigation Committee obtained discovery of documents from the Christian Brothers, the Department of Education and Science, the Archdiocese of Kerry, An Garda Síochána, and the Health Service Executive (Southern Area). In addition, former members of staff and former residents furnished documentation and statements.


In preparation for the hearings, the Committee sent letters to 42 former residents listed on its database as having been resident in Tralee and wishing to proceed with their complaint as of September 2005. Of those, seven confirmed that they were not proceeding with their complaint, and replies were not received from a further 14 former residents.


The Investigation Committee heard evidence in three phases. In Phase I, which took place in public in January 2006, the Congregation of Christian Brothers outlined their submissions in respect of St Joseph’s, Tralee. In Phase II, the Committee heard the evidence of 15 former residents and eight former members of staff. 21 complainants were listed for hearing, of whom six did not attend. The 15 hearings took place in private over five weeks. In Phase III, in May 2006, the Congregation gave its response to the evidence heard in the second phase. The Congregation furnished a final written Submission to the Committee in March 2007.


The Committee has received the following photograph of Tralee: Source: Congregation of Christian Brothers


During the years 1940 to 1969, the numbers in the School varied between a high of 152 in 1942 and a low of 35 in late 1969 when the School was closing. In 1968, the School had 94 pupils enrolled.


In 1944, in response to a request by the Department of Justice (via the Department of Education), the Resident Manager followed up an earlier request of 1941 by writing to the Department of Education confirming his willingness to have the school registered as a place of detention for youthful offenders. He agreed to accept eight boys without an increase in certification, and the Department subsequently confirmed this.


The problem of falling numbers remained and, as early as 1955, the Visitor discussed the uncertain future of industrial schools such as Tralee. The follow-up letter to the Visitation Report noted that the boys’ apartments needed a ‘bit of a clean up’, but added that it was hard to ‘forecast the future for such schools’.


The decrease in the numbers of children being committed to industrial schools was referred to in what appears to be an addendum to the 1961 Visitation Report: The numbers in St. Joseph’s, Tralee, are at present quite adequate for the economic running of the establishment. This is due to [the Resident Manager], it is said, who secured some thirty pupils from St. Philomena’s Home Stillorgan for Tralee when that school closed down last year ... Both Glin and Tralee it seems, depend chiefly now on the junior Industrial School in Killarney for their supply. Local Councils and Boards of Assistance send a small number of cases each year. The number of children committed to these schools by the District Justices is said to be declining. Both District Justice in the Limerick and Kerry area are said to be antagonistic towards Industrial School education. Fosterage, boarding-out and adoption are now considered preferable as the children are not segregated from society and it is said that pupils from Industrial Schools find it difficult to adjust themselves to ordinary life. Neither Superior would agree that this is the case and they have statistics to prove it. Both Superiors are of the opinion that heavy financial loss will be sustained if an amalgamation scheme is not prepared and effected at the beginning of the school year 1962–63 ... Unless there is a change of policy on the part of District Justices and social workers it seems that the future of our Industrial Schools is rather uncertain.


The Resident Manager expressed his concern about the falling numbers to the Department of Education Inspector, Dr Anna McCabe1, who noted the matter in her reports for 1960, 1961 and 1962.2


A meeting was held by the Department on 28th September 1965, attended by representatives from the Rosminian Order that ran the industrial schools at Upton and Ferryhouse, as well as the Provincials of both the St Helen’s and St Mary’s Provinces of the Christian Brothers. The Minister made the position clear: the accommodation available in the schools was greater than the number of pupils and he wished to know whether the representatives would agree in principle to close some of the schools and thereby utilise the others more fully.


The Minister ‘suggested tentatively’ that Ferryhouse, Tralee, Salthill and Glin should be closed. The two Christian Brother Provincials agreed to the closure of Glin and Tralee, but no clear decision was made. The debate continued until 1966, when it was agreed that Upton and Glin would be closed, and Tralee kept open. In August 1966, the Minister signed Orders directing that 10 boys be transferred from Upton and 28 boys be transferred from Glin to Tralee. In fact, Tralee only stayed open for another three to four years after that, the last group of boys having left by 30th June 1970.3


Notwithstanding the temporary increase in numbers brought about by these transfers, the numbers continued to fall. The Kennedy Committee had been established and it was widely anticipated that it would recommend a gradual closure of industrial schools. A decision was made by the Provincial Council of St Helen’s Province, to which Tralee belonged, that there would be no further admissions from August 1968 and that Tralee would close in 1969.


According to the Opening Statement of the Congregation, between 1940 and 1969 the courts committed 700 boys to Tralee. Between 1948 and 1967, a further 122 boys were referred to Tralee by the Boards of Health. Of those, approximately two-thirds came from Dublin. A third ‘minimal’ category of boys was those who were placed in the Institution on a voluntary basis and they were known as ‘voluntaries’.

  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.