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Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Sexual Abuse


The first of these Brothers, Br Aribert, said that there was only one case while he was there of a boy complaining of being sexually abused by another boy. He said that it was dealt with, but did not give any further details. Br Bevis recalled an occasion when a boy was punished by two Brothers for abusing a younger boy.


The other respondent witnesses claimed to have never encountered peer abuse. This included Br Boyce, who acknowledged that the boys were very clever and he would not know if it was going on. He also said that no boy ever told him he was being bullied or preyed on. He also said that, if you thought it was happening and asked a boy, ‘he wouldn’t tell you anyway’ because the ‘others would give out to him’. Br Chapin said that, although he was aware of the possibility of sexual activity among the boys, he never came across it. He said that the Brothers were warned to keep an eye out for ‘bullying and for anything else’. He disagreed that there was an obsession in uncovering that kind of activity in Tralee. Another respondent, Br Lisle, was not aware of sexual activity between the boys.


An inadequate and indifferent regime of supervision allowed older boys to prey on younger boys . Bullying and intimidation occurred unchecked, which was frightening and demoralising, especially for younger children who did not feel the Brothers would protect them. The evidence of a boy being beaten by a Brother, in order to get names of other boys involved in sexual activity, describes a practice in Tralee that was common to other Christian Brother institutions. It resulted in unreliable information being given under duress, and often initiated a cycle of further beatings and revelations.



The Congregation acknowledged that the emotional needs of children in its care were not properly provided for. The reason for this failure was, it was claimed, a lack of awareness of what these emotional needs were, rather than any deliberate policy on the part of the Congregation to ignore them. In the General Chapter on the Christian Brothers, the position of the Congregation on the issue of emotional and physical care is outlined.


Physical care and education, they claimed, were the main concern. The question remains whether the quality of ‘physical care’ in Tralee was of the required standard for the time. Physical care: financial matters Payment of monies to St Mary’s, Tralee


In the 1940 Visitation Report, the Visitor noted that, when the St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Communities in Tralee were separated, it was arranged that St Joseph’s should contribute £600 per annum to St Mary’s ‘to help towards liquidating the debt on the new Secondary School’. It was noted that this sum had been paid regularly up to 1938 but, as of 14th January 1940, it had not been paid for 1939.26


An undated document stated that the accounts of St Mary’s and St Joseph’s were to be separated on 1st July 1932, and that a separate account was opened on 11th August 1932 for St. Joseph’s. This document also referred to various accounting matters and stated: In view of these uncertainties but chiefly in view of the fact that St. Joseph’s will have to pay £600 a year for the next ten years to lessen St. Mary’s debt it may be just to decide that St. Mary’s should forego any claim it may have for a refund of part of this sum of £802.


In 1940, there were 120 boys in Tralee. As of 4th January 1939, the capitation grant payable by the Department in respect of boys over six years of age to industrial schools was seven shillings and six pence. This amounted to a total of £19.10 .00 per child per annum. The sum of £600, therefore, amounted to the annual capitation grant for 25% of the school population.


The capitation grant was paid to these schools for the care and welfare of the children, not to fund private secondary schools for the Congregation. Siphoning off 25% of the school income for the benefit of the Congregation was wrong, particularly where conditions in Tralee were barely adequate. The Congregation did not address this issue in its Opening Statement or its Final Submission.


As early as 1935, there were references in the Visitation Reports and annals to money being paid into a building fund/Baldoyle extension fund. The annals for 1946 referred to the payment as follows: It is also arranged to give ... one shilling per week, per pupil towards the Building Fund to enable Managers of Industrial Schools to effect improvements in the establishments. This Grant will be a help. It is hoped that it may be increased later.


At least £13,600 was paid by the school into the Building Fund, including £2,000 as late as February 1966. It is not known how much of this sum or the rest of the monies in the Fund were used for the purposes of effecting improvements in Tralee or for the benefit of the pupils there.


The annals disclosed certain irregularities that took place on the farm in relation to the disposal of produce and the ‘irregular use’ of income, which occurred during a period of severe deprivation for the boys. The annals report that the farm ‘appears to have been run on the lines of a Limited Company – between the Brother-in-Charge thereof, [a local businessman and a workman] – but with the liability on the Monastery’.


The annals go on to report that: In November 1950, about half of the livestock, valued at about £1,000, housed on the farm, belonged to [a local business man and a workman], from whom only £566 was received for them. ‘When a beast was killed neither the cutlets nor the offals was cooked for the boys. These portions appear to have been taken by the butcher and the plates (of beef) or the boney inferior parts of another beast (presumably the butcher’s) substituted. Even the first fruits of the vegetable garden were sold or rather given free at the butchers (greengrocers) shop while the boys could not be supplied’. The income on the vegetables for the six months ending 31st December 1949 was almost £53. The income for the six months ending 31st December 1950 was £200, which was spent on potatoes, which should have been retained, making the real income ‘nil’. The income for the six months to 31st December 1951, immediately after the Superior Resident Manager took control, was over £700. Monies were recovered, following the threat of legal proceedings. About one-third of the money taken in the sale of vegetables went to the boys. The farmyard was a ‘semi-hucksters shop’ and the boys were unable to weigh the potatoes and ‘gave bargains for a “tip”’. This state of affairs was being continued under two farm Brothers, until the Superior was compelled to intervene and have the second Brother removed, the first having already sought a change ‘before the improper transactions were known’. The Superior felt that it was an understatement to say that hundreds of pounds were lost over a period of three to four years, and wondered whether it could be counted in thousands. He noted that the boys were under-fed and denied vegetables whilst, at the same time, vegetables were on sale in the market and shops. The medical officer had noted that the vegetables were obtainable in town, but the boys could not get any.


The Visitation Report for 1951 refers to a want of agreement on the question of running the farm. The Report noted: It would appear that Br Christien’s predecessor on the farm was allowed a great deal of freedom in the handling of money and in the buying and selling of stock etc. There also appeared to be a lot of uncontrolled selling of vegetables both by boys and employees on the farm nor was there any proper check on the man that brought vegetables to the market or delivered them to various customers in the town. There was undoubtedly great need for a tightening up of these matters.


At the Visitor’s suggestion, a procedure was agreed between the Resident Manager, the bursar and the farm Brother that would rectify these matters. This plan did not work out as well as anticipated, but the farm Brother’s removal enabled the Resident Manager and the bursar to get proper control of the farm finances. Physical care: food

  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.