Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 9 — Tralee

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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


Some complainants who gave evidence to the Committee said that the food in Tralee was very bad, both in terms of quality and quantity. The 1940s was a period of food shortages everywhere, and Tralee would have had some difficulty in meeting all the dietary requirements of the boys, although it had the advantage of a farm that could have provided fresh vegetables and meat, and it had a bakery that provided all the bread consumed by the boys.


In this regard, the Resident Manager’s comments in the early 1950s regarding dealings on the farm and the disposal of produce were of particular interest. The Resident Manager 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 underfed, and were denied vegetables whilst at the same time vegetables were on sale in the market and shops. According to the annals, the Medical Officer had noted that the vegetables were obtainable in town but the boys could not get any. The level of deprivation emerged in the evidence heard by the Committee: two of the boys who were in the school in the 1940s spoke of taking food prepared for the pigs.


As was confirmed by one complainant, the situation improved in the mid-1950s with the appointment of a new Brother to the kitchens, Br Lafayette, and the Visitors and Department of Education Inspector were generally satisfied with the quantity of food provided.27 As the Committee has seen in other institutions, the Inspector who visited industrial schools in the 1940s and 1950s was not slow to criticise the diet if she felt that the food was inadequate. Similarly, the Visitation Reports have also commented on inadequate food when they found standards were low. For example, the 1953 Visitation Report recorded complaints by Br Kalle and Br Montaine that the boys were not getting enough to eat. The Resident Manager denied this was so.


Br Lisle, who was in charge of the kitchen in the mid to late 1960s, told the Committee that he did not get a budget for the kitchen, and he had to make the best of what he got. He did not order what came in, but instead he cooked whatever food was there.


The lack of proper cooking facilities was criticised in the 1940s and into the 1950s. In the mid-1950s the Visitor referred to the kitchen Brother succeeding in feeding the boys ‘very well’ despite ‘wretchedly poor facilities in his kitchen’.28


It was not until 1957 that the Visitor recorded any improvement. Even after that date, the dining room and kitchen equipment were identified as inadequate.


Complainants who appeared before the Committee spoke of eating food from the farm to stave off hunger. This was alleged by former residents who were in the Institution throughout the period under investigation.


Two witnesses said the food that they got during Christmas was good. Physical care: the boys’ clothing


The state of the boys’ clothing varied greatly between 1940 and 1970. The poor quality of clothing was criticised by the Department of Education Inspector throughout most of the 1940s.29


It was not until 1954 that the Inspector described the standard of clothing as ‘v. good’. She noted that the quality had improved and that there were no patches. That year the Visitor reported that the boys were ‘especially well clothed’ and ‘appeared neat, tidy and clean’.

  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.