Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 9 — Tralee

Show Contents



A new Resident Manager was appointed in the late 1930s, and the Visitor recorded a month after his appointment that: this school suffered in reputation with Govt Inspectors and with the public. The boys were badly clothed, the standard of cleanliness was low and the food especially the dinner of the boys was poor. The name of the Scho did not stand high in Tralee and district and this militated against the influx of boys to the school. The new Superior, Br Dareau has done wonders in the short time he is here to improve the clothing, food and training of the boys and to raise the standard of cleanliness.


The Department Inspector recorded in 1939 that a lot of improvements and redecoration were being done in the school and that it was in a ‘progressing state and promises to be very satisfactory’. The dormitories and refectory had been painted, and both appeared clean and well kept. She also recorded that the Resident Manager appeared to be ‘very capable and progressive’.


In 1941, the Visitor commented on the improvement. He stated that the Resident Manager had: done a great deal to improve the buildings. Every part of the establishment is now clean and orderly and in good repair. Plans are being prepared for reconstruction and alterations so as to provide a domestic chapel for the Community and School, a Sanitary annexe for the Community, and additional washing facilities and lavatories in the Boys’ dormitories.


During the 1940s, the reports of both the Department of Education Inspector and the Visitors found things largely satisfactory. Apart from the completion of a chapel in the early 1940s, no major construction work was carried out in Tralee, although renovations and maintenance were carried out from time to time. One Visitor described the basic premises, which had been constructed in 1859, as ‘naturally dark and cheerless’. The main building was a typical Victorian institutional structure.


Throughout the 1950s, improvements were made to the dormitories, the refectory, the chapel and the boys’ kitchen. The Resident Manager in the early 1950s, Br Sauville, was active in improving the buildings and facilities, and was praised by the Department’s Inspector for his efforts in this regard.30


By 1968, the Visitor had commented on the general neglect in the upkeep of the premises. The boys themselves were doing the general cleaning work under the supervision of a Brother, while workmen did the general maintenance work.


What might have been deemed adequate in the 1940s and 1950s was less so in the 1960s. The new Resident Manager in the early 1960s, Br Sinclair, was less competent than the man who had effected such improvement in the 1950s. Although the School continued to be described as well-run, basic facilities, in particular toilets and washrooms, were singled out for criticism.


From the 1960s, however, strong criticism was made of the condition of the schoolrooms. They were described as ‘very drab and dirty’ in 1960 and, in 1963, were described as being ‘very badly in need of repair – the atmosphere is depressing’.


The Department of Education Inspector, Dr C. E. Lysaght, who inspected the School in March 1966, found that the dormitories ‘gave an impression of the bleakness of an old style institution’. He also referred to a ‘general drabness’ and went on to state: I have reservations however that increased money made available would solve all problems here and bring it up to the standard of the schools operated by nuns which I have seen so far.


In 1967, the Visitor recommended the renewal and re-planning of the boys’ toilets, because they were in ‘a bad state’.


In May 1968, the Visitor commented that the infirmary department was ‘one of the bright lights of an otherwise most depressing establishment’. The house, although somewhat drab and in need of painting and many modern improvements, was ‘reasonably satisfactory’. There were still no facilities for the boys to wash themselves during the day. It noted that the toilets were clean but ‘primitive in the extreme’. The premises had been neglected, and the Resident Manager of the time was blamed for this deterioration.


Just before the School closed, things had improved somewhat. The Visitation Report for April 1969 noted that one of the dormitories had been fitted out as a study hall, and that two other rooms had been set up as television and recreation rooms. One dormitory catered for all boys and this had been painted, remodelled and looked very presentable. The shower room had cubicles fitted and was working very satisfactorily.


The negative impact of bad Resident Managers was clearly seen in Tralee, not only in terms of the physical care of the boys, but in every aspect of life there. The quality of the food improved in the 1950s with the improvements in the kitchen and the arrival of Br Lafayette. The Christian Brothers’ Opening Statement mentioned that Visitation Reports gave the impression that clothing and footwear were generally satisfactory but, in fact, there were numerous Inspector’s Reports indicating that clothing was below standard. Boys should not have gone hungry whilst produce from the farm was sold for private profit. This situation continued for a number of years before being stopped by a newly appointed Resident Manager.


The Department of Education inspections almost invariably referred to the health of the boys in positive terms. Only on one occasion, in 1944, did the Inspector comment on the fact that ‘In this school numbers of children much below average height and weight for age. Many of the children under weight’. In spite of this observation, the Inspector also noted that the children were medically well cared for. Eighteen months later, the Inspector noted that the ‘Boys look healthy and have put on weight regularly’ and that the children were medically ‘well cared’. Throughout the period, the Inspector described the boys as being ‘well cared’ or ‘very well cared’ and her description of their health varied from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘excellent’. The documentation also refers to the doctor attending regularly and as required. However, two complainants made allegations of the failure to treat them medically for specific conditions, and one in particular said that he had only seen a doctor once during his six years in Tralee. Neither of these complainants was in Tralee in the 1950s when conditions appear to have improved.


The children committed to an industrial school were entitled to a full primary education and an industrial training to equip them for employment when they left. A full primary education could be measured by the attainment of a Primary Certificate at the end of the national school cycle. The Christian Brothers maintain that the statistics show that the pass rate for those pupils who were present for the Primary Certificate examination was good, averaging 76%.

  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.