Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Br Aribert, who was in the School in the early 1960s, told the Committee he disagreed with Br Marceau’s teaching methods. He had charts ‘all over the walls’ and he made the boys go around learning them. He felt that the boys did not like this system.


Because Br Marceau was not trained, he was not subject to normal Department of Education Inspections, and therefore there was no control or supervision exercised by the Department over his activities.


Eight complainants spoke about the standard of education they got in Tralee. Three of these had very positive comments to make. The first of these witnesses said that his time in Tralee gave him a broader outlook. He emerged ‘appreciating some of even the finer things in life in the line of music and literature and that kind of stuff’. He said that the practical education, the Maths, English and the Irish (apart from Br Archard) stood him in good stead.31


Another witness told the Committee he received an education from the Christian Brothers. He was educated in the three Rs and had the opportunity to go to secondary school but turned it down and went to the technical school instead. He had been an ‘awful mitcher’ before he went to Tralee. He acknowledged that he was better off in Tralee and would not have got an education otherwise.


A third complainant who was sent to the technical college for an extra year’s education said he received a ‘good education’. He also said that you could learn music in the band if you wanted to, although he personally did not pursue this. He thought there were two more boys who attended the tech with him.


By contrast, three complainants were very critical of the education received.


One complainant, who was in Tralee in the 1940s, said that he received a ‘very bad education, really bad’. He reflected that it was perhaps his own fault, as he could not take things in. He recalled how the nuns taught him how to read and write. In Tralee, the emphasis was not on his education but rather on his work on the farm and in the laundry. His arithmetic was ‘right up the creek really’. He could read but he could not spell. When asked to what extent his education developed while in Tralee, he replied ‘very, very bad, very bad’.


Another complainant recalled that, because he was working on the farm, he received education only when the weather was inclement. He thinks he was about eight years of age when he was sent to work on the farm. He also said that the education he got in Tralee was not better that what he would otherwise have received. He said he went to school ‘the odd time’. He did, however, recall Br Kalle as being a good teacher.


The third witness, who was in Tralee from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, said, ‘I can’t remember any education. It was terrible because of the climate of fear; I was so frightened all the time’. He was able to read and write when he left Tralee but ‘not too well’. He did learn how to read music while in Tralee. Apart from that, he said, he came out of Tralee with ‘no education’.


Two further complainants were ambivalent about the education they received, although in both cases it would appear to have been reasonably good. The first of these was in Tralee in the 1940s and he recalled that he passed the Primary Certificate. He thought that the whole class had sat it, but learned that only two boys in his class had done so. He believed that he could have received help during the exam from the Brother who supervised during the exam. The Department of Education Primary Certificate results for the relevant year confirm that only two boys in Tralee sat the examination that year. Three years later, 12 boys sat the examination, and two passed.


Another complainant, who attended the school in the 1950s, said that the education he received was both ‘good and poor’. He noted that ‘education in Ireland at that time actually was non existent’. Education, he believed: would prepare you for when you leave the School, but it didn’t actually enhance my situation because when I left the School I still needed help to further my education and there was no actual aftercare.


His writing and spelling, he said, was weak. When he went into Tralee he was ‘okay, well reasonable’ educationally. He failed a lot of exams and said that it may have been his own fault. He was not a quick learner. This complainant later joined the Irish Army, where he failed every one of his exams. He believed that Tralee had a bearing on that. Even though his records show that he had passed the Primary Certificate, he believed he had only completed 5th class when he left Tralee.


Six Brothers gave evidence to the Committee about the education given to the boys. One spoke about the high standard of the education and another recalled the excellent Primary Certificate results. A third told the Committee of the commitment to quality that they had. A fourth spoke about the lack of teaching aids, and a fifth referred to the background of the children as mitigating against a high standard. A sixth Brother spoke about how the boys were all in the same class, regardless of ability. He told the Committee how this was different to Artane, where they were streamed. None of the Brothers referred to the poor quality of the classrooms that was identified by successive Visitors in the 1960s.


The standard of education in Tralee was better than in some other industrial schools. The smaller numbers, and two genuinely interested Resident Managers during the 1950s, led to improved standards, a fact borne out by some of the complainants.


According to their Opening Statement, the earliest record the Christian Brothers have of a pupil receiving second level education was an account from a Brother who taught in the school in the 1940s. He said that, towards the end of his time there, some of the pupils went to the Green Secondary School in Tralee, which was also run by the Christian Brothers. There was a record of one other pupil achieving his Intermediate and Leaving Certificates in the 1950s. It was not until the 1960s that boys were sent to secondary school from Tralee on a consistent basis, although the local secondary school was owned and operated by the Christian Brothers.

  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.