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Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Physical abuse


The second Brother, Br Aribert, noted that Br Marceau had problems with the boys. He and the other Brothers did not agree with Br Marceau’s methods of teaching and punishment. He said he could be a bit severe at times. He also said that he should have been able to complain to someone about this Brother, but could not. He accepted that Br Bevis would have had the authority to discipline Brothers, but that did not seem to happen.


The third Brother, Br Mahieu, said that Br Marceau would never have been asked to supervise a dormitory, as he would have caused trouble. In his view, he should never have been a teacher or put into a teaching situation, ‘He just hadn’t got a clue about controlling kids’. He described Br Marceau as a religious fanatic who also had difficulty in controlling himself.6 He accepted that Br Marceau was violent but he did not, however, remember any specific incidents other than shouting. He said he seemed a little strange.


A fourth Brother, Br Lisle, said Br Marceau was ‘very, very strict’ and a ‘little bit eccentric’. He had no time for the pupils at all. He could not, however, say what went on in the classroom because he was not there. He said Br Marceau thought everyone was against him. He did not remember a boy with a black eye, but did name the youngest boy in the school, who was four or five at the time, whose ears were boxed by Br Marceau. He said he never challenged Br Marceau about what he did because he, Br Lisle, had nothing to do with the school. That was the job of the Principal.


The Christian Brothers at one point sent questionnaires to various Brothers for response. These dealt with the running of the industrial schools. A questionnaire was sent to Br Marceau, and in it he said of his disciplinary methods: You were expected to handle your own discipline problems. I was humane in my treatment but I also used the lamh laidir.7 I also used competition among the pupils, and rewards.


He went on to say that he thought that most of the allegations made against the Christian Brothers, including those made against him, were false.


Br Marceau was in Tralee for eight months in the early 1960s, and for six and a half years later that decade. The Investigation Committee heard a number of serious complaints of physical abuse against this individual. A number of these complainants also alleged sexual abuse against him, and these are outlined in the section dealing with sexual abuse in Tralee.


A former resident said he thought Br Marceau was ‘the worst’ of all the Brothers. The boys knew when to avoid him. His moods could change at any time and he would turn on them both in and out of the classroom. He recounted an incident when the boys were playing under an alleyway and Br Marceau swung a hurley at them. The boy in front of him ducked and the hurley hit the complainant on the back of the head. Bleeding from his nose, he was taken to the nurse to be cleaned up and then he went to bed. Not long after this incident, he was taken to an ophthalmic surgeon in Tralee, who put a patch on his good eye, telling him he had a lazy eye. He was prescribed glasses and put the patch over the good eye but a week later he had to remove the patch because he could not see with the ‘eye going bad’. The other boys were also laughing at him. The complainant stated that, years later, an eye specialist told him he had a detached retina, which he, the complainant, believed had occurred as a result of the blow by Br Marceau.


He also told a story about a swimming trip where the water was freezing. Nobody wanted to get into the water but Br Marceau had a ‘set’ against one particular boy and tried to make him get in. All the boys started to throw small pebbles at the Brother and it caused a riot. The boys all ran back to Tralee, breaking windows and glass on the way.


Another witness recalled that a boy had received a package at Little Christmas (6th January) and the gift inside was a broken cap gun. The boy told Br Marceau it was broken, and he called him ‘an ungrateful wretch’ and gave him a black eye and swollen face.


Another complainant recalled Br Marceau and one of the boys getting into a fight about the boy being late for church. That night the complainant saw Br Marceau coming to the dormitory with a hammer up his sleeve. The next day he saw the boy who had been involved in the fight with Br Marceau and his face was ‘all swollen, one eye was closed and the other one was only half open’. The complainant asked the boy what had occurred, and he told him that Br Marceau had hit him with a hammer.


This complainant also said that Br Marceau would give the boys in first and second class charts to learn at night and, if they did not know them in the morning, ‘they were in for a hammering’. He was in third class next door at the time and would ‘hear all the lads screaming and shouting’. The second time Br Marceau was in Tralee, two other Brothers (including the school Principal) would wander through to keep an eye on him and to see he was not giving the young boys a hard time.8 This level of supervision is consistent with the Visitation Reports and the oral evidence of other Christian Brothers.


This complainant also referred to Br Marceau’s habit of urinating in the classroom, saying that he used to have a bucket in the class that he ‘used as a loo’.


Another witness, who made allegations of being beaten several times by Br Marceau, alleged that Br Marceau used to lock the classroom door during classes. He was very strict in class: One minute he was talking to you and the next minute he could turn around and hit you with something, whatever it was. The nearest thing to his hand, he would hit you with ... It could be anything. It could be a bunch of keys he had in his pocket. He would take out the biggest key, which was the key to the classroom door, and he would hit you in the head with that. Or he would take the duster which had a wooden back, he would throw it at you. He would bang your head off the wall. Sometimes he would give you the edge of the ruler down the back of your hand. He would lift the top of the desk, he would put your fingers in the desk and slam the desk down on top of your fingers ... If you dropped a pencil while he was doing something he would call you up to the front of the classroom and he would given you a beating for it because you disturbed him. He was just a violent tempered man.


On one occasion in the band room, Br Marceau had one of the older boys on the ground and he was ‘giving [him] the heel of his boot down on the back of the head’. He said that this Brother was the type of person who would ‘just turn. He got violent for no reason, he just had a very bad temper’.


Given the seriousness of Br Marceau’s history with the Congregation, it was a matter of considerable concern that significant correspondence was not discovered to the Investigation Committee until 12th January 2006, two days after the public hearing in respect of this Institution. The solicitors for the Christian Brothers explained that this, and other material furnished at the same time, came to light as a result of further searches of archival material in the possession of the Congregation and ‘new collections’ being acquired by the archive since the main discovery had been made. The majority of the letters quoted above and in the Glin chapter regarding the ‘cracked jaw’ incident were not furnished to the Investigation Committee with the original discovered documents in relation to Tralee or Glin by the Christian Brothers. Although additional material was uncovered by the Congregation’s archivist and forwarded to their solicitors in December 2005, the Christian Brothers said: Unfortunately due to the ongoing hearing of the end of the Artane modules these were not looked at and their true significance noted by the writer until the 12/01/06. The delay furnishing these documents is very much regretted.

  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.