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Chapter 1 — Institute of Charity

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All of the Resident Managers appointed were ordained members of the Institute of Charity. Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee that the post was not one ‘regarded as a reward for long service’. He stated most of the priests who were appointed managers ‘would have worked at some stage on the ground as a Prefect in either St. Patrick’s Upton, or St. Joseph’s’.


Fr O’Reilly spoke about the calibre of the Resident Managers in Ferryhouse: ... certainly most of the Managers that I know about and have come to know about would seem to have been people who were quite suited to it and who were keen for the position and keen to do something with the work that was there and they were people, I would say, who had a degree of vision at the time, for the most part.


A Spiritual Director assisted the Resident Manager in his management duties in Ferryhouse.


One of the most important staff positions to be held in Ferryhouse and Upton was that of the Prefect. Fr Stefano,1 former Resident Manager in Ferryhouse stated, ‘there was a manager ... and the next people ... on the care side were the Prefects’. While the Resident Manager had responsibility for the running of the Industrial School itself, the Prefect was in charge of the day-to-day care of the children. As one witness explained, ‘The Prefect was in charge right through the day and right through the night, you know’.


Ferryhouse and Upton each had two Prefects, one for the senior group and one for the junior group. Until the 1940s, the Prefect would have been a priest. However, this changed and, from the 1940s, Brothers were appointed Prefects. Each Prefect had sole responsibility for his group, which at times could consist of more than 100 boys. This responsibility was for 24 hours a day throughout the whole year, with little respite or additional help from his fellow Brothers.


Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee: I would say that most of the responsibility fell on the Prefect. Only occasionally could he call on others, who had their own duties to go on with. So if a Prefect was – for example, it wouldn’t have been uncommon that the Prefect, one of the Prefects who was on, would have to leave to go and look for a child who had run away or go to a Garda station to pick up a child who had been picked up by the Gardaí, and so all the responsibility rested on the shoulders of the Prefect who remained behind and, indeed, it wasn’t uncommon for a Prefect to have to leave a dormitory of children in the middle of the night to go to pick up a child. They, obviously, relied on the other Prefect primarily, you know, to look after the situation. He’d have been made aware of things, as would the Manager.


Fr O’Reilly explained that Prefects’ responsibilities covered everything to do with the children: From the time that they got up in the morning, getting children up, sorting out what had to be sorted out, making sure that they were all in place, getting them down to Mass, getting them back up, to breakfast, making sure they got out to school – when they got out to school, okay, the school had responsibility then, but almost inevitably, you know, you have a child who is sick or a child who has cut himself or who has got in trouble in school, and a Prefect who has to pick up the pieces. I mean, I have seen that in my own time working in St. Joseph’s, Ferryhouse.


During non-school hours the Prefect would also have to be constantly vigilant, especially at mealtimes in the School. He would have to manage the dining area where over 150 boys would be eating their meals. Bullying at mealtimes was common: older boys would take the food of younger boys, and these younger boys had to be protected. As a result, the dining hall area was ‘a highly charged situation ... where any number of things could happen’.


The Prefects were mainly responsible for administering corporal punishment in the School. Boys who badly misbehaved were generally sent to the Prefect’s office to receive their punishment.


The Prefect was answerable to the Resident Manager in all matters. Among the Resident Manager’s numerous duties and responsibilities was overseeing the performance of duties by the Prefects. Fr O’Reilly spoke of this requirement: The Manager, although he had other responsibilities, would have obviously had to keep an eye on what was happening. I think the Manager would know on a very regular basis what was going on in the place because, although this might not be a term that everybody would agree with, there would have developed a certain sort of family atmosphere insofar as when you live in a place for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year and there is not an awful lot of change in life, you know, you soon become quite acquainted with everybody who is in the place.


Every September, the Rosminian Provincial would decree assignments to the priests and Brothers. If a vacancy for a Prefect arose in either of the Rosminian Industrial Schools, it was the Provincial who selected the person to fill this role. During the 1940s, the appointment was usually a priest, but later it was normally a Brother who was appointed.


Prefects were the younger men of the Order, who were able to manage the task of being in charge of a large group of young, active boys. They would have ordinarily worked as teachers or Prefects in other schools. Fr O’Reilly stated that the new Prefects would have seen it as a very responsible post, and would have been proud of being appointed, but he added, a few of them would not have been very happy at being selected. He explained: Now there were some men who didn’t like being Prefects and I know that one or two would have seen it as – I am not too sure what the word is now ... yeah, hell is a good word all right ... A punishment posting. Well, I know, for example, one man has often recounted to me how he was regarded as difficult by his superiors so they appointed him as Prefect.


Training for a newly appointed Prefect was minimal. The previous holder of the position would initially help the new trainee. However, the period of overlap of the experienced Brother Prefect and his trainee replacement was short, with a week being the norm. Very often, the new Prefect would initially be sent to Woodstown Summer camp to obtain some experience with a smaller number of boys before returning to Ferryhouse or Upton.


The young men appointed Prefects had themselves only left school a small number of years previously. A number of the Rosminian Prefects would have completed their secondary education in the Rosminian secondary school, St Michael’s, Omeath. Priests who held the position would have completed their third level education. The Rosminians accept that this education ‘wouldn’t have been particularly useful for childcare’.


Fr O’Reilly explained: You learnt by the tradition, you know. You were told as a Prefect that this is what you do and you get in there and you sink or you swim. The tradition was useful for a period and then it wasn’t useful any longer.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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  4. Law Commission of Canada: + Institutional Child Abuse – Restoring Dignity Pt II Responses ‘Guiding Principles’at p 7.
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