Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 2 — Upton

Show Contents

Sexual abuse


Br Alfonso said he reported these individuals to his then Superiors, Fr Fabiano and Fr Alanzo. Fr Orsino, Provincial of the Order, was also involved in the reporting of one of these individuals. He said that, when he reported these people, he was never given any indication about whether they had any previous history of abuse: These things were not tossed around among the Superiors nor were they ever mentioned at a table at any time, they were always kept secret.


Despite the number of individuals who were found to be sexually abusing children in Upton, Br Alfonso told the Committee that there was never any instruction given to watch out for possible abuse and abusers, nor were there guidelines on how to deal with such activities.


What seems clear is that, following his discovery of some sexual abusers in Upton, Br Alfonso went on a crusade to purge ‘immorality’ amongst the boys themselves. His evidence suggests that, once he revealed the identity of the abusers amongst staff members, the opportunity was afforded to boys to come forward and to tell him if they were being abused by fellow pupils. This version of events is in stark contrast with the evidence from witnesses, some of whom describe being falsely accused of ‘scamping’, a term used in the School to describe masturbation.


One witness recalled an incident when another pupil received a postal order. The boy was showing the postal order to the complainant and had his arm around his waist. Br Donato came along and accused them of interfering with each other. They were taken into the washroom and told to take off their pants. They were then told to hug each other, while Br Donato leathered the two of them. This went on for about an hour, until a Brother came along and they were sent off.


Another witness recalled that Br Alfonso and Br Donato were totally obsessed with sex and the boys. They were super-vigilant and constantly accused him of masturbation and other sexual activity. He alleged that he was often beaten for the entire day, as the Brothers took turns to extract a confession of masturbation from him. He also alleges that the Brothers beat a confession from another boy who lied and gave his name up to the Brothers. The name he gave appears in the punishment book.


He described how these two Brothers had regular purges, and the boys called them ‘hobbles’.


During the cross-examination of Br Alfonso, it was suggested to him that the punishment book could be divided into two sections. As was discussed above, the first period of the book is from 1952 to 1954. The second period from 1954 to 1963 showed a marked difference in the type of offence being punished, in that the almost exclusive reason for punishment was immorality. He was asked to explain this shift in emphasis of punishment, and he failed to give a precise answer. His counsel attempted to ‘explain’ what Br Alfonso was saying: By his actions in reporting the activities of the community and the lay person, he brought a situation out into the open where the boys were now more comfortable coming forward. So the boys who had been allegedly victims of each other were now coming to Br Alfonso to report incidents between themselves as opposed to between themselves and the community. So that those things had now become more open, there was an atmosphere of honesty coming out that these things were no longer taboo, that there was a way to get some action.


Br Alfonso also said that the reason why there was so much punishment for immorality in the punishment book during his time was due to an increasing awareness that sexual behaviour was unacceptable. He said: All I was saying is that somehow or another it must have in some way leaked out to the children that this is not acceptable, this standard. I think my attorney here spelt that out, that the boys realised that and then started to come to me and say, “this is what is going on here with us, these boys are molesting and will you stand up for us”. If that makes sense, I don’t know, but I cannot explain it any other way.


Br Alfonso gave evidence that the punishment that was administered was normally three or four slaps on the hand, or 10 strokes on the seat of the pants for more serious offences. The punishment book recorded that 20 strokes were administered to a boy for sexual impropriety and, on other occasions, 15 strokes were administered. When asked to explain why he said 10 was the maximum delivered, which was clearly incorrect, Br Alfonso explained that the severity of that particular punishment arose from a highly unusual situation. He said: I am saying that in these events we are talking about, boys wouldn’t be one on one in this situation. They would be like animals among one another, everybody would be involved in it, young boys and all. It was having whatever, I don’t know what you would like to call it, an orgy, I don’t know what it would be. Certainly it wasn’t a normal one to one thing. That is all I can say.


The evidence of complainants who made allegations against documented abusers has already been set out. In addition, further credible evidence of abuse was given.


One witness who was resident in the 1950s alleged that he was sexually abused in the tailor shop. The routine was normally that a boy would arrive in the tailor shop, and whatever item of clothing that required repair would be repaired on the spot. On this occasion, he was told by a lay worker to remove his trousers for repair. The lay worker then put him on his knee, on the pretext of showing him how the sewing machine worked. He sexually abused him, and he and the lay worker ended up on the floor. This only happened on one occasion, as the person normally in charge of the shop was absent. He did not report this incident, as he was too frightened.


Another resident, present in the 1960s, alleged that he had been raped while he was a pupil in Upton. He stated that he awoke on a number of occasions to find a dark figure groping him. He stated that, on one occasion, a lay member of staff persuaded him to accompany him to the kitchen for the purpose of giving him cookies and milk. While in the kitchen, the man pushed up against him and attempted to lift him up. However, the witness stated that he froze and the lay worker got a fright and stopped. However, he was told to go straight to bed and not to say anything.


Another complainant, present in the mid to late 1960s, said that he was sexually abused by a man named Mr Vance51 who came into the School and would take the boys out for a walk. He would attempt to fondle him when they were out for the walks. He says he fought off his advances.


Although he was not called to give evidence, the Committee were able to consider a statement made by Fr Giovani, who was Prefect in Upton during the mid-1950s.


Fr Giovani stated that one of the most distressing memories he had of Upton was when he and Br Alfonso discovered that one of the primary teachers had been sexually abusing the boys. He stated that Br Alfonso immediately reported the matter to the Resident Manager, and the teacher was dismissed. He also stated that he and Br Alfonso discovered two members of the Community, Brs Fausto and Constantin, engaged in similar activities. Again, Br Alfonso reported the matter to the Resident Manager, and the offenders were removed from the School.

  1. Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.
  6. This is a pseudonym.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.
  36. This is a pseudonym.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. Latin for in a class of its own.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. Latin for with a boy.
  42. Latin for with boys.
  43. Latin for As spoken.
  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  46. Latin for without delay.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Latin for due caution.
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  54. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  55. Records exist for only 19 of the 23 years.
  56. This is a pseudonym.