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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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Physical abuse


Mr Olivero also confirmed in oral evidence a particular method of punishment that was referred to by complainants and which is outlined below. This involved the boys climbing a ladder in a storeroom and Br Arrio beating them with a cane.


He was asked whether he and those Brothers with similar views could together have had some influence over a Brother who was harsh or severe with the boys. He replied that there was no mechanism at all to have such an effect. He explained: ... I was too young and too inexperienced at the time to make a complaint. If I did make a complaint I would probably – I don’t know would I be listened to ...


His dilemma was a common one. Those Brothers low in the hierarchy could not challenge their seniors because of their vow of obedience. This inability to challenge the status quo meant that progress or change was virtually impossible unless it came from the top.


Although he felt some complainants exaggerated the level of abuse in Greenmount, the complaints about Br Arrio were, he believed, justified. He said, ‘... I wouldn’t mind if they do make complaints about the treatment he meted out to them’.


A witness who was in Greenmount from the early 1940s to the early 1950s recalled Br Arrio taking over from his predecessor, whom he described as ‘a stern man, but he got on and I suppose he done his job’. Things changed for the worse, he said: I can still remember that man, if I can call him that, as a tyrant ... He took pleasure, and it helped him in some sick, sadistic way to beat children, and he had his own ways of doing it. If you were reported by another Brother to him you had what was commonly known in Greenmount School as "up the ladder". That will never leave my memory.


When asked to explain, he said: You stood on – that type of ladder ... and you were naked, which was a horror thing for any man saying he was a member of religion or knew there was a God there or recognised a God, as a child you are up there hanging on to ropes with your hand on them so you wouldn’t slip, naked. That’s when he lashed you across the buttocks, the hips or maybe the raw thighs. And the way he left you, you were given a white nicks like a footballer and you wore that for many days, all dressed up and the boys could laugh at you, but on top of that you had to go to the nurse and get iodine on it.


He conveyed his feelings at the time by saying: If you hit a dog he’ll squeal, a human, a little boy who was an orphan, feels just as much as a stray dog and that’s the way we were treated.


He went on to describe the implement used to hit boys: He had a cane maybe. Now I am speaking as maybe a ten year old or an eight year old, nine year old, so I am going back. Maybe it was that length of a stick (indicating). I always remember there was a knob on the end of it, it was a bamboo cane and it would bend around your leg. He said that he got that from the Garda – the Department of Justice, he made a big note of it one time, telling us where he got it, and to use it liberally ... he used keep the stick in the back, up behind his belt. You never looked at him in the face, you always looked to where that damn stick was.


Another complainant recalled this method of punishment. He was a resident in Greenmount from the mid-1950s, and he also told how Br Arrio gave him a beating ‘up the ladder’. He told the Committee: Br Arrio would take off your clothes and you would have just an underpants on you and you would walk up the ladder and he would give you a slap of the cane ... That took place in a little room .....He brought me into that room and he said – he asked me what did I run away for and all this and I told him that I just ran away, I wanted to go home. So he gave me a hiding for it as well ... He told me to walk up the ladder ... It was one of those ladders that you could go up the top and come down the other side of it. You go up one side and down the other side ... I was asked to strip to my underpants and walk up the ladder ... He was hitting me [with a bamboo cane] so I ran up the ladder. ... He used to run around after you. He wasn’t as old as people was making him out to be, he was able to run and he was able to do his thing, what he had to do... Br Arrio always made ... the kids climb up the ladder.


Mr Olivero was asked if he could confirm punishment by Br Arrio that involved the use of a cane and a ladder in the storeroom, and he said: I knew it happened. I never saw it happening, it was just hearsay. It was known that punishment was administered there and that there was a record kept to be seen by a representative of the Department of Education.


One witness described another form of punishment used by Br Arrio to punish a boy at dinnertime: There was various degrees of punishment ... Somewhere, somewhere along the line that man worked in another job, or he was taught of keeping your toes off the ground, eat lying on your knees just and keep your toes off the ground but use your hands to go down to a bowl, like a dog, that’s the way you eat. That was another punishment of his.


A former resident of Greenmount who was there in the mid-1940s said: Br Arrio used to stand in the room, once you darned your socks, you had to go up for his inspection. If it wasn’t to his liking he would cane you and he would punch you in the head.


He also recounted an incident when Br Arrio beat him and his brother for complaining about inadequate food at Greenmount: It is the same story. My brother was beaten and he was beaten really bad. Why we were beaten so bad is when we went home – my dad was home from England one time and he said to us, "you look very skinny", in other words, thin. He said, "if I took you up would you say it in front of the monks, Br. Arrio?" We said yes. So my dad took us up and Br. Arrio was as nice as pie to him. And my dad said the boys said they are not getting enough to eat. He said, "is that right, boys?" We made a big mistake and said yes. He showed him the bake house, the farm and all that and said they were getting this and that. When my dad went down to England he called us in about a week after and he gave us a hell of a beating and [my brother] got the worse of it because he said he was the eldest and he was the ringleader.


Some of the Visitation Reports single out Br Arrio for mention, but always in a favourable light. After a visit in the late 1940s, the Visitor wrote: There is a full quota of boys. They appear to be happy and well looked after, and great credit is due to the devoted Superior and his staff for the successful management of this Institution.


In a Visitation Report two years later, Br Arrio received specific praise: The Superior ... has a long and very creditable experience at this kind of work, he is patient, kind and self sacrificing with the result that he seems to have secured the good will and best endeavours of all under his charge, nothing escapes his notice down to the fixing of a new bolt in a door ...

  1. Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ (Report prepared for the Presentation Brothers, May 2001 and submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19 May 2004), pp 187–188.
  2. For the greater glory of God.
  3. Fratrium Presentionis Mariae.
  4. Keogh, p 54.
  5. Keogh, p 57.
  6. Cork Examiner, 28 March 1874, cited in Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ May 2001.
  7. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, p 41.
  8. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, pp 41–2.
  9. Cork Examiner, 24 March 1874.
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  13. Report on Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1936.
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