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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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Physical abuse


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 ...


Somehow, the harsh and severe regime run by this Brother to control the boys through fear and physical punishment was not uncovered by the Visitor’s Inspections.


The corporal punishment administered by this Brother was contrary to the Rules and Regulations for Certified Industrial Schools and was severe by the standards of the time. There was no system in place to control his excesses. Neither the Visitor nor the Department of Education Inspector detected the violence or, if they did, neither commented on the matter. The misleading nature of the annual reports to the Department of Education indicated knowledge on the part of the authorities that what they were doing was wrong.


A witness who was in Greenmount in the 1940s and early 1950s told the Committee about unnecessary punishments administered during class by Br Garcia: If you can imagine that being a desk and out here is the seating, it comes out about six or seven inches from that, you knelt up on that and it is on the backs of the legs you got the stick. You might say did he hit you four times, did he hit you six times, I couldn’t honestly and on oath say exactly how many times he struck me at any one time, but that was his modus operandi of trying to teach. Now, he had a saying like when we would fall in from school, he knew his class by the way they walked, a horrible thing for a human being to say ... We were all limping, that’s what he meant.


A Visitation Report to the General Council in the mid-1950s recorded that: Br Garcia reported that he considered that discipline was somewhat relaxed since the present Superior took up office. The Superior assured me that all care is taken to have the boys superintended and supervised at all times.


His colleague, Mr Olivero, who gave evidence to the Committee, insisted Br Garcia had a great rapport with the boys and ‘... wasn’t severe or anything like that. He would be a disciplinarian, as I would have been myself, I presume’.


A former resident who was in Greenmount in the early 1950s described a beating he received from Br Allente. He was careful to state that he was not complaining about the use of corporal punishment as such. He explained: Well, the definition between punishment and brutality is this: in normal circumstances in a classroom two, three or six slaps on the hand ... When you have all the force of a grown man into punishing a child with severe strength that is brutality.


Br Allente, he said, picked on him because he was a slow learner, and used ‘the T-ruler’ on him several times: ... after a while one bit broke off, I think he was banging it across my back and then another time when he used the same ruler again the second part fell off. So he was left down to just a small bit and the T ... I do not remember him beating as cruel to other children in my classroom as he was with me.


Another witness described beatings he received from a number of Brothers whilst he was in Greenmount in the mid-1950s. He mentioned Br Allente as one of these Brothers: You never forget these beatings no matter how old you are, you never forget the beatings you get in them schools.


The testimony detailed above indicates that several individual Brothers did use excessive corporal punishment from time to time. However, many witnesses were anxious to point out that Greenmount had many good points and many good Brothers.

  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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