Br Ansel14 was transferred to Carriglea from Tralee in December 1945. He spent less than three months in Carriglea, holding the post of Disciplinarian before being transferred to a day school. Br Ansel had a reputation for being strict. He had spent five years in Artane. When the Resident Manager in Tralee had complained that his current Disciplinarian was not sufficiently strict, the Disciplinarian in question was replaced and, 12 months after that replacement, Br Ansel was transferred there. He later sought and was granted a dispensation in the mid-1960s. Br Octave,15 who was in Tralee at the same time as Br Ansel, described him as the best Disciplinarian and Principal. ‘He didn’t tolerate disobedience in word or act. Returned runaways had to “walk the line” for longish periods until they were broken’.
Br Eliot,16 another Brother with a tough reputation, was drafted into Carriglea in March 1946, replacing Br Ansel as Disciplinarian. He had spent 11 years in Artane and held the position of Disciplinarian for most of this time. Br Hardouin stated in his evidence to the Investigation Committee that he understood that Br Eliot ‘was brought in purposely to restore law and order’. He went about establishing a strict regime of discipline which Br Hardouin found at times was ‘a little bit over severe on some individuals’.
A Visitation Report in the early 1940s referred to a complaint by the Resident Manager that the existing Disciplinarian, Br Piperel, was ‘not sufficiently strict as disciplinarian’ and making a ‘strong appeal’ to have him changed. He left in the early 1940s and, 12 months later, Br Ansel was sent from Artane to take over the role.
The Committee heard from two witnesses who gave detailed evidence about Br Ansel’s harshness during his time as Disciplinarian.
The first witness, referring to Br Ansel, told the Investigation Committee: He was absolutely terrible, that man. That man put the fear of God in me. Rather than meet that man I would hide. If I saw that man or I thought that man was going to come into the schoolyard I would disappear. That man was unbelievable ... He absolutely frightened me. Whenever you would meet him it was always a beating. It was always a clip across the side of the head with the baton. He just seemed to – as you look back on it in later years he didn’t like me for some reason or another, I don’t know what.
He also recalled being beaten on his feet by Br Ansel with this ‘baton’, after Br Ansel asked him to put his feet out from under the sheets. This happened to him one night when a boil on his bottom burst and his sheets were covered in blood. He was not given any explanation for the punishment and, although he had difficulty walking afterwards, no Brother asked him what was wrong with him. He never discussed it with anyone.
This same witness recalled one night when between 15 and 20 boys were called into the kitchen and locked in, along with three Brothers, one of whom was Br Ansel.13 They were ordered one by one to take off their nightshirts, and to tie the shirts around their waists, fold their arms and bend forward. Br Rayce said how many strokes each boy was to have. The witness was ordered to have six strokes of the cat-o’-nine-tails. He was never told why.
The implement he called the ‘cat-o’-nine-tails’ was made in the School. When he was marching around the school yard, he had seen the Disciplinarian at the end of the yard threading leather thongs through holes in a piece of wood shaped as a handle. This was the implement that was used on them. After the beating, he was ‘covered in blood’ and some of the strokes went around his neck. It was the only time this implement was used. He did not recall other boys being punished with it, and he did not recall the matter being discussed afterwards. He added that he thought Br Ansel enjoyed the beatings.
The second witness said that, until Br Ansel arrived from Artane in the early 1940s, ‘I would say the place was reasonable’. He said that, when Br Ansel introduced himself to the boys as the new Disciplinarian, he told them, ‘you will learn what a disciplinarian is by the time I finish with you’. From that time he imposed a really ruthless rule. The witness went on to explain: Then he proceeded from there, he became an absolute tyrant. I knew real fear. He went on from there inventing punishments, like the holding out the hand wasn’t enough. The sole of the foot was one at night. Your name would be called and you just automatically stuck your leg out and you got three lashes of a leather ... You would get three lashes for every item or whatever; if you were talking in the dormitory, whatever it might be. Then he went on from there, he created monitors, twelve monitors but we didn’t know what they were. Whatever you do, step out of bounds, they were certain areas you weren’t allowed to go. Talking to another boy in the toilet, that was an offence, things like that, your name would be put down. He created a pay night, Friday night ... It was punishment but he called it pay nights. In Ireland in them days payday was mostly in all jobs I believe on a Friday. So, he called this Friday night rather than punishment night “pay night”. We all lined up in the hall and he would come up the stairs, I don’t know what it was about me but I always got the job of speaking. My job was to stand up, he had his table out and a book and an ash plant put on the table, and the gymnasium horse, the vaulting horse in the front. He would stand up and come up the stairs and he’d said good evening. I used to speak first and say “Good evening, sir”, the rest of the school would reply “Good evening, sir”. Then he’d say “What night is it [Name of witness]?” I would say “it is Friday night, sir.” “What does that mean, [name of witness]?” “That means it’s pay night, sir and we are glad it’s come.” Then I would sit down. Then he would proceed to look at the book and call out the names ... of whatever you’d be accused of, what was down on the book. The monitors wrote whatever offence you committed during the week or, offences, it might be two or three. Your name would be called out and you marched up, dropped your trousers, jumped over the horse and you got three lashes of an ash plant on the bare backside for every item. The problem was that if you got it all at once your name might not appear again until way down the list then you would get it on other side, and you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a few days. We had a sort of unwritten code there, that you took it ... no matter what punishment you got you took it like a man, you didn’t squeal so you just took it. You went away in a quiet corner and cried later when you got away from the crowd or something. You might have wished your father and mother were there, or something like that.
This complainant also explained that there was a ‘monitor’s book’ that the monitors used to write in. Br Ansel did not tell the boys who the monitors were and the boys did not know. This meant that on Friday night you did not know whether your name was in the book or not. He did not know how the monitors were chosen or changed. He thought it would be out of fear of receiving a beating. ‘Pay night’ lasted as long as Br Ansel remained in Tralee.
Br Ansel used other forms of punishment. These included ‘square bashing on the double, thumbs up’ and running around the field. Running produced greater discomfort because the boys had chafing tweed clothes, no underwear and boots that ‘wouldn’t be very clever fitting’. He explained, ‘They’d just keep you running until you dropped, which I found was probably the hardest punishment of all really on a hot day’.
He said that Br Ansel was trying to make young soldiers out of the boys and, on one occasion, had them lined up as a ‘human rake’, raking the hay on Tralee racecourse because the Christian Brothers had bought the hay on that site. Their bottoms had to be in line, military style, and Br Ansel would whip the bottom of any boy not in line. He recalled, ‘You daren’t take thistles out of your fingers or anything like that. You just kept raking’.
He also described a Saturday morning art class and how Br Ansel had a cane that could be bent. He explained that, while the boys were drawing, he would swish the cane by their ears while asking them questions that they had to get correct to avoid being hit on the ears. Br Ansel, he said, ‘had no problem where he’d hit you or when he’d hit you’.
A translation of a Department of Education memorandum to the Secretary, Office of National Education, stated that Br Ansel ‘controls with authority but without being harsh. He succeeds in exercising a kind discipline in the school’.
According to the second complainant, Br Ansel got booed on his last day in Tralee. Everybody was happy that he was leaving.