Four former members of staff at Tralee were asked about Br Marceau in evidence. The first Brother, Br Bevis, had no comment to make on him. He did not recollect ever seeing him punish a boy.
The second Brother, Br Aribert, noted that Br Marceau had problems with the boys. He and the other Brothers did not agree with Br Marceau’s methods of teaching and punishment. He said he could be a bit severe at times. He also said that he should have been able to complain to someone about this Brother, but could not. He accepted that Br Bevis would have had the authority to discipline Brothers, but that did not seem to happen.
Br Bevis, when asked whether Br Lafayette was excessively severe towards the boys, said that he did not know, as he was not there when he punished the boys. One boy did, however, tell him he was ‘punished severely’ by Br Lafayette.
Another former resident said that, because he was working in the kitchen and was under Br Lafayette’s care, he was protected from beatings from other Brothers. On one occasion, Br Lafayette intervened to stop a severe beating from Br Bevis. He said that Br Lafayette went ‘out of his way to ensure that nobody else laid a finger on me’. While Br Lafayette was in Tralee, ‘nobody really beat me up or anything at all like that. But after he left then there were threats coming in from all sides’. He added that Br Lafayette had the reputation for being the ‘hardest Brother’ in the school. ‘If he said “Jump”, you said “How high?”.’
Br Bevis, who served as a teacher in Tralee for almost 10 years from the mid-1950s, told the Investigation Committee that one morning he was waking the boys when he noticed that Robert Moore had been sick during the night and that his vomit was blood stained. He summoned help from another Brother who used to look after the boys. The next time Br Bevis saw the boy was when he visited him in hospital. He recalled that it must have been on a Saturday as this was the only day he could go. He took the boy a copy of The Kerryman newspaper. He remembered that Robert Moore clung to his hand and, with hindsight, he realised that Robert appeared to have some sense that he was going to die. Br Bevis tried to console him by telling him he was not as ill as others in the hospital, as he did not realise at the time that the boy was near death. Robert Moore died on a Sunday and, although Br Bevis thought it was some days after his visit, it is more likely that he died the next day.
Br Bevis was asked whether he knew why the boy had gone into hospital, and he recalled that he did have a boil on his neck at that time. He later thought he had leukaemia, and only found out in more recent times that the cause of death was recorded as septicaemia.
An internal report prepared in recent years and disclosed to the Committee by the Congregation entitled ‘Information relating to Robert Moore’ detailed the stories and allegations that began to emerge in 1995 surrounding the boy’s death and the steps that were taken by the Congregation to enquire into the matter. The following extracts are of particular interest: As part of an internal enquiry, the Provincial Council approached a number of brothers who had been in Tralee in or around the time of the Moore incident. Br Bevis remembered Robert Moore well and visited him several times in hospital. He was able to recall the incident of the beating in the dining room but did not link it to the death of Robert Moore. Br Bevis was of the opinion that Robert Moore died from some form of cancer. It would appear that the time between the beating and the death of Robert Moore was at most a few weeks. The Provincial Council also went in search of Robert Moore’s Death Certificate. On the Death Certificate, the cause of death is given as a “Bi-lateral Pleural Effusion”. As an addendum to this cause of death, the phrase “senility certified” appears on the certificate. This seemed a rather strange addendum given Robert Moore’s age, and a medical doctor was asked to explain the matter. The medical opinion was that pneumonia was the likely cause of death and that a beating would not cause a bi-lateral effusion, even a severe beating. Further enquiry unearthed a story that Robert Moore had an abscess on his neck, and that in the course of the beating he received, the abscess may have burst. There was no hard medical evidence for this story of the abscess, but it appeared to be part of the folklore around the event. The possibility of a flu epidemic in St. Joseph’s at the time also surfaced. It was the month of February and flu epidemics were not an unlikely occurrences in institutions such as St. Joseph’s at that time of year. A heavy dose of flu could lead to the bi-lateral effusion reported on the Death Certificate.
The recollection of Br Bevis in 1995, as described in this document, is in conflict with the evidence he gave the Committee concerning the beating from Br Lafayette.
In their Opening Statement the Christian Brothers gave the following account of what Br Bevis had recalled to them: A former staff member, writing in 2001, recalls the occasion of Robert Moore’s death: “I recall the morning I called the boys. As they arise and dressed I walked up and down the dormitory. Noticing that Robert had not arisen I went over to see him. As I neared the bed – situated nearest the wall and about mid-way down the dormitory – I noticed he had been sick during the night and there was blood in his vomit. I asked him how he felt and on telling me that he had been sick during the night I told him to stay in bed and that I would inform Br G – he usually looked after the sick. I did so and the doctor, Dr Walsh,18 was called. Later that day I learned that Robert was taken to hospital. A few days after I visited Robert in hospital, bringing him the local paper. As I sat beside the bed he caught hold of my hand and asked me if he was going to get better. This surprised me – the question and the fact that he held on to my hand during the visit. I had no idea that he was seriously ill. I told him that he would be out soon and told him that another boy had gone to the fever hospital ... that was a worse situation than his. I learned of his (Robert’s) death shortly afterwards – not sure if it was the next day or a few days afterwards. Since then I have been wondering if Robert himself knew of his impending death – the fact of him holding my hand during the visit leads me to think that he did. I was always glad that I was there and tried to console him. May he rest in peace”.
Another witness said that Br Bevis: flogged a young boy ... [The boy] was a classmate of mine and he actually done something wrong with the bandmaster, I don’t know, and he was reported to Br Bevis who flogged him. That’s all I know. He put the boy’s head in between his legs and he flogged him ferociously, beat him very badly. This boy actually eventually ended up in the mental hospital in Killarney.
Br Bevis denied beating this boy.
Another witness also recalled an occasion when about 12 boys were ‘picked up’ for masturbating in the dormitory and lined up and bent over the beds with their nightshirts up. Br Bevis and another Brother took turns in giving the boys ‘the hop’, i.e. pulling up the nightshirt and hitting them straight across the bare bottom, six to a dozen times. The witness stated that this happened quite a lot and the boys were all ‘frightened to death’.
Br Bevis in his evidence said he was aware of one occasion when Br Cheney and Br Chaunce punished a boy in a dormitory when he was caught abusing a younger boy. He acknowledged that he had heard that it was a particularly severe punishment.
One witness said Br Bevis physically assaulted him in the classroom, schoolyard and recreation hall. He was slapped with the strap that Br Bevis carried, not just on the hands. He does not know which classroom this was in, but it could have been any as he did chores for the Brothers. Br Bevis did not teach him. Br Bevis acknowledged that he may have slapped this boy, but denied beating any boy over the body or head or breaking bones. He only punished boys on the hands or maybe gave a clip on the bottom, on the trousers.
Br Bevis said that he never hit any boy on the bare bottom and never saw any other Brother do so.