Br Telfour described another occasion when the same two boys as had reported Mr Albaric came to him and made what he called a very vague allegation against another Brother. The allegation, as recalled by the witness, was not that the Brother had engaged in any sexual misconduct with the two boys, but that other boys were saying that the Brother ‘did things’ to them. He said that he pursued the matter with the boys who were reporting to him and tried to get something definite by way of a name or an activity, but: I was just getting the same – the boys – just the boys – shrug of the shoulders, as if – I didn’t know how to take it. The boys say, that is all I was getting, ah just things, things. So I couldn’t pursue it any further.
Two complainants alleged that Br Curtis sexually abused them. One alleged that he and other boys were sexually abused by Br Curtis in the classroom. He described Br Curtis as ‘an absolute thug ... a pure thug, a paedophile thug’. He stated that: The man would be there doing it in the classroom, staring at the classroom and then he would be doing it with various kids. He would take you out of the desk, get one arm, put it behind your back, your buttocks would be there leaned against the desk and he would be there pushing you back and he would be going into you.
Another witness described Br Curtis as a nice man but stated that he was regularly abused by him. Br Curtis got him a job in the laundry, which was perceived as a ‘soft job’. He started by being nice to the complainant, who welcomed the attention, although he was conscious that it was wrong. Br Curtis would take him from his bed in the mornings four or five times a week in order to abuse him. Normally, Br Curtis was gentle with him but, on one occasion during his first year in the school, he was rough and raped him. He said that Br Curtis made him feel special until he was raped: Yes, he would make me play with him and he would – nearly every morning – as I said, there was that little room at the top of the dormitories. There was two, there was one each side, I remember, there was more than two little ones, but Br Curtis when he stayed there, when he – the first thing in the morning he would come and take me from my bed, just after our prayers, and in the pretence – and then he would take me into the little room and then he would make me either play with him or he would play with himself. ... On one occasion, he just took me in the room and he seemed very excited and he was quite rough, generally – normally, he wasn’t as rough, but he just seemed to be very rough that morning and I don’t know whether he inserted his penis, or, as I said – but in my anus, and I felt a lot of pain and I asked him to stop on many occasions and he didn’t ... That was just the one occasion.
Br Telfour told the Committee that he should have brought the complaints he got from the two boys about Br Curtis, and the incident in Br Algrenon’s room, to the Superior’s attention. He said that at that time he knew nothing about such activity, although he did acknowledge that he had encountered an allegation of sexual abuse whilst he was a student in Marino.
As already stated, a number of Brothers were unhappy and isolated in Letterfrack. The burden of work fell on the shoulders of a few, and this had its own implications for how they treated the children. Some former residents described how some members of staff were kind to them at times but the mood could change in an instant. One former resident described this as follows: When they took the humour, they would show you, what do you call it, an act of kindness and you got kind of swallowed by this in some ways and you thought – you could get the off day like Telfour or Curtis would show you some act of kindness and next of all they just turn. There was a lot of Jeckyl and Hyde with them.
Another former resident told a similar story. He described how Br Curtis was nice to him and how he welcomed the attention. However, Br Curtis went on to sexually abuse him: But Br Curtis, on many occasions, I didn’t know at the beginning – and I welcomed a little bit of attention, because as I sort of outlined, you know, I had been taken away from home, and Br Curtis, I didn’t realise that it was wrong, what he was doing.
These reflections by the Congregation on their own mission, together with the publication of the Cussen Report in Ireland and the Curtis Report in England, prompted the Sisters to draw up a five-year plan to implement change.
Following the publication of the Curtis Report in 1946, a childcare course was set up in London by the Sisters of the Holy Child. The course was of one year’s duration. Initially, two Sisters of Charity took the course and, subsequently, 10 Sisters completed their training in residential care of children in the 1940s. Thirty more Sisters attended short courses in the early 1950s. Also, in the 1950s, a number of Sisters were sent by Sr Irma to train in the English Child Psychology Course. The annals note that this experience ‘has changed the whole attitude to the treatment of Industrial School children’.