This Brother, who served there for two years from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, made a number of important concessions in relation to Letterfrack. He confirmed that he was not given any specific instruction on punishment and that the use of the leather strap, which some Brothers carried around with them all the time, was totally discretionary. He also said he had no recollection of a punishment book during his time there.
Complainant and respondent witnesses agreed that boys were sometimes punished in public, when other boys were formally assembled to witness the event with the intention that they should learn something from the occasion. Br Francois had a ‘vague recollection’ of one such incident: I remember them being lined up, I don’t know what room, was it the refectory or something, they were lined up in a line and slapped as far as I remember, in front of the rest of the school.
Respondent witnesses confirmed this. Br Dondre said that it was a recognised punishment and it was done in order to stigmatise them. Br Francois had a similar recollection. He saw it done and presumed it was a ‘badge of disgrace’.
One witness made allegations against a Br Francois who was in charge of a dormitory in Letterfrack. He described getting a severe beating from this Brother after being ordered out of bed and into the wash hall. He was required to lift his night shirt and ‘get it on the bare ... You would suffer from it and it would be violent ... I got it pretty violent down there ... I think I was bleeding’.
The witness said that Br Francois made a gesture with his fist as he dismissed him back to the dormitory: It was meant like (indicating), it’s fists for you, just go back and just be quiet about it. I took it like that anyway. That’s what I did. I just went back. I was in dread of this man.
Br Francois described it as pretty poor: The standard of education? It was pretty poor compared to a group on the outside that were of the same age would have been much more advanced.
Br Francois, who was present in the late 1950s and early 1960s, described it as an isolating, frightening place with poor facilities for the boys.