Br Millard had been appointed as Resident Manager as successor to Br Sinclair. He only lasted a number of weeks in that position, and was recorded as having resigned ‘due to ill-health’, days before the incident with the boy.
The appointment of his successor, Br Roy, as Superior dated from four days before William absconded. Br Millard had been Superior for a total of 18 days. Although the letter was addressed to the Resident Manager, who by then was Br Roy, it was Br Millard, the perpetrator of the alleged abuse, who dealt with the matter. He wrote: Dear [TD], Unfortunately Br Sinclair, to whom you addressed your letters has been absent from St Joseph’s since the beginning of the month. As Brother-in-Charge when the incidents mentioned by you were supposed to have taken place, I take the liberty of replying in his stead. It alleged by [William’s father], that his son received excessive punishment, in fact what could be termed brutal punishment, from certain members of the Staff, when he was returned to the School after absconding on the morning of the 10th of this month. I categorically denigh this charge because it was I personally, who took him into custody from the Gardaí at mid-night on the same day on which he absconded. It was I also who administered the punishment which was meted out to him on that occasion, in the presence of another Brother who happened to be with me at the time. It is true, I used a leather strap as the instrument of correction. I used it on his bottom because I maintain that that is where nature intended it should be used in such circumstances. There is no ... question of the strap having been put round his neck or anywhere near his neck for that matter. I might add here, that since the arrival of your letters, I have examined the boy’s neck and can find not the slightest sign of any mark or bruise which would indicate that he suffered the treatment that he complained about. Neither have I any knowledge of the black eye he is supposed to have received. One would imagine, that following such alleged treatment, the boy would be slow to take to the roads again. Still, on the 18th inst., he and a companion again made off and this time persuaded another lad to join them. Believe me, Sir, that is not the normal behaviour of a boy who had been excessively punished for previous misdemeanours ... ... Since his coming here he has absconded on five separate occasions ... Since this last episode, they took to the roads once more. It was on this occasion that they succeeded in reaching Cork and painting the picture of excessive punishment and of brutal treatment in which we are ... supposed to have indulged. Just half an hour before the arrival of your letter on yesterday morning, I received a ’phone call from Inspector ... of [town] seeking advice as to the advisability of having young William committed to Daingean on account of his persistent thieving and general misconduct. I advised against it because of his age and asked the Inspector to do everything in his power to keep the case out of the Court for the lad’s sake. In view of the cruel allegations brought against us by his father, I am beginning to wonder if I acted wisely in asking the Inspector to be lenient with the offender. Maybe I should have allowed the law to take its course. I fully appreciate your position in this matter and hope the above account will help to clarify a nasty situation.
When this happened, he reported it to Br Sinclair,24 the first of the three Resident Managers. His complaint was dismissed and he was told, ‘Oh don’t mind that man, sure, he was in China for years’. He could not remember the word used by the first boy when complaining to him, but he believed it was something like ‘fiddling’. He did not recall if he went to Br Sinclair with complaints more than once, but it is possible that he did, since several boys would be talking about it. His view at the time was that he had done enough by telling Br Sinclair because he would ‘let him look after it’. He did not go back to the boy to follow up on it. Br Garon, however, kept giving showers.
When that Resident Manager was replaced, Br Lisle reported the matter to his successor, Br Millard, who was only Resident Manager for a matter of weeks. He cannot remember what that Resident Manager said to him, but he accepted that he must not have been happy with his predecessor’s response. Br Lisle also told the Committee that he was with Br Millard on one occasion when a boy came up and said that Br Garon wanted him for a shower. He turned to Br Millard and told him that he thought there was more than just showering going on. It was crystal clear what was being alleged, but, according to Br Lisle, the boy probably still went for the shower. He said that his understanding was that the boys did not ‘like it and that they were trying to have it stopped, they didn’t want to be interfered with, as they said’. He thought Br Garon took these showers with the boys when they were taken from the yard, as opposed to during the normal Saturday night showers.
Another member of staff, Br Mahieu, told the Committee that he was placed in charge of the showers, taking over from Br Garon, in approximately 1966. He did not know why this change took place, but said it was possibly because the Resident Manager, Br Sinclair, had asked him. When he took over, he insisted on the showers being upgraded and that was done. He knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about allegations that Br Garon took boys for individual showers on days other than Saturdays when he might not have been in charge. At such times the water would have been cold. He had never heard anything about Br Garon interfering with the boys in the showers, washing them or requiring them to wash him. He had ‘never heard it discussed’.
What might have been deemed adequate in the 1940s and 1950s was less so in the 1960s. The new Resident Manager in the early 1960s, Br Sinclair, was less competent than the man who had effected such improvement in the 1950s. Although the School continued to be described as well-run, basic facilities, in particular toilets and washrooms, were singled out for criticism.