A former resident who was in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s and early 1970s described a beating that went from being a deserved punishment, given because he was seen doing a two-finger gesture behind a Brother saying Grace, to being a vicious assault. He told the Investigation Committee: I was called into the office ... I knew I was caught ... Fr Paolo9 had [the leather] in his hand. He said put out your hand, so I put out me hand and I took one ... and he asked me for the other one and I said my thumb was sore, I was after bending it back playing football and I didn’t want it on that hand because it would have been worse then, because if you take two or three on one hand you don’t feel them. If you are getting six you won’t feel the other three or four anyway and I wouldn’t and he insisted and I kept moving. I wanted him to catch me this side [indicating], rather than this side of me thumb ... He kept missing me because I kept moving it ... One time he skinned it, and the next time he went and I pulled it, and he missed completely ... I could see in his face he was going to batter me ... I seen it and he went for me and I just went down in a huddle ... As I was going down I seen him drawing back to hit me and he caught me with the width of the thing ... It wasn’t the flat part. He caught me with the thickness of it on the back there, on the back of the neck there ... I was down for a minute and he stood back. He didn’t go mad on me or anything. It was one blow ... When I looked he was back ... I stood up and he said, “Put out your hand” ... I put out this hand and I took the rest. I do not know if it was one or two more on me hand, and I walked out. I had genuinely got a sore thumb but everyone used to say it because if you took two you don’t feel the rest because your hand is numb. That was a ploy but they knew about it as well you know.
He gave an example of such on-the-spot chastisement: [Fr Paolo] said, “Lights out” and we weren’t allowed to speak after lights out and one of the boys might say something and he would be called out in front of Fr Paolo and he would hit him with his back handed slap ... the boy would be looking up to him, he would be only tiny, he would be only seven or eight years old, and he would put a full slap on with the back of his hand and he would put him actually spinning.
Fr Paolo recalled Mr Garnier and Mr Tablis being there in the 1970s, but did not remember them being there in the mid-1960s, although it seems that Mr Garnier certainly had access over many years, which could indeed have extended back to that earlier period. Fr Paolo was suspicious of the two men. He thought that they had no business being in any of the dormitories, and made sure that they did not come to his group, ‘A’ Group. Although Fr Paolo was careful in what he said about these men, he agreed that it was inappropriate for them to be in any dormitory, and that his concern would have been less if they had been in the downstairs gym or a ground-floor recreation area.
Despite Fr Paolo’s concern about the incursions into the boys’ dormitory, and his determination to keep such men out of the one under his control, he did not interfere in what another Brother was doing. The convention of allowing colleagues to run their ‘empires’ as they thought fit remained paramount, even when the safety of the boys was an issue.
Fr Paolo told the Committee he was uneasy about what was going on, and while he would not have allowed the man into the dormitory under his charge, he did not make his concerns known. As in many other cases, Brothers did not interfere with what other Brothers were doing.
Before Fr Stefano took over as Resident Manager in the mid-1970s, Fr Lucio was in charge, and he permitted similar access to his friend, Mr Tablis. With such connections over such a period of time, it is unlikely that any action would have been taken, even if Fr Paolo had reported his unease about the access enjoyed by these outsiders.
Fr Paolo, who was a Prefect, was uneasy about Mr Tablis, just as he was about Mr Garnier. His determination to keep outsiders away from the boys in his group extended as much to Mr Tablis as it did to Mr Garnier.