Noah Kitterick was a resident of Letterfrack from 1924 to 1932, which is outside the relevant period of this investigation. The reason why his story appears here is because of the response of the Congregation to his private and public complaints about Letterfrack. These began with two letters to the Superior of Letterfrack in 1953, and concluded with a visit to the Superior General in 1957. Mr Kitterick died tragically when he set fire to himself in London in 1967.
Mr Kitterick wrote two letters in 1953 to the Superior of Letterfrack, in which he complained about three named Brothers in Letterfrack. He claimed that they were tyrannical and sadistic: Bros Piperel,17 Corvax18 and Perryn ... these men were a disgrace to the Christian Brothers. Piperel and Corvax were tyrants. Br Perryn who was in the cook-house and refectory took great pleasure in beating boys for no reason, he was a sadist, for beating us he used a piece of rubber motor tyre. Almost daily we were flogged by one or other of these Bros. Dozens of times I left the dining room with my hands bleeding ... On several occasions after a meal, I was taken to the pantry ... by Br Perryn. He would lock the door and make me undress he would then sit on a stool and would put me across his knee and then flog me savagely he would then pinch me until I was unconscious.
Mr Kitterick followed up this letter with another, two days later, in which he said that he wished to see Letterfrack closed until improvements could be made there and the perpetrators of abuse brought to justice.
The Brothers he identified were all members of the Community in Letterfrack during his time there, although the presence of one Brother, Br Corvax, was only verified by the Congregation in 2007. Mr Kitterick made a spelling mistake in one of the names but that did not prevent easy identification of the person.
Mr Kitterick met with the Provincial of the Congregation in 1957. In a letter to the Congregation’s solicitors, the Provincial said that he thought Mr Kitterick was on a ‘blackmail ticket’: This evening I had a “gentleman” named Kitterick ex-British army to see me. He said he was an ex-pupil of our industrial school in Letterfrack and that the doctors had said that all his troubles were due to the hardship he got whilst in Letterfrack. I took it that he was working on the blackmail ticket and after listening to him for some time I gave him your name and address as our solicitor. I know you will know how to deal with him if he approaches.
Mr Kitterick continued his campaign: During the last ten years I have reported about conditions in Letterfrack, which I have no reason to think have changed very much, to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, and Dr Browne Bishop of Galway, as well as President de Valera, and to the Superiors of many industrial schools. I have yet to receive a reply.19
The information recently provided by the Congregation confirmed that the third Brother named by Mr Kitterick was in Letterfrack during his time. It follows that, if the Brothers who dealt with this correspondence decided to ignore it because he had named a Brother who was not present, they were entirely wrong. The Brothers at the time could have established whether the third Brother was there if there was any doubt about the matter. The possibility that the Congregation decided its response on this basis was not grounded in any document but was an interpretation advanced by Br Gibson on behalf of the current Congregation.
The Congregation’s refusal to respond to Noah Kitterick’s complaints was indicative of an organisation that chose not to investigate criticism or admit failings. The Congregation sought to protect itself from the allegations rather than seeking to ascertain the truth. The Christian Brothers’ records contained potential corroborative material, and the complaints warranted full investigation. The Congregation’s current position is that allegations of abuse, both physical and sexual, came as a shock to the Congregation, but such allegations had been dealt with for many years.
Br Piperel was one of three Brothers mentioned by an ex-resident of Letterfrack, Noah Kitterick, who wrote to the Provincial of the Order in 1953 alleging serious sexual and physical abuse. Notwithstanding the information the Congregation had, which should have alerted them that the allegations of Mr Kitterick were consistent with this Brother’s history, no acknowledgement or investigation of Mr Kitterick’s complaints was made. It was asserted by the Congregation that the failure to deal with Mr Kitterick’s allegations was because of ignorance that such behaviour could possibly have occurred. However, the documented records make such an assertion implausible.
When the Visitor was presented with information by one of the Brothers in Letterfrack, he investigated at once. He took statements from the boys involved, and was so horrified about the information that he took immediate action to remove the Brother. The Congregation described in the Opening Statement how a trial of this Brother had been arranged in 1941 which would have led to his dismissal if he was found guilty. The trial did not proceed because the Brother was permitted to apply for a dispensation from his vows which was granted. It is significant that the same Resident Manager was in charge during Br Perryn’s and Mr Russel’s time, namely, Br Troyes, who was in the School from 1935 to 1941. Br Perryn was the second Brother referred to by Noah Kitterick in his letter to the Provincialate in 1953. Noah Kitterick alleged sexual and physical abuse by this man when he was in Letterfrack from 1924 to 1932, which was during Br Perryn’s second period there. The Congregation must have been aware of this man’s history and yet they refused to engage with Mr Kitterick or to acknowledge his complaint in any way. The Congregation’s comment that ‘it is most unfortunate that the early warning signs had not been acted upon adequately’ failed to address the fundamental questions raised by this case. The fact that this Brother was able to abuse boys undetected and unreported for such a long period is indicative of a serious failing in the management of the school. To compound the seriousness of this case, even the Brother who discovered the abuse felt unable to report it to his Superior, waiting instead for the annual Visitation to disclose what he had heard. If a member of the Congregation felt that the Superior would not believe him, it is hardly surprising that the boys felt unable to speak up. This Superior was the same man who had refused to acknowledge the case of Mr Russel, referred to above. He was also the Resident Manager when an anonymous letter was sent to the Provincial regarding Br Piperel. The fact that the Brother had felt unable to report the matter to the Superior and had to go through the Visitor was not addressed. Instead, the Brother was criticised for his indiscretion in mentioning the matter to another Brother in the School. The documents do not record the 14 years of abuse by this man, which indicates that there was a higher level of sexual abuse in the Institution than was revealed by the evidence.