Emmett,4 who was in St Joseph’s as a boy from the early 1970s, described a frightening ordeal to which he was subjected in a very cruel punishment, when he was put into a small cupboard known as ‘the black hole’: The black hole is an area which is situated in the basement of the convent, right beside the kitchen area. It is about three, maybe four by four square, and in height also. It is totally black. One was thrown into there kicking and screaming, not wanting to go there, terrified and wanting to get out because it is not a nice thing to go into and just being left there all night. Myself and my brother were put in there. Why I can’t recall. I was terrified being put in there, kicking and screaming, wanting to be let out ... whatever I have done wrong sorry, just let me out, let me out. My brother also tried to calm me down but I almost turned my anger out onto him ... all I knew was that this is totally wrong and bad to be done and there is nothing one could do about it. One kicked at the door to be let out and only to be told that if you keep kicking on the door you are going to stay in there much longer. It could be five minutes and at the time it was all night. An incident which happened in which I was in there all night on my own, Sr Sienna5 put me in there ... In the early hours, it must have been six around o’clock ... I heard a noise outside and I thought it was Sr Sienna and I said, “please let me out. I will be good, I am sorry for whatever I have done”, only for one of the kitchen staff to open the door and say to me, “what are you doing in there?” Naturally I would be so scared to say it to her, because I wouldn’t want to get her into trouble because God knows what the nuns would do to her. She says, “well okay I’ll let you out but don’t tell the nuns that I have let you out.” I would have clambered out of it and creeped and went straight upstairs to my bed. That would be one of the worst times that it happened. Another time ... I did kick and push the door to get out but Sr Sienna opened the door and gave me a slap, and of course gave (my brother) a slap just as bad ...
|Date||Offence||By Whom Reported||Punishment||Remarks on the Case|
|August 1947||Disobedient, sulky and muttering when corrected. Troublesome to the Sisters in P. School.||Principal Teacher and also Miss A.6||Kept from going to see Procession and celebration of St Patrick’s Centenary.||These 5 girls seem to be leagued together to give trouble.|
|September 1947||Refused to do her charge. Impertinent to teacher.||Miss B.7||Just insisted on its being done.|
|September 1947||Attacked each other quarrelling over something||In the presence of all the children in Dining Hall.||[Pupil] slapped by Sister Sienna.||Not much improvement.|
|October 1947||Separated from teacher when out walking, went a different road.||Teacher who was in charge.||Not allowed out following Sunday.|
|October 1947||Left school without permission in early morning. Went out to the country.||Missed by everyone. Had to be followed by teachers in a motor.||No punishment given.|
|October 1947||Hid all day in the attic. Only missed when the children came to dinner.||Missed from dining, then reported to Guards.||No punishment given.|
Sr Sienna who had been Resident Manager had meticulously retained papers relating to the witness, including this letter. Elaine was grateful that the Sister had preserved them but was frustrated when she would not hand them over. Only the threat of court proceedings forced their production. There was no understanding that children needed and were entitled to information about their families. She said: Originally when my first baby was born, and that would have been in the mid 1960s, I had gone back to the orphanage because the orphanage was still open and I was literally told to get on with my life. I wasn’t told who I was or anything like that. I did want to know because I had a child then and motherly instincts must have told me I had a mother and she must have had some feelings too.
He was asked if he stood by those sentiments today and he replied: Yes, I would ... Fr Burke ... I wish he was my dad, because I loved him so much. He’s one in a million ... Sr Sienna as much as there is a lot of good fond memories, and I stand over the letter and those words I have said in it ... there is a lot of good but yet there is bad ... I thought she was so good and the next minute she turned bad, by locking me in the black hole and humiliating me and embarrassing me and hitting me in her office.