In the late 1960s a boy, William,11 absconded from Tralee, and was apprehended and severely punished by Br Millard. He informed his parents who complained to their local TD, who in turn wrote to the school and the Department of Education.
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.
Seven weeks later, the Department wrote to the TD as follows: Dear Deputy ... I refer again to your representations regarding William ... who is detained in St. Joseph’s School, Tralee. The Matter has in the meantime been investigated by an inspector of my Department, who interviewed Br [Millard] who inflicted the punishment and Br ... who witnessed it and also young William himself. The inspector’s investigation has established that the facts of the case are substantially as stated in Br Millard’s reply ... to you and that account was confirmed by young William and his companion in absconding, who bear no resentment to the Brothers for their treatment.