The Investigation Committee heard evidence from complainants about Br Beaufort. A witness recalled an example of his temper, when he suffered the kind of serious bodily harm apprehended by Br Noonan. Br Beaufort thought that the boy was laughing at him in class and responded impetuously: he jumped straight at me, picked me up, threw me like a dog around the place. I hit desks, hit the floor. I landed after some time on the floor. The commotion of boys screaming had brought Br Quintrell,10 who was in 11 school, which was the next school, he flew in and pulled him off. I know I was unconscious, and I know to God that if it hadn’t been for him coming in, I do not think I would be here today, in all honesty. The attack was vicious. Moments later, he was apologising, crying.
At the time of this incident, the boy was recovering from injuries to his hand sustained from an accident in the carpenter’s shop, which was confirmed by the infirmary records. The wounds opened in the assault by Br Beaufort. In addition, the witness complained of lacerations and injuries to his left eye and neck. Some of his teeth were broken, he lost one tooth on one side of his mouth and two on the other. He was brought to the infirmary after the attack and when he had quietened down he was taken to the dormitory. Until this incident he had had no difficulty with Br Beaufort, whom he described as friendly.
A Visitation Report in the late 1930s was critical of a Brother for his free use of the ‘slapper’, which was a shorter and thinner strap than the leather. The Visitor noted that the boys were: well disciplined and I am happy to be able to say that there was no evidence of undue or severe corporal punishment. I was assured by practically all the Brothers that there is very little corporal punishment indulged in. I did come across one case of the free use of the slapper. This was in the class room of Br Maurice. He gave about 16 slaps one after the other. I walked in just at the end. The slaps were not severe and the effect could only help towards demoralising the poor lads. I had a word with Br Wiatt14 and asked him to help Br Maurice to establish his control without having recourse to the useless method of indiscriminate slapping. But it is indeed satisfactory to find that there is very little corporal punishment and that in recent times there has not occurred any instance of undue severity. Br Eliot15 is Master of Discipline and is doing very well in this position. He is very anxious to do his best and he is succeeding very well in his exacting duties. There is still too much reliance on the slapper and not enough on personal influence. The only member of the staff who has succeeded in getting along with the boys without having recourse to corporal punishment is Br Dennet.16 His personal influence is very great, and his single-mindedness and truly Christ-like attitude in his dealing with his boys is having a marked effect for good on them.
The Inspector of Industrial Schools wrote, in July 1949, asking for details of an incident involving Br Olivier, and the Resident Manager replied three days later: Last year [the mother of a boy] happened to visit the School the very day her second son ... had a black eye. She mentioned the matter to me, and I investigated it there and then. Apparently the Brother losing his temper in class gave the boy a blow on the face with the palm of his hand, and next day the skin was discoloured. (Of course the discolouration disappeared within a few days.) I spoke to the Brother implicated (Br Olivier) and made it clear that such should not happen again. And as far as I know nothing has happened since then.
He said he did not adhere to the rules regarding corporal punishment very often. He did not recall the rules being brought to his attention while in Artane. He had never seen a punishment book: I could have slapped a fella maybe on the face or something like that. I might even hit a fella a punch in the back. It could have happened.
This witness described in detail an incident which he believed was a punishment for trying to get out of playing hurling, the sport in the charge of Br Olivier. The witness described how he developed a blister on his finger and tried to lance it with a needle, as he had seen his grandmother doing. He said that Br Olivier, however: ... accused me of deliberately trying to harm myself to avoid going training. He said he would cure it for me. That evening in the dormitory, him and Br Boyce19 called me into the boot room ... they had a kidney shaped utensil and boiling water. They got hold of me and I realised what they were going to do and I tried to make a run for it. The pair of them got hold of me and Br Olivier got my finger and shoved it in. I screamed and roared and tried to pull it back and they held it. After 10 or 15 seconds the pain went. It just went numb and it was bearable. They held it in for a while and out it come. That’s when he told me to walk the passageway, gangway which was linoleum in the centre of the dormitory. As time went on it swelled, it swelled. He obviously went to bed.
The night watchman found the boy, who had not gone to bed because of the instruction from the Brothers to ‘walk the passageway, gangway’, and told him to go to bed: The next morning I got up my finger was a white ball of flesh, waterlogged. I reported sick, I reported to Br Cretien20, which you had to do to get to see the nurse. I told the nurse what happened. I was treated at least a month or six weeks until eventually all the skin peeled off. Sometimes the nurse would cut it. After some weeks I was like a plucked chicken, bare skin. In time the skin grew back on the nail. To this day that finger, especially in cold weather, is numb, there is no feeling in it. I swear they must have burned the nerve ends.
The complainant told the Investigation Committee that there was no bread involved. The records show he was treated in the infirmary for a septic finger and that the Artane general practitioner saw him to treat the finger on two occasions, although the witness did not recall being seen by the doctor.
There were, however, elements of punishment to the whole procedure. The boy was so terrified that he tried to make a run for it. Despite being in obvious pain, he was then made to walk the corridor. Normal resources for treating sick children were not used, suggesting the Brothers did not take the injury to the finger seriously. Given these facts, it is not surprising the boy believed he was being punished, rather than treated, for his affliction.
A second, subsequent incident happened some considerable period later when the boy again failed to attend training. Br Olivier, he said: took me into the washroom. What we used to do if a Brother was going to beat you that night we tried to hang on as long as we could with our trousers on and our clothes. If you stripped off you only had a night-shirt. You didn’t have pyjamas. I thought he is not going to come, good. I stripped off. Sure enough he came in. He brought me into the washroom. He told me to kneel down on the floor and he stood over me with his arms folded. He was quite cool and calm and he said ‘I have told you now more than once to come out and I am going to give you the hiding of your life’ real calm. He was enjoying it. He said ‘hold your hand out. Hold your left hand out and don’t drop it until I tell you’. He took this leather strap out and he gave me four or five straps. I couldn’t hold it out any longer because the strap was starting to go up my arm. I had welts on it. I dropped it. He said ‘I have warned you not to drop your hand. Now, put your other hand out’ and I did. He started to beat me again. Again I dropped it. He said, ‘I did tell you’ and he went berserk. When you seen this man when he lost his temper he was like a wolf. His jaws literally went out and he bared his teeth and he just lashed at me. I was running trying to get away from him. He hit me, it didn’t matter where, legs, back, head, anywhere. During that I must have passed out because when I came around there was water running on my head and the taps from these baths were about that wide ... real old fashioned taps. I must have thought I was dreaming it. Then I thought I was drowning. I drew back and I cracked my head on the nozzle of the tap so I had blood coming down, I had tears, I was soaking wet. He wasn’t finished then. He threw me on the ground and he said ‘you’ll walk that floor for the rest of the night. Of all nights I thought the watchman would come but the watchman didn’t come that night. Nobody came and I walked that passage until 6.30 the next morning. I was so terrified of going to bed that he might come back and beat me again. I walked the whole night without sleep, I swear to God .... The injuries, you just put up with them. I was black and blue but I just had to put up with them ... I never missed a session after that, I can assure you.
Br Olivier was also involved in a shocking incident that began when a 12-year-old boy accidentally defecated on the floor in the sports dressing room. The Brother came on the scene and some of the excrement ended up on his shoes. The Garda statements made by the witnesses differ as to how this happened, and the precise sequence of events, but what is admitted in statements made by Br Olivier is that he told the boy to lick the excrement from his shoes and he did so. The Brother, in his statement to the Gardaí, said that he was shocked when the boy did this and told him to stop: ‘I only said it out of frustration. I didn’t mean him to do it’.
In his written response to the Investigation Committee, Br Olivier gave a full account of the incident as he remembered it, and repeated this apology. He wrote: On the day in question I was playing football with another Brother in a field far away from the dressing room. When we finished playing we returned to the dressing room to change and I noticed [the complainant] coming out of the dressing room. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he had to go to the toilet. I brought him back in and noticed the floor and my shoes were covered in faeces. I told him to clean up the mess and he replied he had nothing to clean it with. I spontaneously told him to lick it, meaning my shoes. To my horror he proceeded to do so and I immediately told him to stop and to go back to the class or he would be late. I did not give him any beating or bath and I proceeded to clean my shoes and the floor myself. On the day in question I was not on duty. I also wish to state that I never refused anyone permission to go to the toilet in my entire teaching career. I repeat the unqualified apology I made to [the complainant] sometime ago when this incident was brought to my attention.
He was specific in his statement that the apology was for asking the boy to lick excrement off his shoes. In that sense, it is indeed an ‘unqualified apology’. However, the Christian Brothers, in their response to the complainant’s allegations, wrote: [The complainant] describes in detail an occasion, while out training, he had stomach cramps, and accidentally defected himself. He claims that he was terrified that Brother Olivier would find out, so he hid his soiled clothing. Brother Olivier ultimately found the clothes and stained his shoes on the soiled clothing. [The complainant] alleges that Brother Olivier made him lick his boots clean. This alleged act took place in front of an ‘entire group’. [The complainant] continues that the group was asked to leave and he was then “subjected to a beating from Brother Olivier which lasted about 5 minutes”. In relation to the allegations made against Brother Olivier I would like to refer to a letter dated the ... addressed to [the complainant] from [Br Olivier] In this letter [he] wrote “I am deeply saddened to learn of your pain and hurt and I sincerely offer my humble apology for my part of the above pain and suffering”. While this letter acknowledges [the complainant’s] alleged pain, the letter is not intended to be an admission of the allegations made against Brother Olivier.
There is a marked contrast between the apologetic position taken by Br Olivier and that of the Congregation. The Brother admitted the essence of the complaint, namely that he told the boy to lick excrement; the Congregation adopted an exculpatory position, despite the fact that the Brother and the complainant agreed that the incident essentially did take place. Br Olivier made an unqualified apology in his letter for the purpose of making amends, whereas the Congregation’s submission put the best gloss on a situation that had the potential for embarrassment for the Brother and the Congregation. The effect was to detract from the force of the apology that was always meant to be ‘unqualified’.
In the mid-1950s, the mother of a boy in Artane wrote to the Department of Education to ask if she could be allowed to see her son, who had sustained a broken arm and head injuries during the previous week. She also asked if the incident could be investigated. She wrote: I heard during the week that my boy Thomas22 Artane School had an arm broken as a result of a blow with a brush by one of the brothers I call to the school yesterday and the superior admitted that one of the brothers had given him a blow and that his arm was broken I did not see the boy23 but I believe he was attending another hospital for treatment the superior said he had it xrayed and seen the result the arm is in Plaster of Paris I also heard that his head was bandaged during the week Im very worried over it and I called on Sunday to see him and was not allowed If it could be arranged for me to see him to ease my mind. In any case please have the matter investigated and let me no the result.