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Chapter 10 — Carriglea

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Physical abuse


The proposed staff overhaul took place and, by November 1946, only two of the 11 members of the previous year’s Community remained: the much criticised Superior, and another Brother, Br Durrant,10 whose only duty was to take care of the sacristy. Seven Brothers were transferred into Carriglea, and nine Brothers were transferred out of the Institution.11


Amongst the Brothers transferred to Carriglea was Br Maslin12, who had spent the previous five years in Letterfrack. He had also spent over a year in Tralee prior to that. He had a ferocious reputation as Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, to the extent that a Brother felt compelled to complain to a Visitor from the Provincial Council during an annual Visitation. In a letter outlining his concerns, he wrote that the Disciplinarian ‘can inflict terrible punishment on children and the boys have a awful dread of his anger’. The nub of the Brother’s concern, which he shared with other members of the Letterfrack Community, was that the Disciplinarian was happy to mete out severe punishment on the flimsiest of evidence, particularly if the alleged crime was sexual activity amongst boys.


The Investigation Committee heard evidence from an ex-resident of Carriglea who described this Brother as ‘an animal’. He alleged that Br Maslin was random and indiscriminate in his use of corporal punishment. He stated, ‘He would go behind you and he would just give you a whack. A whack of the leather on the head or the ears’. He used a leather strap to inflict punishment and he carried a cat-o’-nine-tails around with him, which was terrifying for the children.


Br Maslin supervised the washroom in the evening time and would beat the boys with a strap if they were too slow. This former resident described the daily scene in the washroom as follows: In the evenings if you had to go up to the washroom, there was a big washroom with all the taps and all that, and everything was cold, it was all cold, there was water in them. What you used to do was the kids used line up in two, one and then one behind him, and what you had to do was he just roared first ‘right leg’, you put your right leg in and you got the soap and you washed it and then he would say ‘wash off the soap’. Then you had the stand back and the next kid would go in and he would put his right foot up on the thing.


The Investigation Committee also heard evidence from Br Hardouin,13 who was in Carriglea at the same time as Br Maslin. He stated in evidence that Br Maslin was the most feared by the boys of all the Brothers in the Community. He described him as ‘very very severe’ in terms of his demeanour and manner. Even the Brothers in the Community regarded him as unfriendly and standoffish.


In their response to the complainant’s allegation, the Congregation stated that, as Br Maslin was now deceased, it was impossible for them to confirm or deny that any such abuse took place. No reference was made to this Brother’s record in Letterfrack or the reservations expressed by his colleague on his use of physical punishment.


Br Ansel14 was transferred to Carriglea from Tralee in December 1945. He spent less than three months in Carriglea, holding the post of Disciplinarian before being transferred to a day school. Br Ansel had a reputation for being strict. He had spent five years in Artane. When the Resident Manager in Tralee had complained that his current Disciplinarian was not sufficiently strict, the Disciplinarian in question was replaced and, 12 months after that replacement, Br Ansel was transferred there. He later sought and was granted a dispensation in the mid-1960s. Br Octave,15 who was in Tralee at the same time as Br Ansel, described him as the best Disciplinarian and Principal. ‘He didn’t tolerate disobedience in word or act. Returned runaways had to “walk the line” for longish periods until they were broken’.


Br Eliot,16 another Brother with a tough reputation, was drafted into Carriglea in March 1946, replacing Br Ansel as Disciplinarian. He had spent 11 years in Artane and held the position of Disciplinarian for most of this time. Br Hardouin stated in his evidence to the Investigation Committee that he understood that Br Eliot ‘was brought in purposely to restore law and order’. He went about establishing a strict regime of discipline which Br Hardouin found at times was ‘a little bit over severe on some individuals’.


This changing of the guard and introduction of Brothers who had records of enforcing discipline brought immediate results. In the Visitation Report of 1946, the Visitor noted ‘a marked improvement in the moral tone and outlook of the pupils’. However, he also commented on the fact that there had been no additions to the trades taught as previously recommended, nor had the band been resurrected.


Br Tavin17 was appointed Superior in 1947. Improvements continued to be noted by the Visitor that year and were attributed to the new Disciplinarian, Br Eliot.


By 1948, the band had finally been fully restored, a fact which had done much to ‘enliven the general atmosphere of the institution’. A knitting shop was now in operation, to keep the younger boys occupied. The key areas of manual trades and organised games were not addressed, however.


While the remaining Visitation Reports did not comment adversely on the boys, it was telling as regards the general atmosphere of the Institution that the Visitor noted in 1953 that ‘none of the Brothers speaks very highly of the boys. They are said to be “tough” and secretive and to require a firm hand but discipline on the whole is good’.


The Christian Brothers in their Opening Statement referred to the crisis that came to a head in 1945. On the one hand, they conceded that: When a strengthened staff was put in place in 1945 it may be assumed that the reform brought about by the new arrivals involved a certain amount of firm measures that would have been viewed with reluctance by the boys.


They elaborated on this statement by adding: As the Brothers concerned may be said to have ended a situation regarded by the boys as one of freedom they would have been unpopular and their actions likely to have been exaggerated.


During Phase III of the Investigation Committee’s inquiry into Carriglea, Br Nolan referred to events that culminated in 1945. He stated, ‘the regime that followed was very like Artane, it was quite regimented and staff taking responsibility rather than monitors’. He conceded that ‘certainly, strong measures were to be taken after 1946. There is some evidence that that did happen’.

  1. 121 boys in Carriglea who had been committed through the courts were transferred to Artane (106), Upton (8) and Greenmount (7). There were 55 voluntary admissions and they were transferred to Artane (16), Tralee (20) and Glin (19).
  2. As in the case of Letterfrack .
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  9. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter for a discussion of her role and performance.
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  11. Br Ansel was also sent there for a few months around the end of 1945.
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  22. Review of Financial Matters Relating to the System of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools, and a Number of Individual Institutions 1939 to 1969.
  23. Córas Iompair Éireann was a State-owned public transport company.