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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Physical abuse


One witness, who was there in the early 1940s, gave the following graphic account: this Br [Jaime9] was the man that did the flogging. He had a title of a prefect or something ... What flogged meant was that you got down – you took off your trousers and you got down on your knees and you went forward on the front and he flogged you on the bare buttocks.


He remembered that this happened to him on four occasions ‘in a room near the toilet and near the dormitory’. He also said that ‘... on two occasions I was taken from the dormitory and on two occasions I was taken from the yard to be flogged in this same room ...’.


He went on: I was flogged four times and the first time was when I was three or four months there and a chap ... tried to bully me. I hit back, it was only about two punches. I was reported and got flogged.


This witness recalled another occasion when he received a flogging because he removed his trousers before getting into bed, which he was not supposed to do as it was associated with ‘being immodest’. He took his trousers off before getting into bed as they ‘were always dirty with either cement and the blankets weren’t changed only every two or three months anyway or the sheets’. He added that ‘there wasn’t any kind of display’, and for that he got four lashes of the strap.


He spoke of another flogging: at the table there was some kind of a clothy thing on the table, not a tablecloth, you would scrape it off with your knife onto the plate, you would scrape the knife and my knife broke, it was that type of knife that the handle would fall off it. I was flogged for that. That could happen to anybody. That wasn’t a terrible thing, that wasn’t going to upset the run of the school or anything like that.


He recalled the fourth time he was flogged: the man that I was labouring to, he was spreading hard wall plaster and we were supplying him with the plaster. We weren’t very good builders labourers, we weren’t good at mixing the plaster ... it would get hard and he threw the thing down on top of me. There was a bit of blood from my head. I called him a name, he reported me and I got flogged for that.


This witness was complaining not only about the ferocity of the beatings, but also about their unfairness in his case. The description of the offences for which he was flogged could hardly be categorised as serious offences. His description of the flogging given in the 1940s is exactly like those described in the 1950s and 1960s.


Another witness, there in the late 1960s, gave the following account: [The Brothers], they had me on the steps, I got into a fight or something, they had this belt which was about a metre long ... You would go to bed and then you were called out of bed, you wore of flimsy sort of nighty which was down to your ankles. You weren’t allowed to wear anything else underneath that. You were brought to the bottom of the stairs where the dormitory was, marble stairs. You would kneel on the stairs. There was me and another fellow ... I remember him wetting on the floor because he was – there were three of us actually ... While they were doing this other guy, you would stand and watch them doing the guy in front of you. He would be on all fours. [One Brother] would stand on your hands and you would be kneeling down and as flimsy as the cotton night thing was that was lifted ... Up to your waist ... Then you would get – I think I had about six on that occasion ... I am almost sure after you had been done, you came back, (to bed) it was like a rota, like a line. I remember [ ... ] wetting himself on the floor next to me, I can remember it, it was steamy and smelly, I was concentrating more on that, I don’t know why. These things stick in your mind when you are a kid.


He described how the punishment was administered: [One Brother] would stand on your hands and [the other Brother] – it was peculiar the way he used to bring the strap in that he would bring it this way (indicating), under his left arm ... he would bring it underneath (indicating) and it would come right around like a golf club and he would bring it that way ... It was peculiar how he would always get at least one into your balls.


He also described the physical effects on him: Difficulty walking for a while and the marks would stay for months ... It was a thing like you would get guys, “Give us a look. Let’s have a look at your strap marks”. It was like a badge of honour ...


He said that the boys in the dormitory ‘could hear what was going on’ but they ‘couldn’t see it’.


Another witness said: They used to slap at the end of the stairs in the evening, you would be in the dormitory, if you were to be punished that’s where they punished you, they bring you down to the stairs and the echo of the screams would be for the benefit of everybody in the dormitories.


He later added: You just had a fear. You were going down to the office, you were called down, you knew what was going to happen to you. It was the whole ritual of it ... You were so scared before you even got a slap ...


Another witness, there in the early 1950s, described getting a ‘flogging’, or ‘stripes on your arse’. He told the Committee the Brother would get the boy to drop his pants and bend over the bed to be punished: The first time it happened to me he had to show you sometimes to put your hand over your penis, your private – just in case the strap did go around you it would hurt you, it would catch you there.


One complainant was able to distinguish between the ordinary corporal punishment he received at home from that administered in Daingean: My dad sometimes smacked us, gave us a clout of a belt, a whack across the arse. What I got [in Daingean] was I got a searing pain, I will never forget it in all my life, never. The first of it was the shock. It was shock first of all. Then the second one I got and it wasn’t across my buttocks, it wasn’t across my buttocks, it was right between my buttocks with this strap. I don’t know where they got these straps from but it was specially designed for this, it wasn’t a belt. When they say you got a strap, it wasn’t a like a trouser strap, it was a specially made strap. It was very thick and it was about that length (indicating) and it was shaped for gripping with the hand for hitting you with. The way they used to hit you was they used to hit you between the buttocks and pull it up (indicating). The reason he had the other Brother there was to stop you going forward. He used to put his foot on the back of your shoulder, on the back of your neck and your shoulders. He would put his foot there and hold you so that when you got hit with the strap you couldn’t jump forward with the belt. That strap sometimes, they were expert with it, if he wanted that could come around and hit you in the testicles. If ever you got hit in the testicles, that gives you cramp in your stomach, you double up, you couldn’t even move. I passed out.

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is the Irish version of Richard Crowe.
  17. This is the English version of Mr MacConchradha.
  18. Allegations of brutal beatings in Court Lees Approved School were made in a letter to The Guardian, and this led to an investigation which reported in 1967 (see Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School (Cmnd 3367, HMSO)) – Known as ‘The Gibbens Report’, it found many of the allegations proven, and in particular that canings of excessive severity did take place on certain occasions, breaking the regulation that caning on the buttocks should be through normal clothing. Some boys had been caned wearing pyjamas. Following this finding, the School was summarily closed down.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is the English version of Ó Síochfhradha.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This was Br Abran.
  27. Organisation that offers therapy to priests and other religious who have developed sexual or drink problems run by The Servants of the Paraclete.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. Board of Works.
  36. Bread and butter.
  37. Board of Works.
  38. Patrick Clancy, ‘Education Policy’, in Suzanne Quinn, Patricia Kennedy, Anne Matthews, Gabriel Kiely (eds), Contemporary Irish Social Policy (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005), p 79.
  39. This is a pseudonym.