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Chapter 16 — Marlborough House

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Physical abuse


Mr MacConchradha, Probation Administration Officer at the Department of Justice, was informed by memorandum dated 3rd June 1969 that: There is no doubt but that a Supervisor, on two occasions, infringed the regulations which are laid down. The reports that the Officer of the Department provided are still being considered but the matter must be researched further.


A further complaint was made against the same attendant. In early 1969, a welfare officer reported that a boy who was resident in Marlborough House had received ‘a walloping’ from this attendant.


Despite these complaints, the attendant continued to be employed, and was promoted to attendant in charge of Marlborough House in 1970, less than one year after the findings of the internal Department of Education investigation into his behaviour. According to an internal memorandum from the Department of Education, he sustained injuries when he was attacked by boys in May 1970, which necessitated a spell of sick leave, and that ended his tenure as attendant in charge. He was eventually removed in 1971 because ‘it was felt that he was a source of tension amongst the boys, due to a temperament aggravated by high blood pressure’.


Each of the witnesses that gave evidence to the Investigation Committee made allegations of physical abuse, particularly against this attendant [Mr Lombard]. One witness recounted being hit randomly with his walking stick for no reason. He said Mr Lombard would take him out of bed in the early hours of the morning and would ‘wallop you, strip you, hit you with the stick’. This happened on two or three occasions where he was taken out of bed ‘and just walloped for no reason whatsoever’. He recalled a particular occasion when Mr Lombard took a boy out of the bed next to him and ‘hit him so hard and where he missed him there was holes in the walls from the top of his walking stick were he actually missed him with a few blows’. The atmosphere he felt was one of fear: It was degrading there, there was tension there all the time, a terrible atmosphere. If you were hit you actually felt better because you were not going to be hit for a day or two. You never knew when it was going to happen to you.


He added: ‘You weren’t treated as a human being at all in there, you had no control over anything there, none’.


Another witness referred to the early-morning beatings by this same attendant, which he first received on arrival: ... it was perhaps about 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, I can’t remember exactly what time it was, when the bedclothes were taken back off me. This man, whom I now knew to be Lombard, held me down with his left hand on the back of my neck here, he had the blankets back and he beat me half a dozen times with the walking stick, across the back, the buttocks and the back of my legs. Full force. This was the first night I was there.


This happened on four occasions within the first month that he was there, where Mr Lombard would beat him with his walking stick: ‘He would always give you half a dozen whacks of it’. He also said that Mr Lombard beat the boys for no reason, and he pointed out that there ‘was always a smell of alcohol from his breath’.


A third witness complained of being beaten by this attendant who ‘would hit you whatever way he wanted to’. He would punch with his hands, ‘Around your body, you could be in your bed and he would come in and punch you’. He referred to the atmosphere created by this man: ‘when he was in your presence you would have fear. He’d have that about him, he brought fear’.


In May 1969, a Probation Officer reported an assault on a boy at Marlborough House to Judge Eileen Kennedy. The boy had been hit in the eye with an aluminium mug by the Matron, Mrs Grange, which resulted in a black eye, and he was slapped twice on the left-hand side of his face by her. He was seen by a doctor the following evening but he ‘was afraid to say anything against Mrs Grange, as she was present while the doctor saw him, and he was afraid he would get a beating that night’. He had been a week in custody and, when brought before Judge Kennedy on remand, he had a black eye. Judge Kennedy brought the matter to the attention of the Secretary of the Department of Education on the same day, and said that she was of the view that the ‘complaint is one deserving of investigation’.


The Department of Education replied within a week that ‘The matter will be investigated and a further communication sent to you in due course’. No such communication was found in discovery. The General Statement of the Department of Education stated that there are ‘no further records in relation to this complaint’.


The Investigation Committee heard evidence from a complainant who was the individual subjected to the alleged assault by the Matron, Mrs Grange. He recalled that, when he appeared before her, Judge Kennedy asked how he had received a black eye, to which he replied ‘the madame gave me bang with a belt or something’.


This witness complained of getting ‘a few clatters on a few occasions’ from the Matron, Mrs Grange, and he explained that the black eye which Judge Kennedy had asked him about, was in fact the result of a blow with a ladle.


In January 1971, Rosita Sweetman, a journalist with the Irish Press, wrote a series of articles on the ill-treatment of boys and the poor conditions in Marlborough House. Her information came from an existing member of staff, Mr Jacob,8 who also provided her with unofficial access to the building and documents. It was reported that: ... one of the wardens boasted ... how he’d “beaten the lard out of that itinerant kid.” The itinerant kid was 13. ‘Jacob’ protested and was told “These young lads aren’t juvenile delinquents – they’re criminals. They are here to be corrected and we’ll correct them.”


The events surrounding the escape by a boy, Emmet Crosbie,9 on St Stephen’s Day 1970 prompted these newspaper articles and, in particular, Mr Jacob to contact the press. An attendant who was intoxicated gave the boy keys to escape, which he did, and went to the West where he surrendered himself to the Gardaí who brought him back to Marlborough House. The Superintendent of Marlborough House, Mr Carnoy,10 obtained statements from both attendants regarding the circumstances of the boy’s escape. He wrote to the Department of Education in January 1971, stating that he believed the boy’s version of events and was satisfied that both attendants were under the influence of drink on the nights in question, and he considered that it was a case of neglect of duty on the part of one of the attendants, Mr Lombard. As was outlined above, Mr Lombard was eventually removed from his position in July 1971, as he was considered a source of tension amongst the boys.


The Department became aware that Mr Jacob was supplying the information to the press. Following publication of these articles, officials from the Department of Education interviewed a number of staff at Marlborough House, including the Superintendent, Mr Carnoy, the matron, Mrs Grange, and Mr Jacob. In his interview, Mr Jacob admitted that he contacted Ms Sweetman and gave her access to the building, and he re-asserted his allegations that the boys were ill-treated by certain attendants. He was initially suspended from work, and then was sacked at the end of January 1971, following an internal Department investigation into complaints made against him.

  1. .The Department of Education was negligent in the management and administration of Marlborough House. Its unwillingness to accept responsibility for the Institution caused neglect and suffering to the children there and resulted in a dangerous, dilapidated environment for the children.
  2. .The employment of unsuitable, inadequate and unqualified staff resulted in a brutal, harsh regime with punishment at its core.
  3. .There was no outside authority interested in the welfare of the children in Marlborough House. No concern was expressed by Department officials at the appalling treatment and care they knew the boys were receiving. The concern at all times was to protect the Department from criticism.
  4. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It later changed its name to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. (ISPCC)
  5. The average cost of keeping a prisoner in Shanganagh Castle in 2002 was €169,450, the second highest in the state outside of Portlaoise
  6. Department of Education & Science Statement to Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19th May 2006, p 220.
  7. Correspondence cited in Department of Education submission, p 223.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
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  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
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  14. This is pseudonym.