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Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

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Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


Br Telfour described another occasion when the same two boys as had reported Mr Albaric came to him and made what he called a very vague allegation against another Brother. The allegation, as recalled by the witness, was not that the Brother had engaged in any sexual misconduct with the two boys, but that other boys were saying that the Brother ‘did things’ to them. He said that he pursued the matter with the boys who were reporting to him and tried to get something definite by way of a name or an activity, but: I was just getting the same – the boys – just the boys – shrug of the shoulders, as if – I didn’t know how to take it. The boys say, that is all I was getting, ah just things, things. So I couldn’t pursue it any further.


He felt that, because he had not got any specifics or details of the names of boys involved or what was going on or where or when it was going on, he was unable to take the complaint either to the Superior or to the Brother who was accused. Nothing further happened on the strength of that information.


Two complainants alleged that Br Curtis sexually abused them. One alleged that he and other boys were sexually abused by Br Curtis in the classroom. He described Br Curtis as ‘an absolute thug ... a pure thug, a paedophile thug’. He stated that: The man would be there doing it in the classroom, staring at the classroom and then he would be doing it with various kids. He would take you out of the desk, get one arm, put it behind your back, your buttocks would be there leaned against the desk and he would be there pushing you back and he would be going into you.


Another witness described Br Curtis as a nice man but stated that he was regularly abused by him. Br Curtis got him a job in the laundry, which was perceived as a ‘soft job’. He started by being nice to the complainant, who welcomed the attention, although he was conscious that it was wrong. Br Curtis would take him from his bed in the mornings four or five times a week in order to abuse him. Normally, Br Curtis was gentle with him but, on one occasion during his first year in the school, he was rough and raped him. He said that Br Curtis made him feel special until he was raped: Yes, he would make me play with him and he would – nearly every morning – as I said, there was that little room at the top of the dormitories. There was two, there was one each side, I remember, there was more than two little ones, but Br Curtis when he stayed there, when he – the first thing in the morning he would come and take me from my bed, just after our prayers, and in the pretence – and then he would take me into the little room and then he would make me either play with him or he would play with himself. ... On one occasion, he just took me in the room and he seemed very excited and he was quite rough, generally – normally, he wasn’t as rough, but he just seemed to be very rough that morning and I don’t know whether he inserted his penis, or, as I said – but in my anus, and I felt a lot of pain and I asked him to stop on many occasions and he didn’t ... That was just the one occasion.


He said that he was too confused to report what had happened to him to anyone.


This witness described feelings of guilt mixed with an awareness of being special. He got special privileges and favours from the Brother that were resented by other boys and which led to his being bullied ‘slightly’. The Brother was good to him at times but he was still troubled: I said at the beginning I felt special, that I was getting special treatment ... And until it got rough on that occasion, I still felt I was quite special.


The other boys noticed the special treatment he was receiving and called him a teacher’s pet.


He went to Confession after he was raped and he told the Priest what had happened. He believed that the priest may have said something because, soon after, he was changed from the laundry. He did not know whether that change related to this but he thought it was a possibility.


Even though it was hearsay and vague, this complaint was obviously serious and should have been followed up, especially when it came from two boys who had previously reported a case of abuse that was subsequently confirmed. In this case, Br Telfour did nothing about a complaint of sexual abuse that he received. He did not even tell the boys to report it to the Superior. In the earlier case, which he had regarded as sufficiently grounded in fact, the Brother did not himself go to the Superior but sent the boys to make the report.


Br Telfour cited an incident he witnessed soon after his arrival in the school and which involved Br Algrenon, a member of staff during the mid-1960s. He wanted to speak to Br Algrenon so he went up to his [Br Algrenon’s] room. However, instead of finding Br Algrenon he found a boy washing his penis at Br Algrenon’s wash basin. Br Telfour did not ask the boy why he was doing it. He told the Committee: ‘I presumed he was injured and maybe too embarrassed to go into the nurse or whatever’. The boy told him he was washing it on Br Algrenon’s instruction. Br Telfour acted as if nothing strange had happened and did not enquire any further into the matter.


It is hard to understand how the sight that met Br Telfour when he opened the door of a fellow Brother’s private bedroom did not make him suspicious. It is, of course, possible that this incident may not be related to sexual activity between the Brother and the boy but it should have undoubtedly raised a concern. He testified to the Committee that he did not check with Br Algrenon, as it was his first year in the place and he did not know how to handle the situation: ‘No, I didn’t. I didn’t know how to handle this. It was my first year there. I wasn’t long into the place‘.


Br Telfour told the Committee that he should have brought the complaints he got from the two boys about Br Curtis, and the incident in Br Algrenon’s room, to the Superior’s attention. He said that at that time he knew nothing about such activity, although he did acknowledge that he had encountered an allegation of sexual abuse whilst he was a student in Marino.


In Letterfrack, he was able to deal with the allegation against the lay worker by sending the complaining boys to the Superior but he failed, to his later regret, to deal with the complaints that were reported to him about one Brother and the incident in the other Brother’s bedroom.


Br Telfour’s explanation for his failure to act appropriately in any of the instances of sexual abuse reported to him was his inexperience and lack of knowledge in how to deal with such a situation. However, it points to a moral and ethical ambivalence about this issue. An adult encountering sexual abuse of a child, even in the 1960s, should have had no hesitation in acting to stop it. This Brother was wracked with indecision when a fellow Brother was involved although he did make some effort, albeit indirect, in the case of the lay worker. Responses to sexual abuse were influenced by loyalty to the Congregation and to the individual Brother rather than the need to protect children in care. The preceding four incidents all occurred during Br Dax’s time there, and indicate ignorance and incompetence in relation to this issue. These Brothers recalled complaints about sexual abuse that were not recorded anywhere in the documentation, which reveals the difficulty of measuring the full extent of sexual abuse in Letterfrack.


Br Anatole, a former Christian Brother who worked in Letterfrack during the late 1960s and early 1970s, was convicted of abusing three boys in Letterfrack. None of the victims gave evidence.

  1. Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).
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  6. Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.
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  19. This document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.
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  32. See table at paragraph 3.20 .
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  36. This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.
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  58. Electricity Supply Board.
  59. See table at paragraph 8.21 .
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  61. Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.
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  65. Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.