- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Social and demographic profile of witnesses
- Circumstances of admission
- Family contact
- Everyday life experiences (male witnesses)
- Record of abuse (male witnesses)
- Everyday life experiences (female witnesses)
- Record of abuse (female witnesses)
- Positive memories and experiences
- Current circumstances
- Introduction to Part 2
- Special needs schools and residential services
- Children’s Homes
- Foster care
- Primary and second-level schools
- Residential Laundries, Novitiates, Hostels and other settings
- Concluding comments
- Volume 4
Chapter 9 — TraleeBack
Br Bevis, when asked whether Br Lafayette was excessively severe towards the boys, said that he did not know, as he was not there when he punished the boys. One boy did, however, tell him he was ‘punished severely’ by Br Lafayette.
A number of former residents gave evidence about Br Lafayette.
One complainant stated that he ‘would have been great in the Nazis. He was the coldest, coldhearted person I ever came across ... He was cruel beyond belief’.
By way of an example, he explained that he had a job of bringing dinner to sick boys. One boy had refused his food and it was returned uneaten to Br Lafayette in the kitchen. When handing over the dinner to Br Lafayette, he told him that the boy ‘wouldn’t be having any dinner’. Later, the Brother called him out of his class and had him repeat what he said about the boy. After tea, Br Lafayette called him aside again, this time put him against the wall and asking him to repeat what he had said earlier. Once again, he repeated that the boy ‘won’t be having any dinner’. Br Lafayette then produced the leather and gave him six hard slaps on the hands. Again, Br Lafayette asked him to repeat the message, and he was given six more hard slaps with the leather.
This cycle continued until, after about 30 slaps, Br Lafayette said to him ‘You left him [the boy] having a fit on the floor, didn’t you?’, to which the boy responded ‘yes’. He was now willing to say ‘anything to stop him from hitting me’. Br Lafayette then ‘fisted’ him in the face. He was left pumping blood, and Br Lafayette told him that that would ‘teach you to tell me lies’. The witness said he still had no idea why he was being punished in this way, but could only presume that the sick boy must have had a fit after he left him. He did not make a complaint about his treatment because, if you complained, you would get into ‘deeper trouble’.
This same former resident told the Investigation Committee that, apart from Br Lafayette and two other Brothers,15 ‘it was a lovely school’. He felt the rest of the Brothers did the best with what they had.
He also stated that Br Lafayette regularly interrogated him and other boys about sex and matters relating to it in his back room. In particular, he was asked to name other boys who were involved in sexual activity: The first time it came on, he asked me, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. And of course I got six of the best for basically telling lies.
After being punished for not being able to answer, he gave another boy’s name: I can still think of that man to this day, because I put him through the same trouble that I was in. And someone else probably put me in the same trouble because of what was going on.
Another former resident said that, because he was working in the kitchen and was under Br Lafayette’s care, he was protected from beatings from other Brothers. On one occasion, Br Lafayette intervened to stop a severe beating from Br Bevis. He said that Br Lafayette went ‘out of his way to ensure that nobody else laid a finger on me’. While Br Lafayette was in Tralee, ‘nobody really beat me up or anything at all like that. But after he left then there were threats coming in from all sides’. He added that Br Lafayette had the reputation for being the ‘hardest Brother’ in the school. ‘If he said “Jump”, you said “How high?”.’
Br Lafayette had spent two periods in Letterfrack in the 1940s and 1950s and also served in Artane. He transferred from Tralee to Glin in the 1960s.
In the late 1950s, Robert Moore, a pupil in the Industrial School, died in Tralee County Hospital. His death certificate recorded that he died from ‘Bilateral Pleural Effusion. Senility. Certified’.17 He was 16 years of age at the time.
He had been transferred from St Philomena’s in Stillorgan when he was seven, and had spent the next 10 years in Tralee. He was due for discharge some 10 months prior to his death, but had stayed on until a suitable placement was found for him as an apprentice shoemaker.
There has been considerable controversy and media speculation about the circumstances surrounding his death, and the Investigation Committee heard evidence from a number of witnesses who were in the School at the time and recalled his death.
This controversy first began to emerge in 1995, when former pupils made allegations in the media that Robert Moore had received a severe beating from Br Lafayette in the refectory for refusing to eat his food, and that he had died some days later in hospital.
Br Bevis, who served as a teacher in Tralee for almost 10 years from the mid-1950s, told the Investigation Committee that one morning he was waking the boys when he noticed that Robert Moore had been sick during the night and that his vomit was blood stained. He summoned help from another Brother who used to look after the boys. The next time Br Bevis saw the boy was when he visited him in hospital. He recalled that it must have been on a Saturday as this was the only day he could go. He took the boy a copy of The Kerryman newspaper. He remembered that Robert Moore clung to his hand and, with hindsight, he realised that Robert appeared to have some sense that he was going to die. Br Bevis tried to console him by telling him he was not as ill as others in the hospital, as he did not realise at the time that the boy was near death. Robert Moore died on a Sunday and, although Br Bevis thought it was some days after his visit, it is more likely that he died the next day.
- Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter, Vol. IV.
- The Visitation Report for February 1960 records the total number in the primary school as being 119 and the Visitation Report for May 1961 gave the total number of boys in Tralee as 130, with 107 boys on the roll in the primary school.
- The 1969 Visitation Report refers to 35 boys being still in the School, and the Opening Statement says that by 30th June 1970, the School had closed.
- Prior to leaving, the Visitor gave the Resident Manager directions as to certain matters that should be attended to without delay including cleaning the entrance path and flowerbeds, employing a woman to take over the care of the laundry, teaching the boys table manners and providing them with washing facilities before dinner and tea time. These were reiterated in a follow-up letter to the Resident Manager, without the reference to the paths and flowerbeds.
- This is a pseudonym.
- He said that he thought it was probably another Brother (Br Cheney, the Principal at that time) who made the decision that he was to be kept away from the dormitories but he ‘would totally agree with that’.
- ‘Strong hand’ in Irish.
- The two Brothers referred to were Br Mahieu and Br Cheney.
- The letters to Br Sebastien, Br Millard and Br Beaufort mentioned below.
- He had also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
- This is a pseudonym.
- The school annals note that the Brother resigned from the post due to ill-health.
- One of the others was Br Rayce. The complainant did not know who the third one was.
- Br Aribert accepted that this was a fair summary of Br Lafayette.
- Brs Archard and Kalle.
- This is a pseudonym.
- ‘Senility’ was subsequently changed to ‘septicaemia’.
- This is a pseudonym.
- He confirmed also that it was not the general rule that you would be punished if you failed in your homework or schoolwork at class.
- Professor Tom Dunne, ‘Seven Years in the Brothers’ Dublin Review (Spring 2002).
- This is a pseudonym.
- This Brother worked in Tralee from the mid-1960s to 1970.
- There were three Resident Managers during Br Lisle’s time in Tralee: Brs Sinclair, Millard and Roy.
- Br Sinclair was Resident Manager for a period of six years in the 1960s.
- Question Time was a radio programme
- The annals refer to ‘this tax’ ceasing to be paid when Br Dareau came as Resident Manager.
- This is borne out by the Department Inspector’s Reports, which until 1950 categorised the food and diet as ‘satisfactory’. The 1953 Report said that food and diet was ‘much improved’ and, from then on, was always described by this inspector as very good.
- A later Visitation Report noted that there was no evidence of the pilfering of food that had taken place before this Brother arrived in Tralee.
- The 1940s Visitation Reports only commented on the standard of the boys’ clothing in 1940, 1941 and 1943, and then only in positive terms.
- ‘The School has improved out of all recognition’ and ‘excellent manager’.
- This complainant was in Tralee from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.
- One complainant told the Committee about how the boys had to creosote the floor in hot weather, and without any gloves or goggles. ‘It was a very nasty job because it would get into your eyes and all over your hands and everywhere else’.
- There was a profit of £98 mentioned in the 1937 Visitation Report, and a profit of approximately £395 mentioned in the 1953 Visitation Report.
- According to the Opening Statement, the main recreational facilities were the hall, schoolyard, football playing pitch and the band room. When the primary school closed, the classrooms were converted into sitting rooms, with TV etc.
- The 1949 annals referred to Mr Sugrue, the Department’s Inspector, having made his first visit to the School and having spoken freely to staff and boys.
- This Brother to whom the shotgun was taken was the Brother who had the long history of physically abusing boys and spent two separate periods in Tralee.
- He also said this of Br Toussnint and of a lay teacher.
- St Helen’s was in Booterstown.
- 67 in 1945, 70 in 1946, 90 in 1947, 90 in 1949, and 45 in 1952. In 1960, the annals note that families were willing to take boys for three to four weeks, but there was no evidence of this actually happening that year. 68 boys went on home leave in 1968.