Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 9 — Tralee

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Sexual Abuse


This same complainant also said that, on one occasion, Br Marceau told him to stay behind after class and called him to his desk, after the others had left. He put him between his knees and put his arms around him. He told him to read his book and then he put one of his hands down the back of the complainant’s trousers and the other hand down the front. When he then started to open the buttons on the front, the complainant began to struggle. Br Marceau pulled him tighter but he got loose and ran to the door. Br Marceau caught him as he got to the door and pulled him away from the door. The complainant banged into a desk, hurting himself. He was crying at this stage and shouted at Br Marceau to leave him alone. Br Marceau started to hit the complainant over the head and told him to shut up. The classroom door opened, and Br Millard came in and told Br Marceau to leave the boy alone. He did not ask the complainant about it. After that, he was never called up to the front of the class again. The beatings did, however, continue in the classroom.


The witness was asked whether there were any Brothers to whom he felt he could speak about difficulties such as the way he was being treated by Br Marceau in class. He said no there were not, ‘you never went to a Christian Brother and told him your problem’. More specifically, he could not complain about what Br Marceau was doing because he did not know if the other Brother would believe him. If he did not, he might get ‘a hiding’, and then Br Marceau would be told and he would get a ‘worse hiding’ from him for telling lies.


He had no recollection or sense of this Brother being supervised or watched after the Brother intervened in the classroom on the occasion mentioned above.


One complainant, who was in Tralee in the 1940s, told the Investigation Committee that he knew there was ‘a lot of shenanigans’ going on between the boys in toilets and out in fields. They would be ‘playing with each other’ but he kept clear of that. The Resident Manager would call the boys in and question them on whether they were involved in sexual activities amongst themselves. He also said, however, that there was no talk between the boys and the Brothers about this ‘sex thing’, but the stigma was there and the boys would use it against each other in an argument, saying ‘at least I wasn’t called in for Question Time’.25 No boy wanted to let anybody know that they had been called in for ‘Question Time’.


Another complainant referred to abusive sexual activity among the boys. A witness from the late 1960s told the Committee that older boys would congregate around the toilet in the yard, and that the younger boys would be afraid of going in there for fear of being beaten or molested by them. The younger boys used go in to the toilet in threes and fours in order to be protected from the older boys: We didn’t know what was going to happen in there, whether we were getting a hiding from the older boys or what else they would do to you. It was just that thing in there and, if you did get a hiding you didn’t go speak about it you kept it to yourself ... There was a fear of being sexually abused as well, yes ... It was supposed to happen to the younger lads but I can’t say definitely whether it did or not.


This witness said at night the older boys would try to get into the smaller boys’ beds. They terrorised them. He said this happened to him on a number of occasions with different boys and he would just shout out. He explained: So every time you’d start roaring they would get up, they would give you a slap in the head and they would threaten that if you opened your mouth they would get you the next day.


He also confirmed, however, that the boys kept the peer abuse to themselves. The Brothers would not have known what was going on in the toilets unless they saw it themselves. To his knowledge, this never happened. He acknowledged that it was a continuous problem for the younger boys but it was not spoken about. You kept to yourself because you did not know whom to trust, ‘so you managed to stay on your own’.


He also told of one occasion when an older boy told him to climb a ladder on the farm one day if he wanted to see some kittens. When he was climbing the ladder the older boy put his hands up his pants and started fondling him. He kicked him away and ran.


Another complainant said that he had been abused by other boys of around the same age on more than one occasion. This complainant said that he had told Br Mahieu the names of the boys who were abusing him but nothing came of his complaint. During the course of his evidence, Br Mahieu said that he would try to get younger boys to give him a name but they never would.


Another former resident also referred to Br Lafayette as being a Brother who regularly interrogated the boys about sex and matters relating to it. He did this in the back room. ‘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, the former resident then gave another boy’s name. He regretted that he had told on another boy, but said he was being severely beaten at the time.


Of all the former members of staff who gave evidence, only one, Br Mahieu, said complaints about peer abuse had been made to him. He said that younger boys would complain that they were being bullied or molested by other boys. He tried to get them to give a name but they never did. He said that he did suspect that there was sexual abuse going on between the boys but he never ‘actually became aware of it’, or of an incident or perpetrator. In response to the complaints, he would try to be as vigilant as he could be while on yard duty. He would change his pattern of patrolling the yard. He never checked for sexual abuse in the dormitories because he was never aware that it went on there. He would check to see if everything was ‘okay’, that ‘the majority of them would be asleep’. He never found sexual activity there.


He named other Brothers, including Br Cheney, whom he said were aware of the boys’ complaints in that regard. He concluded that they must have spoken to one another about it.


Of the other former members of staff who gave evidence, only two acknowledged being aware of particular instances of peer sexual abuse.


The first of these Brothers, Br Aribert, said that there was only one case while he was there of a boy complaining of being sexually abused by another boy. He said that it was dealt with, but did not give any further details. Br Bevis recalled an occasion when a boy was punished by two Brothers for abusing a younger boy.


The other respondent witnesses claimed to have never encountered peer abuse. This included Br Boyce, who acknowledged that the boys were very clever and he would not know if it was going on. He also said that no boy ever told him he was being bullied or preyed on. He also said that, if you thought it was happening and asked a boy, ‘he wouldn’t tell you anyway’ because the ‘others would give out to him’. Br Chapin said that, although he was aware of the possibility of sexual activity among the boys, he never came across it. He said that the Brothers were warned to keep an eye out for ‘bullying and for anything else’. He disagreed that there was an obsession in uncovering that kind of activity in Tralee. Another respondent, Br Lisle, was not aware of sexual activity between the boys.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See Department of Education chapter, Vol. IV.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. 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’.
  7. ‘Strong hand’ in Irish.
  8. The two Brothers referred to were Br Mahieu and Br Cheney.
  9. The letters to Br Sebastien, Br Millard and Br Beaufort mentioned below.
  10. He had also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. The school annals note that the Brother resigned from the post due to ill-health.
  13. One of the others was Br Rayce. The complainant did not know who the third one was.
  14. Br Aribert accepted that this was a fair summary of Br Lafayette.
  15. Brs Archard and Kalle.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. ‘Senility’ was subsequently changed to ‘septicaemia’.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. 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.
  20. Professor Tom Dunne, ‘Seven Years in the Brothers’ Dublin Review (Spring 2002).
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This Brother worked in Tralee from the mid-1960s to 1970.
  23. There were three Resident Managers during Br Lisle’s time in Tralee: Brs Sinclair, Millard and Roy.
  24. Br Sinclair was Resident Manager for a period of six years in the 1960s.
  25. Question Time was a radio programme
  26. The annals refer to ‘this tax’ ceasing to be paid when Br Dareau came as Resident Manager.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. The 1940s Visitation Reports only commented on the standard of the boys’ clothing in 1940, 1941 and 1943, and then only in positive terms.
  30. ‘The School has improved out of all recognition’ and ‘excellent manager’.
  31. This complainant was in Tralee from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.
  32. 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’.
  33. There was a profit of £98 mentioned in the 1937 Visitation Report, and a profit of approximately £395 mentioned in the 1953 Visitation Report.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. He also said this of Br Toussnint and of a lay teacher.
  38. St Helen’s was in Booterstown.
  39. 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.