In the course of reflections on life in Salthill which he gave to the Congregation, a Brother, Br Burdette,1 who taught there in the 1950s, acknowledged ‘a certain severity in attitude’ towards the boys: We worked all day, every day, an unfortunate indiscretion which should not have been allowed and which, undoubtedly, I think, was reflected in our treatment of the almost 200 boys confided to our care. Nevertheless, despite a certain severity in attitude towards them, due partly to the hardship of our own lives and partly to an inherited system of discipline which, even in my time, had begun to be discarded, my earlier comment holds true: no children ever meant – could mean – as much to me as they did; for, of course, they were orphans, every one.
Br Burdette was not correct. The majority of the boys in Salthill were not orphans, but had been sent there by the courts for non-attendance at school or because of a lack of parental control often in the context of poverty.
Br Burdette described his time in the Institution as ‘the happiest, hardest, most demanding, and most memorable three years of my life’. He was not able, even at this remove, to appreciate the impact of a harsh and severe routine of discipline on the children in Salthill. He did not see it as affecting the overall atmosphere in the School, but it has been found in other schools examined by the Committee that such a regime created a climate of fear that permeated life in an institution.