The night watchman found the boy, who had not gone to bed because of the instruction from the Brothers to ‘walk the passageway, gangway’, and told him to go to bed: The next morning I got up my finger was a white ball of flesh, waterlogged. I reported sick, I reported to Br Cretien20, which you had to do to get to see the nurse. I told the nurse what happened. I was treated at least a month or six weeks until eventually all the skin peeled off. Sometimes the nurse would cut it. After some weeks I was like a plucked chicken, bare skin. In time the skin grew back on the nail. To this day that finger, especially in cold weather, is numb, there is no feeling in it. I swear they must have burned the nerve ends.
The Investigation Committee was struck by the number of witnesses who cited one particular long-serving Disciplinarian, Br Cretien, as being strict but fair. As Disciplinarian, he had to administer corporal punishment frequently, but the witnesses were almost unanimous in saying he used it only when it was deserved and it was never excessively severe.
He explained further: by the church there was the wicker gate, you were on a charge, it meant you stood by that, you didn’t let anyone out. Then there was another chap on the main gate. Then there was somebody on the building, which was usually me in the last few months. You had to parade up and down there, you couldn’t play ... Br Cretien always had a stick up his sleeve. He always beat you with a stick and then you got the charge.
One witness described a punishment chosen to fit the crime. The witness was in Artane from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, and he described one incident: I was given my own suit, as I say. The very first Sunday I was there, that was the first time I wore it because that was when we wore our best suits. During the Mass I had terrible runs. I ran down the passageway to the door and Br Cretien blocked my way. He said “You can’t go. The host is exposed”. I had to wait until the Host was put away and then I made a beeline. The latrines were a good 100 yards from where the chapel was. I never made it and I soiled my pants. In those days, in 1945, they didn’t have flush lavatories. It was a box with a bucket underneath. The paper was newspapers cut up. I done my best to clean my pants. We didn’t have underpants in those days, we had lined trousers. I did my best to clean myself and wipe it but I stunk. After breakfast when I went to the dormitory I had to report to Br Boyce he was in charge of dormitory five then ... Everybody was busy doing their scrubbing and he told me to take my clothes off. They never had hot water in Artane, the cold tap was put on, I stood in it naked and he got the lads who had the big long scrubbers to scrub me. They weren’t very strong and he didn’t think they were doing a bloody good job anyway. He got the hand scrubber and he said, “I will show you”. (Indicating) He scrubbed all my buttocks and legs down. I was red raw after it. He threw me out. I had to dress there and then. No drying off or anything. That was my only experience with Br Boyce.
A witness spoke about an unwelcome approach: I was working in the tinsmiths and this boy attacked me and threw me on the floor and lay on top of me. At the time it was a sex act. I didn’t know it was a sex act at the time. Like I said, I never even saw my aunty’s ankles. Of course I didn’t know that, that’s what it was. That’s what he was doing. It was reported. When Br Cretien asked me, “yes, I was attacked”. He still gave me six, right on the hand, not anywhere else, directly on the hand. He said he had to punish both of us. That boy never came near me again. I believe he was punished again for other acts which he did to other boys.
In the Visitation Report of 1954, the Visitor gave an example of the level of control that was inherent in Artane: Br Cretien is chief Disciplinarian. It is gratifying to hear that there is not much necessity for corporal punishment. There was a good test of the spirit of discipline on my second day in Artane. It was Saturday night and the boys were retiring to the dormitories. More than half had got in; many were on the stairs and a number still in the yard when the electric light failed. There was no stampede or sign of confusion. A few candles were lighted and to my surprise I found the boys sitting on or standing beside their beds in absolute silence.