Apart from Br Alfonso, the Investigation Committee had evidence in the form of correspondence from Br Giovani,7 who served in Upton for one year in the 1950s, a period covered by the entries in the book, which gave a different impression of the level of punishment from that indicated in the punishment book.
The 1952-1963 punishment book provides evidence of the severity of punishments that were inflicted in Upton in the 1950s and early 1960s. It contradicts the recollections of Br Alfonso and Br Giovani, who recalled that punishments were not excessive, and supports the accounts given by the complainants. The later book contrasts unfavourably with the one kept in the late 19th century. It is not comprehensive, it is not methodical and is often not chronological, and the severity of punishment is greater. Some of the comments in the book suggest that they were not written in anticipation of an official inspection of the book, and there is no record of any such inspection. The punishment book is not a complete record, but it is accurate in respect of the punishment that it records. The book does not demonstrate an ordered system of punishment that was properly supervised and recorded on all occasions. The punishment books are not a complete record of punishments administered during the periods they cover. It is highly likely that other beatings were also administered.
Br Giovani joined the Institute of Charity in the early 1950s, a month after he was professed. He was appointed Prefect at Upton soon after, a position that he held for a period of 12 months. In a letter written in the late 1990s, he painted a picture of what it was like to be a Prefect in Upton during the 1950s.
He viewed his appointment as Prefect as an awesome responsibility for one so young. Br Giovani had just completed his religious instruction and had received no official training or instruction for his new job. The only advice he received came from his former Novice Master, Fr Cecilio,8 who told him, ‘Don’t be a police man’. These five words constituted his only introduction to a job which involved both him and his colleague, Br Alfonso, taking responsibility for the care and control of over 300 boys.
Br Giovani said that he was never furnished with a precise description of what it was he was supposed to do, but it did entail the coordination of the activities of nearly all of the 300 boys from morning till night. He said that there was very little in the way of recreational activities for the boys when he was appointed. Not surprisingly, in light of their youth, both he and Br Alfonso attempted to remedy this deficiency by instituting a range of games and activities for the boys. He described Br Alfonso as a talented organiser, who was considered totally devoted to the task of trying to improve the lot of the boys.
Br Giovani stated that there was no brutality, cruelty or physical abuse in Upton during the 12 months he was there. He stated that, while the regime in the School was ‘austere’ and harsh, the level of corporal punishment would have been commensurate with the levels pertaining in every other school at the time. Indeed, he stated that, during the period which he spent in Upton, great strides were made to reduce the levels of corporal punishment. However, in a later letter, he compared the regime to that of a ‘concentration camp’, accepting that Upton was not a pleasant place to be as a pupil, and stated that he felt guilty for not having done more to help the boys. He stated that all he ever did was complain while others tried to help in a more practical way.