Although the Brothers were given no guidance regarding corporal punishment, Br Malleville,30 the Resident Manager, often complained about the excessive use of corporal punishment and was quite strict on such matters when boys complained to him about excessive beatings. Br Anatole recalled one incident in particular, when Br Malleville approached him and told him he had received a complaint that a boy had been punished for the wrong reasons and he wanted an explanation. Br Anatole described how the boy had been beaten about the legs with a leather strap and made to run around the yard. The boy complained to Br Malleville, who reprimanded him, Br Anatole.
Br Anatole said that Br Malleville heard about the beating and, that evening, convened a meeting of the three junior Brothers who had been involved and reprimanded them for what had occurred.
Br Dondre described a fourth occasion as the most serious and upsetting incident. He was verbally chastising a pupil when the boy attacked him with the leg of a chair. Br Dondre picked up a stick and hit him on the head with it. The boy’s head was grazed from the blow. The boy dropped and he caught him in a headlock. He got control of the boy and brought him to the nurse who disinfected the wound on his head. He reported the matter to Br Malleville, who criticised Br Dondre for his inability to keep control and letting the incident occur. He was asked whether he understood Br Malleville’s criticism to relate to his loss of temper and he said: No it wasn’t that. It was the fact that the incident happened at all. That I let him get out of control.
He was never given any guidance or direction from Br Malleville or anyone else as to how that control might be maintained. Br Dondre said that he deeply regretted his conduct on that day.
Br Anatole recalled that this incident came to the attention of the Superior, Br Malleville, who severely reprimanded him and the other Brothers who took part: It was around supper time. He brought us into the parlour, he was very angry and he said that such a thing was never to happen again ... That any boy was to be beaten on the backside over a chair, on the stage in the hall ... I think it was the sheer brutality of it and the excessive nature of it, it was way outside the boundaries of what Br Malleville considered legitimate corporal punishment. It was there in the collective consciousness of us as Brothers in Letterfrack that these methods that you are putting to me one after the other, that these were handed down progressively from one year to the next. When new Brothers came on the scene that’s how we found out that this was the way things were done here. We never discussed them in any way it was just here we go, run around the yard, give somebody a kick in the backside or whatever. It was just done like that depending on how you felt at that particular time.
The detail contained in this list does not match the information in the Department of Education’s Annual Report entries. In 1959, six boys absconded from the School and did a considerable amount of damage to property and were removed after special court on 10th January 1959 to Daingean Reformatory. In 1959, the Visitor noted that ‘Since Christmas, 11 boys ran away at different times. Br Malleville has to take the car and follow them or that he got word from the Guards that they had been captured and that he had to collect them and sometimes was not home with them until 1.30 a.m’. What is very evident is the increasing level of absconding, particularly from the mid-1960s onwards.
Another Brother said that, while he never actually witnessed any sexual contact between the boys, he did recall hearing Br Anatole giving the boys a lecture about the Devil’s work, which he presumed was peer abuse. He said that he often saw beds pulled together when he came in to wake the boys up but he never suspected anything untoward. He remembered Br Malleville telling him to be careful of one boy who was coming from Artane because he was a homosexual. He thinks in retrospect that he was telling him to make sure that boy wouldn’t be at the other boys. He did recall an incident where a boy approached him and told him that two boys were engaging in sexual activity.
In 1959, the Provincial wrote to the acting Manager and told him that he had visited the Resident Manager who was convalescing, and complained to him about the small quantities of porridge which the boys were provided with, and the fact that the boys had three meatless days in a week. Br Ruffe told the Provincial that he believed it to be only two days a week without meat. The Provincial asked Br Malleville, who was Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, to inquire into this discreetly and discover whether the boys had been having three dinners of bread and tea over a long period. He also said that the issue of the meat was one that required an immediate remedy. This internal inquiry found that the boys received meat every day, and the only days they would not have meat was during Easter and fasting days.
Br Malleville’s word appears to have been taken and no further enquiries were made about the extremely serious situation described by the Visitor.