As the Visitor prepared to leave Letterfrack after his four-day inspection in April 1945, Br Aubin wrote a hurried note to him. There had probably been a conversation between the Visitor and the Brother, in which it was proposed that the complaint which Br Aubin wished to make should be put in writing. The note described a serious disagreement between the writer and the Disciplinarian, Br Maslin, concerning severe punishments that the latter had inflicted on boys. The circumstances outlined to the Visitor were revealing of different aspects of life in the Institution. The case is therefore important for a number of reasons.
The events related in the note are best listed in sequence: Br Aubin learned that a boy who was in charge of 15 or more other boys working on the farm ill-treated them by beating them severely with a leather. The boy had done this on three occasions. The Brother reported the matter to the Disciplinarian, Br Maslin, who knew about it already. They decided that the boy should be punished ‘as he had not been allowed or told to punish these boys’. Br Aubin suggested informing the Superior but his colleague dismissed this. Br Maslin said that there was more than punishment wrong between this boy and the others, meaning sexual activity. On this the Brothers disagreed. A few days passed during which Br Aubin questioned the boy in charge and 13 of the others who were on the farm. He was satisfied that nothing more than the unauthorised punishment had taken place. On the next Sunday, Br Maslin meted out punishment to a boy, which left him with a swollen cheek, for allegedly allowing another boy into his bed or going into the other’s bed. The boy emphatically denied the charge. Later on that day, Br Maslin punished the farm boy in the surgery off the school, in the presence of Br Aubin who believed that the boy was innocent of immorality and that his only wrongdoing was unauthorised beatings of other boys. During the punishment, Br Maslin accused the boy of carrying on immorally with the boys on the farm and he confessed – out of fear, as Br Aubin believed – and gave some 15 names of those with whom he had offended, including among them the 13 previously interviewed by Br Aubin and found innocent. Before he finished punishing the boy, the Disciplinarian sent Br Aubin to bring back the boy who suffered the swollen cheek in the earlier beating and who was also on the farm at the material time. This boy was then accused of having oral sex with the boy in charge, which he denied, but he was nevertheless punished severely. The next day, Br Aubin spoke once more to the boy in charge on the farm, who assured him that none of what he had told Br Maslin was true and that he said what the Brother wanted him to say for fear of further punishment. Br Aubin went back to the farm boys he had previously interviewed and confirmed his view that there had been no immorality. Br Maslin remained convinced that he was right and refused to accompany Br Aubin to speak to the boys again. He declared his intention to punish all the boys who had not already been punished and, in addition, to punish the boy in charge for going back on his confession. Br Aubin told the Brothers who were in charge of the farm boys in the School and the dormitory, and they in turn inquired into the sexual allegations and rejected them. The Superior was informed at last. One of the School and dormitory Brothers recalled another previous unsubstantiated allegation by the Disciplinarian of sexual misconduct by a boy. The Visitor left a typewritten list of 22 recommendations with the Superior, including no. 9 with the underlined words added in handwriting: Manager to be present when punishment beyond the ordinary is being administered.
Br Maslin was transferred to another industrial school, Carriglea, in January 1946.
Br Maslin was sent to Carriglea at a time when it had deteriorated into near anarchy due to the ineffectiveness and incompetence of successive Resident Managers. The Congregation realised that drastic measures were called for. Br Maslin continued his abusive practices in Carriglea when he was transferred there. He was described by one complainant in Carriglea as the most feared of the Brothers there.
Amongst the Brothers transferred to Carriglea was Br Maslin12, who had spent the previous five years in Letterfrack. He had also spent over a year in Tralee prior to that. He had a ferocious reputation as Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, to the extent that a Brother felt compelled to complain to a Visitor from the Provincial Council during an annual Visitation. In a letter outlining his concerns, he wrote that the Disciplinarian ‘can inflict terrible punishment on children and the boys have a awful dread of his anger’. The nub of the Brother’s concern, which he shared with other members of the Letterfrack Community, was that the Disciplinarian was happy to mete out severe punishment on the flimsiest of evidence, particularly if the alleged crime was sexual activity amongst boys.
The Investigation Committee heard evidence from an ex-resident of Carriglea who described this Brother as ‘an animal’. He alleged that Br Maslin was random and indiscriminate in his use of corporal punishment. He stated, ‘He would go behind you and he would just give you a whack. A whack of the leather on the head or the ears’. He used a leather strap to inflict punishment and he carried a cat-o’-nine-tails around with him, which was terrifying for the children.
Br Maslin supervised the washroom in the evening time and would beat the boys with a strap if they were too slow. This former resident described the daily scene in the washroom as follows: In the evenings if you had to go up to the washroom, there was a big washroom with all the taps and all that, and everything was cold, it was all cold, there was water in them. What you used to do was the kids used line up in two, one and then one behind him, and what you had to do was he just roared first ‘right leg’, you put your right leg in and you got the soap and you washed it and then he would say ‘wash off the soap’. Then you had the stand back and the next kid would go in and he would put his right foot up on the thing.
The Investigation Committee also heard evidence from Br Hardouin,13 who was in Carriglea at the same time as Br Maslin. He stated in evidence that Br Maslin was the most feared by the boys of all the Brothers in the Community. He described him as ‘very very severe’ in terms of his demeanour and manner. Even the Brothers in the Community regarded him as unfriendly and standoffish.
In their response to the complainant’s allegation, the Congregation stated that, as Br Maslin was now deceased, it was impossible for them to confirm or deny that any such abuse took place. No reference was made to this Brother’s record in Letterfrack or the reservations expressed by his colleague on his use of physical punishment.
The issue arose again in 1945, in correspondence between Br Aubin and the Provincial, in which Br Aubin criticised the Disciplinarian, Br Maslin, in being overly severe in his punishment of the boys. This case has been discussed above and was a clear indication that sexual activity between boys was a persistent problem in Letterfrack at that time.
The Investigation Committee heard complaints about Br Maslin, who served in Tralee at the same time as Br Ansel. A witness said that Br Maslin ‘just enjoyed beating me and beating a lot of the boys’. He was only beaten by him for ‘lessons in school’. The beatings were ‘severe ... regularly the cane, regularly the strap’ and he was ‘walloped across the backside’.
On one occasion when Br Maslin asked him a question he could not answer, Br Maslin ‘kept on hitting me here in the middle of the forehead. Eventually I had a big bump here’.
On another occasion, Br Maslin made the boys stand around the class and instructed them to hit the boy in front of them ‘across the face with the open hand’. When he hesitated in doing this, Br Maslin said, ‘This is the way that you do it’, and hit him, the witness, knocking him to the floor. When he got up again, he had to hit the other boy. However, ‘the beatings with the canes of course and the strap went on a lot longer than that’. He said that the strap was made at the cobblers, of several layers of leather about an inch thick and was more like a baton than a strap.
Br Maslin was moved from Tralee to Letterfrack in the early 1940s. It is not clear why he left Tralee in January and not August, the usual time for Brothers to move schools. He became the Disciplinarian in Letterfrack and, in the mid-1940s, one of his colleagues in Letterfrack wrote to the Visitor that Br Maslin, the Disciplinarian, ‘can inflict terrible punishment on children and the boys seem to have a awful dread of his anger’. The incident which gave rise to this complaint is discussed in detail in the chapter on Letterfrack. He was then moved from Letterfrack to Carriglea in January 1946, at a time when it was known to the Congregation authorities that there were considerable disciplinary problems in Carriglea.
This senior Brother was the subject of two complaints to the Investigation Committee.