The first of these letters was written in the mid-1930s. Br Jules was sent a letter congratulating him on being admitted to perpetual vows. The letter also stated: You incline to the harsh side in school both in language and in inflicting bodily pain. Pupils hate sarcasm and they have a keen sense of what is just and fair in punishment. If you would secure respect for yourself and for your teaching be kind and just towards your pupils. It is said you are a poor student yourself. Perhaps it is due to your failure to make preparation for your work as a teacher that your pupils are made to suffer doubly.
In the late 1930s, in a letter to Br Millard confirming admission to his sixth annual vows, there was reference to his being ‘unduly severe’ with his pupils: You are most devoted in school, but unduly severe with your pupils. You give them too much home-work and this necessitates much punishment when it is not completely done next day. The slapping starts, so it is stated, very early in the morning and often the time for recreation due to the boys is curtailed. Now, we ought to practice moderation in all things and not allow the great virtue of zeal to degenerate into a fault by overdoing our duty. I appeal to your own good sense to remedy what is complained of. With God’s help you can do it.
Br Millard worked in Glin in the 1960s and returned to Tralee for the last few years of its existence as an industrial school. During this time in Tralee, he responded to a complaint made by a TD in relation to punishment meted out by him to a boy.
In the late 1960s a boy, William,11 absconded from Tralee, and was apprehended and severely punished by Br Millard. He informed his parents who complained to their local TD, who in turn wrote to the school and the Department of Education.
Br Millard had been appointed as Resident Manager as successor to Br Sinclair. He only lasted a number of weeks in that position, and was recorded as having resigned ‘due to ill-health’, days before the incident with the boy.
The appointment of his successor, Br Roy, as Superior dated from four days before William absconded. Br Millard had been Superior for a total of 18 days. Although the letter was addressed to the Resident Manager, who by then was Br Roy, it was Br Millard, the perpetrator of the alleged abuse, who dealt with the matter. He wrote: Dear [TD], Unfortunately Br Sinclair, to whom you addressed your letters has been absent from St Joseph’s since the beginning of the month. As Brother-in-Charge when the incidents mentioned by you were supposed to have taken place, I take the liberty of replying in his stead. It alleged by [William’s father], that his son received excessive punishment, in fact what could be termed brutal punishment, from certain members of the Staff, when he was returned to the School after absconding on the morning of the 10th of this month. I categorically denigh this charge because it was I personally, who took him into custody from the Gardaí at mid-night on the same day on which he absconded. It was I also who administered the punishment which was meted out to him on that occasion, in the presence of another Brother who happened to be with me at the time. It is true, I used a leather strap as the instrument of correction. I used it on his bottom because I maintain that that is where nature intended it should be used in such circumstances. There is no ... question of the strap having been put round his neck or anywhere near his neck for that matter. I might add here, that since the arrival of your letters, I have examined the boy’s neck and can find not the slightest sign of any mark or bruise which would indicate that he suffered the treatment that he complained about. Neither have I any knowledge of the black eye he is supposed to have received. One would imagine, that following such alleged treatment, the boy would be slow to take to the roads again. Still, on the 18th inst., he and a companion again made off and this time persuaded another lad to join them. Believe me, Sir, that is not the normal behaviour of a boy who had been excessively punished for previous misdemeanours ... ... Since his coming here he has absconded on five separate occasions ... Since this last episode, they took to the roads once more. It was on this occasion that they succeeded in reaching Cork and painting the picture of excessive punishment and of brutal treatment in which we are ... supposed to have indulged. Just half an hour before the arrival of your letter on yesterday morning, I received a ’phone call from Inspector ... of [town] seeking advice as to the advisability of having young William committed to Daingean on account of his persistent thieving and general misconduct. I advised against it because of his age and asked the Inspector to do everything in his power to keep the case out of the Court for the lad’s sake. In view of the cruel allegations brought against us by his father, I am beginning to wonder if I acted wisely in asking the Inspector to be lenient with the offender. Maybe I should have allowed the law to take its course. I fully appreciate your position in this matter and hope the above account will help to clarify a nasty situation.
The letter turned around the allegation that the Brother had excessively punished the boy, by arguing that he had in fact been too ‘lenient with the offender’. It also justified Br Millard replying to the criticism by saying that he was ‘the Brother-in-Charge’ at the time of the incident. The Congregation records showed that this was not the case.
Seven weeks later, the Department wrote to the TD as follows: Dear Deputy ... I refer again to your representations regarding William ... who is detained in St. Joseph’s School, Tralee. The Matter has in the meantime been investigated by an inspector of my Department, who interviewed Br [Millard] who inflicted the punishment and Br ... who witnessed it and also young William himself. The inspector’s investigation has established that the facts of the case are substantially as stated in Br Millard’s reply ... to you and that account was confirmed by young William and his companion in absconding, who bear no resentment to the Brothers for their treatment.
The correspondence was dealt with by Br Millard, who was the Sub-Superior and the person who had inflicted the punishment. The Department should have questioned the propriety of such a response because of conflict of interest. The Department did not question the unapologetic response of the Brother about his flagrant breach of their regulations. He showed no concern about confessing to such a breach. Where rules for the protection of children in care could be flouted, it is not surprising that abuses occurred. This incident illustrated the difficulty in making complaints about corporal punishment. When regulations were ignored, there was no objective standard by which harshness could be judged and so no behaviour could be criticised or condemned. Documented cases of physical abuse: Br Raynard
When that Resident Manager was replaced, Br Lisle reported the matter to his successor, Br Millard, who was only Resident Manager for a matter of weeks. He cannot remember what that Resident Manager said to him, but he accepted that he must not have been happy with his predecessor’s response. Br Lisle also told the Committee that he was with Br Millard on one occasion when a boy came up and said that Br Garon wanted him for a shower. He turned to Br Millard and told him that he thought there was more than just showering going on. It was crystal clear what was being alleged, but, according to Br Lisle, the boy probably still went for the shower. He said that his understanding was that the boys did not ‘like it and that they were trying to have it stopped, they didn’t want to be interfered with, as they said’. He thought Br Garon took these showers with the boys when they were taken from the yard, as opposed to during the normal Saturday night showers.
This same complainant also said that, on one occasion, Br Marceau told him to stay behind after class and called him to his desk, after the others had left. He put him between his knees and put his arms around him. He told him to read his book and then he put one of his hands down the back of the complainant’s trousers and the other hand down the front. When he then started to open the buttons on the front, the complainant began to struggle. Br Marceau pulled him tighter but he got loose and ran to the door. Br Marceau caught him as he got to the door and pulled him away from the door. The complainant banged into a desk, hurting himself. He was crying at this stage and shouted at Br Marceau to leave him alone. Br Marceau started to hit the complainant over the head and told him to shut up. The classroom door opened, and Br Millard came in and told Br Marceau to leave the boy alone. He did not ask the complainant about it. After that, he was never called up to the front of the class again. The beatings did, however, continue in the classroom.