Br Perryn was in Letterfrack for two periods totalling 19 years between 1913 and the early 1940s. In 1941 he was discovered to have been sexually abusing the boys in his charge. The Visitor noted: Boys whom I interviewed told me that they were afraid to reveal the malpractices through fear of Br Perryn. It is alleged that he beats them, kicks them, catches them by the throat etc. and uses them for immoral ends.
This was not the first complaint that had been made against Br Perryn in respect of his use of excessive corporal punishment. In April 1917, the Sub-Superior of Letterfrack, Br Gardiner,9 wrote to the Superior complaining of Br Perryn’s ‘notorious’ severity towards the boys: Last Autumn I complained of Br Perryn’s harsh and cruel treatment, and now he still continues along the same lines. About a month ago he took a boy out of bed at near 10 o’clock at night and punished him in the lavatory in his night-shirt, and that because the boy took a pinch of salt out of the salt box on the table in the boy’s kitchen. About a week after he did the same to another boy who took a potato off the table in the boy’s kitchen and on last Thursday night, about 10 o’clock, he did the same to another boy for calling him names! In each case he acted on the report of another boy ... I stood and counted 27 slaps given in the space of about five minutes to some juniors in the knitting room. He uses a rod also and strikes them on the legs and I have been told uses it wildly and wantonly as if for sport sometimes ... His severity in the knitting room is notorious – and the more so to be deplored as many of the young children are delicate and their hands are sore, chilblains being prevalent among them.
Br Perryn remained in Letterfrack for two years after this letter was written and returned eight years later, where he continued his reign of terror until he was finally removed in 1941 because of sexual abuse of boys.
The Congregation in its Opening Statement commented: It is difficult to explain how Br Perryn was reappointed to Letterfrack when he had been found to have been physically abusive during his first period in Letterfrack ...
Br Perryn spent 14 years in Letterfrack on his second assignment there and, in addition to sexual abuse of boys, he was also violent and frightening to them. If the Brothers considered what Br Perryn had done to the boys to be a serious infraction, they would have responded effectively to this complaint at the time and thereby spared other children. A black eye explained (1943)
Mr Kitterick wrote two letters in 1953 to the Superior of Letterfrack, in which he complained about three named Brothers in Letterfrack. He claimed that they were tyrannical and sadistic: Bros Piperel,17 Corvax18 and Perryn ... these men were a disgrace to the Christian Brothers. Piperel and Corvax were tyrants. Br Perryn who was in the cook-house and refectory took great pleasure in beating boys for no reason, he was a sadist, for beating us he used a piece of rubber motor tyre. Almost daily we were flogged by one or other of these Bros. Dozens of times I left the dining room with my hands bleeding ... On several occasions after a meal, I was taken to the pantry ... by Br Perryn. He would lock the door and make me undress he would then sit on a stool and would put me across his knee and then flog me savagely he would then pinch me until I was unconscious.
The Christian Brothers knew that the principal culprit named by Mr Kitterick, Br Perryn, had a history of serious physical and sexual abuse of boys, as recorded in the Congregation’s documents.
When the first complaint was received from Mr Kitterick in 1953, even the most cursory investigation of the files would have disclosed that Br Perryn had been reprimanded for his severity in 1917 and, in 1941, just 12 years previously, had been removed for physical and sexual abuse after the Visitor to Letterfrack received complaints from the boys there: ‘They are so shockingly obscene, revolting and abominable that it is hard to believe them’.
Br Perryn was discussed in the earlier section on physical abuse, but his eventual removal from Letterfrack was as a result of sexual abuse there.
The Visitation Report of 1941 revealed a very serious case of sexual abuse by Br Perryn who was in Letterfrack since 1927 and also from 1913 to 1919. The Report did not contain details of the allegations but they were shocking enough to alarm the Visitor and to demand immediate action: Br Perryn has charge of the boy’s kitchen. He is dirty, untidy, almost repulsive. He is never present for Morning Prayers, but usually present for Mass, and Night prayers, but never or very rarely at any other exercise. The Brothers tell me that they have never seen him going to Confession, though he told me that he goes regularly to the local priests in the chapel. I don’t believe him. Superior tells me that his word can’t be relied on, and that he frequently lies. It is alleged that his relations with the boys are immoral, and if the statements that I have got from the boys and which I now submit to the Br Provincial are true, he has been living a most depraved, unclean, and gravely immoral life for years. So bad are the charges that I could not conscientiously allow him to remain with boys any longer, and availed of the fact that he got a fit on the day that I arrived to send him to the O’Brien Institute for a “Rest”. I think he suspects that it was only a ruse to get him out.
The Visitation Report continued: Unfortunately, for years there has been much immorality among the boys. Onanism and Sodomy have been frequent, and these practices take place wherever the boys congregate, in the play field, lavatories, schools, kitchen and in the grounds. Formerly the boys were allowed to go out by themselves and then these practices were frequent. Boys wandered away among the fields and roads and mountain and immoral practices were carried on. Accusations have been made against Br Perryn in this respect also, and my investigations seem to confirm the charges. I have got statements from the boys with whom he is alleged to have had immoral relations. They are so shockingly obscene, revolting and abominable that it is hard to believe them. I have sent him to the O’Brien on the plea of ill health as I could not conscientiously leave him in charge of the boys until the matter is dealt with. Boys got a Retreat last Christmas and since then things seem to have somewhat improved. I fear that the boys have been making bad confessions, and would recommend that Fr. C Counihan be requested to give them a Retreat at once, so that the boys may get a chance now that Br Perryn is away. Boys whom I interviewed told me that they were afraid to reveal the malpractices through fear of Br Perryn. It is alleged that he beats them, kicks them, catches them by the throat etc. and uses them for immoral ends. I found superintendence of the boys at times very slack. For instance, on many mornings there is only an old man ... in charge when the boys are getting up and dressing and washing. Many mornings there is no Br present when the boys are saying their prayers. [The man] says the prayers with them. Boys get up at 7 and attend mass at 7.30 Dublin time. House time is one hour later. The boys in the Junior Dormitory do not get up until 7.30 . There is no Br with these either at that time. A monitor is in charge though one of these monitors was recently carrying on immoral conduct with some of the juniors in the dormitory. The Superior has now arranged that a Brother takes charge of both dormitories when the children are getting up. I also found that no Br was in charge of the boys between 2.30 and 3.00 this is one of the times when it is alleged that Br Perryn was most active with his vile practices. The night watchman has no “punch clock” so there is no guarantee that he is doing his work of superintendence at night properly. He leaves each morning at 6.30 .
The Visitor also found out that the Superior, Br Troyes, had not been informed of the alleged immorality between the boys and Br Perryn. Br Jourdan,38 who was a teaching Brother, discovered what was happening with Br Perryn from the statement from one of Br Perryn’s victims. Br Jourdan told the Visitor that he did not tell the Superior as the Superior would not have believed him; he does, however, appear to have confided in another young Brother. When asked why he did not report it directly to the Br Provincial he explained that he only found out towards the end of March and expected the annual Visitation to take place any week thereafter. The Visitor left a list of 17 directions with the Superior, some of which were designed to improve the supervision of the boys.
The Superior General later commented on this matter in a letter to the Provincial: Br Jourdan’s handling of the Perryn revelations appears to me very indiscreet; he omitted reference to the Superior and took the young inexperienced lay Brother into his confidence.
Br Perryn spent 20 years in Letterfrack and a three-year period in Cork. He spent short periods in nine other institutions. During his earlier period of service in Letterfrack the Sub-Superior complained of this Brother’s ‘notorious’ severity toward the boys. A Visitation Report from 1919 commented: Owing to some trouble, which Br Director attributed chiefly to the woman cook at the monastery Br Perryn was freed from all duties connected with the boys kitchen and refectory, and is now in charge of the monastery kitchen ... Br Perryn does not associate much with the Brs of the Community and does not according to my information, care for his personal duties as contrasted with his charge of the boys refectory. My own impression is that a change to a non-residential school would be very desirable.
Br Perryn was described as being stern and distant and notoriously severe by Br Gardiner, another Brother in the Letterfrack Community, in a letter to the Br Superior dated 3rd April 1917.