Br Serge was sent to Glin in the mid-1940s and spent two years in total there, with a break in service to complete his teacher training. A letter was apparently sent to Dr McCabe, the Medical Inspector of Industrial Schools,11 complaining about the punishments he had inflicted on the boys. The Visitation Report of May 1947 goes into the affair in some detail. The Visitor wrote: For some time back certain members of the Limerick Corporation have been seeking interviews with boys from the school to provide information for certain members of the Dáil whose ambition seem to be the providing of trouble for the Government. The reaction of the situation on the boys of the school gave serious trouble to the Brothers in the execution of their duty. A letter was sent to Dr McCabe, medical inspector of Industrial Schools, giving information on punishments inflicted on some of the boys recently. She came along and held an inquiry which was strictly confined to the boys; she interviewed no member of the staff in connection with the matter. It is the unbiased opinion of three senior members of the community that from the information they got from boys interviewed by Dr McCabe the information supplied to her in the above letter was substantially true. The Brother implicated in these charges was Br Serge, who is due to make Final Vows next Christmas. His method of punishment as far as I can make out varied, once at least, from the recognised use of the strap. He had no discretion as to the number of slaps that should be apportioned to offences. Br Serge has also been charged with acting as the leader of the troubles in the Training College towards the close of last year. I have met several Brothers who were there at the time and all are agreed as to his guilt ... I would not resent Dr McCabe’s attitude because if she succeeds in securing information from the boys the work of the politicians will be short circuited and danger of publicity eliminated.
The Visitation Report cited above made several criticisms of a serious nature. It alleged, first, that Br Serge had punished ‘some of the boys’ excessively. Second, it alleged that Br Serge could give an excessive number of slaps, and he could do so even if the offence did not merit a severe punishment. Thirdly, it alleged his method of punishment ‘varied once at least from the recognised use of the strap’. The recognised use was usually a slap on the hand with a leather and, clearly, Br Serge had departed from these guidelines.
This reply was significant. The Provincial regretted that the School had not a better reputation ‘for kindness and consideration’ for the boys in its care. He did not only criticise Br Serge, but all the Brothers for not having ‘the correct feeling’ for the children. It expressed unease about how boys in general were treated in Glin.
Five Brothers referred to Br Serge in internal Christian Brothers interviews. Their comments on him were illuminating. One Brother, (Br Coyan) who went to Glin in the early 1950s and who was clearly referring to Br Serge, said: ... there was one there before I went there and he was very cruel. He left the Brothers. There was a big inquisition from either the Department or the Health Board his name won’t come to me just now. He was sent out of Glin and the kids were complaining about them continually and you daren’t mention his name. They hated the thought of him but he was sent down to the Brothers and he was sent down to the place but we followed his career afterwards, he became a principal outside and a parish priest was in trouble but that’s the only case and that was before my time.
Br Zacharie,13 who replaced Br Serge, said: I came there from Monaghan to replace a Brother who had been moved out because he was over severe ... I was advised to be nice to the kids and not to worry about examination results.
A contemporary of Br Serge, Br Amaury,14 gave more details: The procedure for dealing with complaints would be that if any staff member or child in the school had a complaint he could bring that problem to the Superior/Manager, the sub superior, the school principal, the disciplinarian, or to the provincial or any one of his council. One such complaint was made during my year in Glin. It was made against one of the Brothers on the school staff. I do not know to what outside group or individual the complaint was made but the nature of it was that the man in question was over severe in having recourse to corporal punishment. None of the details of this complaint were made available to the community or staff in Glin. The boy who was named as the one who made the complaint was personally known to me and my impression of him was that he was a boy who would be very unlikely to do anything serious enough to merit severe corporal punishment. He was known to have been a close friend – a “masters pet” – one of the men who regularly did supervision in the school yard during recreation time. This does add more than a little likelihood to an opinion circulating at the time; that it was the “master” and not really the “pet” who caused the complaint to be made.
Br Serge was removed promptly during the Visitation, and was sent to a day school. Some of the Brothers in Glin informally kept an eye on his later career. As stated above, one of them believed that he had got into trouble elsewhere. He said, ‘we followed his career afterwards, he became a principal outside and a parish priest was in trouble’, but no details are available about such an episode. Given the seriousness of his behaviour, and the excessive violence he was known to have used, this simple expedient of removing him to a day school could not have guaranteed the protection of other children. Br Serge’s career continued as a national school teacher in a number of schools. He left the Christian Brothers in the late 1940s. He subsequently spent many years as a principal of a national school.