Mr Dubois was employed as a night watchman in Glin in the early 1950s. He held the position for six months and stated that he left for health reasons. He wrote to the Department of Education shortly after leaving Glin, setting out a number of serious concerns he had for the boys resident there: Dear Sir, May I respectfully direct your kind attention “in Confidence” to the following and I am confident that by doing so that I shall be doing a great work of charity. For the past six months, I was employed as “night-watch man” at St Joseph’s Industrial School Glin Co Limerick, and having had close contact with the “Boys” and with the running of the school in general, I am in the position to be able to make the enclosed observations and respectfully request that the Inspectors of this department see after the matter and do their best to remedy the state of affairs existing there. The Boys are discontented with the existing state of things due to the following defects. Poor food and clothing. The cook in Boys Kitchen has no knowledge of cooking being an ex pupil working for 15/- per week and has never got any training for this work. Everyone employed at this school are free to have a smack at the Boys including the Brothers who appear to be indifferent to all this. The Boys beds and sleeping quarters are very poor and during the cold winter months are never heated, neither do the Boys get any kind of winter clothing to keep them warm. The Boys shirts are very poor quality and very badly washed the whole place and system is very-very bad. The Infirmary is just the same. The nurse goes off duty pretty often and the children are left to the mercy of one of the boys. I know the Brothers can scrape out of any difficulty but I write from personal experience. and if you could arrange surprise visits. night and day. you could see for yourself. I could never have believed that such could exist in a Catholic Country. I know there is a good deal of window dressing to deceive the eye of the visiting official but I learn that the Boys are warned not to complain May God help the poor children. There are only two trades men in this school, a shoe maker and a tailor, no carpenter employed. How can we expect such Boys to become an asset to the state. They shall treat the state as the state treats them. Pay a surprise visit to this school some cold night and see for yourself. The former night watch man a common farm labourer. carried a heavy leather when on duty and beat up the poor children as he pleased. please Sir remedy this. and you will have the blessing of God and the prayers of the poor children God bless you. Yours respectfully
Mr Dubois then wrote a letter to the Minister for Justice, elaborating on the contents of his letter to the Department of Education: Dear Sir, May I respectfully direct your kind attention “in confidence” to the following hoping that you Sir will do something to help the poor unfortunate children concerned. For a period of six months, I took up a position of night watchman in one of our Industrial Schools “for Boys” namely, St Joseph’s School Glin Co Limerick and I may tell you Sir, that I never expected to find in a Catholic Country like ours, the awful bad conditions in so far as the poor Boys were concerned, only that I had spent six months and seen for myself I never could have believed that such conditions could exist especially as this Institution is under the care of our Irish Christian Brothers who are so reputed for teaching etc. When I took up employment there last March, I found the poor children in a very nervous state, due to harsh treatment at the hands of the former night man (a local labourer) rough and cruel, who was allowed a free hand to beat up the children as he pleased, and was permitted to carry a heavy leather for this purpose. The children were called out of their sleep every hour to use the W.C. and any poor child who had the misfortune to wet his bed, was very roughly treated by this night-man, who also reported the matter to the Brothers in the morning, and a further punishment was then administered to the poor child by the Brothers concerned. The children have no redress whatsoever and are just like convicts. With regards the food its very-very poor and the person in charge of the cooking is a young boy aged about 17 years an ex-pupil of the school, who at the age of 16 years was discharged, and sent to a job ... but did not get on well and was sent back to the school, and the Superior ... appointed him boys cook, but he knows nothing whatever about cooking and what he cooks for the poor children isn’t fit for pigs to eat and I often felt sorry for the poor children especially the young and helpless ones. The Children gets very little butter. their bread is served almost dry they are allowed 2 slices of bread each with a little scraping of butter or marge, and an extra slice dry the tea, or cocoa is very light and badly made. The Bro. who is supposed to supervise the Kitchen (Br Warrane19) never bothers to do so, as he is a jack of all trades and never has much time to look after any job properly apart from the motor car which he drives. This Br Warrane is a sour kind of person and never speaks a kind word to any of the children, and is very severe with the leather which he is very fond of using. All the employees are allowed to beat the children especially the plough-man (Mr Prewitt) is very hard on the children working on the farm and very fond of using the boot, and his fist. The children are very badly clothed. They are not supplied with any winter under clothing, neither are the sleeping quarters heated in winter and the poor children told me that they felt very cold at night and if they complained the Brothers would only laugh at them. I have experienced some cold nights at the school and what must it be in the winter! I respectfully beg to hope Sir that you will look into the matter. I sent a confidential report to the Dept of Education but not enough to cover all I have observed during my six months at the School. The Infirmary part of the school needs overhaul and the present nurse is very fond of been away as she is local. She appears to have no love or sympathy for the children and the children will suffer much before they report sick as they don’t like the nurse. In my humble opinion Sir the whole school needs a good honest overhaul and a few night surprise visits, There appears to be a good deal of window dressing and outward appearances. No one has seen the meals served out to the poor children but I have Sir and all I have to say Sir, is may God help the poor little ones, they are a pity. The position of night man in such schools is a very important one, and I respectfully suggest Sir that you should interest yourself in the type of person employed, and draw up rules and regulations to fit the job. The children are at the mercy of the night man during the night and it’s important that such a man should be a sober man and have patience and charity in his dealings with the children, and Glin school can tell some queer tales about night-men. One thing I found most lacking in St Joseph’ Glin was charity. The only place I’ve seen real charity was with the Good Brothers of St John of God in St Augustine’s Blackrock Dublin, and what a pity these fine men cannot have charge of our Industrial Schools for they have at heart the real love of God, and in the poor children they see Christ Himself. I feel now Sir, that I can feel at ease as I was worried when I had to leave the children as my health would not permit me to continue the work, as I never smoke or drink I suited the job and I had the full confidence of the boys, who regretted my leaving and I promised them I would look after their interests. Do your best Sir, and look out for window dressing and bear in mind that the children are afraid to complain to any visiting official and you cannot expect much help from them. God bless you Sir, Your obedient Servant
The Minister for Justice wrote to the Minister for Education commenting that Mr Dubois appeared to be an intelligent, well-meaning person and, if what he said was true, it revealed a very serious state of affairs. He asked to be kept informed of the results of any investigation.
Mr Sugrue of the Department of Education visited Glin and wrote a memorandum in Irish recording what happened. A translation is as follows: Glin School I visited this school ... and had a long conversation with the Resident Manager about the complaint made by Mr Dubois in relation to school matters. I read the letters written by Mr Dubois to certain boys in the school, to a maid in the school and to men employed in the school. The Resident Manager had all these letters. According to the letters, it would appear that Mr Dubois took a keen interest in the care of the boys at the school in the matter of food, clothes, etc. The Resident Manager told me that Mr Dubois was wont to come downstairs at night and carry bread from the Brothers’ refectory to the boys in the dormitories. From their appearance it would seem that the school shows great kindness and consideration to the boys.
When a reminder was sent from the Minister’s secretary, asking whether a report was yet available, the matter was taken in hand by a senior official, who reported to the Secretary of the Department: Runai, Glin Industrial School. Complaint from Mr Dubois, ex-night watchman there, to Minister and to Minister for Justice, re treatment of boys. The charges made by Mr Dubois may be listed as follows: — (1)The boys are poorly clothed, and have no winter underwear. (2)The food is meagre, poor and badly cooked. (3)The sleeping quarters are ill-equipped and unheated. (4)Employees are permitted to beat the children with straps and even to strike and kick them and to treat them otherwise cruelly, and even some of the Brothers are careless or unkind or given to beating the children with small cause. Dr MacCabe and Mr O Siochfhradha20 have both visited the school and their findings, herewith, may be summed up thus:- The facts reported under charges (1), (2) and (3) are true in the main of many Industrial Schools, but they are, of course, not matters of deliberate intent and so the light in which they have been put by Mr Dubois is false. As may be seen from the File, Dr MacCabe has been pressing the Manager on these very matters for some years, and he has made efforts at improvement as far as his resources permit. With regard to charge (3), viz. that the sleeping quarters are ill-equipped and unheated, Mr O Siochfhradha informs me that it is a moot point among present day experts whether heating of sleeping quarters is desirable. He, for his part, however, is gradually prevailing on the authorities of the Girls’ Schools to provide heating for the dormitories, but many Boys’ Schools, including Artane, do not provide it. Mr O Siochfhradha considers the sleeping equipment at Glin fairly good. The inspectors found no evidence of harshness or cruelty on the part of the staff or employees, and Mr O Siochfhradha has stated to me that he is absolutely satisfied that it would not be in character for Br Warrane or any other of the Brothers to treat the children unkindly. Dr MacCabe reports that the Manager has informed her that Mr Dubois was dismissed from the post of night watchman in the school for insubordination. The impression given to me by Mr Dubois’s letters and the Inspectors’ Reports is (1)that Mr Dubois grew to like the boys very much and to resent their being administered an occasional slap or cuff, (2)that there may be some slight grounds for a charge of occasional severity, but that as regards clothing, food, etc. Mr Dubois is probably unaware that the sole and entire income of the School was up to the present only 19s. capitation grant per week. Our Inspectors are perfectly satisfied that that sum is stretched to its utter limit, and as far as they could see, the boys are happy and cheerful, (3)that Mr Dubois is a confirmed letter writer, as is evidenced by the number of letters he has written to the boys in the School and by the fact that his turn of English is unusual in a night watchman. Incidentally, such phrases as “in the poor children they see Christ himself” seem, to me at least, too glib for their not particularly charitable context. I would guess that Mr Dubois is a well-meaning person of rather unreserved character, and would advise taking no further notice of any missives he may forward. The Inspectors, however, intend to visit the school for some time more frequently than is customary, and it would seem well to do this.
The Christian Brothers’ Submissions on this matter comment that the length of the investigation (approximately eight months) and ‘the number and seniority of the officers involved indicates that complaints were taken seriously by the State and that final decisions were not made lightly’. They contend that the first letter sent by Mr Dubois ‘set in motion a typical investigation by the Department involving unannounced visits by Dr McCabe and the local school inspector’. The letter to the Minister for Justice, they maintain, ‘lent urgency to the investigation’ which eventually involved the secretary of the Department, the Minister’s secretary and the Minister for Education.
The Department did not interview Mr Dubois as part of their investigation. They did not investigate further whether Mr Dubois retired due to health reasons, as stated by him, or was dismissed for insubordination, as asserted by the Manager. It does not appear that they conducted any spot checks, as suggested by Mr Dubois. The Department acknowledged internally that Mr Dubois’s criticisms of the clothing, food and sleeping accommodation were ‘true in the main of many industrial schools’. Mr Dubois’s concerns regarding the inexperienced chef and the often absent nurse could quite easily have been addressed and rectified. Neither were enquiries made about Mr Dubois’s predecessor who, it was alleged, regularly wielded a heavy leather strap and terrified the boys.