A boy’s grandmother wrote to the Superior General in late 1962 complaining about the way her grandson was treated during his time in the Institution. The original letter of complaint is no longer extant, but the content is evident from an internal letter from the Christian Brothers’ Provincial Council to the Superior General: The Council here has considered the letter you handed into us from a Mrs McCarthy33 making a number of accusations against certain Brothers in Artane and an attack on Artane in general. We consider Mrs McCarthy a very dangerous woman and one who could do a lot of harm. We think she should get a reply stating that the matter will be looked into as soon as possible; That the Superior of Artane is away at present and will not be back until the end of September. You however will be able to give her the best answer to satisfy her and cool her down. With the Superior of Artane absent at present it would be difficult to get accurate information at present concerning all the statements Mrs McCarthy makes.
In February 1963, Mrs McCarthy brought her grandson to Artane to discuss with the Superior his difficulty in keeping jobs and to see if he could help in finding employment. What happened in the course of this meeting is in dispute. The grandmother gave her version of what happened in a letter written later that month (26th February) to the Minister for Education: I could not believe my eyes, without word or warning the Superior, closed his fist + struck the boy a most brutal blow on the side of the jaw, saying to him why wont you work. He then said in the most deliberate tone to him, you are mental the boy said I am not. He said you are suffering from a mental dicease, this he repeated about five times; every drop of blood had left the boys face from the blow, which had sent him staggering to the other side of the Office, all the unfortunate boy could say was wh... and his voice went. I was so shocked and dazed from the scene. I was not much better than the boy. I could not think straight. However Bro Colbert34 happened to come in just then and the Superior said look who we have here. He then left the Office. I followed him outside the door and told him it was the yrs of ill treatment of that Kind had the boy the way he was, and told him to get the boy medical and mental treatment ... He was removed to St Brendan’s on The Sat evg 9th February.
The grandmother turned to a clergyman named Canon O’Neill for assistance with her complaint. He wrote to Monsignor Barry,35 who passed on Canon O’Neill’s letter to the Superior General. After meeting with the Superior in Artane, the Superior General, Br Mulholland, wrote to Monsignor Barry on 26th February 1963: Further to my note of 23rd February I have now made full enquiries into the allegations in Mrs McCarthy’s letter. I have ascertained that she is a mental case with a strong antipathy against Artane School and that she is given to exaggeration in all matters she speaks or writes about. It is easy to note that she is a very dangerous type of woman ... Now just to give you an example of her powers of exaggeration I asked the Superior of Artane about the blow he was alleged to have given the boy on the 7th of February. He said he was talking to [the boy] in presence of Mrs McCarthy about the number of jobs he was in and of his leaving each of them without cause. To impress matters on [the boy] he gave him a tip of his hand and that is what is described as a staggering blow. 36 That will give us some idea of what to believe of the allegations made in the rest of the letter. As far as I could ascertain there is no truth in the accusation that boys are taken out of bed at 10p.m. and beaten “for any minor fault”. It must be only hearsay on Mrs McCarthy’s part. We all know how boys are inclined to exaggerate the slightest happening.
Officials of the Department of Education carried out an investigation and rejected the complaints. In the course of their inquiry, the officials interviewed the boy and his grandmother, and they received written statements from each of the Brothers involved, furnished to them by the Superior of Artane. Mrs McCarthy was unhappy with the way that she and her grandson were questioned. The officials’ investigation was hampered by the grandmother’s refusal to give the names of boys said to have witnessed the events involving her grandson and, in addition, they failed to obtain information from the chaplain, Fr Moore, who had some knowledge of the matter and was unhappy that he had not been approached directly but through the Superior of Artane. More importantly, he feared that his bond of confidentiality with the boys in Artane might be prejudiced. A genuine misunderstanding might have caused the failure to get information from the chaplain. In the circumstances, it would be unfair to criticise the inspectors on this ground. Whatever impediments there may have been to the inquiry, it nevertheless seems unsatisfactory that the officials did not question the Brothers involved. The report of the investigation did not, however, equivocate: From an examination of the evidence obtained through interviews, enquiries made by phone and the reports furnished by the Brothers concerned, in association with the grandmother’s refusal to give the names of the boys who witnessed [the boy’s] being taken from his bed at night for punishment, it is clear that the charges of brutality and sadism made by Mrs. McCarthy are without foundation. The fact that she is content to leave her other grandson in the care of the Brothers in Artane lend support to this opinion. Br Ourson37 did give [the boy] a shaking ... but considering the boy’s infuriating failures to remain in employment, he showed remarkable restraint. Outside this occurrence, nothing emerged from the enquiry to justify the charges of ill-treatment ...