Another complainant, who was in Goldenbridge between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s, said that one carer, who looked after the babies, stood out in her mind as being very kind to the children. She said that she was one of the inmates of the Institution who had been kept on and given a job there. Another former resident, who remained in the School to work as a carer, stood out in her memory: she described her as a product of the system. She often woke the children up in the morning, and she would sometimes lift a mattress and throw it onto the floor with the child on it. This complainant said that Ms Thornton14 was ‘a very very aggressive woman’.
This complainant had a certain amount of compassion and understanding for Ms Thornton, and said: ‘She never knew any different, she grew up in the system. When I think now in retrospect I kind of feel sorry for her’.
A witness complained of being badly beaten by Ms Rafter, who was the subject of an earlier complaint to Sr Venetia and was finally removed by her in the late 1960s. This complainant also identified Ms Thornton who she said beat a girl in the dining hall, ‘Ms Thornton was violent, she was a very violent person. She was another one that you were frightened to look at’.
Another complainant singled out Ms Thornton as being particularly cruel. She said that she had a grudge against an awful lot of people. She said that, on one occasion, when she tried to intervene because Ms Thornton was hitting her brother, Ms Thornton twisted her arm and actually broke it. She said that she was too terrified of Ms Thornton to tell Sr Venetia what had happened, and so she told her that she had hurt it in the washing machine. She was afraid that, if she had told on Ms Thornton, her little brother would have been victimised by her.
She said that Ms Thornton was particularly cruel to the little boys, and that she told other girls about this, and eventually it got back to Sr Venetia, but she only got beaten and had her head shaved by a member of the lay staff as a result.
Some witnesses spoke of the difficulty in reaching their daily quota and being punished for not attaining it. The punishment could take the form of a slap there and then, by whoever was supervising the class, or sometimes they would be sent to the landing to await their punishment. Ms Thornton and Ms O’Shea at different times took charge of supervising the class, and both were considered to be violent individuals. A witness described it as follows: ... you had little pliers and wire and the wire was constantly digging into your skin and you just couldn’t work fast enough to reach the quota every day. We were lined up every night, those who hadn’t reached the quota and beaten.
Sr Gianna recalled that Ms Thornton, a former resident of the Institution, often supervised the beads class. Although she was of the view that Ms Thornton was kind to the children, she conceded that she had a bad temper and that she heard her shouting and roaring at the children in the class.