Thursday 22 March 2018

Forgotten boy whose beating led to his death and his burial in unmarked grave

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

THE body of a 15-year-old boy who was brutally beaten and died a few days later in hospital lies in a communal unmarked grave. John Pyke had no family to claim his remains or ask why he died days after he was beaten with a leather strap at an industrial school in Tralee, Co Kerry.

Historian, author and columnist Ryle Dwyer, who grew up within a mile of St Joseph's Industrial School or Christian Brothers' Monastery, which was demolished in the eighties, said he wasn't surprised to hear about the discovery of a mass grave near Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

He says when the murder of a child in Tralee went uninvestigated it was not any surprise to hear the burial of children in an unmarked mass grave had been covered up.

John Pyke's death certificate states: 'Bilateral Pleural Effusion. Senility Certified.' This was later amended to read: 'Bilateral Pleural Effusion. Septicaemia Certified.'

The teenager was first brought up by nuns in Dublin and then sent to the monastery, aged seven.

In February 1958, Pyke was suffering double pneumonia, had lost his appetite and was beaten by Br Conor Lane in the dining hall in front of the other boys for not eating.

He had a carbuncle on his neck, which Lane burst with a blow of a leather strap. Pyke was taken to hospital, where he died four days later of blood poisoning.

There was no post mortem examination or inquest and he was buried in an unmarked grave. Lane was later charged with sexual and physical abuse, not in relation to John Pyke – but died in 1999 before he was brought to court.

The incident is recalled in Holy Terrors, a memoir by monastery survivor Michael Clemenger published in 2009. Mr Dwyer, who reviewed the book said: "Did we know what was going on there? No. But we did have a fairly good idea, and local protestations of total ignorance ring about as true as claims of religious superiors that they had no understanding of paedophile abuse."

Sunday Independent

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