Brothers who made life hell
While the Ryan Commission's report provides details of 12 brothers who physically abused boys in their care at St Joseph's, the stories of three of these abusers are particularly horrifying and receive significant attention in the report. As the Christian
ALTHOUGH there were few incidents of sexual abuse by brothers reported at St Joseph's, the commission report does contain details of one brother who sexually abused boys on an almost daily basis over 20 years at the school.
Brother Garon, who arrived at the school in the early 1950s aged in his late sixties, routinely abused boys in the school showers. The report contains several statements which detail how Brother Garon would shower naked with groups of boys aged between nine and 16. In the showers he would make the boys wash his entire body including his privates and then wash the boys himself.
In a more chilling section of the report it is revealed that Garon, who was almost totally deaf would, on most afternoons, pick a random child from the schoolyard and take them for a private shower telling any brother he was with at the time that he "had to take that boy for a shower."
Garon's behaviour was reported to senior Brothers at the school on at least three occasions but no action was ever taken. On one occasion when a junior Brother raised concerns about Garon's actions he was told by a more senior Brother "Oh sure don't mind that man, sure wasn't he in China for years." OF all the brothers who taught at St Joseph's few were as feared by the boys as Brother Marceau who subjected the children in his care to a tenyear reign of terror.
Marceau, described in the report as a paranoid delusional with the IQ of a young child and a short and extremely vicious temper, spent 10 years at St Joseph's during which time he routinely beat and abused his pupils.
Details in the report clearly indicate Brother Marceau was suffering from severe mental difficulties.
He was described in one visiting inspector's report as having "a persecution complex" with the same inspector noting he kept "a horde of nondescript property under lock and key and was constantly adding to his store." Another report recounts how he had become obsessed with a toolkit he believed another brother had stolen from him.
In his classroom, where he taught 11 pupils he had set up 17 blackboards filled with lists of Irish verbs and grammar filled out in minute text, children would have to learn the contents of these by heart and failure to recite them correctly would result in a savage beating or having their fingers crushed in their desks.
Dropping a pencil on the floor could also result in the most severe of beatings.
Among the brutal actions attributed to Brother Marceau are incidents in which he hit a boy in the head with a hurley, causing him to suffer a detached retina, and the beating of a boy in his bed with a hammer because the child was late for dinner that evening.
On another occasion, when a young boy complained that a cap gun he had received as a Christmas present was broken, he called him an "ungrateful wretch" and beat him savagely, leaving the child with a black eye and swollen face.
Of all the revelations about Brother Marceau contained in the report perhaps the most shocking of all is how he had come to teach in Tralee in the first place.
Prior to his arrival in Tralee Marceau had been teaching at a school in the midlands where he had brutally beaten a number of children. Following complaints from the children's parents, and fearing legal action which would damage the image of the Brothers, the decision was taken to move Marceau to Tralee and place him in a school where the children had no access to parental help.
In a letter written just before Brother Marceau was moved to Tralee his superior wrote:
"I fear this brother won't be taught a lesson till he finds himself in court. I don't think he is fit to be in charge of boys at all, much less boys of five to nine," the same letter added that "A court case must be avoided at all costs."
Within weeks Marceau had been installed in Tralee where he would prey on boys for a decade. IF Brother Marceau represented the culture of casual, irrational violence that permeated St Joseph's, it was Brother Ansel who encapsulated the regime of premeditated brutality.
Ansel was the school disciplinarian and a source of absolute terror to the boys of the school.
An iron disciplinarian, Ansel said he wanted to make the boys into fighting, military men and ran the school like a singularly vicious bootcamp.
Wielding a self made leather cat-o'-nine-tails he would remove up to 20 boys from the dormitory at night before lining them up and flogging them in a locked kitchen. On another occasion boys collecting hay for the school farm at Tralee racetrack were whipped if they fell out of line.
In another horrific incident, Ansel found a boy in a dorm lying under blood-stained sheets after a boil on the child's bottom burst. Brother's Ansel's reaction was to beat the boy's feet with a leather baton.
As if the sense of paranoia among the boys wasn't great enough already, Ansel set up a network of 12 informers throughout the school who would report on any infraction of the rules by the other boys. These breaches of the rules included talking in the toilet or whispering in the dormitory. Any infraction was recorded in a book and punishment, three lashes across the buttocks per offence, was meted out on Friday evening.
Brother Ansel, betraying a twisted sense of humour, branded the weekly punishment session as 'pay night'. It fell on the day most Irish workers got paid and so, in Ansel's mind, 'pay night' was a fitting term given that it was the day when boys got what they deserved.