This was the Post i wrote On January 11 2010
Well there is a lot of talk about this current report, showing the abuse of the catholic church. On a physical, mental and sexual front. Well this is my account of the good, the bad and the ugly that I saw. These are my memories of what happened and more importantly, what I felt, no more, no less. If you are interested and start reading this, please finish it as its not all bad and I believe that it is more what you do today, than what happened yesterday. For me its a story I must tell, if for no other reason, that I can lay it to rest, where it belongs in the past.
I went to North Mon, which was a christian brother school. That meant by the time I got there the Brothers still controlled the school, but were diminishing. I started in 1978, Brother ‘Basher’ Barry was the out going Principle. He was been replaced by Brother Hurley, who survived two and half years as principle.
So I started at the age of 12, the primary I went to had corporal punishment. But nothing major, it was more of a threat, than a reality. Then I went to the North Mon. Due to the fact that I wasn’t the brightest and I needed Glasses, that was not found out until I was 19, and the fact that I believe I should have written with my left hand, but had been ‘taught’ to write with my right. I was put into M2 which stood for Metalwork 2. This was the start of the problem, I work in construction, I know one thing. When it comes to working with my hands, I employ someone good. I could take a 6 inch by 6 inch piece of metal, draw a straight line, start filing it down, to make the metal straight and get down to a half inch by 6 inch piece and still not have a straight line. I was useless. I was placed in ‘the tech’ which was the red bricked building in the picture. There were two Brothers that taught here. Brother Brien, who was a complete gent, I canoed with him and his brother, who also was a christen brother. They also had a sister who was a Sister (a nun). I got Brother Roche.
Rochee as we called him was a small man, with combed over hair and an English accent. Of course my luck was in, I had him for metalwork and technical drawing. Again I had a gift for getting technical drawing wrong, it just didn’t make sense to me. Rochee kept a log of all your projects and for everyone your were behind on, you got 3 dusters. Dusters were, he would take the eraser for the blackboard, turn it so the timber end faced down. He would then hold your hand by the fingers so your knuckles were exposed and strike the timber against your knuckles. the punishments were, in drawing for example, were 2 for every bad letter, 2 for every guide line that he could see, 2 for every mark on the sheet and 3 for every piece of equipment you were missing. As in pencils, eraser etc.
Within the first six months I started vomiting every morning, my mother brought me to every specialist for 12 months, no answers. I couldn’t eat breakfast and until around 6 years ago, this was the case. I now understand that I was terrified, so much that my stomach reacted. This made everything with rochee worse, as the more he hit me, the more sick I got, the more behind I got, the more I got hit. My personal record was 128 strikes in one go. The worse part was he would have you change hands after every 10. The first of the ten was the hardest , he would hit a kind of beat, so the strikes would lose force. He would then have you change hands and the dance would start again.
We also had another brother, brother Gibson. One of the reasons I wanted to go to the Mon, was Hurling, I played it in primary and enjoyed it. Also I wanted to follow in my fathers footsteps, he was a mon boy, although he left at 13. Gibson gave me my first sex education, which is interesting, because this guy was, in my opinion, a paedophile. He was the hurling coach and would check your shorts to see if you were wearing underpants, because you would catch cold going home in the same underpants. I learnt very early on to avoid this guy like the plague. You had to play hurling, on what was to be your half day. If you got a slap of a hurley in the shin, this guy would try and start rubbing your nuts. You can imagine how enlightened our sex talk was. I went home after two days of our sex ed and informed my father that I learned about ‘vinylural diase’, still trying to figure that one. He basically told us about every sexual transmitted disease you could get, from a women of course.
Gibson also thought us poetry. He had a leather strap in which he had, either coins or washers, sown into the top. So when it hit you, it wrapped around you palm and struck again. So you would have to learn a full poem, being the clever boy, you would count the seats to you, from left and right , as he would ask each one to say a verse. You would know these two verses off by heart. Gibson would walk in, put his brown case on the desk, take out the leather. He would then turn around, his robes flowing and point at you and say’ second verse now’. You would stand up and the first stutter, he would wave his finger to come up the front of the class. At this point you were wiped and got 4 of the best.
This behaviour continued until half way through third year, when Brother Tallon arrived and changed the school. At this point I would like to acknowledge the fantastic brothers that I meet. As everything in life, there is no black and white. A lot of the brothers were complete Gents, Brother Creedon who I cycled with, The brothers Brien, who I canoed with. With these guys I spent, weeks on a remote Island in Schull, Co.Cork. They were christen, giving, understanding and generous to a fault. I don’t think it fair to condemn all.
The brothers had no control in what they did, at any time. There were ruled by the head brother of the house. They were told at all times what, where and what to do. It was a horrible life.
This do not excuse how the church covered up what happened. Or the fact they have not apologised. I think that the emotional and sociological damage was the worse. The fear I felt and the felling of being useless was the worse. Also I can now understand how abuse happens, I never told my father, until some years back. He was involved heavily with the school. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him. But I suppose I thought in some way, that this was how it was meant to be. If you don’t know any different, then this is what’s normal.
Well I always thought that if I met ‘Rochee’ I would kill him. I called to school to collect something for my father I was now 19 and had be doing martial arts for around 5 years. I was sent to the brothers house, knocked and this little man opened the door. I looked down and didn’t recognise him. I heard an english accent say ‘Mr Mc Carthy, is that you?’. I couldn’t believe it, it was Rochee. This small, little, side hair combed creature, could not be the huge monster that I remembered. This guy could part the kids in the school yard, like moses parting the red sea. Remember that this was not a school full of saints and scholars. I looked at him in amazement and left. At this time I laid his ghost to rest. He did not haunt me any more, I was free of him once and for all.
So now what? Like all of these things, the planning tribunal, this report, we have to try and understand the times they were. Not judge them by today’s standards and ideals. What we must do is learn, so they don’t happen again. THE MOST IMPORTANT, is to forgive, not for them, but for us. Its the past, if we keep living with it, we don’t move on, we don’t grow. To me this means that the abuse continues, that all. We just give it more energy and power. Its time to move on.
In the end the Brothers did a lot of terrible things, but they also did a lot of great. Edmund Rice idea was to educate the poor, they did it. Unfortunately the harm that was done will not be forgotten, but neither should the good.
As I said at the start this is my account and views. they are guys that were in my class that will not have the same views. that’s fine, that’s the human condition and its the way it should be. For myself I have moved on and I am who I am because of what I have learnt. To me the most important lesson is, circumstances and other people don’t shape me, how I react and behave does. To those who did me harm, for whatever reason, I hope that they find peace in their life, because I have found peace, happiness and immense joy.