BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
This story is based on fact on my life as a Ward of The State of Victoria and placed under the care of The Christian Brothers at St. Vincent De Paul’s Boys Home in Cecil Street, South Melbourne and St. AUGUSTINE’S Boys Orphanage in Highton, Geelong.
There are names of Christian Brothers involved in the physical and mental humiliation I experienced during the periods I was resident at these homes from 1958 to 1963. The sexual and physical abuse I endured through this time was consistent and disturbing. One particular Brother is referred to as Brother X. Due to ongoing legal matters I can not identify this person by name.
The Christian Brothers to this day, continue to refuse to accept liability for the destruction of many children’s. lives in Australia
over a 60 year period. In my opinion they are morally liable for the end result of depraved activities, from men who declared their service to their “GOD” and in doing so destroyed any faith or hope for a normal lifestyle that these kids may have had.
I have struggled for many, many years with the atrocities that I experienced during those years, and I have no doubt I will continue to suffer. For no amount of counseling can wipe away the bitter memories or hatred that I have for Catholicism and all that it stands for in its’ present
Many who will read this story and remember or will be challenged by those nightmares they still suffer. I advise them to seek legal advise and pressure the current hierarchy to recognise the long term effect of the misdeeds by their predators on your lives.
Despite what they say, you and I ARE human, we do have feelings, and we have suffered physically, mentally and financially as a direct result of unchristian behaviour.
I trust that this book will help draw to the attention of all who read it the very real problems that were and still are being created by inadequate supervision of vulnerable boys AND girls placed in the care of so called CHRISTIANS!
I make no apology for the use of vulgar words in some areas of the book. The only way to describe physical and mental rape, is the foulest of language for the foulest of deeds.
While the nightmares remain, for those born in innocence and raised in hell, there is a light that will ease the pain, the light of acceptance and anger.
I thank God, who I now believe really does exist, for my 13 year old son Robbie. He will never experience my pain nor the teachings of those who caused my suffering.
“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones.” Jesus to
his disciples. From Luke 17:2.
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The sands my feet touch, as I stroll
Along the lonely beach of life
Have been finely ground, over countless centuries Yet
The echoing corridors of my mind, were created over Decades.
It is an endless walk, this stroll through time And as you hear the echoes, and feel the fear Even as you suffer the loneliness, the pain, the sadness You keep searching,
Is there a chance there is a you in everyone Can you touch your very soul as you shake hands With life
Does your soul cringe, at the very thought of strolling through
As you turn each corner, enter each room of your experiences
are you scared of your own
Confrontations, the reality, that yes,
That is really you.
If so, be not afraid,
for it is you who makes the difference
between the knowledge that you are an individual and
the knowledge that who you are will never change and it is this very essence that makes life so interesting so abundantly clear to all who perceive you.
So as you stroll through those corridors, let the pain be eased
By the memories of the good times,
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
Those precious moments in time when you could laugh and cry
For it is in these memories that you will find you.
th19 March 2003
The early years, before the orphanage era, were scattered with a confusing array of painful memories. Where I was to begin my story, created heartache and bitterness in my mind; for the very real memories collided with the very real nightmares and resurfaced some horrors that I had managed to repress for 30 long and torturous years.
I am dedicating this book to all those men, who were innocent boys and suffered the indignity of sexual, physical and mental abuse in a catholic system that had no means of combating pedophilia in the Christian Brothers children‟s homes or their many and varied „other‟ institutions from the early 1930‟s through to today.
I begin my story when I was seven years of age and living in Camp Pell, or Camp Hell, as some were want to call it. This camp was situated in Royal Park, Melbourne, near where The Royal Children‟s
Hospital now stands. At the time of construction of the hospital, there existed a very large quarry. My two older brothers and I would often go over to it to sail our boats made from paper and icy pole sticks.
One particular Thursday afternoon, a friend of ours in the camp, Donald Smith, wanted to join us . When we arrived at the quarry, we agreed to a boat race. The ground under our feet consisted of a clay substance, it had been raining fairly heavily for the previous few days. Donald had reached over to launch his boat but appeared to slide in slow motion towards the waters edge, we tried to reach him, however he was out in the middle within seconds. Robbie, my brother sent me home to get my dad‟s small axe and some rope; when I got back, he tied the rope to the axe and threw it out to Donald, unfortunately he was struck on the head and he disappeared from sight. We immediately ran to his mother for help and a man dived in but could not find Donnie. The Police eventually dragged his body out with grappling hooks, it was June 24th, 1952, and that memory will remain with me forever. We just felt so helpless.
Events from thereon become somewhat vague. One moment we were in Camp Pell, the next we found ourselves in St. Joseph‟s in Surrey Hills. The first admission I can‟t recall, the second is a disturbing memory of life at 34 Eisenhower Street, East Preston. I can recall my father collecting us from St. Joseph‟s children‟s home, and arriving at our brand new home in East Preston; somewhere in between
our arrival and later events, there must have been major trauma between my parents. Dad left one morning to purchase a new truck and never came home and some weeks later, our mother had just disappeared. My two brothers, my sister and I were alone in the house for approximately four or five weeks in which we fended for ourselves, stealing bread and milk from neighbors front doorsteps and using what milk or paper money we could find to survive. As you can imagine, the house was a real mess over that period, and we were none too clean either! One morning there were these people at our front door from the Red Cross who said that they were going to take us out for the day. Excitedly, we piled
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
into their car. We eventually arrived outside the front of St Joseph‟s Children‟s Home, which we immediately recognised. Needless to say, there followed a lot of screaming and kicking as we were led into the dark chasm of the office area. .
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
After the ladies had left, we were treated to a good strapping in order to calm us down.
It was at this establishment, during my second stint, that I first experienced the horrors of life that were to follow during the next eight years and therefore shape my lifestyle for the next twenty two years.
At St. Joseph‟s, there was a particular Sister Gertrude who was sadistic in her treatment of vulnerable children, however, she also had an even darker and more sinister side to her.
It was during the evening bathing ritual that I began to lose my innocence, and my distrust for the catholic way of life took seed. Sister Gertrude would always make sure that I was last to enter the very deep bath (at eight years of age, it was very embarrassing to be bathed by a woman, especially around the genital area), and during the bathing she would wrap the flannel cloth around my penis, which of course was small but erect due to her ministrations. After the other sisters had left the room, she would get me out of the bath and put me in her mouth. Needless to say, the sensations were confusing to my young mind. This went on for almost the entire time that I was there. The bathroom was not the only area that I was molested in. There were also the many forays to my bed during late nights, after the other kids had gone to sleep. I blame these forays for my continued sleepless nights throughout my past and even to this present day. I have deliberately omitted details of Sister Gertrude‟s sadistic ways because as time went on, her methods of punishment paled into insignificance, when compared to my eminent future.
We were released into the custody of a woman friend of one of our aunties. Her name was Barbara Laird. She was a tall, shapely woman with shocking red hair and she was very kind to us during our first year with her at our home in East Preston. She provided for us in every way. Barbara Laird worked at the Mont Park Mental Hospital as a nursing sister and she had a lady friend, whose first name I can remember, but not her last. It was during the Christmas period, before Christmas day, I was still eight years of age. Laird gathered the four of us in the lounge room and told us about a big Christmas party at the hospital. She said that if we called her mum instead of Aunty Barbara, she would take us to the party and give us lots of presents. I refused, stating that my mum was my mum and no one could take her place. The others agreed, but she had to take me along anyway as she couldn‟t find a baby-sitter for me. It was
not long after this that she informed us that her friend Marj was coming to live with us. When Marj arrived, we were told that she would be sleeping with Laird. During this period they were both getting drunk on brandy and Merchants lemonade.
Laird became more aggressive towards us and her hand was replaced by an ironing cord, a thick strap or her fist and feet, if we did anything wrong. Instead of gently talking me through food that she cooked and I didn‟t like, she would grab me by the throat and force tripe, swede and turnip into my mouth, holding it shut. Naturally this would cause me to vomit, she would then thrash me with her ironing cord. I can recall shoving tripe into my shorts pockets when she wasn‟t looking, I forgot it was there and put my clothes into the wash. To my chagrin, I came home from school the next day, to be confronted with the remains on a plate and forced to eat and swallow it, after which I got a thrashing.
One morning, my sister Gail took a penny off the mantelpiece and bought herself some lollies from school. Laird found out and held Gail‟s hand in the open fire place for a short while, then scalded it
under hot water and poured salt on it. We were crying, so she gave us all a belting.
I began to run away from home shortly after that incident and subsequently came under the notice of the police many times, for running away. During one escapade, I had run away with my brother Norman, we had broken in at the Holy Name School in East Preston where we had been attending school. It was about 7:00 at night and the school was deserted. We had raided all the money boxes in the classrooms and our pockets were bulging with two shilling pieces and some notes; we had heard the unmistakable voice of the resident priest approaching, along with an older student. We concocted up a story about me having to find my raincoat or, “mum will kill me!” Of course that ruse didn‟t work and
we were told to empty our pockets onto a table. Norm made a run for it. Both the priest and the youth chased him, leaving me to my own devious devices. I ran over to the window in the classroom and opened it, then hid behind the desks at the end of the classroom. The priest returned and naturally assumed that I had flown the coop! What followed was a comedy of hide and seek. I had climbed out of the window and hidden in bushes. The priest passed by and I was able to walk behind him for about five minutes. He finally realised I was there and leapt at me. I managed to avoid him and ran like hell for quite some distance. By this time I was in a deserted dark street. There was someone walking towards me, at first I thought it was my other brother Robbie out looking for us (he was Laird‟s favorite and always chased us when we ran away after a beating for which he would be rewarded!). Thank God it was Norm and we went and camped in the back of a Ford Transit van in a used car yard. I would sneak out of a
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
morning and collect money for the daily newspaper outside the newsagents shop before he arrived. We survived on our wits and cheek for nearly three weeks before we were discovered by our grandfather climbing over the fence one Saturday afternoon. He collected us and took us home and tied us to a bed, naked, until Laird arrived. Needless to say, the punishment that followed was pretty severe and we would take off again. When the police arrested us, we were taken home only to escape out of the window and the “ search for those missing Laird children”, would be on again!
I can recall one night when we ran away; we were sleeping in a schoolyard at night and conned money during the day. We woke up one morning, feeling particularly hungry.
We both went out and stole some milk and bread from doorsteps. Later that day, it must have been around 1:00pm, I went into the local bug-house, (a nickname for picture theatres) and there was no one at the counter, but my skinny arms could fit through the tellers window, so I stole all the notes in the till, must have been about 5 pounds all up.
That got us through almost 9 days before we had to go looking for food again. There was another time we had climbed the side of some 4 or 5 story offices, situated in Spencer Street area.
We went up via the drainpipes and entered quite a few offices, before I came to one, it had a large free standing safe, no combination just two key holes.
I searched a few drawers and found nothing. We went into the offices next door, ands ransacked them: it was in there that I found a set of keys that simply said “safe”. Well it didn‟t take much imagination, so I went back to the safe next door and bugger me the keys opened it! In the safe was almost 9‟000 pounds. Bloody Hell! That was a LOT of money for an eight year old! We headed for The Myer Music Bowl, where we counted the money, splitting it evenly. I was so bloody rich that I was lost, I went to 3 different movies, got another street kid to buy me some alcohol (I wanted to try it.) bought a heap of matchbox cars, a cap pistol that held plastic silver bullets in its chamber (The cartridge had a position to place the caps) and lots of lollies and didn‟t even scratch the surface of my share of the money.
Theft was an unfortunate offspring to our current situation, it was a case of steal, starve or give up to the cops. It wasn‟t the thought of going to a home that scared us, we were frightened we would be returned to Laird, and she was very harsh with her punishments, not to mention cruel. Yet those bloody police from Preston kept returning us to our own personal home of torture.
We eventually moved to Hurstbridge in 1958. It was here that I was to run away from home, with my little sister Gail after suffering one of Laird‟s brutal tortures for taking and eating a packet of jelly crystals. We were arrested in Melbourne eight days later and placed in a cell at Russell Street Police Station. It was so scary in there. The walls were high and it stunk of stale urine. We clung together in the middle of the room, screaming and crying, for what seemed hours before Laird came to collect us, and took us home. When we arrived home, Laird locked Gail in her room and I was locked in the laundry. I crawled out of the window and entered the house through the back door. Gail‟s door still had the key in it. We crept out the back door and ran to the Hurstbridge railway station and waited for the 6:00am train to Melbourne. After arriving at Flinders St Station, we wandered around the streets until Cole‟s was opened and entered the store. We stole a plastic toy refrigerator and tomato from the grocery section. As we walked along, I told Gail that if the police were to ask us, we would tell them we were married, mind you, we were 9 & 7 years of age! After many train rides, Gail became scared and started to cry. A lady on the train became concerned and when we got off, she drew the attention of a station attendant who came over to us. After talking with us, he took us into the office and called the police. We were taken into custody and placed at Turana children‟s home. We were to appear at the Heidelberg Children‟s Court. I am not sure of the date, or even how long we were in Turana, but Court day eventually came. The Magistrate asked if I could give him one good reason for not sending us back to Barbara Laird. I pulled my shirt up and turned around and showed him the many scars and bruises on my body from her treatment. The Welfare Officer from Turana spoke of giving us a full condition body search when we went to Turana. We were infested with both hair and body lice, we were unkempt and very badly bruised and he counted the bruises on my body, total = 137, Gail had 90 and a badly burned hand (scarred). When I told him of the atrocities we had suffered , he had no hesitation in sending us back to Turana as Wards of the State.
I would gladly have returned to Laird had I known what the future held. For the next 6 years, following Turana, I suffered brutal and vicious treatment far greater than Laird‟s punishments.
Whilst at Turana, both Gail and I were sent to St. Vincent De Paul‟s Children‟s Homes in Sth Melbourne.
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS
Gail and I were summoned to the main office at Turana. I had been housed in the Billabong section and Gail was up in one of the Gables section. When we arrived at the office, we were told that we were being transferred to another institution. We were taken to the main store and issued with a whole range of new clothing and a suitcase. I became excited with the prospect of a whole new adventure, even though I didn‟t know where I was headed.
The next day there was a priest waiting for us at the office. He smiled and invited us to get into his car, which we did. On leaving, he began to chat to us about where we were going. He made it sound like great fun. I called him Father but he said that wasn‟t right, he was a Brother.
When we arrived at the home, we were separated and Gail was taken to the convent behind St.Vinnies. I was introduced to Brother Edwards, the Principal Brother, the man in charge. He appeared such a nice person, very interested in my welfare and asked me a lot of questions. He told me all about the home, the camps and the many trips away during the year. “Gee! it‟s gonna be great here,” I thought as I was led to the locker room and given my locker number, i.e., 124, which was also to become my laundry number.
As I walked around this huge place, the one thing that attracted my attention was the lack of laughter or even a smile from the children around me. I was placed in a dormitory that fronted onto Cecil Street in South Melbourne. The supervising Brother was Brother Gilbert and his room was situated at one end of the dormitory. Brother Gilbert was to be my teacher in math‟s and English in grade five. The school was situated within the yard confines. My first three months at the orphanage were uneventful and with the passing of time, memories of Barbara Laird faded, even though I had to wear her surname.
On one particular day, I was called to Brother Edward‟s office to discover that my two brothers had turned up. They had been beaten once too often and ran away as well. Needless to say, I was full of self importance as I showed them around and gave them wise advice on surviving the strap which the Brothers used to good effect when it became necessary. One could always count on six of the best whenever one did something wrong, the Brothers had never heard of one or two well placed straps on the hand, always six. In class, if we were disobedient, we would be told to wait outside until the Brother had finished a particular session of spelling, mental arithmetic or whatever. To lessen the pain of the strap we would rub our hands vigorously against the rough cement walls, this would give a deadening effect to the palm and fingers. This method meant that we would only feel the last two or three strokes, depending on how far the Brother would elevate himself off the ground when delivering the strokes. Some would use more force than others. but the effect was the same.
One particular night, I had got into trouble for fighting and Brother Gilbert had delivered the compulsory six in his room. I was confined to my bed for the remainder of the lights on time, which was about one and a half hours of play time before lights out. At least I had dodged the prayer time before bed, which was compulsory. I virtually went to sleep sulking as a child will do after being punished.
During the night, and I have no idea of the time, I awoke to something rubbing my penis. I looked up to see a dark outline of someone standing over me, there was a red glow in the room which was emitting from a red light under a statue of St Vincent De Paul in one corner of the room. It was a very frightening experience and I literally froze. The feeling between my legs was both pleasurable and painful. The figure moved on and stopped at another bed further down the room. That experience was to be repeated many times over with variations during my remainder of time at St. Vincent‟s. Always there would be a light come from Brother Gilbert‟s room which would last a split second, the rustling of clothing and the unmistakable sound of a muffled slap as he walked, this would come from his strap hitting his leg as he walked. Many nights I would lay awake praying to God that it wouldn‟t be me next!
We often were able to travel to the city or suburbs to watch our team play football. We often received passes to the grounds for this, or some of us would choose to go to the local bug house (theatre) to watch the latest films, if we let them know we were „orphos‟, we would usually get in for free. I managed to get myself into serious trouble on one occasion for letting balloons, filled with orange juice, loose on the people below. Another time I had dropped an ice cream from the top balcony into the chest area of some unlucky girl. I managed to get myself banned from the theatre in the end and of course my antics were reported to Brother Edwards who naturally applied the deserved punishment to my toughening hands.
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
Due to Brother Gilbert‟s unwelcome nightly visitations, my schooling nose dived to the extent I went from the top list in the class, to the bottom over the three year period.
I had begun to run away again, sometimes I would only be away for a few hours and the police would pick me up and deliver me back; other times I would be away for days, living on the streets of the city and would survive by begging or stealing wherever or whenever I could. At the home I would steal money to escape with. There was one time I went missing for nine days. I was actually hiding in the tower at the front of the home and survived on what my best mate could sneak up to me. He told me that there was a lot of concern at the time and the police were looking for me everywhere. I would sneak out at night time to go to the toilet. I was told of a movie that was being shown at our hall one Saturday, so I snuck down to watch it and sat next to one of the Brothers, talk about cheek! I was eventually caught sneaking out one night, and boy! did I get a hiding! which I deserved.
St. Vinnies had many good memories for me, it was not all doom and gloom. There were some very funny moments at this Albert Park/South Melbourne Boys Home. Like the incident at our camp at Somerville. We had been out rabbiting with a group of about 20 boys and 1 Brother . It had got quite late in the evening and we were a fair distance from camp. Brother had called us in and as we made our way back we started telling ghost stories, needless to say it was dark and I had a particular active imagination, in other words I was scared witless. One of the boys that had gone ahead with another group had hidden behind a copse of trees; as we approached, he jumped out with a torch under his jaw which gave a very eerie effect, all I saw in the pitch blackness was a head without a body. Well I took of screaming, heading for the safety of the lights of the bunkhouse. I never saw the barbed wire fence and ran straight into it. My face was deeply lacerated and blood was pouring out everywhere. As I ran into the bunkhouse, another boy had just come out of the toilet and was confronted with this screaming, blood spattered kid in a low lit doorway. He took of screaming towards the Brothers bedroom and ran straight into the closed door, he bounced of that and scurried under the closest bunks. By this time the others had arrived and there was total confusion for sometime. The Brother managed to sort out what happened, treated me for cuts and abrasions and everyone, including myself had a good laugh. From thereon I was a target for ghost jokes and pranks, but it was all in fun.
Another incident concerned a Chinese Doss House, situated in South Melbourne near St Vinnies. For some time I had been hearing about this place nearby and one particular
Saturday morning we decided to investigate it. Now the rumor was that the place was haunted by a Chinese ghost and if he found anyone prowling around, he would cut off their head with a gigantic sword, and that person would also become a ghost.
Off we went, the fearless three, George Rosowski, Henry Pekala and myself. We arrived at the address and I must admit a shiver went through my spine. The Joss House was mean, that is it was a tall, wide imposing building, very neglected with smashed in windows, fearsome looking statues of lions at either side of the entrance and the colour of storm clouds on its stone fascia assisted to activate my most imaginative thoughts. We opened the rustic wrought iron gate and slipped around the left side of the building. We found an open window and climbed in. The smell was incredible, musty yet mystifying. A howling wind greeted us as we slowly made our way to the center of the lower floor. All around us were silk ribbons hanging from brass posts, light fittings and walls. There were brass and porcelain Chinese dragons on dusty tables that were spread throughout the room. I felt the presence first and started to shake (more from my hyper active imagination, than from reality). We made our way to the staircase and slowly ascended the creaking and very shaky stairs. Aaarghurrrgh! At least that’s what that horrible, inhuman, I’m gonna cut your head off! voice sounded like. We fell over each other in our mad scramble to get out of there.
Once outside, we ran as fast as our legs would carry us, vowing to each other we would never tell anyone that we had met the mad Chinese headless ghost!
Eventually, I ran away once too often and the police had me placed back at Turana. St. Vincent‟s couldn‟t deal with me anymore. That suited me just fine, as my whole aim was to get away from Brother Gilbert. I was at Turana for two weeks when I was told to pack my things, I was being transferred to St. Augustines in Geelong. I didn‟t know if this would be a good thing or not. It didn‟t matter anyway as I was a ward of the state and had no say in the matter!
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
It was an unusual sunny day, I had woken with fright from a recurring nightmare that had been haunting me since midway through my term at St. Vincent‟s. Shortly after breakfast I had been involved in a fight with a fellow inmate, he had been bullying a younger boy and I ended up on the receiving end of a beating. So much for being a hero! I was pulled out of school and escorted to the main office. As I walked in, I must have paled significantly, because the supervisor in charge asked me if I was all right. I must admit I was visibly shaken. There in front of me was a Christian Brother! They told me I was being transferred to St. Augustines Boys‟ Home in Geelong. The Brother reached out for my hand and my immediate instinct was to pull away and hide behind the welfare officer that had escorted me to the office. They told me not to be silly and introduced the Brother as Brother Cooke, and he was the superior in charge of St. Augustines. This did nothing to impress me or give me any confidence. I told the man in charge that I didn‟t want to go and when he asked me why, I couldn‟t bring myself to explain what had been happening to me at St. Vincent‟s. I had told Brother Edwards what Gilbert had been doing and I got a thrashing for being a “filthy little thieving liar out to make mischief!” The inevitable happened and I found myself sitting beside Brother Cooke, heading towards Geelong in his Ford Falcon, it was 1960 and I was nearly thirteen years old.
On the way down, Cookie as we came to call him, started asking me questions to which I would give a blunt or negative or vague reply. This seemed to make him mad as his voice changed over the distance from kindly to authorotive and at times, strict. By the time we arrived, he had given me a good description of the place and the many and varied activities that I would be encountering during my stay there. I must admit he painted a good picture and had me excited about the fact the home had a farm, outside activities such as wrestling, picnics, holiday camps, etc.
We arrived at the Home in the dusk and by the time I had undergone admission and been issued with clothing and a bed, it was dinner time. Man! was I famished. The siren in the big tower blasted and we filed into the dining room. (the significance of that siren would come to the fore at a later date). As we filed past the servery, we were given a tray and a plate with what looked like a badly sunburned savaloy and some baked beans that looked like they had been regurgitated from the garbage bin and the smell seemed to confirm my suspicions. I was shown to a table and started to cut into the sav when I felt this presence behind me, instinct told me to duck but I was too late. Whack! the pain was excruciating and lights were flashing before my eyes. I picked myself up off the floor and there was this huge Brother standing there with the blackest hair I had ever seen. “We say our prayers first son, and thank God for the wonderful food he has supplied us this day.” He boomed, “And if you don‟t eat it all, it will be six of
my best until you do!” and with that, he walked away. “Shit, what was I doing here? What is this place?”
I thought, my ear and the whole side of my head was hurting pretty bad. I stood up, as everybody else did and the grace was said, we then sat down. The usual conversations took place between myself and the other three boys at the table. On my right was Ian Turner, in because his mum was poor and couldn‟t look after him. On my left was Greg Anderson, he had no idea why he was there. Across from me was Brian McInness, destined to become my closest friend and mentor. Brian was a day boy, which meant he went home on weekends.
“That was Brother Tarrant, and he‟s a stickler for the rules,” said Brian. I battled my way through the heavily blistered savaloy, but couldn‟t face the baked beans, so I left them on the plate. Tarrant swooped on me within seconds and one look, had me woofing down those beans like they were made of chocolate; I had felt his open hand on my head, I sure didn‟t want to feel his best six on my hand!
After dinner, we filed out and had to stand in line outside the chapel, before going in for evening rosary and devotions. I was standing beside Brian when I felt it and it brought tears to my eyes. The punch was with a closed fist and to the side of my jaw. I looked up and there was an older boy standing in front of me. “You keep your bloody mouth shut when you are at assembly shit-head!” he barked.
After he walked on I looked at Brian, “That‟s strike two, and what did I do wrong?” “Nothing ,” said
Brian, “he‟s one of the senior boys and helps the Brothers to keep things quiet, he also likes to hit new kids so they‟ll know who is boss.” We filed into the chapel for rosary and prayers. I didn‟t have any rosary beads and just sat there and fidgeted for the hour we were in there. I hated the place and was already plotting my escape. Because I was not in school at that stage, I was permitted to go to my dormitory which was dorm five and sat in my cubicle, on my bed, reading a comic book I had got from the dorm library.When I heard them coming up the stairs, I meandered over to my doorway to check out
BORN IN INNOCENCE, RAISED IN HELL
what everybody was up to. Over to my left and directly across was the Brother‟s room. Some of the boys had settled themselves outside his door. He appeared from his room carrying a small tray with medicine on it, which he gave to three or four boys, others got darning needles and wool. They sat down and began to darn their sox. He looked up and beckoned me over to him. He introduced himself as Brother Mahoney. He was a shortish man, plump and balding on top with a moon face and round metal glasses. The most significant thing about him was his bad breath and the white flaky stuff on his shoulders, making a stark contrast against his black robe. He asked for my name and introduced me to the other kids in the dormitory. He then took me on a guided tour of the area and explained the out of bounds areas which were virtually the outside corridors and the stairwell. I was shown the showers, which were open and had their own taps, unlike St. Vincent‟s, where the water was controlled by a primary set of taps which the Brothers used to adjust both temperature and pressure. The locker room consisted of twenty two Brownbuilt style lockers along the two walls which were situated on the right between the dormitory and the stairwell, the showers were to the right as you came up the stairwell. Normal lights out procedure was at 8:30pm. We had to kneel outside our cubicles,( there were three of us to a cubicle) and say our prayers. The piped radio would remain on for about ten minutes. The lucky ones had crystal sets.
We were awoken at 6:30am and those who wanted to attend early mass would leave early. The rest of us would have to be washed, teeth cleaned and shoes polished before attending breakfast at 7:30am. After breakfast, those rostered to wash dishes would start their duties while the rest of us would go up and make our beds and generally tidy up. We would then proceed to the yard area and have a play time until the siren blew at 8:50am. We would then line up in our class grade spot for inspection, usually by Brothers Cooke or Tarrant. Silence was strictly maintained as the Brother would walk through each line checking uniforms and shoes. If you failed the inspection, it was the good old six of the best time. The weapon the Brothers used (you could only describe it as a weapon, because it was designed to hurt!) varied from a leather strap about twelve inches long by a half to three quarter inch thick by one inch wide, sewn together and weighted with lead discs, to a disused squeegee blade or split cane. Most, if not all, the Brothers carried this „weapon‟ in the pocket of their robe, which was made to accommodate the
length, and hence the muffled slapping sound as they walked. I was to become well acquainted with every strap, blade or cane carried by the various Brothers, over the next three years.
After assembly we would proceed to our various classes. I was placed in grade six and I had Brother Tarrant for maths and science, Brother X for English and social /nature studies. Brother Rowbottom, for the short time he was there was in charge of pottery and sports. I settled into my schoolwork with relish and so long as I kept out of trouble, things seemed to improve for me. The first three months flew by with no sign of trouble (I was the model prisoner) and I completed my first year at school within range of the top six of the class.
At one stage I had volunteered to become an altar boy. This had nothing to do with my need to serve God! No sir! I wanted easy access to the Benedictine wine in the priests vestibule.
I had got completely drunk one Saturday evening, having prepared everything for Sundays morning service. Cookie caught me with my hand in the cookie jar so to speak. Naturally, I was barred from serving as an altar boy from there on. In fact I was barred from all church duties, and punished accordingly.
I was baptised at the home twice. Once during my first year, there was a request for all those who had not been baptised and made their first holy communion. I put my hand up and underwent training for the big day. The brothers threw a big party afterwards with yummy cakes and sweets for all the participants. When Brother Cahill took over, the same request was made and of course up went my hand.
Having been baptised at the Holy Name school, at St Vinnies and twice at St Augustines. I would have to be the most anointed catholic around. NOT!
Christmas came and every boy in the home was issued with a suitcase of new clothing to go away with. Some boys were lucky and were allowed to go home for Christmas, others would go to „holiday homes‟ where families would take a boy in over the holiday period. The remainder would go to
Clifton Springs for their holiday. Clifton Springs was a camp that the Home owned. It was old, but well equipped with a bungalow style dormitory, large kitchen and dining room and heaps of space, beach and pier to fish and dive off.
I was sent to Clifton Springs and had a wow of a time exploring the dunes, swimming and diving. One particular day when we were playing a hide and seek game, I was running through some