The Christian Bothers

The Christian morning warm up

Seeing red at the Christian Brothers school in IrelandThere was no better way to get warmed up on a cold and frosty morning school morning that to attend the local Christian Brothers. The brother was always there to greet you with his smiling face (read grimace) and pleasant manner (read sadist). Christian Brothers were religious men (or maybe they were the devil incarnate), dressed in black, who had the welfare of the nation’s children in their safekeeping. They represented the dreary Catholic school system in many countries but are almost gone from Ireland now. There are no snakes left in Ireland, thanks to the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, but we would have been happier with snakes rather than Brothers.

Ok, back to the warming up which happened every school morning within the first half an hour. Getting started Once inside the school gates they beat the living hell out of you with their leather straps. They did not need any excuse and on several occasions one particular brother started the day by slapping everyone once across the palm of the hand with a leather strap. No reason was ever given. He liked to start proceedings this way to ensure that the kids paid attention throughout the rest of the day.

This was just the warm up and you could expect a few more Christian wallops if you missed your spelling or math work. Heartwarming chap, he was. He was the one appointed to give us our education. Perhaps the whole ideal of celibacy was wrong for these men who tore the fabric of childhood from many a poor, young innocent child by beating them senselessly.

Christian Brother from China

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Christian Brothers School Suffering

Kids spent 6 years with Christian Brothers in ‘Primary School’ as it was known then. Time spent in school beforehand  in pre-school Infants (4-6 years) and afterwards in Secondary (13-18 years) were very happy times. This might be something to do with the fact that CBs were not involved. You entered the unfortunate world of Christian Brother teaching (an oxymoron perhaps) when you were at least 6 years of age and finished when you were 12.

Things, like the beatings that were regularly dished out by the CBs, lessened as the years passed and some political reform of the school system had begun to take place in the early 1970s. The 1950s and 1960s are best forgotten. But it was many years after I finished school that corporal punishment in schools was banned by the Irish government. And, not a moment too soon either!

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Tarring a Christian Brother

Should all Christian Brothers be tarred with the same brush? Are they as black as their cassocks and are their hearts black too? More than likely, many former pupils would answer ‘YES’ to these questions because the ‘good’ Christian Brother was very hard to find (if indeed he existed at all). They seemed to pride themselves on being tough and the tougher they were, the better.

Toughness extended into the sport arena too and inter school rivalry (especially in Hurling) was drilled into the students on the playing fields. Kids were often punished for losing a game against another CB school. Perhaps they (CBs) had a league table of cruelty. The Christian Brothers were up against pre-teenage kids, after all. I, personally, have no time for them, so my feet are definitely in the YES camp.

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Abuse suffered at the hands of the Christian Brothers

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