It was during World War II that Eamonn, a preschooler, was ‘kidnapped’ by the Catholic Church and sent to Australia.
The family that billeted him for his first Christmas was told the boy ‘was found on the streets of London’, and gave him his name.
But that was not true. After decades of searching for his mother under the only name he’d known, Eamonn finally found her. She had not given him up but merely ‘put me into care for a time’, Eamonn recounted. When she returned with her new American serviceman husband to collect him, she was ‘told by the institution that I’d been adopted out to a family in England and not to worry about me’.
‘Devastated’, she went to live in America where she had more children. Eamonn, now in his 70s, only recently found these half-siblings.
Meanwhile, Eamonn had a terrible childhood. Aged about four or five, he was physically and sexually abused by a lay teacher at a Catholic orphanage outside London. Bashings and punishment by the nuns, one of whom threw him down a flight of stairs, left him unable to throw a ball or play any sport.
Relieved to leave the orphanage when he was 11, Eamonn was told stories of ‘fruit and sunshine’ and put on a ship to Western Australia where he wound up in residential care run by the Christian Brothers.
‘From the day when I got into that place, I was terrified because it was just the same … only this time there were big men, huge men, with big straps and sticks.’
Eamonn arrived during the 1950s and left five years later, when he was 16.
Rapes were common both inside and outside of the institution. On one occasion Eamonn was left injured on the back of a truck for two nights after Brother Hamish raped him ‘in the bush’, away from a farmhouse where the Brother had taken a group of boys who were ‘shared’ with three other paedophiles.
Eamonn did not complain because he ‘was absolutely shocked … even though I’d been raped before’.
Boys did not discuss or complain about anything. He recalled the Brother in charge telling new arrivals: ‘While you are here, no boy is ever to complain of another boy and you are not to … bring a complaint of any other Christian Brother here and if you do, you will be punished severely’.
They were punished severely anyway. Eamonn endured back-breaking labour as a young boy, pulling down mature trees with cables, digging a pool by hand ‘often at night and all on starvation rations’ with food ‘full of vermin or rotten’, dressed in rags with no shoes or underwear, ‘always cold’ as well as ‘terrified and alone’.
But it wasn’t just ‘savage beatings’ by Brother Filmore and Brother Bailey, who also raped him. Older boys, bullies, were also ‘thumping the hell out of you’, often causing serious injury. The Brothers liked to watch and offered no help.
Individual Brothers picked on certain boys mercilessly and would kick or hit them at every opportunity. In one instance, Eamonn was frequently caned for ‘months’ by Brother Bailey for breaking a plate.
Sexual abuse began in his second year with the ‘prolific’ and ‘extremely violent’ Brother Fogarty. He was in charge of showers and dormitories that held whole classes of up to 50 boys. Fogarty took them ‘out of their beds at night’ – every night, according to Eamonn – choosing apparently at whim, especially his ‘pets’. It was just like ‘going to a supermarket’.
‘Every child in that dormitory was in danger’, said Eamonn.
‘He probably will come up as being one of the worst paedophiles in Australian history. I don’t think you can probably find a worse one than him, for the numbers of children that he assaulted inside that room and he did it in a gloating way. He did it in the classrooms, he did it in the dormitories.’
Eamonn fears that some boys suicided, because he never heard of them again.
Eamonn named Brothers Bailey – ‘a psychopath … pushing foreign objects into your back rectum’, Fogarty, Cunneen and O’Malley as abusers. There was also the older unmarried lay teacher, Mr Black, a ‘predator’ who lived on the premises.
Brothers also attached ‘electric shock machines’ to Eamonn’s penis after bedwetting. He had to be careful to remove them slowly because they had been attached with ‘plaster’ and might have ripped his foreskin.
It ‘never even entered my mind’ to report the abuses to police while a teenager dealing with multiple factors – trying to survive with no education, no parents, no training, further abuse on farms, untreated injuries – because ‘you became conditioned to it’, Eamonn said.
In the late 1950s when he did tell Catholic Welfare, he was shamed for being ‘so ungrateful’ for his lowly-paid employment on farms. In the 1960s, Eamonn told the story of him and many others to a newspaper. But his allegations were, he was told, ‘libellous’. Several later police complaints against Bailey and Fogarty were not proceeded with due to the age of the Brothers who eventually died ‘free’ men.
Eamonn has been in and out of psychiatric care all his adult life. He credits his wife, who he only told 20 years ago, and then not in detail, with keeping him alive. He has struggled over the decades to play the roles of husband, father and grandfather, unable to ‘say that word “love”’ to family members.
Barely literate, he never progressed in jobs, suffers separation anxiety and sexual repression.
A senior Christian Brother who spent several hours listening to Eamonn’s detailed retelling of historic attacks on ‘little defenceless children’ who were ‘brutalised’ and ‘sodomised’ asked him, ‘What would it take for you to go away – $70 or $80,000?’ That Brother – ‘a liar’ according to Eamonn – laterTdenied he had made the offer.
Eamonn received $8,000 as part of a class action brought against the Christian Brothers in the 1990s and was turned away from Towards Healing due to the class action. He received the top tier payment of $45,000 from Redress WA.
Eamonn came to the Royal Commission to ‘stand up’ for all those harmed because otherwise the Christian Brothers will ‘say that nothing’s really happened’.