Daingean native, William Gorry, has opened to the Offaly Express up about his horrifying experiences at the Mount Carmel Industrial School in Moate, Co. Westmeath in the 1970s.
The Offaly man now lives in Kilmainham, Dublin, and says, "I owe it to others and the public to admit what went on in Mount Carmel, which left many children like me facing many difficulties in our adult lives."
William was born into a large family in Daingean, Co. Offaly, and had seven brothers and five sisters. He told the Offaly Express that with such a large family, his mother and father were 'under financial pressure as they tried to look after us all'. He says a social worker was involved but insisted that there was no assistance given by the Midland Health Board.
"We had no running water, electricity, toilet facilities or heating, and we had to carry water from a well, use tilly lamps for lighting and open fire places for heat," he recalled.
"My mother and father worked hard and were very caring to us and really did the best they could under extreme pressure. It was all too much in 1974 when there was no assistance or support from the Midland Health Board, and my loving mother, departed, unable to take any more of the hardship," William explained.
William went on to say that it was at this point the social worker and Midland Health Board stepped in and took,"the cruel and hard decision to seek a court order for five of us to be taken into care, rather than support my parents in keeping a family together when they could have. My mother and father were loving and caring parents and never neglected us," he insisted.
In 1974, six of the Gorry children were asked if they would like to go on holidays.
"We said yes," William recalled, "thinking that this was for a few days and to somewhere nice."
They were told to have their bags ready for the following week, and when the social worker arrived to take them on holidays, "she was only able to take my other three sisters and two brothers as I was told there was no bed for me."
William says he remembers that experience clearly as a day he cried so much because every one of his family was gone and he was all alone.
The Offaly man revealed that three weeks later, he was taken to the same place, Ath An Airgead at Mount Carmel in Moate, an industrial school run by the Sisters of Mercy for the Midland Health Board.
"It certainly wasn't a holiday, and it was home 15 other children made up of four families."
William and his family were to be looked after by the Sisters of Mercy and their lay staff.
William remembers arriving and immediately crying in the front yard as he thought about his father, who was now at home alone.
"I wondered how my father was left all by himself and we were all taken from him and would he be okay."
William says he was then checked over and sent to a Sr Kevin's office, where he was given clothes and returned to the home.
William spent the next eight years of his life in care, left, and was returned for a further three years of aftercare, telling the Offaly Express that he was 'not able to cope with the outside world' as a result of the extreme verbal, physical and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of those in charge at Mount Carmel.
As a child, William says he'll never forget the many times he was shouted, screamed and yelled at, told that he was useless, stupid, blind and hopeless, and that nobody would love or want him.
"I was humiliated inside and outside in public. I remember the way I was spoken to and about. The way they spoke to my family visitors and what they said to them about me. I was isolated to confined spaces and often punished severely," William recounted.
"Many times I got slapped and boxed across the face, boxed in the back, had my hair pulled, had a cane or wooden stick across the hands and backside, and was kept in my bedroom for many hours," he added. "I was locked in a hot press in darkness for hours, was bruised and blistered, left sore and in pain."
This was on top of sexual abuse, which William says took place at the hands of priests and lay workers involved with Mount Carmel.
"I was sexually abused by a Parish Priest and another local priest in their home. I was also abused by men who were care staff at the homes," William told us. William recalled numerous instances of sexual abuse, each one more horrifying than the next.
"We were brought to Galway for the summer one time, and when all other children and staff were gone out in Galway, a staff member was alone with me. He got me to play the card game Snap with him and said whoever lost had to take their clothes off. So when I lost, he said why don’t we see who can take off the clothes first? This is when acts of both oral and anal abuse happened to me," William said.
He described another instance where a staff member asked him to put up Christmas decorations with him, but then locked the corridor so no one else would come in or disturb them.
"Sitting on the bed he said we'll have a mineral first, and he let the drink spill all over me. He said sorry, take you clothes off and I'll wash you down. When he was washing me down, he sexually assaulted me until he had his satisfaction," William recalled painfully.
He says that he was warned not to say anything and he was brought to a local shop where his abuser bought sweets for him.
Another staff member who William says abused him and others threatened to give reports of bad behaviour by him in the report book for Sr. Kevin, meaning he would then be punished if he spoke out about the abuses. He also said that he was even abused by two older boys who were also in care, and said these examples were just a few of the incidents that were regular occurrences.
William explained that on one occasion after been sexually abused on a Friday night, he was very ill the following Monday, and was unable to eat or open his eyes.
"I was sore, in a lot of pain and my temperature was gradually rising. That Monday night my temperature was taken a few times. I'll never forget at 1.15am a staff member decided to ring the Doctor who was out straight away. I was sweating so much, the doctor pulled the bed clothes off me, ripped my pyjamas off, and I screamed thinking another abuse was coming."
The doctor told him it was okay and was genuinely trying to help him as his temperature was over 100. The doctor gave him an injection and tablet and comforted William, while going on to scold the staff member for leaving it so long to call for him.
William Gorry even remembers his own disabled brother being a victim of abuse at Mount Carmel.
"My brother later died in Lourdes after he had been brought there on a pilgrimage by Moate's Local Order Of Malta."
William believes this was a nice thing to do on their part, but recalls turning down an offer to go with them.
"I said no because something told me he would not come home alive as I believe he prayed hard over there to be called to peace and to avoid any more of the horror abuse he had to face and was not able to fight against in Moate. I was devastated after the loss of my loving brother."
William also recalled mental and physical abuse suffered at the hands of the Sisters in Mount Carmel. The youngster suffered from a visual impairment and couldn't see the blackboard properly, meaning he often couldn't take down notes or get his homework done. For this, he says he was very harshly punished.
"Pages were torn out of my copies, I was given 500 to 1000 lines to write, and notes written in my copies by teachers led to beatings by staff, and more harshly and severely, by Sr. Kevin," he stated.
"I got wood beaten over my head in woodwork class, and the same with metal in metalwork," he added. "My education was failed due to the lack of care and support by the teachers, the Department of Education, the Midland Heath Board and the staff and those responsible for me while in their care," William insisted.
On one occasion, he tried to run away and took off across the fields before being found and brought back by the Gardaí. The Daingean native remembered the resultant encounter with one of Mount Carmel's nuns very vividly.
"I was marched down to Sr. Kevin's office where I was boxed in the face and left with my nose bleeding. I was afraid and in tears. The more I cried the more I got pushed, had my hair pulled and my head banged against the walls." He said that Sr. Kevin was telling him that, "the more you cry the more I'll kill you, until you stop."
The young boy was then told to clean the office and when Sr. Kevin decided he wasn't doing it right, she ordered him to get his bags 'to go home to the kip' he came from that was 'no good' and where he 'was not fed or cared for'. William said she told him his father was also 'no good and never was', and that, 'your mother had no time for you and is not even there now'.
On foot of this verbal onslaught, William said he got up the following day to leave with the bags he had been asked to fetch, but the staff told him not to go because the guards would be after him again. He told them Sr. Kevin told him to leave, but when he got to Moate and rang his social worker from a payphone, she told him 'to go no further', and that he 'was not allowed home'. Once more, he was taken back to the home and says later that evening, when the social worker was gone, he was given more beatings by Sr. Kevin.
"With all this abuse and what I had to endure, I took to the roof of the house a few times, jumping in the hope that I would kill myself and escape it all for ever, William said. "I was only hurt with a spinning head and ended up being put in the dog shed for hours with the door locked as punishment."
William says he did not complain to the Gardaí or anyone as he 'was afraid to'.
"I was afraid of the unknown and what would happen."
In later life, away from the home, William says, "I could not talk to others, trust others or cope with the outside world. I was someone who didn’t really exist in a small dirty flat. My inner body felt dirty, full of shame and guilt, useless and hopeless. I was carrying my past childhood everywhere."
He later became homeless, only staying in B&Bs when he could while his social welfare payments could pay for it.
"I felt completely abandoned. I once drank so much alcohol that I was told by a doctor the next time you won’t see me or anyone, you’ll be dead."
William told the Offaly Express that now he tries his best 'to get on with life'.
"It’s not easy as there is always something that reminds me of the past childhood I had. I seem to wear it and carry it. I suffer always with the thoughts and memories of what happened to me as a child, what it was like, my loss and failures, the humiliation and flashbacks, not being able to show or share my feelings, not being able to form or maintain friendships or a relationship."
"I should have been able to leave the care home with happiness, education, good health, lots of friends, safe in the knowledge that there was a good path in life ahead of me - love, a partner, marriage and a good job."
"Instead I was left a victim of Mount Carmel in Moate, carrying a horror childhood past, left with many questions unanswered, memories and opportunities missed out on, and a longing for the better child I could have been, but was not."
William said it would be something if he 'could only get that little piece of happiness, peace and love' in his life.
"I have nothing but hatred for the priests, nuns, some lay staff and others for what they did and how they treated me and other children," he said angrily.
"I don’t blame the church; I blame those who represent the church. I blame the State, the Health Board, the Department of Education, the Sisters of Mercy and those who were involved. It has not been easy and has been very stressful with no support from the State," Mr Gorry concluded.