Abused and assaulted in a home where few cared

Abused and assaulted in a home where few cared

19 November 2014

OUT of the many horrors Sam Adair says he faced at Rubane House – from being abused in a cold shower in the middle of the night, to the “death marches” of dreaded camping trips – one theme repeats.

The sheer brutal force of the physical abuse was something he stressed time and time again to the Historical Abuse Inquiry in Banbridge.

The Newcastle man made it clear that what he and many others experienced was no ordinary corporal punishment. Instead he said, the Brothers and other staff members used their fists and feet to devastating effect.

Entering the De La Salle-run home in 1977 at the age of 13, after time spent in Belfast’s Nazareth Lodge where he was abused by notorious paedophile Fr. Brendan Smyth, Mr. Adair described a system of autonomous chalets which ran almost as separate children’s homes.

He said the Brother in charge of his chalet was often absent and drinking in the main house, and would beat him often.

“He seemed to be drunk a lot of the time,” he said, going on to recall one particular incident. “He blamed me for hitting a boy. He kicked and punched me around the room. He punched and kicked and slapped me.”

Upon hearing that the Brothers did not accept he was drunk or violent, Mr. Adair retorted: “He was a violent, vicious animal; a man who hit with full force.

“There was no cane or strap when I was there. You got kicked and punched the same as Mike Tyson had the ability to do.”

He claimed one lay member of staff even punched him “for wanting to dry dishes instead of wash”. Another, he said was a “complete animal” who went on a frenzied attack after he told him he had already read a book which had been set for classwork. He said this culminated in the teacher stamping on his head while he was on the floor.

Another member of staff he said would throw hammers, chisels and saws, later removing an escape route the boys took between two desks.

“He was a complete lunatic,” Mr. Adair added.

Counsel to the inquiry Christine Smith QC pointed out that the first assault described was rejected by the member of staff, who said Mr. Adair resented him taking over from a staff member to whom he was a “pet”.

Mr. Adair responded by saying he had never even met this other person as she was attached to another chalet.

“He said you put out your foot to trip him up and others put sugar in his petrol tank,” Ms. Smith continued.

Mr. Adair replied: “He must have been reading the Beano then. There is not one word of truth in it.”

With regards to the assault in the classroom, Ms. Smith pointed out that this was rejected as by the member of staff as “completely untrue and a fabrication”.

After noting a lack of corroborating evidence to date, Ms. Smith said she had recently received a statement from one former resident backing Mr. Adair’s version of one of the incidents.

Turning to the sexual abuse at Rubane House, Mr. Adair said it was so common that some Brothers did not even make serious efforts to conceal what they were doing.

He said assaults took place at the back of the house, the school yard and even in a glass corridor leading to the canteen.

“It was tea and cakes to him,” he said of one Brother. “There was no embarrassment at all.”

He also said one Brother with no connection to his chalet came in to assault boys while the Brother meant to be in charge was drunk in the main house.

“It was under the guise of looking for cigarettes,” he said. Ms. Smith, who pointed out this was denied, said the only incident recalled by one of the Brothers in his chalet happened one night at 11.30pm.

“He said you were running around the corridor in your underpants when you should have been in your pyjamas and as punishment he made you stand outside the door for 10 minutes before going to bed,” Ms. Smith said.

“It is absurd,” Mr. Adair responded. “The boys did not wear underpants in bed, they only wore pyjamas. You would need to be insane to be running around these corridors with the likes of Brother xxx. If he approached you would have been left with a busted head.”

He also told the inquiry that one Brother woke him up in the middle of the night to abuse him.

“He woke you at 3am taking you into a cold shower and made you face the wall,” he said. “I did not know what he was doing but it would not have left a lot to the imagination.”

Another Brother, a “very quiet, mild mannered man”, sexually abused him after taking him to the hospital when he was unwell and later carrying out his own examination back in Rubane.

Mr. Adair was unimpressed with photos displayed to the Inquiry which appeared to show him and other boys enjoying camping trips in Donegal and the Mournes.

He said he had done little exercise at Nazareth Lodge and was unable to keep up with the 14 day treks, with boulders put in his rucksack as punishment. Despite the warm weather, he recalled wearing a jumper to try to prevent the straps cutting into him and being “punched” “nipped” and having his hair pulled for falling behind.

“You carried everything for 14 days not four days.” he said. “If you could not light the Bunsen burner you could not eat. I cried all day on that trip to Donegal. I was always way behind.”

Mr. Adair likened the camping treks to “death marches” and said it was only “sheer fear and adrenaline” that kept him going.

“I would rather have been in Auschwitz than on a camping trip with Brother xxx,” he said.

The inquiry heard the De La Salle Brothers rejected this account, stating that the boys were only threatened with boulders in their rucksacks to keep them all together safely.

While generally describing the Brothers as “masters of humiliation”, Mr. Adair said one Brother in charge “was never violent with the boys”.

“I would put him down as one of the better Brothers,” he said. He said he also took pleasure in running the farm.

Dubbing Rubane as akin to the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ at times, he told the inquiry several boys there were “not the full shilling”

“One guy was just crying all day,” he said.

Mr. Adair believes one resident even committed suicide after being sexually abused.

In his closing remarks Mr. Adair accused social workers of having a “cup cakes and coffee” relationship with staff at the home, and leaving boys to the mercy of the Brothers if they reported concerns of abuse.

He said he would hand over his own social services records with regards to Rubane which would differ to those presented by Social Services.

Despite never having a relationship with his biological mother who neglected him and his siblings, he said he went back to her house at the age of 16 but soon left due to the unhappy conditions.

Explaining why he ped out of an investigation with police in 2012, Mr. Adair said it became clear police did not have the resources to investigate the scale of the abuse properly.

He said he felt “under pressure” by an original RUC investigation but was later convinced by a series of senior PSNI officers to resume due to the quality of his evidence. He said one officer was a “gentleman” who promised to bring his case to court, but later found himself restricted in what he could do.

Mr. Adair said the inquiry team had heard from people who were clearly damaged by what had happened at Rubane and that he was there to give a strong and clear account to support them.

“I came here not because of myself,” he said. “I am strong mentally enough. “I didn’t want to but I felt I would be letting them down if I didn’t do so.”

Asked what he wanted to come out of the inquiry, Mr. Adair said he had no time for the idea of a memorial for the victims. Instead he said, they needed help and compensation.


“I would like some serious compensation for the 18 year jail sentence, for crimes we didn’t commit,” he said. “I don’t need any more statues from the Roman Catholic Church. We want to be properly compensated for the lives destroyed.”