Friday, 24 June 2016



Regularly on this blog people have talked about St Malachy's College, Belfast as a place where abusive things happened - both on the secondary school side and on the seminary side called THE WING.

In the context of the secondary school the abuse complained of was the mental, emotional and physical abuse that went on in the context of corporal punishment.

Two former priest presidents who were fond of corporal punishment have been mentioned - Canon Walter Larkin and Canon Patrick Walsh - who later became the bishop.

CANON WALTER LARKIN was president from  1960 until 1970 and by all accounts he was a cruel "illegitimate".

Walter Larkin
Walter was my parish priest in Kilkeel during 1983 and 1984. He was still a bully then and my fellow curate, Denis Newberry, who was a former head boy of St Malachy's lived in total fear of Walter and always called him "Canon".

I, on the other hand, never had Walter as a teacher or headmaster had absolutely no fear of him at all and I stood up to him from Day One and simply called him "Walter". 

He told me he respected me? But whether he did or not I never let him away with either speaking to me or acting towards me in a negative way. He was therefore very nice to me and actually sent for me when he was on his death bed.

I think that Walter was a very troubled man especially in later life. I think he was haunted by the things he did in life and maybe haunted by the thoughts of how cruel he was in St Malachy's.

He and I had a cup of tea together every second Saturday after confessions at 1 pm in his very poorly decorated kitchen and every time we had that cup of tea, and as he chain smoked, he asked me to comfort him and reassure him that he was not going to Hell after he died.  For some reason he believed that he would lose his soul.

I think perhaps that he was full of regret and guilt about his "sadism" during his priestly life and his time in St Malachy's. It was really pitiful to see him. 

God knows what he had on his conscience. I told him to tell God that he was sorry for any harm he had ever done and to try and also apologise to anybody he had hurt. 

He was one of the most unhappy old men and old priests I have ever met.

CANON PATRICK WALSH followed Walter and was president of St Malachy's from 1970 until he became the auxiliary bishop of Down and Connor in 1983. 

Paddy's nickname among the students and seminarians was: THE ICE QUEEN!

From all reports Paddy Walsh was every bit as brutal as Walter Larkin. 

I will leave it to former students to tell us about Paddy and his fondness for the "birch".

I believe that Paddy was - and remained - a sadist. Even as the Bishop of Down and Connor he was cruel to priests - even at times like a priest's parent's death. 

His side kick was the former president of Garron Tower - Monsignor Tom Bartley. Bartley ran around after Paddy and Paddy loved to poke fun at him and humiliate him. I suppose every "sadist" needs a companion "masochist"?

If I was Paddy I would be at least as worried about meeting my maker as old Walter was.


The Wing in St Malachy's was that part of the college that housed the seminarians during their first three years of seminary training and as they attended Queen's University.

The Wing had its own forms of abuse especially emotional and mental abuse. 

Father James Donaghy of HMP Maghaberry used to go there to sexually seduce at least one seminarian. 

Father Paul Symonds was the spiritual director and he had hos own problems.

Father John McManus when he was in charge there was hardly the epitome of kindness. 

Father Donal (now bishop) McKeown left a lot to be desired. 

All in all St Malachy's was a place of immense emotional suffering for many people and I imagine that it succeeded in destroying the faith of most of its students and seminarians better than any atheist, communist or secularist did. 

Some of the former seminarians I have talked to have spoken of being scarred for life.

The motto of St Malachy's was and is:



What an absolute contradictory motto for a place responsible for so much human suffering!


  1. Bishop Pat, I'm learning more and more about the treatment of Aspirants in these church-run colleges and seminaries. As a Primary school pupil, I was terrified of a cruel De La Salle brother in Downpatrick. But, back to the Formation students: it's so sad to hear of these disturbing reports. As regards Fr. Larkin, how did he fear hell when the Bible tells us of the means by which we can be saved? (John 6:63; Eph. 2:8-9). The Bible, I believe, is the all-sufficient means by which we can be saved. I was also shocked to learn of Fr. Newberry's fear of Fr. Larkin. I remember the late Fr. Newberry. Corporal punishment in the '50s and '60s is a salient reminder of the cruelty of some teachers who caused fear and anxiety in young people. Little wonder these Religious Orders in these islands have dried up.
    Jarlath Vaughan

    1. I think poor Walter was more into law than Scripture :-)

    2. MourneManMichael24 June 2016 at 22:00

      Jarlath you speak of De La Salle's in primary school Downpatrick.
      Does anyone remember that sadistic little ba**ard head teacher at the Red High Downpatrick, Bro Albert? On 12-15 year old boys he used, for 'slapping', items like a hammer shaft, sawn off brush shafts, and, by times, the bamboo cane, the latter on the back of knuckles! And this for relatively minor misdemeanours! I swore in adult life that if ever I met him again I would give a strong dose of the verbals, but never did get to meet him as he was sent off to Manchester.
      By contrast, Bro Alphonsus, his successor, was a benign kindly caring man, as indeed were some of the brothers, like PQ, or Sweepsie, but Albert was the worst of the worst. And all in the name of the benign RC god!

    3. MourneManMichael24 June 2016 at 22:07

      Just recalled another of Albert's fortes. Standing alongside us 12 year olds in the mid 50's he would have us recite the Latin imperfect tense, which he called the "Big Bam" tense, and accompanying our recitals, he would punch us on the shoulder(Bam Bam)repeating "Amabam. Amabas, Amabat" etc etc, all for no reason other than for his pleasure at thumping us!

  2. Patsy Walsh didn't use a birch or cane. In fact he abolished corporal punishment when he became president. However, he did engage in physical violence and his acid tongue was as stinging as any strap or stick. He engaged in emotional and psychological abuse of young lads at the school. Physical violence by adult teacher - as in punching, kicking, face-slapping, hair and ear pulling, manhandling and physical mauling was the order of the day at St Mal's in the 70's. It was a frightful place. Walsh epitomised the terror. He was a cruel, heartless, vicious bastard. He got his kicks out of humiliating and ridiculing teenage boys. There are a fair number of others worthy of dishonourable mention: Rubber, Hoppy, et al. I'm sure others have their own particular horror stories to relate. They would be arrested nowadays for assault and battery. A terrifying place. I was there 1971- 78. Hated it!

  3. Biting sarcasm was the hallmark of the ice queen - a wicked bitch.

    1. Maybe she did not get long enough on the paps?

    2. That picture you have of Walsh is just how I remember the evil bastard. Chills my blood even yet.

    3. I'd say aul one Walsh's paps were pretty shrivelled and miserable specimens.

  4. M.M.M. @ 22:00. Hi Michael - there were some good De La Salle Brothers but it only takes one to destroy the peace of mind of a helpless schoolboy. And yes - this cruel Brother used a straightened-out hola-hoop to inflict punishment. He was a cruel brute - no doubt about it. He was the first thought entered my head as I read Bishop Pat's blog tonight.
    Jarlath Vaughan

  5. What a sad story! I remember visiting two old Mercy Sisters in Nazareth House Sligo. Both Retired and both confined to bed. One kept asking for absolution and reassurance she would not end up in hell. I have no idea what she did or did not do during her active life. My thoughts were: Does anyone know or care about her real name. How many people come to visit. How long will she be remembered for after she dies. Why should a committed Christian be afraid of hell

    1. Sean, The sad thing is that many people are Catholics ( or Protestants) but not Christians!

    2. Sean, The sad thing is that many people are Catholics ( or Protestants) but not Christians!

    3. Stranger still. There are instances where catholicism and protestantism can look the same on the outside. "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so"

  6. There was a deeply ingrained culture of physical cruelty, emotional abuse and psychological torture of boys at St Malachy's College in the past.

    Men like Larkin and Walsh presided over and perpetrated that culture of abuse - they and their minions.

    It was the same in boarding schools and diocesan colleges all over Ireland and beyond.

    The really sad thing is that Church men and women perpetrated this brutality and inflicted such suffering on young people entrusted to them. There was no sense of a loving and caring God.

    Walsh, in particular, often spat words such as these into the faces of frightened boys: "You are nothing and you will never amount to anything!"

    Vicious, mean and inadequate men these were, who, nowadays, would be removed immediately from any position of authority or power over the young.

    I'm not surprised to hear that Larkin was trembling as he faced death. I suspect Walsh is similarly nervous.

    My prayer for men and women such as these, however, is that they will be greatly shocked at the kindness of the Good God they were supposed to serve and, after their purgatory, be happy with everyone in Heaven.

    They were merciless but God is merciful and takes merciful account of everything in our hearts and lives.

    St Malachy's Survivor,

    1. I'm not intimating that you are lying about Paddy Walsh, but did he really treat schoolboys as you've described?

      I was in the "Wing" and I have favourable memories of him.

    2. Was he President or had he become a bishop by that stage, Magna Carta? Yes, he really did treat schoolboys as I have described. He was a cruel and vicious beast who gave every impression of enjoying the power he exercised over boys. He was a sadist. Some boys used to joke about what he wore under his cassock: thigh-length black leather boots..... and nothing else!

  7. Violence and fear - not glory - were within that school in my day.

  8. I witnessed so so many incidents of assault and battery in that hellhole when I was a student in the 70's. I often fantasised about taking a hurley stick to Walsh and those other bastards who were simply bullies getting their kicks and jollies on one massive power trip. Walsh did my sons' confirmation years later. Even looking at him and listening to him then - made me feel sick.

  9. Walsh left me with no option but to "leave" St Mals. The day I departed he gave me a vitriolic and cruel leaving message. I felt humiliated. Had I not been made of sterner stuff I would have been demoralised completely.
    Many years have now passed and I have become very successful both financially and more importantly as a person.
    Walsh confirmed my nephew. I was present. Walsh quite obviously remembered me. I had great pleasure in shaking his hand and just looking at him with distain and sneering contempt before he skulked away.
    He was a wreck of a man obviously deeply troubled by his past.

  10. How many St Malachys boys can remember the cruel sadists who posed as teachers there in the 60s?




    Wee Dean

    Fr Purdy

    Walter of course

    Wee Hughie


    Wee rubber

    I'll write about these soon

  11. There was a drama and English teacher there too TK - and an Irish teacher - RG - two very twisted men! The PE teachers - some of them were experts at humiliation too.

  12. It's hard to know where to start with rogue's gallery of St Malachy's concentration camp! 

    One little man was left out of the earlier list - Wee duff! 

    "Wee" because of his stature he delighted in sarcasm towards poorer and weaker lads while selecting favourites on whom he would lavish fulsome attention and praise. 

    Dressed impeccably,he  smelt of what we thought was perfume but in reality was aftershave, a rarity in the 60s! His academic gown was generally off the shoulder and he could wield a cane like a rodeo cowboy! Of course it sliced through many of our fingers. 

    One particularly nasty punishment of his was to grip a bunch of fingers, tips towards the ceiling, and come crashing down on them with a bunch of rulers. Blood was drawn, yes blood! 

    Complain? Are you kidding? You'd have been out on your backside if you dared even approach the Office without being summoned! 

    Then there was Latin "teacher" Hoppy. A big awkward lanky elderly man, always grey suited, food stained big tie, hands like a banana bunch, slow moving, slow talking, making his way up and down classroom aisles like an elephant. Asking vocabulary questions and declensions and conjugations and anything else to catch boys out! 

    One lad collapsed backwards in fear when this big commandant yelled one day. The child had got a question wrong and fainted! 

    When he was brought around outside the room, big Hoppy gave him four of his best with his finger slicing cane! Four, yes four! Talk about executing an injured person? 

    It wasn't only the sheer pain of this stuff but the humiliating indignity of it and the worthlessness which it instilled into victims.

    And all this (and more) in a diocesan minor seminary called St Malachy's. Small wonder victims would look out of the windows wistfully on Crumlin Road dreaming of freedom at the end of each "College" day!

  13. Paddy Sniff (that's what we called Walsh because of his big hooter of a proboscis) standing at the front door of "The College", on a cold, dark and miserable November morning, during the worst years of the troubles, with a face on him that would stop your heart, as we young lads scurried past him, rushing to the various torture chambers to begin the days "lessons", hoping like f@&k that Sniff wouldn't notice you and stop you because your tie wasn't straight or some other major crime.... are just a few of my more pleasant memories of St Malachy's Gulag!

  14. Look, all this stuff happened years ago. Beatings,hammerings and thumpings we're par for the course. It was the way it was. They didn't know any better. What it did do was it taught respect and maintained discipline. Most of us who were subjected to such regimes just took it in our stride. And truthfully did it do us much harm. Get over it!
    In fact when I see the cheeky,undisciplined mouthy articles being turned out from schools nowadays I often think doing away with the cane was one big mistake. I blame the EU.
    The old school.

    1. And what about those of us who at 11 years old were the subject of attempted sexual abuse by Fr Sean Purdy? At that age, I wasn't quite sure what he was doing, but I knew something was NOT right and I opened my mouth and screamed like a banshee and the twat nearly crapped himself and instantly backed off and became ultra-congenial, after only moments before when he had been beating the face off me.

      Was that necessary to teach respect and maintain discipline? Bollocks!

  15. So, years ago if was okay to beat?  Shame on you! I would hold that children, including you, were damaged by it. Not every school carried out the physical and emotional stuff delivered by sarcastic brutes who knew they would be backed by their bosses! Why? Because their bosses could hand out the same and worse! 

    St Mary's contemporaries at the time didn't experience this. My friends there were appalled at the time by what they heard from mates at the seminary. 

    Why was Fr McA called "Smiler"? Because he grinned and looked quite delighted slicing kids fingers with a cane! Drawing in his breath as he gathered his energy to put the best stroke into it. Aye, get over it indeed. 

    Why did Wee Dean, another priest, hand out 16 wicked lashes with his cane on me and insist I take it on one hand? And for the crime of not taking notes! Oh! Get over it you say! Thank you very much! He kept on piling it on because I didn't flinch as he caned me.  I suppose I was one on those cheeky undisciplined mouthy articles to which you refer. I stood and took it, mouth closed. Dignified. And he didn't like it. Kept at it til the cane broke. 

    Some of these "men" would not have been out of place in German camps only 20 years earlier

  16. I certainly was not damaged by it. As I said it was par for the course. It went with the territory of going to school. The cane was used quite freely in my primary school as well. And, by the way, if I went home and complained I got another dose of the same from my da, the assumption being that I must have been up to no good and deserved it in the first place from the teacher.
    No I wasn't damaged. Nor were any of my contemporaries. We talk about it often and laugh. Didn't do us a bit of harm.
    So, my friend, "man up"! See it for what it was. A product of the times.
    I'm sure in your journey through life there have been times when you have had to apply a defiance or dogged determination. Just think that perhaps those times when you stoically held out your hand for a good caning has helped mould you into
    being the man,or woman, you are today.
    Old School

    1. With all due respect to Anonymous at 16:25, June 26th, by all means speak for yourself but do not attempt to write off the experiences of many others who really did suffer in these institutions, like St Malachy's College and do not dare tell people, affected by the contempt to which they were subjected, to "man up".

      I went to St Malachy's in the 70's. I can still feel, at times, the nausea caused by nerves as the bus made its way down from Ardoyne, in the mornings, to that hellish school.

      There were a few times I actually puked in the street such was the state I got into, anticipating some of the fearsome creatures employed as "teachers" in that place.

      It has been said about Paddy Sniff (Walsh) that he was a very fair man - for he treated EVERYONE, without exception, with the same degree of utter contempt.

      In my experience, boys really suffered in the particular establishment under discussion here. I did. Some of my classmates did too.

      Of course, some were able to take it in their stride and shrug off the brutality. Nevertheless, I have met many others, like myself, who were marked, traumatised, by their experiences of abuse there - physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

      There was no excuse for the brutality and violence meted out in St Mal's by men, some of whom were sociopaths. If it was today, you could dial 999, or call Childline, or take some other course of action.

      The perverse glee men like Walsh, Rubber, Hoppy, Lefty, et al., took in terrorising and mauling teenagers, is worthy of study and, for many, it was very very damaging.

      If you are one of those who could "shrug it off", then count yourself lucky is all I can say.

  17. Dear 18:17
    I go back to my earlier post. I'm not condoning what these guys go up to I'm simply saying that they knew no better probably because that was how they were treated as pupils and it was learned behaviour. It was how things were done in those days and nothing you say now or do will change that. Times have changed and things have moved on but as someone with many family and friends in teaching I know how much class discipline and challenging behaviour is an issue and I feel personally that the abolition of the stick has allowed this scenario to develop.
    And to get back to the core issue here Walsh was an out and out bas@@@d who went way,way over the score. More so with his mouth.He was a coward who hid behind the soutane and his authority as head.
    One look at him now speaks volumes.
    Old School

  18. I would ask our Man Up contributor what his attitude is to people who have survived sexual abuse? To Man Up?

    And if not, why not? 

    1. I agree. What happened to the boys in St Malachys was as much abuse as what Brendan Smyth did - albeit one was mental / physical and one was sexual.

  19. From Old School

    We are talking about two entirely different types of abuse here. In school if you got a hammering it was usually in front of everybody else. It was,as I said already,par for the course. It was accepted as the mode of correction. Everyone I can think of in my various years got a belting at some stage,save for a couple of goodie two shoes or teachers pets. It cannot be undone. You got punished. It's history so man up! Forget it.
    Sexual abuse on the other hand was and is done in secret. It was not the done thing. It was and is a betrayal of trust. It was and is a violation of the physical, mental and emotional persona.Its effects strike at the very core of the violated and its perpetrators are deviants. Whereas the effect of a whack with the belt or cane will pass quickly because it was the common currency of discipline in those days the recovery from sexual abuse is much more difficult, prolonged and will often need counselling or other intervention to aid the recovery process.
    19:03. I hope this answers your question.

    1. No one's talking of a whack with a belt. Read back to my referring to 16 of the best on one hand and of the guy who collapsed in fear? And was then hammered when he was brought round!

      Maybe he should have manned up! 

      And the perpetrators weren't deviant by implication? But sexual predators are deviant or so you say to distinguish them? 

    2. I'll tell you something Old School - I did 'man up', as you put it.

      I got on with my life and I have been very successful, no thanks to "The College" and its perverse lessons.

      If I had met Paddy Sniff again, when I was in my 20's, priest or no priest, I would have knocked seventeen shades of shite out of him. We'd have seen what a big man he was - him and some of them other evil bastards like Rubber.

      Lucky for him/them - and maybe for me too - I never came across him until I was well into adulthood.

      I was able to give him a fool's pardon eventually but what men like him did was wrong, totally uncalled for. What sort of twisted "god" did he/they believe in?

      I rejected Catholicism and religion for a good while after school but I came again, later, to see its true place and value - no thanks to Sniff and the boys.

      I saw old Walshy in a friend's child's confirmation pics a year ago. He's a miserable and pathetic looking old man - so different to the haughty, cold, nasty piece of work who strutted his stuff on the quad and corridors of St Malachy's College. Who's sorry now???

      I would simply say to him, "Paddy, what were you thinking back in the day? Were our lives not hard enough in the 1970's going to school, risking life and limb, dodging bombs, bullets and British soldiers, without you and your lackies making it even more difficult?"

      It was wrong and unnecessary and unjustifiable. No excuse. But I DID get on with my life Old School and my life is good. No thanks to them.

  20. Good stuff and well done you. Like me you've become successful despite those cruel,evil bas@@@ds like Walsh etc.
    Old School

  21. MourneManMichael27 June 2016 at 12:54

    Anon @ 00:35, I identify with your comments and sentiment. They are, to me, much more reasonable and proper than any 'advice' that those of us abused verbally, psychologically and physically in our youth should just 'man-up'. To me, such comment minimises the gross wrongs perpetrated. The treatment meted out was totally wrong morally and ethically and completely disproportionate to supposed misdemeanours.

  22. I was assaulted ( punched in the jaw )and knocked to the floor by Anderson an Irish teacher/psychopath, almost broke my jaw. he then chased me into the toilets and threatened me not to tell anyone what he had done. Just one of many instances of bullying by both teachers and pupils

  23. Old School needs to realise he has been permanently damaged by his experiences and the damage is that he thinks there was ever an excuse for child abuse of any sort. Teaching and priesthood both attract sad little shits who get full of their own importance and take it out on other people.

  24. Beautiful comment about sad little shits re St Malachys COLLEGE as it prided in calling itself? 

    Yea, sad little shit indeed the wee priest English teacher,skiver, red in the face in blind rage who flogged me. Raging he did not appear to be hurting me!

    Sad little shit the French teacher who practically amputated boys fingers with his cane, and their self esteem with his tongue; who laughed at them as they stood before him in fear!

    Sad little shit the Dean whose came crashing against his sour and was like a pistol shot!

    Such a collection or perverts in that place at that time and presided over by Holy Mother Church.....

    I would invite bloggers to watch the movie 'Catholic Boys' set in the States! That only comes close to the atmosphere then in the classrooms of these sad little shits

  25. I say again for the slow learners. Man up! Get over it! It's done so move on! Don't be wimps all your lives.
    Thank God the country wasn't relying on you lot when we had to fight the real Hitler!
    Old School

  26. From the tone of the comments from Old School I'm wondering where s(he) taught?

    1. MourneManMichael29 June 2016 at 09:51

      From the comments and tone of 'Old School', and a certain arrogance implicit within, I have to wonder if, in his own words, "it IS all over", and the extent to which the psychological and physical brutality experienced has created,and maintained such an attitude. To 'normalise' such behaviour as just the ethos of the day appears to show a continuing deficit of understanding.

  27. I confirm Rubber and Hoppy regularly physically and emotionally violent - in the context of an environment with no checks on that behaviour , even though it was widely known by direct experience. There were also many good teachers - Ms Fisher/Parkhill was one such, and some teachers took hell from pupils Poe - mister Lavery a geography teacher got a very hard time for no reason.