Trying to numb the pain

‘I never seen hell until I came to Mount Cashel’

Barb Sweet
Published on July 23, 2012
Derrick Stanley, for the first time, publicly discusses the ordeal he says he suffered at Mount Cashel. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

Last in a three-part series

Derrick Stanley said he was so disturbed by memories brought forward by the film “The Boys of St. Vincent,” that he put his head through a TV set.

The National Film Board film was inspired by the Mount Cashel Orphanage sex abuse scandal in St. John’s.

“My head was all bandaged up and my face was like a monster,” he said of the damage.

Stanley had not spoken out before about the abuse he claims he suffered there in the 1970s.

Since he was interviewed by The Telegram for this story, he has been put in touch with a lawyer, as an Aug. 1 deadline looms for civil claims against the Christian Brothers organization and its entities.

In the 1980s, Stanley said he was told an old perjury charge made him ineligible to give evidence against his alleged abuser, Brother David Burton, a dorm supervisor.

And so he has kept it pretty much to himself ever since.

“I didn’t want to bring up my past — everything in the past. I didn’t bother coming forward,” he said over coffee.

“But I didn’t tell my parents why I ran away and all this. I ran away a few times and the police always brings me back. … Last time I ran away I went to the boys’ home and stayed there until I was 16.”

Stanley said as a boy he had surgery to repair a hole in his heart and was never treated as a normal child.

He said his siblings were split up and he wound up in the orphanage.

Stanley alleges that Brother Joseph Burke left him to drown in the swimming pool there.

“I didn’t know how to swim. He put me on his back and brought me down the deep end and left me there,” he said, mimicking the sound “bloop, bloop, bloop” and pointing downwards to illustrate his struggle.

 “I went down the fourth time and there was a guy who was taking care of the pool cleaning up around. … He seen what went on. He jumped in the pool and got me out and saved my life.”

Criminal  indecent assault charges against Burke were quashed and he got an absolute discharge for a physical assault charge.

Stanley said Burton — who was convicted in the past, but also made a confession that was not prosecuted — touched his privates many times.

“They picked out the weakest that can’t fight back,” he said of the Christian Brothers who were abusive.

Many years ago, Stanley said he robbed a female taxi driver and cut her face. He did time in Springhill, N.S., but has since been pardoned.

“I was on the heavy drugs — acid, marijuana, black hash, black oil. I didn’t do cocaine. I popped pills, trying to snort them up me nose,” he said of his past. I took me glasses (and) used it for brass knuckles and I cut her.”

But he said he was sorry for what he did, expressed it in court and his record is now clean.

Stanley said he received some counselling after being parolled to a halfway house and that helped him straighten up.

But the 47-year-old has worked a succession of jobs and still can’t keep one.

“I tried to commit suicide and everything when I saw it on TV,” he said of the “Boys of St. Vincent.”

“I tried to hang myself in the closet. I tried to cut my wrists, because the pain hurt and I didn’t want anyone else to know.”

Stanley said he didn’t get far in school and has poor literacy skills.

“Give me a newspaper and I can’t tell you what happened,” he said.

But Stanley also said there was a kind man at Mount Cashel — Brother T.I. Murphy, who treated him well, offering candy and milk with no hidden agenda.

Another survivor Billy Earle echoed those sentiments, saying Murphy was the best, along with other good brothers, like Butsy Moore, Johnny Shaw and Harry French.

“With all the publicity the bad side of Mount Cashel generated over the years, I feel it is easy to forget the good that was done there,” Earle said.

“Mount Cashel was more than a small group of bad brothers who tarnished the reputation of a good and valuable organization. It was a 100-year-old institution that helped thousands of children and their families and produced many good men.”


Gerard Boland’s criminal record is 57 pages long.

“It’s as thick as a Downhomer,” he said in a telephone interview from the Bishop’s Falls correctional facility where he is incarcerated until next spring — or this fall if he can get parole.

He figures he’s spent much of the last 30 years in jail and 99 per cent of the convictions, he said, are the result of alcohol-fuelled anger. There are assaults, breaches of conditions, impaired driving, causing disturbances, uttering threats and mischief among the pages that have defined his life.

Boland said he was sexually abused by Brother Edward English in the 1970s.

English was convicted in the 1990s of assault-related offences against former residents of the orphanage.

After Boland’s mother got sick, he and his brothers were placed in Mount Cashel.

“If I could honestly say, the truth of it is Mount Cashel, it f--king ruined my life,” he said, breaking down.

“A lot of boys went through abuse in Mount Cashel and went on with their lives. God love them. How they done it? Good family support or something.

“Jesus Christ, I thought we had it hard in Lamaline. I mean I never seen hell until I came to Mount Cashel orphanage. That’s for f--king sure.”

Boland said his father was a heavy drinker.

“When I seen my father being the way he was — hitting us and pushing my mother around, I said to myself, ‘There’s no f--king way in the world I’m going to be like him,’” he said.

He took his first drink at around age 18.


“It made me feel better about myself. At the time I was so f--kin’ hurt,” Boland said.

“I said to myself, well, nobody is going to hurt me again. … I drunk a dozen beer, I felt eight foot tall and 10 foot wide.”

Besides being sexually abused, he said he was grabbed by the throat and punched in the face numerous times at the orphanage.

He would spend hours sitting in the window staring out towards the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet across the street, hoping his parents would come and get him.

He took off and hitchhiked to St. Lawrence and stayed with a relative after a chance meeting, and then was reunited with his mother. He said he never revealed the abuse to her.

Boland, then in his late teens, said he was walking down Water Street in St. John’s one day, drunk. He saw the Mount Cashel raffle — a longtime charity event — and said English was in the back, spinning the prize wheel.

He asked English if he knew him.

“He said, ‘You look like one of the Boland brothers.’ And that’s when I struck him and said, ‘I am a bit bigger now than 11 or 12.’”

Boland claims the police came and challenged English as to whether he was pressing charges, and an officer looked at Boland as he was leaving and said, “I guess you are a bit bigger now, eh b’y?”

Boland said his marriage failed and he laments the effect his life of going back and forth to jail has had on his kids.

He said he wants to do the right thing.

“My goal this time when I get out, I got to focus on my children. I’m 49 years old, and believe you me, do I want to be here? No indeed, I don’t want to be,” he said, adding he was so ashamed at the beginning of this stint, he avoided phone calls with his kids.

“The sorrowful thing about it is I love my children.”

This past spring he said he was on Water Street in St. John’s and should have walked the other way from his ex-girlfriend, with whom he had a toxic relationship. Instead, he hooked up with her, wound up in an altercation and then went back to prison yet again.

In prison, he attends AA meetings, but can’t open up about the abuse.

“I done that anger-management program about 50 times over the years,” he said.

His compensation for the abuse is pretty much gone, he said — used to pay bills, as well as street loans he’d taken out.

“I guess what hurts me over the years, if we had to remain on the Burin Peninsula, how would my life be today? Would it be the way it is now?” he said.

“It’s time to stop this life. … My record is getting to the point right now where I have to clean my act up. If I keeps on this way, they are just going to put me away for the rest of my life.

“For what? The sake of a bottle of beer.”