Mistreatment never forgotten, 'not even at 80 years of age'

Patrick Healey, now of Temuka but originally from Oamaru, says as a 5-year-old with learning...
Patrick Healey, now of Temuka but originally from Oamaru, says as a 5-year-old with learning difficulties he received daily beatings from nuns at St Joseph’s School in Port Chalmers. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Patrick Healey still has nightmares about the treatment meted out by nuns when he was just a child in Port Chalmers.

He is 80 now, but the memories of the beatings he received over three years, beginning as a 5-year-old, have never left him.

Mr Healey, who lives in Temuka, was born in Oamaru in 1938 but moved to Port Chalmers a few years later.

There he attended St Joseph's School, a Catholic institution run - at the time - by the Sisters of St Joseph, next to the Lady Star of the Sea church and convent.

But, speaking recently, he said his time at the school in the 1940s was a living "hell" of daily beatings, with strap or cane, administered by the nuns.

He maintained he was not a trouble-maker, but rather a "slow learner" who struggled in class.

"From 5 years of age until 8, I was just going through hell with the nuns because I was a very slow learner and the nuns never had the patience with me."

On one occasion, he also recalled being kept back after class while another pupil was sent outside to spread pieces of paper around the school playground.

Mr Healey was then sent outside to pick them up as a punishment.

"They were cruel. They really were," he said.

The Sisters of St Joseph ran the school until 1979, when lay teachers took over, but the school retains its "Catholic character".

School staff declined to comment this week, but Jill McLoughlin, the New Zealand local area co-ordinator for the Sisters of St Joseph, offered to meet Mr Healey and let him "share his experience and his hurt".

"I can say that this situation sounds distressing for Mr Healey and we are deeply saddened to hear of this."

Mr Healey said he would not participate in the pending Royal Commission into historic abuse, but would take up the offer by the Sisters of St Joseph.

He contacted ODT Insight to share his memories after reading of Dunedin man Russell Butler's experiences at St Mary's in Mosgiel, which "brought back a lot of memories".

"You never forget, not even at 80 years of age," Mr Healey said.

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