Parent/s had to partly pay for the upkeep of their children in Goldenbridge Industrial ‘School’. Intrinsically this would have been applicable to all parent/s in every industrial ‘school’, who had been ordered to do so by the Courts. My mother was exempt from paying because she was on a disability pension, having suffered with TB. I think it was such a pity, as, moreover, if she did have to pay for my upkeep there would have been tabs kept on her, and in all probability I may have gained some knowledge of her existence during or after Ieaving Goldenbridge at 16? Unfortunately fate never chanced that happening, which was to the detriment of my emotional and all rounded healthiness. In my estimation, I think she was let off the hook, as eventually she went on to gain a very successful job in Birmingham Assay office, and would have been deemed financially fit to pay for my upkeep in Goldenbridge. She spent a quarter of a century in that stable job. She was originally a poultry instructress, having gained experience at a college for farmer’s daughters, but moving to Dublin, there was not any call for jobs of that description. I know that she worked at a farm in Co WIcklow.
There was always chastisement of parent/s and children by management at Goldenbridge when payments for offspring was not forthcoming. The scenes indeed were very unpleasant. No dignity was afforded parents, who would easily have been threatened with visitation rights to their children if nothing was hurriedly done vis-à-vis backlog of money owing to the nuns. This tardiness brought about fierce callousness in the latter. Whatever about the nuns seeking monies owed by parent/s, it should not have been their remit to severely punish and ridicule blameless child inmates. I know that many of my counterparts who had family visitors, were left absolutely mortified and perplexed at the constant showdowns by the unforgiving merciless religious. To give an example: a father, who had been left widowed with a large family – was unable to keep up with payments for his children in Goldenbridge, despite having to go to England to seek work. The eldest child in this case was eight years old. She was not just left to shoulder the responsibility of her three younger siblings, one of whom was a toddler in the institution, but had the added burden of worrying about her father whom she would have witnessed being vilified by the nun in charge for the delayed or non-payment of monies. Subsequently he would use her as a shoulder to cry on for the duration of the whole visitation. The eight year old’s torture would have been three-fold. She would have been torn to bits between the nun making life miserable in the aftermath; coupled with the responsibility of her younger siblings; and lastly the dreaded worry of the parent, who maybe couldn’t manage to pay the nuns. Incidentally – the visitors were allowed no access to the Industrial School, instead, they saw their children and relatives in a small villa nearby the Wicket [wicked] gate. There was always a staff member in attendance, – but then that would have been natural given the status of the inmates. Invariably, the child suffered much stress, which caused her to simply switch off completely. I remember hearing the same survivor – as an adult – saying: “in order to survive the stress, I became invisible.” I empathised fully with her, as I too became invisible in Goldenbridge. But for the antithetical reason of being thoroughly isolated because of having no identity — no family visitors and no siblings to care about at all. I was always conscious of older girls with siblings who were very maternalistic towards their siblings, and was drawn to them for their altruistic natural nature. They fretted more than children who had no families, who were numbed to close human contact. Bernadette Fahy in a painful book about her childhood in Goldenbridge – ‘Freedom of Angels’, says:
“my father, rather than my mother, for some reason was ordered by the courts to pay 10 shillings, per week, per child for the duration that we were detained. Within months however, the Department of Education was writing to my father, seeking to have him pay the money due.”
Bernadette and her brothers, as with myself, had been sentenced up to the age of 16. When I compare this with my mother not having to pay a penny, it seems terrifically unfair. I do feel guilty that a big burden was put on large families. Notwithstanding that Bernadette’s father had two families to boot, which was not uncommon with children.
One of the sad things about caring for ones siblings in the institutions was the fact that at 10 years old the boys were separated and sent to all male institutions, such as Artane. It really affected siblings, some were never to have contact with each other ever again, as the strong bonds that were formed were thus broken, and siblings became strangers. I know one survivor who had grave difficulty deciphering the gender of the Sisters of Mercy nuns in St. Kieran’s Rathdrum and the Christian Brothers at Artane, where he was sent at the tender age of ten. I think it was very sad that in most cases any contact with boy siblings was mostly discouraged by the nuns. There may have been the odd nun who would have tried to make contact. The capitation grants would have followed the boys to their new Industrial ‘Schools’. In all likelihood the boys would have somewhat alleviated the pressures on the male religious Orders, who at one stage were crying out for boys to be sent to them, as they had large buildings to maintain. Hence the religious sending an internal memo to the Department of Education asking the latter why the judiciary was not sending enough children into the institutions, as they had the responsibility of said building maintenance. They had a 500-acre farm at Artane, growing potatoes and vegetables, and the children worked in the fields without pay. This would have come under Industrial School training, so not only were the religious getting Capitation grants, they were also getting free slave labour.
Local authorities were obliged under the 1908 Children Act to pay for children who were sent in to the Reformatories and Industrial Schools. They did not have to pay for children who were admitted on the application of their parents or guardians or for children whose parents were unable to look after them. They also did not pay for children, whose parents were in prison. The local authorities also paid for children under the age of six.
It was the responsibility of the Department of Education to ensure that the minimum of standard of care was seen to, and for the Resident Managers to make sure that children needs were maintained. When I got my records there was a menu amongst them of the dietary needs of Goldenbridge, that simply did not add up to the food that I got as a child in the institution. I know that a lot of Goldenbridge survivors were infuriated when they saw the menu in the inspection reports.
The Ryan commission (originally the Laffoy commission) was established ten years ago and has investigated allegations of abuse in orphanages, industrial schools and church-run hospitals across the republic. The Artane industrial school, in north Dublin, was among the institutions under scrutiny. The five-volume Ryan report, published by the Irish government addressed decades of clerical child abuse and state neglect. It confirmed allegations from former inmates that they were used as unpaid virtual slaves, who made money for religious orders in mini factories, farms, shops and laundry services.
Ownership of Industrial Schools
At the time when Ireland obtained Independence, the Irish State inherited the capitation method of funding the Reformatories and Industrial Schools that was already in existence during that time. There was never any change to that system of funding until the 1960s.
The main players in the management of the system were religious Orders, the Resident Managers’ Association, the Departments of Education, Justice, Health, and Finance, and the local authorities. The key State roles were oversight and inspection, which were primarily inhabited by the Department of Education.
The Industrial schools and Reformatories were owned by the religious Orders. The latter were responsible for all the whole maintenance of their respective buildings. It was for delicate religious reasons that the British administration decided upon paying for the children as Catholic communities were ever fearful of the other side being given too much power by the authorities.
Most of the children who entered Industrial Schools came from poverty-stricken backgrounds. So it became a duty of care of the State to see that the risks of malnutrition and neglect did not repeat themselves, hence the capitation grant had to be large enough to keep the child adequately cared for to a proper standard.
According to Mazars who was commissioned by the commission to inquire in child abuse to do an analysis on expenditure for Goldenbridge – and other Industrial Schools - recorded the following:
The records of Carysfort Mother House shown to us indicate payments received between 1939 and 1954 on a monthly basis totalling between approximately €5,000 and €9,000 per annum described as ‘National Education Goldenbridge’. The Carysfort accounts indicate payments totalling between approximately €1,000 and €5,000 per annum to the Goldenbridge Convent and Goldenbridge school expenses. The source of the income is not clear nor is the extent to which the payments related to wages. It is also not clear how much of this income, or expenditure, relates to the Industrial School, rather than the adjacent national school.
Goldenbridge inmates fiercely contended that they were the true owners of St. Joseph’s Holiday Home in Rathdrum. They sincerely believed that the monies accrued from the rosary-bead making went on to purchase the Co. Wicklow buildings and grounds. A statue of Parnell stands right in the centre where the old building used to stand. Survivors reckon that there should be a monument to the child inmates from Goldenbridge.
In the early 1950s, Sr Bianca made the decision to acquire a holiday home for Goldenbridge in Rathdrum, County Wicklow. In 1954, a large house was bought for £3,000. According to Sr Alida, the money earned from the bead-making contributed £1,000 of this purchase price. According to the Opening Statement to the CICA:
… it enabled everyone to have a summer holiday away from the institution. All children would spend some time in the summer at the holiday house and those who could not go home for a holiday spent the entire summer holidays there.Although some former residents did not enjoy going to Rathdrum during the holidays, for most of them it represented a welcome respite from school and, in particular, from bead-making.
A teacher in the Institution, gave evidence that, prior to the purchase of the house in Rathdrum, children went on holidays to other Sisters of Mercy homes that were in the countryside or beside the sea. To spend £3,000 on a house that was only used for a few weeks every year, at a time when food and clothing and basic educational equipment were lacking, does not appear to be the most appropriate allocation of scarce resources.
We have not received any financial information from the Sisters of Mercy in relation to bead-making. We have calculated, based on information from a company that Goldenbridge sold beads to, that the likely range of the annual income from beads was IR£717 per annum to IR£2,869 per annum.
The Children Act 1908 described the roles and responsibilities of the State authorities and the schools as follows:
- The State is responsible for the certification and inspection of schools.
- The local authority is responsible for providing for the reception and maintenance of the child in a suitable certified reformatory or industrial school – which responsibility it can discharge by ‘contract with the managers of any certified school for the reception and maintenance therein of youthful offenders or children for whose reception and maintenance the authority are required under this section to make provision.’
- Both the State and the local authority have a responsibility to provide funding towards the costs of a child maintained in a certified Reformatory or Industrial School.
- The managers of the certified school have a responsibility, once they have accepted a child, to teach, train, lodge, clothe and feed the child.
These roles were implemented as follows:
- The Department of Education issued circulars defining the standards of treatment of children in the Schools.
- The Department of Education operated a process of inspection of schools.
- The State and local authorities provided funding through the capitation grant, the primary grant and, occasionally, other grants for specific purposes.
- The religious Orders owned and managed the schools, providing clergy to act as managers and staff, and hiring lay staff.
The Resident Managers’ Association acted as a vehicle for interaction with the Department of Education, including a role in seeking increased funding. The legislation that established the Industrial Schools system only provided for the maintenance of the children.The Department of Education’s Rules and Regulations were clear as to what the minimum standards were. Rule 5 stipulated that
the children shall be supplied with neat, comfortable clothing in good repair, suitable to the season of the year, not necessarily uniform either in material or colour.
Rule 6 provided minimum standards for an adequate diet:
The Children shall be supplied with plain wholesome food, according to a Scale of Dietary to be drawn up by the Medical Officer of the School and approved by the Inspector. Such food shall be suitable in every aspect for growing children actively employed and supplemented in the case of delicate or physically under-developed children with special food as individual needs require. No substantial alterations in the Dietary shall be made without previous notice to the Inspector. A copy of the Dietary shall be given to the Cook and a further copy kept in the Manager’s Office.
I wrote an article some years ago about the hunger and starvation in Goldenbridge.
Every morning in the chapel children fainted through weakness, because of the lack of food in their growing bodies. It was shameful. They were given out to by the nuns and told that they were seeking attention. The nuns were most mortified that they should faint in front of the rest of the convent nuns. there was no sympathy shown to them or any help given from any kind of nurse, as there were no professional nurses employed in the institution and the nuns were only trained in education or kitchen work, if they were interns.
The fainting children were left to the mercy of older children who had over the years somehow become experts at solving the problems, like getting the fainting children to bend their heads below their knees. The food they were in receipt of did not compute nor was it appropriate to in disparity to the quantity of hard manual labour that on a daily basis they were subjected to in the institution. Excepting of course on special Feast Days.