Description of Dining-Hall…etc.
There were Victorian type windows in great quantities that almost reached the full measurement lengthwise of what seemed like a colossal dining-hall. This great hall seated over 200 children. The gigantic windows looked out onto the side access of the main building as well as onto the back scullery yard and a dilapidated field which held an incinerator at the farthest end. It was, so to speak, far away from harms way. In the right hand corner of the dining-hall from main entrance there was a door with two steps, it led one either to a cubby-hole pantry, or to another door which led one moreover to the side entrance of the institution.
There were as well brown sliding presses which were later-painted bright blue along the entire left access side of dining-hall. They housed neat and tidy plastic cutlery trays, delph and cocoa pots. The management later in the sixties introduced delph and then only on Sundays did inmates get stewed tea. Prior to that, children had to make do with malodorous picnic plastic tupper-ware. Some special plastic cups had plasters on the handles; they were in usage for sick children. So much for Mother Catherine McAuley – who quoted to the Sisters of Mercy before her death:
‘When I am dead and gone do not forget to comfort yourselves with a nice cup of tea.’
The nuns drank tea from the best of Irish china every day. While children resorted to drinking black cocoa (and stewed tea in later years) from plastic cups.
To the furthermost left of dining-hall where all the hub-hub went on there was an annexe, which had a small sized kitchen. It had a hefty cooker/fryer and a water trough, and adjoining it again was still an even less significant unpretentious type consumption room with a table that fitted approximately into the total of the low ceiling room – it was for the senior staff. It was called St. Ita’s.
The scullery, which was also in close proximity to the kitchen, was a corporeal place.
It should have been incontrovertibly so out of bounds to children because of the treacherous and hazardous apparatus within its precincts. The nuns never got their priorities right – it was tolerable for them not to allow right of entry by children to the much-needed washbasins. Nevertheless, it was another kettle of fish, despite the fact, when the sisters endorsed young children, access to precarious and perilous equipment that was ubiquitously universal in the scullery. Zum beispeil, it had a massive bread slicer, and the staff hauled children out of the classroom to work in the scullery every living Goldenbridge day. They had no alternative other than to slice bread on the dodgy risky slicer as well as having to clean out the lethal boilers.
On snowy icy days also children had to cart very heavyweight churns of milk up ten steep slippery ice-ridden steps. Two grounds men employed by the sisters should have been obtainable to do this work, as one of them only lived at the lodge-house at the main entrance into Goldenbridge. This was against all constitutional rights of children, but then again one is dealing with a very harsh Industrial *school* regime.
There was, too, a hatch, which delivered food from the kitchen to the dining hall. In addition, another one opened up from the kitchen on to the main corridor. The cold stone floor had a white/green speckled pattern with large black square shapes. The minor staff did not eat with staff. They had a separate table in the dining-hall next to the kitchen/scullery area for easy access of course…
Witna, who unremittingly beat up children, worked distinctively in the scullery. Children were scared stiff of her and worked their guts to the bone in order to please her. For illustration, children had to carry heavy milk churns up about ten steps, and place them in the walk-in fridge. The minor staff with the walk-in fridge threatened children if they did not behave. Kathleen O’ Neill, was, one day pushed into the open fridge by a minor staff member who closed the door on her for a short while. The inducement to do such was fierce. Some times it was also done out of play-acting. Inmates had to wash and peel the vegetables and take the eyes out of the potatoes in all weathers in the back scullery yard.
Children’s hands as a consequence were forever full of scabs. Or they suffered with chilblains. One girl ended up in hospital for months on end because of incalculable dent that occurred. The staff until the end of time gave the lowest possible of the lowest household tasks to the children. As I have over and over again reiterated. children were measly nonentities who were forever recurrently used and abused. No staff member ever did humble jobs in Goldenbridge it was always, merely the children. The latter sliced bread on a gigantic bread slicer, just like one sees in butcher shops for cutting meat. It was a very precarious machine. Valerie whom I mentioned most conscientiously was very adept at using the machine; no contemplation throughout her sentence was given by any member of staff as to her suitability for the harsh serious dangerous job to hand. Having sliced bread for the entire institutional needs for a couple of days the little children then had to put margarine on each sliced cut then place them in batches and neatly pile them into an aluminium bread casket. Two children then carried this enormously heavy casket to the pantry.
Dinnertime at Goldenbridge.
Twice daily a big hand bell was rung by staff and heard throughout the whole industrial *school* to let child inmates know it was mealtimes. The first deafening ding-dong din was belted out at 12: 00am. Children instantaneously left relevant class-rooms or cleaning responsibilities and stood noiselessly in a long queue on the two L shaped unswervingly long corridors outside the dining-hall.
They then had to bless themselves and in unison recite the Angelus. Throughout the year, except during Paschal time, Roman Catholics recite instead the Regina Coeli prayer. The latter also traditionally recite the Angelus in the mornings at 6: 00am and then again at 12: 00 noon and once again in the evenings at 6:00pm
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, etc
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done- unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises through Christ our lord
Let us pray:
Pour forth; we beseech Thee, O Lord,
Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son
Was made known by the message of an angel,
May by His Passion and Cross-be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen!
(For nearly twelve years during incarceration period, the prayers here, were recited by me and other child inmates, so hence my not wanting to link to them only, as that would reduce the significance of same. Inmates lived, thought, prayed these words, daily and nightly, as if their very lives depended on them to survive. They have huge impact on the psyches of survivors of Goldenbridge and industrial *schools* in general).
On finishing the Angelus children then entered the dining-hall, under the watchful eye of senior staff on duty. Mother Catherine McAuley Foundress of The Sisters of Mercy looked down on them from an over-sized picture frame, which was positioned high on the wall in the centre of the large cold Dining Hall.
Children then accordingly recited more prayers as they stood at their prearranged tables after making yet again the sign of the cross.
Grace before Meals:
Bless us, O Lord,
And these Thy gifts,
Which of thy bounty we are about to receive
Through Christ our Lord.
St. Rock bless us and preserve us from all sickness.
The sign of the cross:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost Amen!
(Since Vatican 11 spirit has replaced ghost… sounds less spooky!)
In the midpoint of the dining hall stood one or two dictatorial stringent senior staff members with undoubtedly their arms in folded position. Namely, for example, Ms. Devaney and Ms. Higgins. The younger sister of the latter worked everlastingly in the adjoining kitchen.
As an archetypal illustration of food on menu. Children had for starters: watery cabbage dishwater soup. Kitchen staff and child workers had in advance in the centre of each six-seater table positioned large jugs of this watery diabolical substance. On downing soup, one or two children from each table had the cooperative accountability of going to the rather miniature hatch at the kitchen end of the dining-hall to gather on a tray, six miserly dinners.
Lumpy mashed potatoes (which unavoidably would have been made earlier on in the morning with the help of child labour in the big industrial boiler that also made the porridge) were customarily served up. The boiler/mixer never succeeded in mashing potatoes accurately. To envision it one would have to think of a gargantuan industrialised mixer. Earlier on in the morning, the staff would have requested children from diverse classes to help with the preparation of dinner/supper. For dinner, for example, children had onions in gravy along with the lumpy mashed potatoes. For dessert, they had corn-flour.
During the course of dinner, children lined up once again for cod-liver oil, which was consistently mixed with red sour tangy tasting substance, Ms. Higgins gave it out religiously. She always told inmates to hold their noses during the process. Sometimes children got malt and molasses which tasted nice. (Just for subliminal reference. Ms. Higgins never wore a smile, like the woman in the image. The spoonful of cod-liver oil was bashed against the teeth and made a rattling noise).
From a hygienic perspective it was forever noticed by inmates that Ms. Higgins used (without washing) the same dessertspoon for every child. It did not matter one iota if a child was suffering with halitosis, gumboils or upper respiratory infections or other disorders of that ilk… down the hatch of each child went the spoonful of medicine!
They were not afforded by Ms. Higgins’s the Mary Poppins
…[j]ust a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…
No, indeed, sugar was a lavishness, and a sheer scrumptiousness that only staff and convent sisters were in receipt. (The only sugar they ever got was the handfuls that they routinely robbed from St Ita’s staff dining room which was situated nearby kitchen. Ms. Higgins (with the glasses as she was referred to by all) always worked at the medicine-press (after dinner), which was parallel to the dining room entrance door?
She was a tall cold quantifiable quiet figure, who infrequently smiled, but she was not physically cruel. She was the older of the two sisters’. (Children mostly never dared approach the medicine-press, as they were for eternity too afraid).
(To this day, it’s still conjectured by some survivors of Goldenbridge as to what her medical recommendations were indeed. The survivors have serious uncertainties that they were zilch).
Children forever hated lining up for medicine in the dining hall. As whenever they were in full view of all, Ms. Devaney took the admirable opportunity of ridiculing the children. She always seemed to have had a grievance with certain children for some unknown reason. They simply could never please her nemesis. They too were invariably the ones on the lower rung of the Goldenbridge ladder. She was a real stickler for catching children on the hop in the dining-hall and rearing up on them with personal verbal attacks. If out of utter embarrassment or nervousness children smirked after she made some ridiculous obtuse commentary she would immediately say,
take that smirk off your face (so and so, enter derogatory name)
as she referred to them by a derogatory nick-name. she must have had in a plagiaristic sense derived immense fulfilment in having a captive audience and in being in inclusive command. She would not be indecisive in sending children to the landing for the slightest fixation during these times in the line-up waiting for cod-liver oil. This woman was loathed by the children to an unusual extent – she knew this and always dug her heels in on those on the lower rung at any accessible prospect. She was as well legendary for belittling children whom she professed did not fit into her wavelength of philosophy. Ms. Devaney, who hailed from Granard Co Longford, was of a very uncanny and designing hard-hearted languid disposition. She plainly spent a life span in Goldenbridge doing gar nichts positive for defenseless children.
It was always the same palaver with some nasty staff pertaining to children who refused to eat their lumpy potatoes or lumpy dessert. They were force-fed or were requested by certain callous staff to sit in their particular seats until food was completely eaten off the plates. That could take hours if a child happened to be new or very stubborn. These times were very traumatic for younger children whose hair could be reefed out of them by malicious staff and whose faces could be viciously stuffed into the plastic dinner-plates. The nuns would have been up in the convent having their own dinner and would not have witnessed this diabolical barbaric behaviour.
Children were always ravenous even after dinner, which was the only main meal of the day. Oliver Twist would rather have felt very much at home in our midst!
The only dinner ever enjoyed in Goldenbridge was Sunday dinner. It consisted of a large spoonful of mince meat, potatoes and peas. Most children never got seconds or satisfactory amounts to eat, and were thus always famished. Ms. Molly Devaney’s special pets, colloquially known as la la’s were the only ones who got distinctive treatment, such as superfluous food. The kitchen staff too were very parsimonious with food. There was no trepidation ever of any children in Goldenbridge suffering with obesity. The only corpulent persons encountered in the institution were all the nuns and Ms. Devaney who was waited on hand and foot by children in every capacity.
On Thursday’s children got hideous gooey stickle sago (rubber-balls). It was detested.
On Friday’s there was rice, which was most children’s favourite. Other desserts too on the seasonal menu were custard with apple, pink corn-flour and caramel.
On singular occasions such as feast days, the nuns treated children to ice-cream and canned fruit cocktail and peaches. Note specifically the religious connotation surrounding good food! These special foodstuff were stored in plenty in the store-room, but only the staff got them every week. (Nevertheless, it must be emphasised that all food mentioned here is from the wrong side of the sixties when perpetually the whole domestic dynamics in Goldenbridge were improving.) Children then managed to escape the bread and dripping era. Gott Sei Dank. There are some Goldenbridge contemporaries before the time mentioned here, who remember unqualified outrageous malnourishment. Nevertheless, children were forever starved, fainting, and suffering with hunger pangs and belly rumblings.
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.
For dinner inmates also had Irish stew and on exceedingly atypical occurrence’s, spare-ribs. Children saved the thin bones up their sleeves and chewed on them incessantly in the safety of the prison yard afterwards, to get at the delectable viscera and thereafter for days on end continually sucked on the bones. They also did the equivalent with the rare pigs trotter bones, they were more glossy, smoothed and round and were apetizingly very yummy They exactly reminded children of aniseed balls in appearance. Or at least it was conjured up in the minds of the child consumers that they were in any case.
After dinner inmates recited more prayers:-
We give Thee thanks
For all Thy benefits
O Almighty God
Who livest and reignest forever;
World without end. Amen.
May the divine assistance remain always with you and may the souls of the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace. AMEN.
All the dramatics for what Indeed as children were still starved rising from the tables..
Children used to sing a song to the tune of A Nation Once Again. It went
Starvation once again
Starvation once again no bread no butter
Starvation once again.
In addition, children skipped and jumped to the next little ditty. Kennedy’s had supplied bread to Goldenbridge. The company advertised extensively on Radio Eireann.
The tune used was very lyrical:
K for Kennedy E, for energy N, for nice and N, for nourishing E, for enjoyment and D, for delicious and Y’s mean you are satisfied.
Nope, children in Goldenbridge were most definitely not satisfied. Bread was the staple diet, inmates never got enough of it, despite it being mostly wet, soggy and mouldy.
Washing Up Time:
After dinner times were very traumatic for children who happened to have the misfortune to scrub the large dining-hall. They had to pile the formica tables on top of each other and stack the chairs up in piles. They then filled our aluminium buckets with boiling sudsy water from the boilers that was used for making the potatoes/ porridge/ dessert. These boilers were used for absolutely everything including hot sudsy water to wash the dining hall, scullery and kitchen. They never had to wash St. Ita’s only the privileged few were given that high status task.
Children started scrubbing the dining-hall floor and scullery floor after Witna ultimately put parazone. extra strong bleach into our individual buckets. Dreadful arguments ensued if children did not scrub fast enough or were not up to the standards of Witna. She factually kicked the buckets of boiling bleached sudsy water all over the floors and made children restart until all were meticulously cleaned to her fulfilment.
Even one miniscule spot on the floor would send her over the top. It was laughable really as it was hard to see stains on the multi-speckled floor.
Children witnessed Witna walloping children with a deck brush and pulling the hair out of their heads. For years, she got away with this caper. Children were petrified of this junior staff member. She was such a sadistic person, for someone of such low Goldenbridge status she set herself up to be a real Hitlerite last word figure. She was for years accountable to not a soul. Other staff members stood indolently by and endorsed her to carry on with her contemptible cruel behaviour. She was an unqualified perfectionist, as Bernadette Fahy intimated this in relation to Witna.
Cleanliness was the next best thing to Godliness.
In order to survive in Goldenbridge children had to devise mechanisms such as crawling to those of whom they were afraid. The sheer terror that ‘Witna’ put into children on a daily basis was so objectionable. This selfsame sadistic character worshipped the ground the sisters walked. nuns in her eyes were iconoclastic figures. Children also had to wash the vast amount of huge windows and polish them with newspapers. It was an arduous chore. It was very dangerous when we found ourselves half hanging on the outside of windows trying to clean it.