AFTER DINNER ANTICS
After dinner children either went into the recreation hall (wreck) if it was raining, or those of the inmates who were not doing chores played out on the swings or on the merry-go-round in the closed prison-like wretched glum yard. (that Brendan Behan’s mother wrote about having herself spent seven years in the institution that was once a refuge for prison women. Christine Buckley Dear Daughter also aptly said “it was a place where the sun never shone.”) Survivors of GB would definitely would also concur with her description.
After some while in the high four corner walled maze-like yard, which was located on the top part parallel to the corridor, a window was summarily swished open and a minor staff shouted
Scraps… Scraps! Scraps!.
on her hip, nestled an enamel sieve, the leavings from the staff, who had eaten in St Ita’s was therein, such as left-over burned toast, soldier bread cuttings, bits of cake/biscuits etc. Children stopped in their tracks there and then and jumped off high swings and spinning merry-go-rounds and made unmerciful dives to the scrap scattered area. Fights perpetually broke out. Children got into a serious fracas with each other to the extent that they accurately pulled at each others hair to get at the scraps.
Some were physically the stronger, but none caved in to each others bullying come hell or high water.
They would get locked into a cock-fight which must have lasted the best part of half an hour at a rime They determinedly refused to let go.
Minor staff consistently saw what was going on but revelled in it wondering who was going to be the cleaner out of the melee. It was approximately as though we were two cocks in an illegal fight.
Children held onto each others hair for what seemed like a half hour but never refused to let go.
By hook or by crook she was not going to be in receipt of my sraps if I could help it in any way.
Retrieving scraps as you can visualize was serious business in Goldenbridge.
Children forever and a day also used to scour the bins in the scullery yard for the leftovers, the favourites, were apple and carrot-skins and raw potatoes. Some children went as far as stealing lettuce leaves from the rabbit’s hutch as they measured in their minds that the rabbits were better fed.
When some of them were much younger and not as skilled at stealing food, apart from swallowing beads, they made do with eating chalk, which they whipped, when no one was in sight, from the blackboards of various classrooms.
They also enjoyed peeling and eating the brown insides of shoe boxes. Another delicious edible, or so inmates thought then, was eating Gibbs toothpaste, which internees got on very rare occasions.
The toothpaste came in a small round thin and was pink in colour and the substance matter was rock hard. Children hid their yearly little tin in a secret spot. Some always invented in their head that it was ice-cream as it was analogous in manifestation. They would have on a regular basis got ice-cream from the Ladies who took them out and in all probability made the association from that memory as ice-cream per se was an uncommonness in Goldenbridge. Maybe if children were lucky in the later years in the institution they would sometimes get jelly and ice-cream on religious feast days.
When a ceerain family, who had visitors every week arrived back, some children hung around them waiting for their orange/banana peels. Children loved eating/scraping the whole lot. skins and all. Carmel and Kathleen O’Rourke were particularly generous to lots of children. I know that the pitied them because they never had any visitors. Some other children, who were dreadful bullies always robbed the children’s parcels. Lots of children were not immune as there was a particular incident of a child of about 8 years old or thereabouts asking a child for a red smartie to put on their lips as lipstick when she refused the chils grabbed the box which contained two beautiful red smackers. The owner of the smarties obviously saved them till last. The child certainly relished in the sweetness on their ruby-red lips, alas, but for only a diminutive amount of time as their conscience sooner rather than later got the better of the child as she found herself on the following Saturday in the convent chapel confessional box and every week thereafter for the next six months or so saying to the burly angry looking priest.
“Bless me Father for I have sinned, I STOLE TWO SMARTIES for these and for every sin of my past life I am very sorry.”
It turned out one day that this agitated celibate son of God was not going to have any more of the child’s parrot repeating smartie talk and without further ado he threw the confessional curtains across and opened up his half door and shouted from without for the child to get out that he was sick and tired of her every week repeating the same mantra. She was SHOCKED! Well, indeed what a price to pay for snatching some poor buggers lipstick red smarties? Children who had visitors = DANGER -ZONE as they were always on the receiving end of parasitic bully children who had no visitors. Some children were cute enough though to hide their parcels before entering the institution after their visitation. Children until the end of time asked them for the sweets out of their mouths; it meant that they liked them, if they gave them some sweets. Mind you a refusal could oftentimes cause a vicious fight. Children would tease other anxious children, who had no visitors, by pulling the softened cleaves like a long string out of their mouths, the way one does with chewing gum, but the show-offs could be minus their well chewed cleaves in one split second if one was able to bounce fast enough to grab the elongated gangly toffee.
There was a kind of status attached to those who got parcels.
There existed also the desperate need for children who had no family visitors to rob the sweets from those who did for other reasons than physical hunger or jealousy, it was because of their own emotional hunger. It acted in the guise of simply trying to knock them off their cocky perches. As it was easy for them to get notions. It was also painful having to endure not only having no visitors but also the reminder of it.
The cockiness of their attitude only added fuel to the emotional fire.
They learned by example.
Everything associated with food has always had a negative connotation for survivors of industrial *schools* even to this very day. Survivors for example, will mechanically go for a plate of dinner that has the most on it, it is as although it is going to be my last meal. They also under no circumstances ever leave a plate unfilled. They also do not know how to say ‘no’ even if they do not want more food. They also have the propensity to hoard food. The thinking is almost as if it is going to be the last meal, very animalistic indeed!