Sep 12th, 2009 | By 

Category: Notes and Comment Blog

As you may or may not know, Marie-Therese O’Loughlin, survivor of the nightmare of Goldenbridge Industrial School, has been working hard to get the education that the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ denied her. She took her first exam, in English, last June. She wasn’t sure she’d done terribly well, but was determined to re-take the exam next year if necessary.

She got her results a few days ago.

She got an A.


  • #1

    Most hearty congatulations, Marie-Therese! Your determination not to let Goldenbridge contrain your life and ambitions makes me smile.

  • #2

    Terrific! Well done, Marie-Therese. A well-deserved one in the eye for the so-called Sisters of Mercy…

  • #3


    Marie Therese, may I add my endorsement to the above two responses from JoshS and Geoff Coupe? It brings to mind the words of Papillon, as played by Steve McQueen in the film of the Henri Charriere novel: “I’m still here, you bastards!”

  • #4

    Hey, Marie-Therese, you have come through! Great! Congratulations! I won’t say that I’m surprised though.

  • #5

    Congrats 🙂 Never too late to learn more.

  • #6

    Well done, Marie-Therese!

  • #7

    Marie-Therese O Loughlin

    It is ironic to me that the ethos of the sisters of mercy was to educate poor children.

    This they did expertly when they worked their guts out to give education to rich children in the private sphere. Their postulants even used to practice teaching skills on us for their later jobs in national schools. We thrived on stuff they experimented on us each year when they came to the industrial school for a couple of weeks. We dearly wished the schooling would last.

    Those children who had the misfortune to be placed by the courts in their care were the ones who were so deprived of education. There was not even a library in Goldenbridge, whereby children could, at least, learn to read of their own volition. I learned to read properly from scanning signs up above shops and advertisements and picking out sentences from newspapers, when I left the institution.

    I am still picking out sentences at B&W!

  • #8

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “The Sisters of Mercy took as their special concern the education of girls” yet, in over a hundred years, only one person who passed through Goldenbridge Industrial School was privileged enough to be educated to Leaving Cert Standard. That person was Christine Buckley.

    There being a hypothesis during the sixties and earlier, that black children were seen by the establishment to be a kind of rebellious threat when they grew up – so they were either educated or sent to far off flung places like Connemara, where, in the latter they would not be noticed. The old adage To hell or Connaught, took precedence.

    The Sisters of Mercy were also colloquially known as`the walking nuns’. To be sure, they now have all their ‘walking’ done down the Suwannee .

    It is absolutely disgraceful that they should have treated their little charges with so little respect.

    They could have at least empowered them at the most crucial stages of their lives, instead of using them as perpetual skivvies.

    Education is power and children could have proudly carried that power under their arms as they wended their way into the lonely world at sixteen years of age and made something of themselves indeed.

    Thank you one and all for the encouraging comments – they are much appreciated by me.

  • #9

    Marie-Therese: Congratulations. A well-deserved and well-earned success!

  • #10

    Well done Marie-Therese. Success is the best revenge! 🙂

  • #11

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    You can say that again, Parrthesia. Christine Buckley, who was with me in Goldenbridge, has just been on RTE television a few moments ago. Speak of the…! She won Person of the Year Award, along with Michael O’ Brien, who was also a survivor of an industrial school in Ireland.

    Thank you, Amos and Parrthesia.

    I was late into the exam room on the day in question. Despite getting up early the frigging bus was delayed, because of a hold-up of traffic by taxi-workers in the city centre of Dublin. I was literally puffing and panting after rushing up a big flight of stairs. Low and behold when I sat down in my seat at the back of the room, all my exam papers on the bench fell to the floor – alas, I had just prior to that anxiously whispered gently to the invigilator to kindly open the window as I was hyperventilating. I also could not start the exam until she had taken exam numbers, etc, which further exacerbated me as it seemed as if so much more time was wearing on and it would all be a waste of my time sitting there. So when I eventually got stuck into the exam after a quarter of an hour the devil himself could not stop me. I wrote and wrote and wrote away until my time was up. The invigilator commented to me afterwards that she had noticed that I never stopped from whence I began. I brought a large bottle of drink with me and had even forgotten to take it at all.

    There was a girl sitting in front of me on the day of the exam and after only a quarter of an hour or so she gave up completely. She simply sat there for the rest of the exam of two and a half hours, with her elbows on the bench. It rather saddened me to see her give up so quickly.

    I was not in the slightest bit worried sitting the English exam with children. We were all in the same boat on the day and I refuse to apologise for that occurring. I would thoroughly recommend it to anybody, at whatever age they happen to be, who have not passed exams in their childhood to go back to adult education and go for it.

    As Parrthesia says “Success is the best revenge.”

  • #12

    Congratulations Marie-Therese! 😀

  • #13


    I’ll add my congratulations. But after having the pleasure of reading your comments here for some time, I can’t believe you were worried about an English class. At least not if clarity and style were a part of the grade. Keep up the good work, and please keep adding to the discussion here!

  • #14

    I will add my congratulations to the list. My family is planning on visiting Ireland next summer for the first time and I am just starting to delve into its history. My wife’s family is in part 19th Irish Catholic immigrants to the states. It is hard to imagine the cruelty involved.

  • #15

    Marie-Therese: As Grendels Dad points out, your English prose style is triple A. You know, I’m reading Camus’s unfinished novel, the First Man, about his childhood lived in extreme poverty. Great read and one which shows that with dedication and talent (you have it too), people can overcome early childhood problems to become serious writers. Keep at it!

  • #16

    Many congratulations Marie-Therese! Good job! You’re an inspiration!

    You have classmates in Mexico, who lost their chances at schooling (but through less cruel childhoods than you had to live through). They are running to catch up too – two colleagues of mine are studying to earn middle school diplomas right now. The test is in October. They are inspirations too!

    We all know who the real “sisters” of learning are, the ones who pass on their knowledge and explain the incomprehensible and encourage and tutor and meddle and mentor and remind us to take new pencils to the exam and don’t waste children’s lives! Bravo and thanks to all of them!

    And huge brava brava brava to M-T!!!!!!!

  • #17

    From reading your comments and other writing here, I had always presumed that you were an accomplished writer, perhaps from some sort of academic background!

    Well done on passing the test. I suspect your trepedation about recieving your results back was very much unwarrented.

  • #18

    Congrats. Marie-Therese. Wonderful effort.

  • #19

    Well done Marie, bloody well done.

  • #20

    Congratulations, M-T. Going by your writing here I would have been astonished if you hadn’t got an A in an English exam. I seem to be with a lot of commenters in thinking that.

  • #21

    Congratulations from me also Marie-Therese!

  • #22

    Congratulations, Marie-Therese. You have achieved the things they fear most: eyes to see them as they are and a voice to name it. You won.

  • #23

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    Yeah, Josh, Goldenbridge constrained my mind for far too long. It literally failed to grow because of past lousy memories. I have always been transported back to the times when only very specially selected pets of the staff and Sisters of Mercy, and other children, though not pets, were given the great privilege of education in the national school. To go to outside school was just something else, and children from the lower echelons of the institution could never ever aspire to this wonderful dream happening to them. The children who attended them were held in high esteem and if we were ever seen even entering the class-room in the institution where they studied when they returned back to do their homework – we were told in no uncertain terms where our place lay – that was in the rosary bead makeshift factory. Never the twain did meet. They were going places when they left GB and we were not going anywhere.

  • #24

    Hurrah, Marie-Therese, but like so many others here, I am not surprised by the A.

  • #25

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “A well-deserved one in the eye for the so-called Sisters of Mercy”

    We used to sing a song on the once yearly bus to the summer home in very scenic Rathdrum, Co Wicklow (garden county) which we paid for ourselves with the rosary bead monies.

    Cheer up Goldenbridge.

    It’s known everywhere

    We’ve gone down Rathdrum

    And left it lying there.

    We all called for mercy

    And mercy was not there

    Cheer up Goldenbridge.

    It’s known everywhere.

    Hahaha – it sure is – even when it is no longer in existence. Hahaha!

    The Sisters of No Mercy always told children they were good-for-nothing, amadans, crackawleys, oinseachs, ninny-hammers, twits, dunces, half-wits, dopes, good-for-nothing, wants, not the full shilling, eejits and soldiers who crucified Christ.

  • #26

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “I’m still here, you bastards!”

    And Haunting the daylights out of you all.

    You kept us down because that was the only way you could make us pay for the sins of our mothers and fathers.

    Every morning of their lives teenage children were seen by all holding up their wet sheets to the head honcho who was perched high on her rostrum in St Patrick’s classroom. She humiliated them by reminding them of the fallen, drunken, weak, crippled, mental unmarried status of their families. They would in all likelihood not even be aware of who they were until they were introduced to their heritage in this ghastly fashion by this wicked fiery Hitlerite character. The classroom should have been used for teaching purposes – not denigration ones.

    Yeah, I’m still here, Ian but sadly those of whom held their wet sheets on display to the SISTER OF NO MERCY have either committed suicide, died young in their forties, or gave up and became alcoholics and down-and-outs.

  • #27

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “Hey, Marie-Therese, you have come through! Great! Congratulations! I won’t say that I’m surprised though.”

    Eric, I have come through it with the help of a very good mentor; under whose expert tutelage I would not have dreamt of even attempting to sit the Irish State Exam. It was imbedded in my brain that I was a good-for-nothing; that there was a want in me and that is so terrifically hard to dispense with from one’s frail psyche.

    I have my tutor to thank for giving me the implements with which to plough the gargantuan education field.

    Thanks too for all your support. I have also learned so much from your very thoughtful and sensitive posts. You are a force to be reckoned with indeed.

  • #28

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    Dank je wel, Bedankt, Deen, Julia F, thanks. Crikey, it will be so hard trying to live up to the “A” standard the higher up the education chain one goes – but sure, one can only do the best one can. Am sounding like the queen here but, sure, ’tis no wonder, with all the best wishes to B&W I am in receipt. Thanks too Arnaud, Wes and eliza.

  • #29

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    You have achieved the things they fear most: eyes to see them as they are and a voice to name it. You won.”

    Don, speaking of eyes.

    Kathleen O’ Neill, who was in her forties, sadly died a couple of years ago; but, before she did she had her say – as she was seated directly behind a renowned sister of mercy on a television show concerning Christine Buckley and the Louis Lentin ‘Dear Daughter’ documentary pertaining to life in Goldenbridge. She had literally implored Sr Helena O’ Donoghue, the then Head Provincial of the Southern Province of the Irish Sisters of Mercy on the very popular Irish Late Late Show to look into her “eyes” and see the pain and suffering she was enduring because of her incarceration in Goldenbridge. Sr. Helena did not know where to look, but the “eyes” of the nation were on her then – you can be sure, and were taking in a few home truths about the sad hidden eyes of 165, 000 children, who passed through the care of the holy religious – through the eyes of Kathleen O’ Neill. May she rest in peace.

    Yep, the Sisters of Mercy fear greatly victims/survivors of institutional abuse. We have outed and ousted them to the extent of nearly shaking the church of its very ancient rusty foundational hinges. There is also so much ambiguity amongst fervent staunch churchgoers who see us as vindictive and one big threat to the church. You will find this mostly amongst those who depend on church institutions for their livelihood. They have families to feed and they do not want the likes of us witch-hunters upsetting the supposed secure status quo.

    We whom they did not educate dared to open the eyes of the world to their dastardly so called righteous deeds of the past in industrial schools. We knew them better than everybody else because we lived and breathed the same religious ungodly air as them for generations. There are always old fools in plays who see and hear everything – but cannot decipher the indecipherable until they are given endless time by caring people to express their thoughts. The religious have verbally and metaphorically speaking have classed us fools and never believed we would be anything but fools – but the fools they thought we were have found their foolish voice and projected it back on to them – because the caring people stopped to give us time to express ourselves. I am gone off on an abstract tangent.

  • #30

    Sorry not to notice this earlier. Congratulations, Marie-Therese!

  • #31

    Congratulations, well done Marie-Therese!

  • #32

    I was educated at a sisters of mercy catholic school and there were sisters of mercy at my secondary school. They even renamed that school from Catholic Regional College to Mercy Regional College.

    I remember being told how great the nuns were for dedicating their lives to educating us in the Catholic tradition. I was lucky that I was born in Australia and not in Marie-Therese’s situation in Ireland. Oddly, there were Irish nuns and priests at the school. However, the child molesting priests were Aussies as far as I know.

    I was lucky to end up with a reasonable education and not be abused by clergy or nuns or whatever. Marie-Therese’s posts make me realize how lucky I was.

  • #33

    I’m so happy for you, Marie-Therese – not just for the A you obviously deserve, but for being such an inspiration!

  • #34

    Yes, congratulations!

  • #35

    Being a total stranger, it’s hard not to to seem condescending to an adult acquiring proper education, but I’ll add my congratulations.

    Hope this did come out as sincere as I meant this to be.

  • #36

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “My wife’s family is in part 19th Irish Catholic immigrants to the states. It is hard to imagine the cruelty involved.”

    Yes, life in Irish industrial schools such as Goldenbridge were full of cruelty and hard labour. Children were committed into these hellholes for their whole childhoods on mostly trumped charges by the court system and with huge influence coming from the religious into accepting them into their privately run institutions. The latter wanted numbers to fill their grand Georgian/Victorian buildings, in order to receive capitation grants from the ‘department of education’ so as to keep the former up and running, thereby creating valuable assets for the religious congregation. Education, my foot! They were in big business.

    Throughout my whole childhood in GB I do not remember a single human being putting their arms around me to ask how I was feeling. The closest I ever got to a religious Sister of Mercy was when I was constantly held close to her for reasons of trying to hold me steady while she shaved my hair with an electric razor in the classroom. Or, when she made me bend my head for inordinate amounts of time, while she picked out so-called nits. This ritual happened on an ongoing basis to specific children who never had any family visitors on Sundays’. These children always feared their names being called by Sister F. as they knew they would be minus whatever little hair they already had in the aftermath. As well as always sleeping in St. Philomena’s classroom, or perhaps wheeling up and down a lucky baby in a pram (s/he would have been singled out from other countless babies for this privileged care.) she was reminding us of how stupid we were, so contradictory of her nibs given the fact that we were learning almost nothing from her. This sister was fluent in Irish and only spoke it to other Sisters of Mercy in our presence in the class. We were always called out of the classroom to either work in the laundry or clean the toilets or get dinner prepared in the scullery. I did even not know how to write a proper sentence, or where to put a comma, or a full stop, and what letters to capitalise, when I left Goldenbridge as a sixteen years old. I still struggle desperately with punctuation and proper structured sentences, but I know with the help of a terrific tutor I am getting there slowly but surely.

    While B&W’ers are in deep discussions apropos Armstrong, Dennett, Hitchings, Dawkins, Darwin, Benson/Stangroom, Baggini Kazez, Blackford, Myers, Bunting, Dunbar, and J/M, etc, etc. My head is stuck in Johanna Spri, Frances Hodgson-Burnett, E, Nesbit, Sean O’ Casey, Anne Frank, Patrick Kavanagh poetry and last but not least Laura Ingalls-Wilder.

    L.I.W.’s life and book have given me an extraordinary glimpse into the pioneers, who came from the other end of the immigrant spectrum when some of them arrived in America on the infamous coffin-boats, from Ireland and Scotland.

    My tutor has given me an invaluable tip.

    Her motto is:

    ‘You must read, read, read, and read and never stop reading. Reading makes the mind grow.”

    She is also an avid reader herself, so she practices what she preaches. She is what I would call a ‘real ‘sister’ of mercy’!!

  • #37

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    Thanks, Michael.

    Gosh, Claire I wish your Mexican friends all the best with their eduction. I am sure it cannot be too easy for them catching up. I wish them all the best with their exams in October – they must be so full of trepidation at this time.


    “We all know who the real “sisters” of learning are, the ones who pass on their knowledge and explain the incomprehensible and encourage and tutor and meddle and mentor and remind us to take new pencils to the exam and don’t waste children’s lives! Bravo and thanks to all of them!

    And adult lives, either.

    Yeah. Yeah! Yeah! You can say that again, Claire! They are the real jewels of this life who quietly and patiently shine their knowledgeable glittering rays in the direction of those who desperately need them to light up their way and give them a glimmer of hope.

    And huge brava brava brava to M-T!!!!!!!

    And an even bigger Brava to all those whose excellent tutelage we are so fortunate to come under. My tutor is such a brain-box and has a very independent and unique way of thinking that I never ever tire of learning.

    Thanks dirigible, Tea, Chris Per, and Richard, it was bloody well difficult , but well worth it. Blimey, I had best not be getting a swelled head with all the lovely compliments on B&W – as it will be hard trying to climb up the next rung of the ladder.

  • #38

    A belated congratulations, Marie-Therese – that’s wonderful.

  • #39

    Congratulations, Marie-Therese!

  • #40

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    KB Player, Grendel’s Dad, Rhys, I never believed for one moment that I would get an “A”, first time around. So I had it all conjured up in my mind – if that were not the case, I was going to re-sit it. l had learned from doing several mocks beforehand that I was capable, especially on the level that I did – but the timing needed by me was a big negative factor.

    I am ( hopefully, if up to scratch) going to give the Higher Level English exam a bash, next year. I wont be having “A” expectations, though. A “B” would be nice!

    Thanks for all your kind comments, Russell Blackford, Cam, Lucy, dirigible, Tea, ChrisP, Mike Rogers and Wes. I can hardly believe my luck. Christine Buckley from Goldenbridge got her trophy and I got my “A” and great B&W comments to boot!


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