Free-spirited natured industrial *school* Traveller’

I’m putting the cart before the horse here, and doing a Denise Levertov kind of act – where she puts the answers first in one of her poems about Viet Nam, then the questions afterwards. Here it’s just with two comments. Reply comes first to comment made in a post about nudity with respect of religion. I noticed that I’d concentrated on the travellers themselves in the industrial *school* as opposed to experiences of nudity, that Andrew was talking about in relation to nudity pertaining to said travellers’ at his institution. I’m very good at complicating people when I talk, so this is just a bit more of that sort of stuff.

My reply to comment with additional image by the recently deceased Irish artist Louis deBroquoy.

It was actually the other way around with members of one particular traveller family, excepting one sibling in Goldenbridge. There were two sisters – whom all survivors from my era have profound memories because of the disparity in the treatment they were given. They were treated like chalk and cheese. One of them was a “la la” – a colloquialism for special pet – whilst the other was on the lowest rung of the GB ladder. The latter was given the lowliest of jobs to do, and was forever standing outside in the cold yard, as punishment or on the landing waiting to be flogged by the nun in charge.

I understand the ‘no self-conscious’ thing completely, as the latter despised traveller inmate had no qualms about giving back cheek. She was admired by other children too for standing her ground. I think she even had the temerity to sneak out of Goldenbridge to go to the shop to buy gobstoppers – something that none of the rest of us, not even in our wildest dreams, would have thought of such a daring thing to do. We envied her wild free-spirited nature. Notwithstanding too when she laid out her big red gobstoppers on the rosary bead dent in the bench for pens, and intermittently put them into her mouth. She would glaringly look at us with her suctioned out jaws, as if to say, ‘I’m the cat who got the cream.’ In essence we realised that she was so hard done by, just like we were, so we didn’t mind sometimes if she bragged, as she was so harshly treated because of her high-spiritedness.

I never would have known that they were travellers until I became acquainted with them at the outset of the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse. We knew absolutely nothing about our backgrounds as children at all. Nothing whatsoever, not even our ages. When I heard about a survivor who was treated so venomously to the point that one of her first memories was that of a loving father coming up to visit her, and she was pulled away from him by a staff member who did not want the sister or her to be contaminated by him, because of what she deemed to be that he was a traveller and they were living a settled life in Goldenbridge. It makes my blood boil to think that child inmates were treated so despicably by nuns and staff for so long without anybody ever checking their credentials.

 Andrew at theraggedwagon on May 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm said:

The nuns, in one of the institutions I was in, didn’t care much for us children but they had that extra bit of venomous hate for children from the Traveller community. I think the reason (or one of the main reasons) for this was that such children had no self-consciousness about their bodies – or about nudity. These children were kinda my role-models as they didn’t display fear – not even at the darkest times or during group punishments – actually at those times, despite their tender ages (all under 10) they displayed a remarkable amount of courage and kept our spirits up.

I went into Aislinn Centre today. I heard from a survivor of Goldenbridge that one of the travellers had passed away many years ago. She was not a pet. I know now that she never chosen to be in that lowly role. She was only in her forties. It makes me think of the disparity in ages betwixt the demise of survivors of Goldenbridge and the Sisters of Mercy at the convent and in general. Her name was Mary. R.I.P.


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