CICA: Finance in industrial schools and reformatories

CICA Investigation Committee Report Vol. I 39


  1. 2.19  A distinction that was observed in the financial regime of the schools was that recurring expenditure on food, staff equipment, etc was the responsibility of the State. This was funded by central and local government on a capitation basis,11 whereas capital expenditure was funded by the owners of the schools. This was an incentive to maximise numbers and not to spend money on capital items such as buildings, sports facilities or other benefits for the children.
  2. 2.20  A check was imposed by the Treasury on the granting of new certificates between 1875 and 1879, in order to keep down its contribution. As a result of this policy, admissions were restricted. Moreover, several new schools were built, their founders being under the impression that they would be certified on completion, yet they failed to receive certificates immediately. One such school was built for Roman Catholic girls at Mallow. The building was erected in 1873, but certification of this School was refused for six years after its completion.12
  3. 2.21  The Children Act, 1908 dropped the restriction on the use of public funds for capital expenditure but, in contrast to the position in England and subject to one or two exceptions, Irish local or, until the 1940s, central government did not use this power. Indeed, the reality is that Irish local authorities were often overdue in paying the contributions, even to maintenance, which they were legally obliged to make.
  4. 2.22  The schools were founded either by the philanthropic donation of a premises and land by a concerned land owner, or the capital required to build the schools was raised by public subscription from a group of community-minded citizens, with the major impetus in collection and spending coming from the religious authorities. For instance, almost immediately after the legislation was enacted, the Dublin Catholic Reformatory Committee was established to meet this financial challenge.
  5. 2.23  Another example was the Cork Reformatory Committee,13 set up by the Cork Society of the St Vincent de Paul in 1858. They purchased a 112-acre farm at Upton, 14 miles from Cork City, for use as a reformatory school, and they asked the Rosminian Order to take charge of it, as they had experience of operating reformatories in England. A building was completed on the site in 1860 at a cost of £5,000, and the lease of the lands and buildings was transferred to the Rosminians in 1872.14 This operated as St Patrick’s Reformatory School in Upton, County Cork until 1889 and, thereafter, as an industrial school.15
  6. 2.24  In 1869, Lord Granard, the local landowner, invited the Sisters of Mercy to establish a school in Newtownforbes, County Longford. He gave the Sisters a house for use as a convent and gardens, rent free, and an annual cash donation of £90.16 In the same year, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Industrial School, Newtownforbes, was certified for the reception of 145 girls.
  7. 2.25  One of the legacies of this piece-meal way of establishing the schools was that there was an uneven geographical distribution of schools throughout Ireland, which had a considerable impact on whether children were likely to end up in an industrial school.‘Industrial’ training
  8. 2.26  The principal virtue claimed for the schools, by the utilitarian thinkers who championed them, was that they would equip the residents with skills, which would enable them in later life to survive by
    1. 11  The Children Act, 1908, ss 73–75. In the nineteenth century, most of the recurring expense fell on central government [the Treasury paid 5s/week for each child]. Local authorities’ contribution ranged from 1 shilling to 2/6. Voluntary contributions were very small. The result was that, for example, in 1880: the contributions were as follows: treasury (£68,000); local authorities (£23,000); other sources (parental contributions, voluntary subscriptions and industrial profits): £16,000.
    2. 12  Barnes, p 50.
    3. 13  Brıd Fahey Bates, p72.
    4. 14  Brıd Fahey Bates, p71.
    5. 15  Brıd Fahey Bates ,p79.
    6. 16  Taken from: The Parish of Clonguish: Its People and its Culture (December 2005), p 15.

CICA Investigation Committee Report Vol. I 39

steady, if humble, employment. In the nineteenth century, this was accomplished in the case of girls. According to O ́ Cinne ́ide and Maguire:17

Girls’ schools provided a narrower range of industrial training than boys schools, focusing on domestic service, laundry, and sewing. The majority of girls who left industrial schools went into domestic service. Indeed the schools were a vital source of domestic servants, particularly because the schools were among the few institutions that provided a coherent training program for domestic servants. Some schools, including High Park and St. George’s in Limerick, were particularly noted for their training program, and girls from these schools had no trouble securing work as servants. Goldenbridge Industrial School was also an important source of trained domestic servants. Mona Hearne, author of Below Stairs, shows that of the 877 girls discharged from Goldenbridge between 1880 and 1920, over 300 were placed in service; the nuns kept in touch with these girls for at least three years after discharge, and only rarely were bad reports received.

  1. 2.27  As to the boys’ schools, they commented:the [Samuelson Commission’s]18 remit was to examine industrial and technical training in all schools, including industrial schools, throughout the United Kingdom … The Commission’s report was extremely critical of the general standard of training in Irish schools generally; the one exception was Irish industrial schools, which they found to be models of technical and industrial training.19
  2. 2.28  Barnes acknowledged that some schools did in fact excel in providing children with the skills and training which enabled them to support themselves once they were discharged. She took the view that, in the early years of the system’s existence, there was some tension between providing industrial training to ameliorate poverty, and the general feeling that industrial training should not facilitate upward social mobility.20
  3. 2.29  Barnes claimed that only a small percentage of boys entered trades for which they had been trained, and that the majority ended up working as unskilled labourers, mainly on farms. However, this could be the result of the general lack of opportunities for poor people in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.21
  4. 2.30  Barnes and most other writers give a largely favourable impression of the nineteenth century industrial schools system. On the other hand, John Fagan, who was appointed Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools in 1897, criticised virtually all aspects of the system at the end of the nineteenth century, especially the physical conditions in the schools and the overall condition of the children. He was particularly critical of the poor hygiene and lack of cleanliness in the majority of the schools.22 O ́ Cinne ́ide and Maguire summarise Fagan’s criticisms, and comment:23conditions in many of the schools seem to have deteriorated around the turn of the century, in what Barnes termed a spirit of “complacency and a resistance to change”.
    1. 17  Se ́amus O ́ Cinne ́ide and Moira Maguire, The Industrial Schools Over A Hundred Years: A Monograph, p 20
    2. 18  This was a Commission established by the British Parliament to examine industrial and technical training in allschools throughout the UK. It reported in 1884.
    3. 19  Se ́amus O ́ Cinne ́ide and Moira Maguire, p 19.
    4. 20  Se ́amus O ́ Cinne ́ide and Moira Maguire, p 19, p 20.
    5. 21  Se ́amus O ́ Cinne ́ide and Moira Maguire, p 20.
    6. 22  Se ́amus O ́ Cinne ́ide and Moira Maguire, p 21.
    7. 23  Se ́amus O ́ Cinne ́ide and Moira Maguire, p 21.

40 CICA Investigation Committee Report Vol. I


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