Is this the same Viscountess Jackson I knew in Goldenbridge?

Is this the same Viscountess Jackson I knew in Goldenbridge?

08 MAY 2005
Sir – Gosh! I read recently, in another Sunday newspaper, the story about Viscountess Geraldine Jackson and her horrific time in Goldenbridge, Dublin. While I was there I met a girl, also called Geraldine Jackson. However, the Geraldine I knew didn’t work in a rosary bead factory until 3am. We usually finished in the bead room two-to-three hours after starting. Usual start time was 4pm. Even the slowest would be finished by 7.30pm, and that would include a tea break. This Geraldine didn’t abscond in terror from Goldenbridge at 16 years of age, but was placed in nurse training in St Ultans Hospital by Sr Xaveria. Geraldine possibly did drink from a toilet bowl (I know I didn’t, especially as there was a tap in the yard). Some of the residents might have at night-time as we didn’t have sinks upstairs, but they must have had very long necks, for the bowls were the old-fashioned very high ones. Flushing got water for some, and don’t forget, in those days, this would not have been seen as unhygienic. The poor Viscountess possibly did have teeth extracted by a dentist, like the rest of us, but I see hers were “yanked out . . . needlessly”. The Geraldine I knew wasn’t kept in a state of starvation, but like the rest of us was always “starving”, especially before meal times. There’s a big difference. Geraldine is perfectly aware that Sr Xaveria always had the toddlers in the nursery running after her when she walked in. She’d hand them sweets, pat them on their little heads, and they’d run after her pulling at her habit. Wonder if the two Geraldine’s are related?
However, the Geraldine I knew didn’t work in a rosary bead factory until 3am. We usually finished in the bead room two-to-three hours after starting. Usual start time was 4pm.
Some older children worked well into the early hours of the morning to get boxes of rosary beads ready for the factory. I can’t say for sure whether it was up to 3: 00 a.m.. Nevertheless, I can mostly corroborate what Geraldine says, as, I too was one of those inmates working into the very late hours. Besides – what would Angel Howard know about Geraldine Jackson working into the late hours, if she is certain that the rosary beads were finished by 7: 00 p.m. at the latest? Wouldn’t she have been tucked up in her iron bed and army blankets at 9: 00 p.m. in probably Our Lady’s dormitory, or in a modern bed in the then newly built annexe called Carmel where all the good acquiescent children slept?

Geraldine possibly did drink from a toilet bowl (I know I didn’t, especially as there was a tap in the yard).

During the time of the Goldenbridge controversy, it was claimed by someone close to Sr. Xaveria that they (her gang of cronies from the LOVE contingency) were to say to the commission to inquire into child abuse (CICA) that ‘there was a tap in the yard.’ I do have a vague recollection of a tap in the yard, but it can’t have been there always. Or, if it was it was hardly in working order. The reason I say this, is because I used to scoop up water from the cistern and toilet bowl at the end of the yard, as did other children. I also lifted water out of the toilet with a marmalade can at the end of the yard. I can still see the inner orange coloured reflection, as the water danced and moved inside the can. I can’t for the life of me fathom as to why other children and myself would have been drinking out of the toilets in the yard if there was a tap there? Whether it worked is another thing! However, there would have been no access to the yard at night-time, or the washroom, or laundry in the earlier years before Carmel was built, so that meant no access to water. Children who wet the bed were not allowed to drink fluids after 6: 00 p.m.

The following paragraph comes directly from the commission to inquire into child abuse:
Q:…but in his report he records her confirming that: “Fear of and actual beatings and verbal abuse was a matter of routine. And that the general account of children, for example, waiting on landings was accurate…Wetting was defined as a crime and, therefore, punishable through humiliation and physical beatings. Sr. Fabian confirmed the allegations in relation to the tumble drier and drinking from the toilet cistern. She also confirmed the bead making and that failure to obey rules was normally punished by physical beatings”.
Re: Florence Horseman-Hogan who had a group called Let Our Voices Emerge [LOVE]. It consisted of Sr. Xaveria supporters. The group fought for the nun up until the time of the release of the Ryan Report. They then had to concede to the findings discovered in the report. Thereafter the group disbanded with its tail between its legs. The group subsequently apologised.
On a relevant note to tie in with the contents of this ghastly letter to the media by what appears to me to be from a pseudonym and maybe even someone who was never in Goldenbridge, but would know something of the background.
I would like to point out here that I was told by a third party at the height of the Goldenbridge controversy that Florence Horseman-Hogan allegedly got a person to go online and let it be known that I had an uncle a priest and to divulge details of the farm where my relations lived. I was dumbfounded at the time at the nastiness of these people when I read about it online. The idea was to intimidate me to shut-up. At the time I had never spoken out about my personal family. It was such a shock. It took me a very long time to come to terms with it. I had been writing pseudonymously at the time. There were other people doing similar things.
I don’t have to worry any longer, as not only have the religious in my family passed away, I also decided to go public about my institutional past. I have nothing to hide. I’m as free as a bird. I would urge all survivors of industrial “schools” to not hide behind pseudonyms, as that just takes away their valuable power.
The reason I point it out here is because Angel Howard, who is obviously wrote under a pseudonym, appeared to be trying to intimidate Geraldine, who was also speaking out about the atrocities that occurred in Goldenbridge.
…and that would include a tea break.
What tea-break? That’s the first I’ve heard of children having a tea-break in Goldenbridge during the era in question here. I think what the author meant to say, was Supper, which children had at 6: p.m. Supper that consisted of black potently bitter sugarless cocoa and two sometimes smelly soggy white thin-slices of bread, that came out of an aluminium container in the mice-infested pantry. From 3:00 p.m., when one slice of bread was given, along with the leftover scraps from St. Ita’s staff-room, that were thrown into the yard from a window at children and the two slices of bread at 6: 00 p.m. Supper that was the staple diet until next morning.

The poor Viscountess possibly did have teeth extracted by a dentist, like the rest of us, but I see hers were “yanked out . . . needlessly”

How utterly condescending to address a survivor of Goldenbridge in that manner. I would surmise that the author is personally digging at Geraldine’s title, as opposed to addressing the ‘teeth’ issue.

Geraldine is perfectly aware that Sr Xaveria always had the toddlers in the nursery running after her when she walked in. She’d hand them sweets, pat them on their little heads, and they’d run after her pulling at her habit. Wonder if the two Geraldine’s are related?

What a load of old baloney. Sr. Xaveria beat the living daylights out of small and big children – who were lined up every single morning in St. Patrick’s classroom – that was meant for teaching children. They feared for their lives of this fearsome nun who frothed at the mouth and danced, as she rained down the shiny bark of a tree on them. Some  children even wet themselves they were so distraught. Last thing at night the same nun was to be seen flogging children who would have been waiting for hours on end in sleeveless nighties and bare feet on a cold landing, just outside her cell.

There was a room – I wouldn’t call it a nursery, as there were no special facilities befitting a nursery where babies and toddlers were strapped on potties for long durations. They were fed on these potties, and they slept on these potties. In all my time in Goldenbridge I never witnessed Sr. Xaveria going to that room to nurture and give them sweets. I really do not know where Angel Howard gets this information? Is she one of the clan who was told to say ‘there was a tap in the yard?’ ‘Pulling and running after her habit,’ is this for real? I never saw the nun lift a child in her arms from the day I went there to the day I left. I do know though, that she did soften when she went to Rathdrum, and maybe there she was openly kinder to children, as she would not have had the stresses and strains that she so obviously had to contend with in Goldenbridge. Rathdrum was also very open, and not an enclosed prison-like environment, so she would not have got away with such brutal behaviour there, that was the norm in Goldenbridge. Sr. Xaveria ruled the roost, and took it upon herself to boss everyone in sight. Children, nuns in the convent, parents, workers, the whole shebang. How dare Angel Howard make snide remarks such as “Wonder if the two Geraldine’s are related?” I too wonder if Angel Howard and Florence Horseman-Hogan are one and the same person with respect of this abominable article. It reeks of the latter.

Another letter was also written to the the media that followed the one above:

Sir – Such heartbreaking times for young women who found themselves pregnant in the Forties, Fifties, Sixties, and even Seventies, especially when the fathers didn’t want to know. Parents would have murder in mind if their offspring came home ‘on the double’. Wasn’t it great to have the nuns and even the horrible laundries, as it was better than suicide for lots of them. Parting with the babies when given up for adoption must have been soul-destroying, especially if they had time to bond with them.How times have changed. It’s good that a more human and natural view is taken in modern times, but the pendulum has swung to the extreme. They get a bit of money now and are welcome at home. Sure it’s almost cool to have a babe in tow.
Kathleen Corrigan, Cootehill, Co Cavan.
The following is evidence given to the commission to inquire into child institutional at Goldenbridge in 2009. Bear in mind that I was told by someone close to Sr. X that word was sent around to her supporters that they were to allegedly say to the CICA that there was a fountain in the yard. I encountered one of Sr. X’s supporters, and remember very well, a sister of hers – whom, I think she did not know was her real sister during her time in Goldenbridge – being sent to outside secondary school. Although, the latter may not have been treated as a pet by staff – the same girl was also privileged to be one of the top Irish dancers. I remember a photo of the ‘privileged’ girl in a black uniform – with sash that was worn in Irish dancing competitions in the earlier days – being pinned to the inside of a press at the back of St. Patrick’s classroom.

Drinking water from toilets

7.377 It was alleged that the children in Goldenbridge did not have access to water during the day, and had to resort to drinking water from either the toilet bowl or the cistern.

7.378 One witness described it as follows:

We used to all drink out of the toilets. There was toilets at the end of the yard, we used to go down there. There was no taps, you just flushed the chain and drink the water.

7.379 When asked whether he recalled a drinking fountain in the yard, he said:

No. There used to be a little push handle thing down, that hardly ever worked. I remember it did work, it didn’t always work. I am sure it was there … We used to … drink out of the toilets anyway. You followed what the other kids done.

7.380 Another witness said:

In between meals there was no facility for a glass of water, there was nothing, nowhere you could, we didn’t have money to buy anything. There was no machines, no vending in those days. Nothing like that. You would go to the toilets where they had the loose top and you would scoop water up, you would scoop it up in your hand or you would get something like– I don’t know how to describe it. It was like a funnel from the big dryers, there was a little connection, you would get it and you would drink the water from the cistern. I mean, you wouldn’t think whether this is healthy or unhealthy.

7.381 One witness said:

We used to drink water out of the toilets, out of the either the bowl or the cistern depending on how tall you were … I mean, I see in a statement from Sr Alida she said that a tap was in the yard, I don’t know where it was because I was never allowed have a drink out of it.

7.382 When asked if she remembered a tap or drinking fountain in the yard, she said:

I was there for twelve years and I don’t remember seeing a tap in the yard. I do remember drinking water out of the toilets, out of the cistern, out of the bowl.

7.383 Another witness said:

Because they wouldn’t give you water. You asked for water and you weren’t given it. So obviously to try and survive, you would come out, you would be in the yard and you would go into the toilets in the yard and flush the toilets and drink water from the toilets. That wasn’t just a once-off, that was on a good number of occasions.

7.384 Another witness, when asked about the existence of a drinking fountain in the yard, said that if there had been a fountain in the yard it must have been broken‘because we used to drink out literally of the toilet or lift up the cistern, the top of the toilet’.

7.385 Sr Alida stated there was a drinking fountain in the yard which came from Liverpool and was marked ‘hooligan proof’. It remained in working order until the time she left Goldenbridge. She also stated that children could get water from the kitchen and a small bathroom under the stairs.

7.386 One explanation for the lack of access to water is in relation to the problem of bed-wetting which, according to Sr Alida, was ’a huge problem’ that existed in Goldenbridge. Sr Alida said they had sought medical advice, and one of the recommendations was the deprivation of all fluids before bedtime.

7.387 However, Sr Venetia stated to Mr Crowley that children used to drink from the toilet cistern. In his report he stated:

Sr Venetia confirmed the allegations in relation to the tumble dryer and drinking from the toilet cistern.

7.388 The Sisters of Mercy denied that children were deprived of water as there was a drinking fountain in the yard. They conceded, however, that on foot of medical advice they deprived children who were prone to wetting the bed of water from a certain time in the afternoon. These children may have resorted to covertly drinking from the toilet. They asserted that this is another example of how a practice became distorted and exaggerated by witnesses.


4 thoughts on “Is this the same Viscountess Jackson I knew in Goldenbridge?

  1. Nice to see some Redress for this Article that has been reproduced more than Once without it being Challenged. An article that has caused distress to Geraldine and her family.

    As they say the Truth will come out; and I believe it has here!

    Thank you Marie-Therese for addressing this issue

      • Hello there! Nice to hear from you. Was the ‘low down tap’ a kind of fountain? Was it near to the right hand side of the door leading to the Rec? Or, was it beside the shores outside the old Victorian laundry near the corrugated iron verandah that led to the rooftop?

  2. I recall addressing the issue many years ago at I had used the forum section as a base to express a lot of stuff pertaining to the CICA / RIRB and other important reformatory and industrial school institutional issues in the media at the time. Alas, the site disappeared overnight. So… to my chagrin, I’m bereft of all the input that was left there over a number of years.

    It strikes me from the whole tone of the letter to the media that perhaps Angel Howard may have been one of Sr. Xaveria’s defenders. As I’ve said on innumerable occasions before – the pets in Goldenbridge were the bane of our lives. It could also be that Angel Howard was never in Goldenbridge.

    If I’d known earlier about the damage that this letter had caused Geraldine and her family, I certainly would have dug my heels in much earlier on, and intervened on a much deeper level. I would have gone ballistic if that had done to me by another inmate of Goldenbridge. It would be unsurprising, though, to find out if the overseer of the now defunct LOVE organisation was behind the whole thing. It has a whiff of her type of nasty shenanigans. Even the nuns – by all accounts, were embarrassed with by her behaviour.

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