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.


Nudity in Religion

If nudity offends, please don’t read any further. Thanks.

I saw a very tasteful nude calendar that has just come out in solidarity with oppressed women in Islamic countries. H/t Maryam Namazie.

The calendar is the idea of campaigner Maryam Namazie to support Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and join her ‘screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy’.


In Islam, the area of the body not meant to be exposed in public is called the awrah, and while referred to in the Qur’an, is addressed in more detail in hadith. In the Sunni tradition, the male awrah is from the navel to knees. Other denominations have differing interpretations. For women, there are different classifications of awrah. In public, many Muslim women wear the hijab and long dresses which covers most of their head and body, with only specific body parts such as hands and face allowed to show. But in front of direct family (parents, children, siblings), the awrah is relaxed further, allowing them to uncover, except between the chest and the thighs. Sharia law in some Islamic countries requires women to observe purdah, covering their entire bodies, including the face (see niqab and burqa), However, the degrees of covering vary according to local custom and/or interpretation of Sharia law.

I was prompted to write this post and tweet after experiencing flashbacks of extremely dark negative nudity times as a child in Goldenbridge. Where ‘screams against a society of violence, racism and hypocrisy’ too, were unable to be heard and went on deaf ears because of the thickness of the child prison walls and the lack of wherewithal.


Marie T O'Loughlin
The religious never ate with the children either.
Marie T O'Loughlin
Can you just envisage children being told by parents, to wait in a certain part of the beach, whilst they went off to another part to swim?
Marie T O'Loughlin
Ironically, it was deemed okay to wear togs when we went to Brittas Bay beach, Wicklow. The nuns disappeared off to a secret spot to swim.
Marie T O'Loughlin
It was instilled in children that their bodies were impure & the reason why they were in GB was because they were products of impure bodies
Marie T O'Loughlin
I really don’t know how it suddenly became acceptable to the religious, when children of all ages were forced to line up naked to be painted
Marie T O'Loughlin
Children became very adept at undressing by placing nightdresses over their clothes. And vice-versa. The flesh had to be hidden at all times
Marie T O'Loughlin
Children were made to feel ashamed of their bodies in Goldenbridge industrial *school*. Their little bodies had to be hidden at all times.
Marie T O'Loughlin
The calendar is not the same as tabloids like the…
Marie T O'Loughlin
Iranians in Iran join Nude Photo Revolutionary…

The religious in Islamic countries rule the roost (as did/still do to a certain extent the religious in Ireland.) Women and children are under the thumbs of patriarchal figures and told how to dress and behave. Every facet of their lives from cradle to grave is controlled by antediluvian patriarchal figures.

Re Nudity in Religion: Islam:

In Islam, it is to show that women and men should be covered in clothing, for nudity has the stigma of shame attached to it.

When they discover their nudity, they are ashamed and cover themselves with fig leaves.

Re Christianity:

In Christianity, nudity is associated with original sin, an integral aspect to their doctrine of redemption and salvation.

I was also reminded of the shame that penitent Magdalen laundry women and children in industrial *schools* in general were made to feel about their bodies.

Here are nude scenes from the “Magdalene Sisters” by Peter Mullan.

I can really empathise with the girls in the film. Children too in Goldenbridge were made to line up and their bodies were mocked and jeered as they were being painted with benzine benzoate by the religious and staff. The fear on their faces speaks volumes!