Middletown Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls, Middletown, Armagh, Northern Ireland
The Middletown Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls occupied purpose-built premises which were situated near to the St Louis' convent at the south of the town. The main school building was erected in 1878, a handsome structure of red brick from the designs of Lanyon and Lynn of Belfast, standing on eighteen acres of good land. The premises were but not certified for operation until 21 June 1881, and then for only twenty children, although there was accommodation for a larger number. The delay was due to the absence of facilities including a refectory, a kitchen, hot and cold baths, a laundry, a dairy and farm offices, which when receiving a certificate, the manager promised would be provided. The architects accordingly drew up plans in keeping with the main building, and they included a swimming bath with hot water adjoining the laundry for the girls. This school was run in association with the Commissioners of National Education, with children from outside able to attend on a daily basis.
An inspection report in 1882 recorded that the average number of committed inmates during the years was 20, plus 86 externs. Mrs O'Donovan and three Sisters of the Order of St Louis managed the school. As well as cooking and household work, the girls learned the use of various kinds of sewing and knitting machines. They were also instructed in plain and fancy needlework, knitting, crotchet, embroidery, and crewel work. They learned laundry work, milked cows, made butter, reared calves, cared for pigs and poultry, and assisted in the general work of the farm.
In March 1885, on completion of additional facilities, the capacity of the school was increased to 40 places. It was raised again the following year to 50 places.
The inspection report for 1911 noted that there were 58 committed inmates plus two voluntary cases. The manager was now Mrs M. M. Gertrude Tunney, assisted by 6 Sisters of the Order of St Louis. The buildings were very bright and clean, having been recently painted throughout. The schoolrooms and dormitories were heated by open fires. In the classroom, singing and drawing were rated as 'very good', geography and grammar as 'good', and mental arithmetic as 'fair'. Industrial training included needlework, simple lace-making, cookery, laundry, housewifery and dairy work. The girls had daily drill and exercises with dumbbells and barbells given by one of the Sisters.
On 31 August 1933, part of the school premises were certified for use as a Reformatory.
Following the Children and Young Persons (Northern Ireland) Act of 1950, the establishment became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. It was then known as Middletown Training School.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast BT3 9HQ. Has Admission records (1917-71).
- Barnes, Jane Irish Industrial Schools 1868-1908 (1989, Irish Academic Press)
- Dunne, Joe The Stolen Child: A Memoir (2003, Marion Books)
- Rafferty, Mary and O'Sullivan, Eoin Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland's Industrial Schools (1999, New Island Books)
- Touher, Patrick Fear of the Collar: Artane Industrial School - My Extraordinary Childhood (1991, O'Brien Press)
- Tyrrell, Peter and Whelan, Diarmuid Founded on Fear: Letterfrack Industrial School (2006, Irish Academic Press)
- Wall, Tom The boy from Glin Industrial School (2015, Tom Wall)
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