Ancestry UK

St Aloysius' Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

In 1869, the St Aloysius' Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls was opened at Convent Road, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. The establishment was run by members of the Sisters of Mercy but operated under the general control of the National Board of Education and included a large National School which was attended both by local children and those committed to detention. The Industrial School, which occupied purpose-built premises on a twenty-five acre site to the east of Clonakilty, was formally certified to begin operation on 13 November 1869, with accommodation for up to 130 girls. The manager of the School was Sister M.T. Murray.

In the classroom, all the girls learned reading, writing, dictation, grammar, geography, arithmetic, history, singing and drawing. An inspection report in 1870 recorded that the committed inmates' industrial training included lace-making, needlework and machine work, dairy and farmyard management, cooking, baking, and the duties of household servants. Eight cows were kept for dairy purposes, and the girls made butter which was said to be excellent. Some of the older girls were trained to be children's maids, each having a number of their younger companions under their charge, whom they washed, combed, cleaned and dressed. It was also noted that when any girl from the town of Clonakilty was ordered for detention by local magistrates, she was sent to some more distant institution, so as as not to be degraded in the eyes of her fellow pupils.

A new wing was added to the building in 1871. The manager reported that, on admission, a great number of the children were:

Stunted in mind and in body, having the appearance of mere infants when in reality six or eight years of age, in nearly every case infected with disease — the offspring of poverty and neglect — poor and naked, with every loveliness of childhood banished from their countenance, and in some few, the germs of vice already deeply rooted. One little one, six years of age, whose fragile frame would have been small for a child of three, and who would have passed for such, had not her worn, precocious face told otherwise, we found very hard to coax into good humour — she should go home — she liked the nice clothes and boots very well, but she'd rather go to . . . because she would get whiskey — 'Oh, I like whiskey so much, I'd walk a mile for a glass of it.'

In 1876, a new three-storey wing was erected containing additional dormitory accommodation, a large workroom and a laundry. Other additions included the construction of a farmyard, improvement of the bakehouse, and enlargement of the refectory and infirmary. Industrial training now included dressmaking, shirt-making, lace work, machine work. The neighbouring gentry employed the children at needlework. All the older girls worked in the laundry, and could wash and make up all the different kinds of fine linen, muslin, and laces, shirts, and ladies' dresses. The laundry class washed for over 200 persons. The girls were also taught housework, to stain and polish wood, to French polish and clean furniture. They manufactured hair mattresses for the school and for others. Some of the girls who had a taste for cooking were instructed in the higher branches of that art, to glaze and ornament meats, frost cakes, and do other confectioners' work, make and colour jellies, blancmanges etc. They were taught the duties of house maids and parlour maids. They milked cows, make butter, and cared for bees, pigs, and poultry. Sister Murray was assisted by a large staff of Sisters of Mercy, together with three paid monitresses, a dressmaker, and a lacemaker. The number of external children attending the National Schools in 1876 was 428.

In 1912, there were 147 inmates in residence. The staff comprised the manager, Sister M.C. Curran, six Sisters of Mercy, and seven lay assistants. The girls had drill twice each week. The juniors had flag drill, while the seniors did exercises with barbells and clubs, and maze-marching. They were taught step-dancing, and had frequent country walks.

The School site is shown on the early 1900s map below.

St Aloysius' Industrial School site, Clonakilty, early 1900s.

The Industrial School closed in 1965. The premises now house the Sacred Heart secondary school.


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