Ancestry UK

St Joseph's Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys, Greenmount, Cork, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

St Joseph's Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys was opened in 1871 on Pouladuff Road, in the Greenmount district of Cork. It initially occupied part of the buildings erected in 1854 on a site formerly known as Gallows Green. The existing premises included a large school building, attended by about 200 children from the neighbourhood, an orphanage, and staff accommodation. The new Industrial School was formally certified to begin operation on 14 March 1871. The whole site was run by , which were run by the Presentation Brothers, an offshoot of the Irish Christian Brothers.

In 1872-4, a large new building to house the School was erected at the north of the existing complex. It was described as having two large, lofty, and well ventilated dormitories with lavatory, bathroom, and water-closets off each. Commodious workshops and other facilities were also erected. An additional four acres of land was also acquired adjacent to the site. In March 1874, the Cork Examiner described the new building as:

a handsome and substantial edifice, built of red brick, in the domestic Gothic style of architecture, from a design and plan furnished by Mr George Ashlin, the eminent architect. The front (or northern) elevation presents the bold and effective appearance of a three-storey house, pierced by about forty windows, of which the limestone dressings relieve the ruddy monotony of the chief material, and a lofty, projecting gable at either end with cut limestone barges, flanks the long range of the body of the building. The edifice as it stands, covers an area of 120 feet by 50 feet high. The first rooms met with in this corridor, on either hand, are intended for a reception parlour, 17 feet by 22 feet; a refectory for the Brothers, 22 feet by 23 feet; and a sitting room for the chaplain, 20 feet by 17 feet. Farther on, in the front of the building, is the refectory for the boys, a spacious and cheerful hall, 57 feet long by 28 feet wide, capable of sitting 200. It is lighted by six large windows of plate glass, and above each window appears a ventilator, which passes upward in the thickness of the wall to the eaves. At the eastern end of the refectory will be the kitchen, 20 feet by 15 feet, separated from the refectory by a partition, and communicating with it through a turnstile. Opposite the refectory door is a convenient staircase, by which we ascend two flights to the first floor, passing on the first landing a room for one of the Brothers. , like that in the basement, traverses this floor, and from it we enter the first dormitory, occupying the whole front of this storey, 120 feet by 28 and a half feet, with a similar arrangement as to the light and air to those observed in the refectory. The monotonous interior of this splendid apartment is broken near either end by moulded piers, united by three neatly moulded arches, at a distance of 15 feet from each wall.

An inspection in 1874 recorded that the average number of inmates that year was 100. In the classroom, they were taught reading, writing, dictation, arithmetic, geography, singing and drawing. The more intelligent boys kept the accounts of the trades' departments. Industrial training included shoemaking, tailoring, baking, carpentry, house painting, glazing, and market gardening. Besides supplying the establishment, the tailors and shoemakers made clothes and boots for the inmates of several other institutions and for some private citizens. Tho baking department also supplied other establishments in the city. The boys were now making furniture for the school. Early vegetables were supplied to the Cork market from the land, with one half-acre generating an income of £22. The staff comprised Brother E.A. Shanahan, seven other Presentation Brothers, a resident chaplain, a literary teacher, a master carpenter, shoemaker, tailor, and baker, a farm bailiff, drawing and music masters, a matron and domestic servants.

In 1875, further building work saw the completion of new shoemaker's and tailor's workshops, knitting-room, infirmary, kitchen, refectory, scullery, store-room, bakery and stores. The School, whose capacity was now 170 places, received an influx of boys from the Industrial Schools in Queenstown and Templemore, which converted from mixed into girls-only establishments. A brass band was formed. In 1876, the School was connected to the mains water supply and a playground was laid down.

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

St Joseph's Industrial School site, Cork, early 1900s.

In 1880, the Rev. P. Shine became manager of the School, assisted by seven Presentation Brothers, a chaplain, bandmaster, singing master, assistant teacher, physician, trades instructors, and a farm-bailiff.

The School's daily routine was as follows:

TimeActivity for boysDuty for staff
6.45Brothers rise
7.15Prayers in oratory
7.30Boys called and dress
7.30-7.50'Chalks' — cleaning duties. Monitor in charge of 8-10 boys
7.50Boys strip in yard or hall and wash at sinks
8.30Breakfast — bread and coffeeBreakfast in refectory
9.00SchoolTeaching Brothers work in school
1.00Lunch Dinner — meat and two veg then playLay Brothers supervise
About 6.00Evening meal — Bread and cocoa
9.00 (Later in summer)Bed

In 1911, the staff comprised the manager, Rev. Brother T.A. Kelly; the procurator, Rev. Brother L. Culhane; seven Brothers of the Order of the Presentation, an assistant teacher, tailor, shoemaker, carpenter, two bakers, two painters, farm bailiff, gardener, bandmaster, and a manual instructor. Forty boys received lessons in manual instruction. There were 53 boys learning tailoring, 35 shoemaking, 4 carpentry, 8 baking, 2 painting, 20 farming, and 20 gardening. There were 40 performers in the band, which during the summer was in considerable request to play at sports, concerts, etc. Out of 46 boys discharged during the year, 36 went to skilled occupations and 8 returned to their families, 1 emigrated, and 1 was discharged.

The School's capacity, set at 200 in the 1890s, was increased to 220 in 1913, and to 235 in 1933.

The School formally ceased operation on 31 March 1959 and the existing inmates transferred to other institutions. The Brothers had kept their plans for closing the establishment secret from the boys and their families until that date, something which caused considerable upset when the move was suddenly sprung upon them.

The School buildings no longer survive and the site is now covered by the housing of Deerpark Road and Ros Barra.

St Joseph's was one of the institutions to be investigated by Ireland's Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, launched in 1999. After reviewing extensive evidence and the testimonies of former inmates, the Commission concluded that over a period from the 1930s to 1959:

  • A harsh regime with excessive corporal punishment was implemented by one Resident Manager, who continued to serve as a senior Brother after his period of office, and would accordingly have influenced the policy of the School, but there was evidence of a softening of the regime in subsequent years. No formal record was kept, as required by the regulations.
  • The Order and the Department of Education failed to supervise the School properly and were insufficiently objective. They placed too much reliance on the Resident Manager for information on how the boys were cared for and did not have independent investigation. Evidence of mistreatment was ignored.
  • Investigations into sexual abuse in 1955 revealed grave failures on the part of the Order and the Diocese, and allowed two persons who were believed to be guilty of sexual abuse to continue careers dealing with children.
  • The interests of the Congregation were prioritized in the manner in which St Joseph's was closed, and the lack of information to the parents and the boys themselves, by both the Order and the Department of Education, showed an indifference to the people most affected by the closure.


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