Ancestry UK

St Anne's Industrial School, Galway, Galway, Republic of Ireland

The St Anne's Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls was founded by the Sisters of Mercy at Galway in 1869. It is believed to have occupied premises on St Francis' Street, which were considerably enlarged for the purpose. It was formally certified to begin operation on 3 December 1869 with accommodation for 77 girls.

An inspection report in 1870 recorded that the average number of inmates under detention was 57, together with 704 external pupils attending the day-schools which were managed in connection with the Board of National Education. The establishment was said to possess an excellent well-ventilated dormitory and workrooms, but its lack of land rendered it difficult to carry on an Industrial School with satisfaction. Connected with the School was an 'asylum for young women of good character' who were trained as servants. The less able St Anne's inmates were trained for domestic service, while those judged to have the required aptitude to become dressmakers, shop-assistants and school teachers received instruction to qualify them for those employments. The girls were taught needlework in all its branches, lace work and machine work, and the clothes worn by the girls were made in the school. Straw bonnet-making was also taught. The older girls took charge of the younger children, whom they they washed, dressed and comb. The school was managed by Mrs Magdalen Blake and a large staff of Sisters of Mercy.

New National schools were were opened in 1875 on the opposite side of the road and connected to the Industrial School by a tunnel and cloister. The School's inspector noted that a new laundry and refectory were much needed, together with a suitable playground. The new laundry finally came into use in 1880 and was fitted with the latest equipment. The inspector's suggestion that the development include a Turkish bath, like the one at the St Finbar's Industrial School at Cork, appears not to have been taken up. A new bakery was now also in operation and the girls were said to make excellent bread. Other industrial training now included dressmaking and millinery, shirt-making, embroidery, knitting, tatting, crochet, point lace making, including work for the public and for private families. The girls were taught the use of sewing and knitting machines. They also work in the laundry, stained and polished floors, upholstered beds, and did housework. Drawing and music, both instrumental and vocal (using Hullah's system) were taught in the school-room.

In 1885, a small playground was purchased near the School, remedying a long-standing want. The staff at this date comprised Mrs Blake, with a staff of six Sisters of Mercy, assisted by a dressmaker, a laundress, and a lace-maker. Mrs Blake continued to manage the School until about 1891 when she was succeeded by Mrs Mary Leeson.

Mrs Leeson remained as manager until 1913 when Mrs Mary B Ryan took over the position. Other staff at that date comprised five Sisters of Mercy, two assistant teachers, domestic science teacher, dressmaker, and laundress. An inspection in 1913 recorded that the School's accommodation was rather cramped, a complaint that continued to be made in the following years.

In 1925, a move to new premises finally took place after the Sisters purchased a property known as Lenaboy Castle on the outskirts of the city at Taylor's Hill Road, Salthill. Thereafter, the School was often just referred to as Lenaboy.

Former Lenaboy Industrial School, Galway, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

The School raised concerns with the Department of Education after its inspector, Dr Anna McCabe, expressed grave unease at the actions of the resident manager, Sister Paul.

The produce of the garden was sold. The old sister in charge of the kitchen protested against the starvation of the children — she and another old sister were removed and replaced by two young novices who dare not challenge the Superior's orders. It is rumoured that the tea ration is also sold. (It is certain that the children have not been getting it.) The suggestion made by Dr McCabe last year that skipping ropes and a net ball should be provided evoked the remark If she thinks I'm going to throw away my money on skipping ropes, she's mad.

An internal Departmental memo reiterated Dr McCabe's concerns.

The Resident Manager is a miserly, ruthless old woman of 70 years who has as her objective the reduction of the debt on the institution. She has been hardened by age and a lifetime spent in Magdalene Homes. She has no experience of children and has no sympathy with them. Her fortes are finance and farming. She set about obtaining her end with cold thoroughness.

The health of the children at Lenaboy also caused Dr McCabe concern after she found them 'looking emaciated, cowed, dirty and unhappy'. Upon further investigation, she found that their diet had been 'reduced almost to starvation level' and comprised 'half a cup of milk a day, no tea, practically no butter or sugar, tiny portions of meat and vegetables, consisting largely of the unsaleable portions of the school's vegetable garden'. The bulk of their food was cocoa, bread and dripping. Two thirds of the children also suffered from scabies.

In September 1943, the Department wrote to the Mother Superior stating that the Minister felt that Sister Paul was unsuitable for the role of manager and asked that she be removed from that position and a more suitable person be appointed in her place. On 23rd September 1943, the Mother Superior of the Order replied to the Department to say that a new Resident Manager had been appointed.

Following the publication in 1970 of the Kennedy Report into the institutional care of children in Ireland, Industrial Schools were renamed Residential Homes.

In 2017, the Sisters of Mercy donated the Salthill property, along with a cash payment of €750,000, to the Galway City Council for use as a creative hub for children. The move was criticised in some quarters since the grounds of the property, which the council had previously requested be donated to the city, were to be retained by the Order for the building of accommodation for retired nuns and a repository for its archives.


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