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Chapter 13 — Cabra

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The following photograph has been made available to the Committee: Source: Congregation of the Christian Brothers


Boys were admitted to the School on the basis of direct application by parents or a referral by a doctor, priest or an education inspector. The School also accepted boys from Northern Ireland who were referred by the Education Board there. Others progressed from Mary Immaculate School for Deaf Boys in Beechpark, Stillorgan, County Dublin which accepted boys up to the age of 10. That school closed in 1998.


In the 1930s and 1940s, boys as young as four years of age were admitted, as the prevailing view at that time was that it was in the interests of children with hearing loss to admit them as young as possible. These trends changed over time, and the age of admission rose to six or seven. The boys remained in the School until 18 years of age.


Cabra was both a boarding school and a day school, but the majority of children who attended were boarders. They came from all parts of the country including Northern Ireland. The numbers of children boarding fell from almost 100% in 1938 to less than half in 1998. In the mid-1970s, funding was made available which made it easier for pupils to travel home at weekends. Prior to that, boarders would generally only go home during the school holidays. The authorities in Northern Ireland organised escorts for the children on their journey home, but the same facility was not available for children from the State.


Between 1930 and 2003, approximately 2,018 pupils attended St Joseph’s. In 1938, there were 164 pupils in the School. In 1948, there were 154 and, in 1958, this had increased to 206. Numbers peaked in 1979, when there were 314 boys in attendance. By 1998, numbers had fallen to 164. The number of admissions from Northern Ireland peaked in 1949, when 29 were admitted.


The head of the Institution was the Superior, and the primary and secondary schools were managed by a Principal who was usually the Sub-Superior.


Between 1935 and 2000, the total number of Brothers who had served in the School was 103. There were 13 Superiors during the period 1935 and 1991, seven of whom served a six-year term. Between 1935 and 1991, eight Brothers served as Principal. Because the pupils were either totally or partially deaf, a lower pupil-teacher ratio applied than in ordinary schools. In 1950, this was 14 to 1 and, by November 1955, it improved to 10 to 1 and, by 1987, to 6 to 1.


In 1986, a new management structure came into being with the opening of the post primary school with a Board of Management with a Chairperson. In 1987, a lay Director of Residential Care was appointed to manage the day-to-day running and supervision of the residences. In 2000 the Christian Brothers relinquished the management of the School.


The primary and, secondary school were inspected by officials of the Department of Education. However, no inspection of the residential areas was conducted by the Department. The Provincial and General Councils of the Christian Brothers carried out annual inspections of the School, which included the residential quarters of the boys and the school premises in general. Details of these annual inspections are contained in the Christian Brothers’ Visitation Reports. Officials from Northern Ireland also regularly visited the School in respect of children admitted from the Education Board in Northern Ireland. The Hospital Trust Fund Committee was also entitled to inspect the School. There is a reference in the Visitation Reports of the Christian Brothers to a visit by this Committee in October 1942.


The only detailed reports available to the Investigation Committee were the annual inspections carried out by the Christian Brother Visitors from 1938 to 1989.


Although some parents did pay fees for their children in Cabra, most of the costs were covered either by the State or by the Catholic Institute for the Deaf. The Hospitals Act, 1939 made provision for deaf schools to get funding from the Hospitals Commission, subject to a number of conditions, one of which was the entitlement of officials in the Department of Health to inspect the School. Annual capitation grants were provided by the Department of Education and the equivalent department in Northern Ireland. The School today receives some funding from the Department of Education and the Catholic Institute.


The Visitation Report of 1945 set out the position: The income is derived from Farm, Capitation grants and a grant from the Committee. A new arrangement has now been entered into between the Brothers and the Governing Committee as to method of payment. By this agreement the Brothers are to get £44 per head for each boy in the school. They are to meet all expenses from this source, along with this they may also retain the Capitation grant and the net income from the farm. The Pro-Rata last year was £50. Two accounts are kept. No1 for school. No2 for house. In the former there is an overdraft of £612 at the end of Dec. last. In No.2 there was a surplus of £3,015. With judicious management the new arrangement should provide sufficient funds to support the Institution.


This proved to be a correct prediction. The following year, the Visitor commented: The financial state of the Institution is very sound and the funds are carefully disbursed.


The healthy state of the House accounts continued and, in 1954, the Visitor noted: Finances are simple from the Community point of view. The Committee feeds, clothes and lodges the Brothers even to the extent of buying their cigarettes. Vacation, travel, alms and Provincial dues are paid out of the Brothers’ salaries as National Teachers. One Brother is recognised for every 14 pupils ... The balance is considerable, and the question is what is to be done with this balance. The committee should certainly get some of it.


In 1958, the Visitor stated: The Financial position of the establishment is sound and with the increased Capitation Grant there should be a marked improvement in the surplus income even in this present year.

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