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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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A report compiled by Ciaran Fahy on Daingean is appended.


From the description of the premises, it is clear that material comforts were not provided for the inmates of Daingean. They lived in cold, damp, gloomy conditions, had to wash in cold water, and were crowded together in unhealthy dormitories, with a laundry that could not even provide them with an adequate supply of clean shirts and bed linen.


Dr McCabe’s reports revealed many concerns about the buildings at Daingean. Her first visit to the School, after the move from Glencree, was in January 1941. She wrote: At present premises will need a lot of repairing and painting. Dormitory acc. rather congested now but this will have to do until new wing built. Wash-house is being organised - Recreation hall not very suitable – old building. Equipment – fair – to be improved. Bedding to be improved – proper sheeting and blankets. Floor in refectory very defective. The water supply. There is a tank indoor which is unsuitable for drinking – warned the manager against using this supply unless it has been boiled previously.


She stated, ‘conditions under which boys live great improvement to Glencree’. Even in this early report, it is clear that the promise of a new wing, which made the existing conditions something to be tolerated on a temporary basis, was a major reason for accepting the state of the School as she found it.


She visited again in October 1941, and reported a ‘gradual improvement’. But again the promise of new buildings persuaded her to accept existing conditions. ‘Work-shops and Recreation Hall are small’, she wrote, ‘and not suitable, but pending the new building must do’.


By her next visit in April 1942, she found some improvement but listed very many faults: Still much can be done - Floor of refectory needs repair. Recommended for immediate action. Dormitories overcrowded – but only as a temporary measure till new Building established. Drew manager’s attention to sheets and bedclothes which could be cleaner. Lavatory Annexe ... general cleanliness is not good – drew manager’s attention to this. Clothing to be improved ... suggested lumber jackets. Farm boys very untidy looking, especially about legs – suggested small gaiters ... to be worn to keep ends of trousers dry. Suggested rubber aprons to be worn by boys in the laundry because of wet conditions their clothes were in. Manager hopes that new building will soon be started.


Over a year later, in July 1943, she visited again. There was no sign of the promised new building but she remained optimistic. She wrote: At present, as a purely temporary arrangement, the dormitories are over-crowded - Recreation Hall is a condemned building – this must be till the new Building is erected. Sheets on beds unsatisfactory – not clean – clothing for everyday wear could be improved. The Manager has been only too eager to carry out any recommendations previously made by me - i.e. new floor in refectory – lumber. I suggest that some impetus should be given to the starting of the New Building – The dormitories are very overcrowded and the no. of boys is yearly increasing. Classrooms are small and the recreation and wash-house are just makeshift.


Three years later, in May 1946, there was more concern than optimism about the promised building. ‘The Manager’, wrote Dr McCabe, ‘is very keen to get on with the New Building and he has asked me if possible to get at B/W35 and ask them to expedite matters ... I am most anxious for the new buildings to be started as soon as possible’.


It was in November that year that the new building began to be built. She wrote, ‘It will be most welcome when completed’. By 1948, the new sanitary annexe had been added, but still she was writing, ‘... at present dormitory accommodation is not sufficient. All this will be improved with New Building’.


The new building had become the promised land that made tolerable the overcrowded, dirty and squalid conditions that were the reality of life in Daingean, where neither boys nor Brothers had the simple material comforts needed in a residential school. Other documents revealed an even worse picture. The Dormitories Source: Martin Reynolds


On 7th July 1948, the Resident Manager wrote in desperation to the Inspector of Industrial Schools, when he learned that the second half of the ‘New Dormitory and Ablution Room’ was to be deferred. He pleaded: This decision is so upsetting to our work for the boys here, that I would venture to ask that our case be re-considered. (1) When we moved from Glencree to Daingean in 1940, our present Dormitories were only approved by the Department Medical Inspector as a purely temporary arrangement. The buildings where our boys sleep were never meant for dormitories. They are overcrowded, and badly ventilated.


The West Wing, he pointed out, was nearing completion, but the drainage scheme was for both wings and could not be constructed for only one. This led to his second point: (2) I would point out, also, that the temporary ablution room (where all the boys wash at present) is very unsafe. The walls are leaning outwards at more than six inches from the perpendicular. The Board of Works Architect ... will confirm that this ablution room is definitely unsafe and should be demolished as soon as possible.


The boys were accommodated in what was always the Brothers’ sleeping quarters, and the Brothers were badly accommodated in different parts of the building. Nobody, in short, was properly accommodated in Daingean.


On receipt of this letter, a flurry of correspondence ensued between the Department of Education and the Department of Finance and, in June 1949, the Department of Finance sanctioned the building of the East Wing on the condition that the Department of Education were willing ‘to defer some other building project involving approximately the like amount’ of money (£26,500) which they would have been seeking in the 1950/1951 Estimates.


The building of the East Wing created a new problem, as explained in a Department of Education memorandum of 10th April 1953. It stated: As regards the new Recreation ground; this has become necessary because the new wings have taken up a big part of the space formerly available to the boys and has left the present recreation ground inadequate and unsuitable from the point of view of supervision. The old bootshop cuts right across the ground now available and makes it impossible to supervise these boys. One portion of this remaining ground is several feet below the other portion ...

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
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  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
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  16. This is the Irish version of Richard Crowe.
  17. This is the English version of Mr MacConchradha.
  18. Allegations of brutal beatings in Court Lees Approved School were made in a letter to The Guardian, and this led to an investigation which reported in 1967 (see Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School (Cmnd 3367, HMSO)) – Known as ‘The Gibbens Report’, it found many of the allegations proven, and in particular that canings of excessive severity did take place on certain occasions, breaking the regulation that caning on the buttocks should be through normal clothing. Some boys had been caned wearing pyjamas. Following this finding, the School was summarily closed down.
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  20. This is the English version of Ó Síochfhradha.
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  26. This was Br Abran.
  27. Organisation that offers therapy to priests and other religious who have developed sexual or drink problems run by The Servants of the Paraclete.
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  35. Board of Works.
  36. Bread and butter.
  37. Board of Works.
  38. Patrick Clancy, ‘Education Policy’, in Suzanne Quinn, Patricia Kennedy, Anne Matthews, Gabriel Kiely (eds), Contemporary Irish Social Policy (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005), p 79.
  39. This is a pseudonym.