Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Artane

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In conclusion: The pass rate for the Primary Certificate was high by national standards, but not all boys of 6th class standard sat the examination. Boys who attended continuation school did so after working at a trade during the day. Many boys had not attained 6th standard before they reached 14 and were taught by teachers in classes that were not subject to Department Inspections. The standard of their education was the subject of contemporary criticism in Visitation Reports. Boys who completed the Primary Certificate went over the same course until they reached 14 and went into trades training, and did not get the opportunity to progress into secondary education. The Christian Brothers have been critical of the Department of Education’s failure to provide for the educationally backward children in Artane, but they must also accept blame for their failure to provide secondary education to intelligent and able boys who passed through Artane. The Congregation ran secondary schools close to Artane, and yet no provision was made for any Artane boys to attend these schools. Training/trades


Training was an essential part of the philosophy of the Industrial School. If the boy was to become a useful citizen, he should be trained for productive employment. The author of the 1952 Visitation Report discussed some of the issues: Artane has a more elaborate organisation of trades than our other Industrial Schools. These trades serve, or are supposed to serve, a dual purpose – training the boys for outside life and balancing the Artane budget. Br Oscar85 has charge of the shops, and each shop has one or more trained lay tradesman. In practice, some of the trades serve only one purpose. For example, the wages of the two shoemakers amount to £800 per annum. It is believed that this sum plus the money expended on leather would supply the boys with factory-made boots for one year. On the other hand, the tinsmiths supply the establishment with such things as kitchen-ware and refectory-ware at a cost well below factory prices, but no boy has been placed as a tinsmith in any outside factory in the past six years.


The Visitor noted that: the position is satisfactory with regard to placing tailors, shoemakers, waiters band boys and farmers, unsatisfactory in the case of bakers, weavers, carpenters, mechanics and painters, and hopeless in the case of tinsmiths. These latter have to be fitted in anywhere a vacancy can be found irrespective of its nature.


He then asked the very pertinent question: Would a boy who has served as a tinsmith for two years and who has to go into a post of a very different type for which he has received no training have a grievance? Would he feel that he had been exploited for two years? Are the Brothers justified for economic reasons in putting a boy at such work when they know that he is almost certain not to continue in it later? The nurse told me that one of her patients was a tinsmith against his will. He wanted to be a carpenter. I should have mentioned earlier that as far as is convenient the boys get their choice of trade.


The Visitor’s question deserves to be answered. Were the Brothers using the boys as child labour, or were they genuinely training the boys for trades that would give them a chance of finding employment? This was an issue identified by the Cussen Report as being problematic as far back as 1936.


The evidence is mixed. The majority of boys did not get jobs for which they had received training. Farming was the main activity to which boys were assigned in Artane, despite the majority coming from the city, and not surprisingly they tended to return to urban living. Boys who were taken on by farmers were let go once they were old enough to be paid full wages. As the Visitor had predicted, in later years they felt resentment that they had been used as child labour.


Some boys did enter trades for which they had been trained, and they spoke well of Artane. A complainant sent to Artane in the mid-1940s, who was trained as a decorator, was extremely complimentary of the quality of training that he received. Another complainant from this era, who was trained as a tailor, praised his lay instructor for the high standard of instruction. A witness who was committed to Artane in the early 1950s, and remained there for five years, was placed in the band where he played the drums in his last two years. He had very happy memories of his time with the band and was very complimentary of the Brother in charge.


A respondent who spent five years in Artane from the late 1950s gave evidence that the Superior and another Brother interviewed boys to see what areas they were interested in and, if they could facilitate their choices, they generally did so.


The Investigation Committee, however, heard many complaints that boys could not enter the trade they wanted. The low demand for farm training and the high level of farm work that needed to be done meant that many boys found themselves in farming, despite expressing preferences for other trades. Most of the boys worked on the farm, and there was no doubt that the main purpose of this work was to provide food and an income for the Institution.


Some boys were put into trades that had become obsolete, such as weaving and tailoring. One complainant explained: ‘Mass production was coming in and it was nearly all machinists ... Where once a tailor cut one suit, now they could cut 100 suits’.


Even when the trade was a needed one, there were problems. Br David Gibson explained at the public hearing on 16th June 2005 into Letterfrack: [The children] weren’t going through the normal apprenticeship and therefore when it came to them continuing their training, the training that they had already received was not accepted by the unions ... There was an inherent difficulty in the training that the young people were getting.


This issue was raised in the Cussen Report, but nothing was ever done to resolve it. The status quo was just accepted by both the Department and the Congregation and, as a result, boys trained in Artane continued to face real problems finding employment to suit their skills.


In conclusion: The Christian Brothers assumed a responsibility to provide training and they failed to do so for many of their pupils. Industrial training was a key objective of the system and the largest industrial school in the country should have provided it to a high standard but training was, to a large extent, only a by-product of work that met the needs of the Institution. In an era of high unemployment, it would have been impossible to place all the boys in jobs, and it would be unreasonable to criticise the Christian Brothers for failing in this regard. In many respects, they achieved a high level of employment for their school leavers. However, much of this employment was menial and exploitative and, for some, led to a lifetime of such work.


Fr Henry Moore stated in his report to Archbishop McQuaid in 1962 that ‘in my opinion the band is the only worthwhile achievement of the school’.


The band performed regularly in Croke Park at major GAA fixtures. They also toured the length and breadth of the country and broadcast shows on radio. The high point of their fame saw them perform at venues in New York and Boston, in May 1962, and included a television performance.

  1. Report on Artane Industrial School for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by Ciaran Fahy, Consulting Engineer (see Appendix 1).
  2. Rules and Regulations of Industrial Schools 1885.
  3. Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System 1934-1936 chaired by Justice Cussen.
  4. Dr McQuaid and Fr Henry Moore.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is a pseudonym. See also the Tralee chapter.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. Br Beaufort had previously also worked in Carriglea in the early 1930s.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
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  15. This is a pseudonym. See also the Carriglea chapter.
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  23. From the infirmary register it appears that while the boy was not confined in hospital he was due for a check up the day his mother called to see the superior so he may well not have been in the Institution when his mother called.
  24. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  25. It was in fact the Minister for Education who used those words. See paragraph 7.117 .
  26. This is a pseudonym.
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  36. The same incident is referred to in the Department’s inspection into the matter as ‘a shaking’.
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  49. Dr Anna McCabe (Medical Inspector), Mr Seamus Mac Uaid (Higher Executive Officer) and Mr MacDáibhid (Assistant Principal Officer and Inspector in Charge of Industrial Schools).
  50. This is a pseudonym.
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  79. See General Chapter on the Christian Brothers at para ???.
  80. He went there after many years in Artane.
  81. Dr Charles Lysaght was commissioned by the Department of Education to conduct general and medical inspections of the industrial and reformatory schools in 1966 in the absence of a replacement for Dr McCabe since her retirement the previous year. He inspected Artane on 8th September 1966.
  82. See Department of Education and Science Chapter, One-off Inspections.
  83. The fact that they were tired is noted in many Visitation Reports.
  84. Council for Education, Recruitment and Training.
  85. This is a pseudonym.
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  87. This is a pseudonym.