Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 2 — Upton

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Neglect and emotional abuse


A complaint about the food was made in May 1959, when fathers of two boys who had been transferred from Greenmount Industrial School to Upton complained to their local TD about the poor conditions prevailing in Upton, and he forwarded their complaints to the Minister for Education, Mr Jack Lynch. One of the complaints was that the boys only got three slices of bread with dripping for their tea each day, compared to Greenmount where they received bread and jam each evening and two ounces of cheese four nights of the week (other complaints were made about punishment). He felt compelled as their local TD to forward the complaints on to the Department of Education, but he did not think there was much merit to the complaints, as he qualified his letter by saying that much of what they said was hearsay and that, having questioned them very closely on some of the information, he had formed the view that some of it ‘is obviously exaggerated to say the least of it’.


The Department of Education forwarded the letter of complaint to the Resident Manager, Fr Alanzo, for comment. He replied in a letter dated 3rd June 1959, stoutly defending the food provided in Upton: All I can say is St. Patrick’s was always outstanding and still is regarding feeding the boys well. Our friends ... did not say that our boys get sausages and eggs Sunday mornings, which they never got in Greenmount. Our boys are the admiration of all visitors, because they look so healthy. Hungry children do not look healthy.


He did not take the complaints very seriously as he considered them to be ‘100% exaggerated’. Nor was the complaint taken very seriously at Department level. Dr McCabe, whose opinion was sought on the issue, dismissed the complaint outright. Her views about the complaints are contained in an internal Departmental note dated 11th June 1959, as follows: The boys in this school are very well fed and cared. I have no comments to make on this letter as I consider it is a ‘grouse’.


One witness was questioned about receiving sausages and eggs as contended by the Resident Manager in 1959, and had the following to say: Well, it sounds as if they owe me a few breakfasts by the sounds of it. There is just no answer to that. That’s just a joke. I wouldn’t know a sausage down there if I tripped over one. That’s just not the case.


When Dr McCabe inspected the School on 17th December 1959, she commented in her General Inspection Report that the ‘quality and quantity’ of the food had ‘improved’. Despite this improvement, she still felt it necessary to make further recommendations to the Brother in charge of the kitchen to vary the diet. Again, the exact nature of the problem with the food was not specified.


Dr McCabe called to the School on 13th August 1960, and yet again she discussed the need for improvement with the Brother in charge of the kitchen, particularly with regard to ‘various methods of varying meals’, and in this she found him ‘most co-operative’. In her 1961 report, Dr McCabe, whilst commenting that the food and diet had improved, remarked that she had ‘discussed problem of food with Br in charge and he hopes to make further improvements’. In 1962, the food was said to have ‘improved’. By 1963 and 1964, it was ‘good’.


As discussed above, the Lord Mayor’s criticisms in January 1965 led to an inspection by the Department’s Inspector, Mr McDevitt on 4th and 5th March 1965. The Mayor had not made any criticism of the food, but Mr McDevitt investigated that matter and uncovered a problem with the kitchen and the diet. The source of the problem, as he saw it, lay with the ‘neurotic’ Brother who was in charge of the kitchen. When questioned about the food by Mr McDevitt, this Brother replied that the ‘diet was highly satisfactory except that the milk and cake rations were inadequate’. He was also questioned about supplying margarine rather than butter to the boys, and his reply was that margarine was more nutritious. Mr McDevitt summed up this Brother as the ‘problem child of the community and as the likely original source of the complaints made to the Minister’. When he mentioned this Brother to other members of the Rosminian Community, they replied ‘with either a smile or an expression of sympathy for his nervous condition’. Yet this Brother was in charge of supplying the daily nutritional requirements for all the boys.


Overall, Mr McDevitt did not give much credence to the Lord Mayor’s complaints, and the root of the problem, as he saw it, lay with the Brother in charge of the kitchen. From the documents furnished, no action was taken on foot of the report with regard to this Brother.


The final General Inspection of Upton took place on 15th June 1966 by Dr Lysaght. He reported in detail on the food and diet of the boys and listed the four meals a day which they received and enclosed a sample food menu. He commented that the boys get ‘all the milk they want at dinner or any other meal’. However, he noted that the Resident Manager, Fr Eduardo was ‘not altogether satisfied with the meals’ which he felt could be improved with better culinary equipment.


An ongoing area of dissatisfaction for Dr McCabe, and one which she often raised in her General Inspection Reports, was the clothing provided for the children.


The first recorded complaint is contained in Dr McCabe’s General Inspection Report of 10th November 1943. She described the boys’ clothing as ‘fair – but rather patched’. She had the same complaint to make two years later, on 19th March 1945, when she characterised the clothing as ‘Fair – rather patched’. On her next inspection, on 2nd September 1946, Dr McCabe noted that the clothing ‘Could be improved’. No details are given in this report about the exact condition of the clothing or the nature of the problem. When she spoke to the Resident Manager, he informed her that they had experienced ‘great difficulty in obtaining material for suits’, and as a result they had to purchase a number of them from shops in Cork ‘which was most expensive’. He nevertheless said that he would ‘endeavour to make improvements’. She noted that he ‘is severely hampered on account of small quota of material’ and wanted to obtain a permit for supplies so that he could ‘obtain sufficient material’.


When Dr McCabe called on the School on 27th October 1947, she commented that the clothing was ‘improved’ but she gave no information as to how the clothing had improved. In her Inspection Report of 22nd October 1948, Dr McCabe again described the clothing as ‘improved’ and added that ‘much remains to be done’. Again, no further details can be elicited from her report on the extent of the problem or what exactly needed to be done to rectify the situation.


Four years later, Dr McCabe, in her General Inspection Report of 21st May 1952, again found that the clothing of the boys had ‘improved’ and added that the tailors were busy making new suits. There are no Inspection Reports in existence between 1948 and 1952. For the years 1953 and 1954, Dr McCabe described the clothing situation as ‘much improved’. In her Inspection Report of 1955, clothing was simply described as ‘improved’ but, by 1956, the clothing was again described by Dr McCabe as ‘much improved’. From 1957 to 1960, Dr McCabe consistently used the words ‘improved’ or ‘much improved’ in the section on clothing in her General Inspection Reports.


On 22nd February 1961, Dr McCabe noted that the clothing was ‘improved’, but she specifically recommended that the boys ‘could do with a new issue of clothing all around’. The subsequent Inspection Reports do not provide any insight as to whether this recommendation was carried out. When she visited the School on 20th June 1962, she again remarked that the clothing was ‘improved’. In 1963, she said it was ‘much improved’ and, by 1964, she described it as ‘much better’.


The Lord Mayor, who visited the School in January 1965, was also critical of the boys’ clothes. He was told the boys slept in their shirts, as they had no nightclothes. According to his report, their everyday clothing was ‘rough and ready’.

  1. Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.
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  5. 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.
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  28. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
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  39. Latin for in a class of its own.
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  41. Latin for with a boy.
  42. Latin for with boys.
  43. Latin for As spoken.
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  45. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  46. Latin for without delay.
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  49. Latin for due caution.
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  54. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  55. Records exist for only 19 of the 23 years.
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