Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 2 — Upton

Show Contents



Initially, Upton consisted of a big house, located on a farm of 112 acres. The size of the farm was increased over the years and, at the time of its closure, it was approximately 220 acres. The main building was in the form of a square around a central courtyard. In later years further buildings, such as a chapel, a hall and various outhouses and workshops, were added.


The School was under the control of the Resident Manager, who was appointed by the Superior or Provincial of the Irish Province. The School was run according to the principles laid down in the Rules and Regulations for Danesfort Industrial School. The Resident Manager was responsible for the staff. They may be grouped into four categories: the Members of the Institute of Charity; the Dominican Sisters; the Teaching Staff; and the lay staff who worked in the various trade shops or on the farm. In addition, members of the Institute of Charity sometimes lived in St Patrick’s while studying elsewhere, in University College Cork, for example.


The Religious staff worked in various capacities: some were Prefects, with responsibility for the control and supervision of the children; some were Secretaries, with responsibility for administration; and some taught in the School, or worked in the various trade shops or on the farm. The Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of St Catherine of Siena worked in the School in various capacities from 1946 to 1955. The School also employed a number of lay teachers, who were paid by the Department of Education. The staff also included a number of farm hands or lay staff that worked in the trade shops. The School was funded by the Department of Education and the appropriate local authorities.


A large part of the building was destroyed when an accidental fire occurred in Upton on 21st July 1966, but it was not the reason for the closure of the School.

Closure of the School


Upton closed on 1st October 1966. There had been ongoing discussions within the Order for a number of years previously regarding its closure. The falling numbers, lack of trained staff, and the reorganisation and rationalisation of the schools run by the Order ultimately led to its closure as an industrial school. The minutes of a Provincial Council meeting held on 19th November 1964 recorded that ‘the writing is on the wall as far as this particular work of charity in Upton is concerned’.


On 1st March 1966, the decision was finally taken to close the School within six months from April 1966.


The certificate of the School was resigned on 1st October 1966. At the time of its closure, there were 83 boys in the School. These boys were either released or transferred to other industrial schools. 16 boys were transferred to Letterfrack, 10 to Artane, 10 to Tralee, and 28 to Ferryhouse.


It reopened in 1972 as a centre for adults with mental handicap and learning disabilities. The Institute of Charity handed over ownership of the School to the State in 2003, but it continues to exercise a pastoral role.

Number of boys in Upton


In 1889, Upton was certified for the reception of 200 boys, with an accommodation limit of 300. The number of boys in the School who were committed through the courts fluctuated during the years 1937 to 1966. In 1937, there were 137 boys detained in the School, and this number increased to 217 in 1943. As can be seen from the table below, the numbers declined between 1943 and 1958. In 1959, however, the numbers increased significantly to 216, owing to the closure of Greenmount Industrial School and the transfer of boys from there to Upton. Thereafter, the numbers declined steadily and, at the time of its closure in 1966, there were 83 boys in the School. During its life as an Industrial School, approximately 3,000 boys were admitted.
Year Number of boys committed
1937 137
1939 105
1941 136
1943 217
1945 212
1947 189
1949 142
1951 139
1953 121
1955 128
1957 124
1959 216
1961 195
1963 189
1965 126
1966 83


The rise and fall in the numbers in the School can be seen from the graph below:


The number of admissions to Upton was a cause for concern to Fr Giuseppe,2 the Provincial, in early 1939. In correspondence in February 1939 he mentioned that the falling numbers were causing him some anxiety and that he had got a local TD ‘on the job now to bring pressure to bear on the Minister to send extra transfers to Upton until our numbers have reached an economic number’. A month later, in March 1939, he again wrote to say that he had spoken to the then Minister for Education, Thomas Derrig, about the matter. However, according to him there was little prospect of increasing numbers, as the Department was governed by a recommendation of the Cussen Commission that children should be sent to the school that was nearest to their place of origin, and Mr Derrig was disinclined to ‘override the regulations of his Dept’. He wrote that, when he saw the Minister, he showed him a copy of their accounts and emphasised that they were neither able nor prepared to continue to fund the School from their own finances. In a letter sent later in the same year, he again mentioned that he was in talks with the Department about the great inadequacy of the grants and the injustice to the religious orders in expecting them to meet the costs out of their own funds or by heavy borrowing, when funding should be done by the State.


By November 1939, it appears that Fr Giuseppe had enlisted the help and support of Mr Eamon DeValera, the then Taoiseach and acting Minister for Education: Dev. is taking up the matter of our school. I am informed that he has been convinced that we have been unfairly discriminated against in the way of transfers and committals and we are told to expect results soon.


In 1941, Fr Giuseppe was happy to note that the numbers had increased from 110 at the beginning of the year to 144.

Physical abuse


In 2002, Fr Matthew Gaffney, the Provincial of the Irish Province of the Institute of Charity, submitted a general statement on behalf of the Order to the Committee. In this statement, he accepted that corporal punishment was used as ‘a general disciplinary measure’, and was also used as ‘a punishment or deterrent’ for bed-wetting, absconding and other infringements. The use of corporal punishment, he said, had to be seen in two contexts: first, from the perspective of the Institution, and second, in the light of the ‘social attitudes of the time’. From an institutional perspective, he asserted that the ‘maintenance of control was an absolute necessity’, and was achieved through the use of corporal punishment. He accepted that its use ‘produced a disciplinary environment in which the distinction between punishment and abuse could become blurred’. Indeed, he accepted that abuse had occurred in the administration of some corporal punishment, and he apologised for this fact.


In their Opening Statement, dated 17th June 2004, the Rosminians reiterated their awareness ‘that corporal punishment has led to abuse’ and ‘was known from time to time to have been excessive’. But they asserted that the use of corporal punishment was regulated to some extent by ‘the spoken instructions of the Manager of the School, recording, and by trust in the judgement of those in charge’.

  1. Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.
  6. This is a pseudonym.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is a pseudonym.
  17. This is a pseudonym.
  18. This is a pseudonym.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is a pseudonym.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This is a pseudonym.
  27. This is a pseudonym.
  28. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. This is a pseudonym.
  36. This is a pseudonym.
  37. This is a pseudonym.
  38. This is a pseudonym.
  39. Latin for in a class of its own.
  40. This is a pseudonym.
  41. Latin for with a boy.
  42. Latin for with boys.
  43. Latin for As spoken.
  44. This is a pseudonym.
  45. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  46. Latin for without delay.
  47. This is a pseudonym.
  48. This is a pseudonym.
  49. Latin for due caution.
  50. This is a pseudonym.
  51. This is a pseudonym.
  52. This is a pseudonym.
  53. This is a pseudonym.
  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.
  56. This is a pseudonym.