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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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St Joseph’s Industrial School is located in the townland of Ferryhouse, some three to four kilometres due east of the centre of Clonmel, on the northern bank of the river Suir, in County Tipperary. The original building was erected at a cost of £10,000 in 1884 by Count Moore, a wealthy local Catholic benefactor, and, shortly after its construction, he invited the Rosminians to run the School. He gave them an additional £1,000 to furnish the School.


It was a large, three-storey red brick building located on approximately nine acres of farmland. It was cruciform in shape, with the central projection in front housing the main entrance, with the Resident Manager’s office, a reception area and the church, which included the sanctuary area. Above the entrance, set in an alcove, was a statue of St Joseph. There were steps running down to the river from the entrance. The projection to the rear housed the main staircase. A cloister at the rear of the building served as a corridor.


Shortly after opening, three new wings were erected, a west and east, each with two storeys, and a north-facing building of one storey. With the main house, these buildings enclosed a yard or quadrangular area, with access through an archway on the northern side. More land was bought during the course of the following decades so that, by the 1950s, the farm had increased to approximately 50 acres. In later years, a series of buildings, including a chapel, an infirmary and various workshops, were built. The focus of the School remained the original main building. The School was entirely rebuilt during the early 1980s.


The dormitories were in the two upper storeys of the original three-storey building, with senior boys on the first floor and junior boys on the second floor above. Each dormitory accommodated 100 beds and a Prefect’s room. On the ground floor were a number of offices.


The west wing was a two-storey granite structure providing community accommodation, the infirmary, nurse’s room and boys’ kitchen and dining area.


The two-storey east wing housed the School classrooms up until the 1960s when they moved to prefab accommodation. This area was then converted in 1967 to a junior dormitory, at which stage the dormitory accommodation was divided into junior, intermediate and senior areas. The ground floor of the east wing comprised the hall, offices and various recreational rooms.


The north-facing section was a single-storey building which housed the trade shops and, in later years, various recreation areas.


There were also various outhouses and maintenance sheds and, in the 1960s, an extension to the original central building was added, providing toilet and shower facilities.


The Community had a separate refectory and kitchen in the main house. The Rosminian Community residence was located in the main building. All of the buildings and land still in possession of the Rosminians was transferred to the State in 2002, apart from a small holding of land unsuitable for farming south of the river Suir.


A plan of these buildings is given below:


A report has been compiled by Mr Ciaran Fahy, consulting engineer, on the physical surroundings of Ferryhouse, with particular reference to the buildings. A copy of this report is appended to this chapter.


As can be seen from the following charts, there were between 150 and 200 boys in Ferryhouse until the 1970s. In January 1885, a Certificate was granted for the School to receive 150 boys and, in 1944, this Certificate was increased to 200. The numbers in Ferryhouse ranged from 189 boys in 1940, increasing to a high of 205 in 1960. This number decreased to 160 in 1970, but it was still a high number of boys. Thereafter, the numbers began to gradually decline. Up until the 1980s, the numbers were far in excess of the certified number.


Numbers in other schools began dropping from the 1950s onwards, but Ferryhouse continued to be at or near its capacity, largely because it took children from other schools. Upton closed following a major fire in 1966, and 28 boys were transferred to Ferryhouse. The chart below shows the breakdown of numbers of residents throughout the years:
Year Certification number Type of admissions
1884 licence for 150 children Committed
1900 155 children Committed
1910 154 children Committed
1920 127 children Committed
1930 193 children Committed and voluntary
1940 189 children Committed and voluntary
1950 182 children Committed and voluntary
1960 205 Committed and voluntary
1970 160 Committed and voluntary
1994 140 Committed and voluntary
1995 80 Committed and voluntary
1996 56 Committed and voluntary
2004 36 Committed and voluntary


The boys were aged between nine and 16 years.


On first entering the School, several complainants described being over-awed by the numbers. One witness, who went there in the late 1940s, described his first day as follows: Oh, it was frightening, to see them big doors open. I was introduced to the Rector at the time ... who was a very nice man, he was, very pleasant. I was taken into a room. I was given some bread and cocoa, a change of clothes ... Then you could say I was thrown out into the yard with the other boys, really frightening ... I have never seen so many boys in my life. I thought – well, I should imagine you would expect about 50 or 60 like that was in [the convent] but when you see about 200, oh dear.

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  6. Set out in full in Volume I.
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  11. Br Valerio did not give evidence to the Committee; he lives abroad.
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  19. This is believed to be a reference to the Upton punishment book.
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  37. Latin for surprise and wonder.
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  50. Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Press Publishing Services, 2003), pp 399–405.
  51. Brid Fahey Bates, p 401.
  52. Cussen Report; p 53.
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  54. Cussen Report, p 55
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  56. Cussen Report, p 49.
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  58. Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.