Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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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.


A resident who was in Ferryhouse in the 1940s described his first day as fearful. His mother had recently died and five of the large family were sent to Ferryhouse. He recalled: When I arrived, we were brought in a front door and then you came through a kind of a cloister and you came out a door and there was a clock over the door – now you didn’t see that until you came back in – and I seen this massive amount of boys. There was about 200 boys there at my time when I arrived there. There was a massive amount of boys, all ages, running, and shouting. It drove the fear of God in you and that’s the truth. We kind of cuddled together, the five of us.


Another witness, in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s, also stressed the frightening impact of so many boys together at one time. On recalling his first day: We were escorted up to a laundry house and, if I am not mistaken, the laundry house would have been underneath the main stairs or somewhere in that area of the main building of Ferryhouse before you go out to the yard from the Rector’s office. There was a little laundry room there which Br Leone1 was running and there he handed you out whatever clothing or blankets, I can’t remember what it was. I remember the smell of the laundry room. That is all I remember of it. When I walked out the door that day and seen so many boys running around, I think it was the first and last time I actually had a good cry because I knew where I was. I didn’t know there was no come back, but I knew that was the first time I actually said to myself I really missed my mother. I realised I was after being taken away.


Another witness described a similar routine at mealtime: You lined up every morning for your meals ... the small guys up the front and the bigger lads at the back. It would be like an army ... you would go in and line up. There was 11 at each table and you had a leader at the top of the table, he was responsible for cutting the horrible block of margarine that each one got a square of.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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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.
  53. Cussen Report, p 54
  54. Cussen Report, p 55
  55. Cussen Report, p 52.
  56. Cussen Report, p 49.
  57. This is a pseudonym.
  58. Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.