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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Some historical milestones


Again, the Cussen Report’s recommendations concerning the issue of aftercare agreed with Fr Giuseppe’s argument. Recommendation 28 of Cussen asserted, ‘There is room for improvement in the methods of supervision and aftercare of children discharged from the schools’. The Report then recommended: 29(d)The after-care of pupils should be carried out by the Manager of the school or by a carefully selected and experienced assistant. 29(e)Managers should be required to explain to all the children at the time of discharge that if ever in difficulties during the statutory period of after-care they are entitled to return to the school for advice and help. 29(f)The co-operation of charitable organisations should be enlisted in the work of after care. The priest in the parish to which a child is sent should invariably be notified by the School Manager of the place of residence and the name of the employer.50


Fr Giuseppe discussed at length the situation of teachers of literary subjects in the industrial schools. He pointed out the major problems facing the School Manager was keeping such teachers in their Schools. These teachers, first and most importantly, were not recognised as National School teachers. This occurred even though they were required to follow, in its entirety, the National School programme and were subject to inspection by National School Inspectors. This non-recognition made it difficult for Schools to retain fully qualified teachers. Teachers stayed until he or she found a vacancy in a recognised National School. Industrial School Managers could not bind them to any terms of service and they could not pay proportionate salaries. He argued that a specific educational grant was required, out of which certified teachers would be paid on the same basis as assistants, as set out in the National School scale. The balance of the grant would be apportioned among the remaining approved teachers.


The Cussen Report agreed with the problems facing School Managers and literary teachers, and agreed it required change. It recommended that the conditions of service for lay teachers in these Schools called for substantial improvement, and recommended the following: 36(a)That the cost of literary education should be defrayed out of the State grants for Primary Education (apart from the normal grants for maintenance). 36(b)That future appointment of teachers should be on the same conditions as in the National Schools, and duties other than teaching should not be assigned to recognised teachers who are not members of a religious community. 36(c)That unqualified teachers who have given long and faithful service but whose teaching efficiency is not satisfactory and whose services could be otherwise availed of, should be employed on other duties in the Institutions or, if this is not possible they should be retired with compensation or pension, the cost of which should be defrayed by the School Managers.51


Fr Giuseppe’s central argument was that the basic capitation grants were so low that most if not all of the Schools were burdened with heavy debts and loans. Under the system, the local authorities paid a sum of 4/6 or 5/- per week and the Treasury paid 7/6 per week. This sum, he argued, was inadequate: ‘There remain rents, rates, and taxes, insurance, clerical, managerial, literary and trade expenses, repairs, interest on money borrowed, expenses of after-care etc., all to be met out of grants amounting to 12s or 12s6d per week per child’. The Religious had to meet the deficit. Also, children under six years were not paid for by the Treasury.


Again, the Cussen Report agreed with Fr Giuseppe to a large extent with these arguments on finance. It stated: 39After carefully reviewing all the relevant circumstances we are of opinion that the representations of the School Managers as to the inadequacy of the existing grants would be reasonably met, if, in addition to being relieved of the cost of literary teaching, the present State payments were supplemented by a grant of equal amount from the local authorities, such payments being subject to periodic review so as to bring them into line with any appreciable variations in the cost of living figure, or with any material alterations in the numbers of children committed. 40Grants at a rate somewhat lower than that for other children should be paid in respect of children committed under the age of 6 years. 41Grants should be paid at the full rate in respect of children committed at the instance of parents or guardians as incapable of control.52


On the question of industrial training, Fr Giuseppe argued, ‘Owing to the great increase in the use of machinery and of skilled workers, the trades of boot making, carpentry, tailoring etc in the rural districts and to a great extent in the urban areas have gradually become diminished, and in some cases have become defunct or obsolete’. Furthermore, the Rules and Regulations of Trade Unions often debar certain classes of children from being apprenticed.


Fr Giuseppe argued that the training of boys ‘had to be adjusted to meet modern requirements and the chances of obtaining employment after being discharged’. He believed that training of boys in ‘Agriculture (Tillage), Horticulture, Dairy Farming, Forestry, Bee-Keeping and Rural Science’ would better equip the boys for the positions in life they would occupy. In an agricultural country, most of the boys must be put to agricultural work. He pointed out that there was very little unemployment of boys so trained. Fr Giuseppe believed also that there should be scholarships in Agricultural Colleges reserved for the boys from industrial schools. They had obtained preliminary training already, and should be given an opportunity of advancement.


The Cussen Report made several recommendations reflecting the thinking of Fr Giuseppe: 29(c)Trade Unions should be approached by Managers with a view to endeavouring to secure a modification of any regulations, which might act as a barrier to a boy’s admission to a particular trade. 22Where agricultural training is given, in addition to tillage operations such adjuncts as poultry keeping, horticulture, and bee keeping should be included ... Instruction in allied crafts associated with farming especially woodwork, thatching, hedging, and harness-making should, in addition, be afforded in schools in purely agricultural districts. 24Special attention should be paid in the schools to training in the following:- house-painting, paper-hanging, plumbing, electrical work, plastering, glazing, upholstery and general house repairs.53


The Cussen Report did lead, over a period of time, to some changes, largely related to the internal management of the School. Capitation grants were increased and, by 1940, the teachers within industrial schools did acquire additional status to put them on the same footing as the teachers in National Schools. However, Cussen’s conclusion that the industrial school system ‘should be continued subject to the modifications suggested in the Report’ and that ‘the Schools should remain under the management of the religious orders who have undertaken the work’54 led to a protracted retention of the status quo for decades to come. Impoverished children who had lost one or both parents through death or social hardship, or who had been neglected or abandoned, continued to be stigmatised by a system that incarcerated and punished them for being in need. Both the Rosminians and Cussen deplored the effects of this system, yet they both seemed to accept that a life in an institution run by a Religious Order was to be preferred.


The Rosminians recognised the defects in the existing system, but did not advocate more strongly the changes they knew were necessary. They knew that the system itself, no matter how well funded, ‘militates against the child’s future and gives origin in the child to a feeling of inferiority which robs him of his courage and lessens his confidence in himself in spite of all attempts made to encourage him to realise his potentialities’, but they simply accepted more money to run the malfunctioning system, making no changes until the post-Kennedy upheaval in the 1970s.


As quoted earlier, a senior member of the Rosminian Order told the Investigation Committee: That’s my belief, that every child that was ever in this situation was abused in some way, emotionally, physically or whatever the case may be, and you would say that we were part of that because we didn’t stand up at the time and probably say so.


The submission they made to the Cussen Commission began to say so, but thereafter the voice of the Rosminians became inexplicably muted. The rebuilding of Ferryhouse: the possibility for change


Fr Stefano was appointed Resident Manager of Ferryhouse in the mid-1970s, and he remained in that post until the early 1990s when he was appointed Provost Provincial of the Rosminian Community in Ireland. Prior to his appointment as Resident Manager, Fr Stefano had previously worked in Ferryhouse in the early 1960s and again in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He also had worked as a volunteer in Ferryhouse.


During his tenure as Resident Manager, Fr Stefano carried out an extensive building and renovation programme in Ferryhouse. As Fr Francesco55, Provincial of the Order, stated in the early 1980s at the official opening of the new School in Ferryhouse: The planning of to-day’s reality was begun even before I entered the Order. I recall the late Fr Rafaele working on same. He was followed by Fr Lucio whom I am happy to see here today. With the appointment here of Fr Stefano a necessary intensity and a vital momentum was generated and the ideas became realities.


The conditions in Ferryhouse, despite some improvements in the late 1960s, were very poor. It was for this reason that Fr Stefano set about an extensive rebuilding programme, which was necessary in order to bring about the changes recommended by the Kennedy Report.

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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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  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
  55. Cussen Report, p 52.
  56. Cussen Report, p 49.
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  58. Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.