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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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History and establishment of St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount


St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, was the only industrial school run by the Presentation Brothers. The first boy was registered on 5th April 1871 and the last was registered on 27th February 1959. A total of 3,592 boys passed through Greenmount.1 The School closed on 31st March 1959, when there were still 127 residents in the School, 113 of whom were sent to other industrial schools and 14 were discharged.


The Presentation Brothers owe their origin to Edmund Ignatius Rice when, in 1802, he founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The Communities inspired by Edmund Rice adopted a modified form of the Rules of the Presentation Sisters and were under the jurisdiction of the bishops of their local dioceses. In 1820, Pope Pius VII granted Edmund Rice’s application for his society to be given papal approbation and a Constitution. Under this new Constitution, all the houses became united under a Superior General except for the house in Cork, where Bishop Murphy refused his consent, despite the desire of most of the Brothers to be part of Br Rice’s wider congregation. In 1826, the Cork house joined the others, but one of the Brothers, Br Austin Riordan, dissented and offered his services to the Bishop of Cork who placed him in charge of a school in the south of the city. With his secession, the teaching congregation known as the Presentation Brothers was created. The number of Brothers grew rapidly and, despite their having split from the main group of Brothers of the Christian Schools, they still regarded Edmund Rice as their founder and inspiration.


The new Congregation spread across Ireland and moved their base to Dublin. They continued to be subject to their respective bishops until 1889, when Pope Leo XIII confirmed the Congregation and all the houses united under a Superior General. This independent status allowed the Congregation of the Presentation Brothers to expand further, with branches in all the provinces of Ireland, and houses in England and Canada.


The Presentation Brothers take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live in small groups or communities, organised on hierarchical lines, with the younger Brothers obeying their superiors without question. Their daily life is organised by strict monastic rules, involving a daily routine of prayer, meditation and study. They adopted the motto of the Jesuits, ‘Ad majorem Dei Gloriam’,2 and the Brothers place the initials F. P. M.3 after their name. Their mission is to ‘form Christ in the young’ through education. Their work is with disadvantaged and marginalised people, both young and old, and it was this mission that led them to accept the running of an industrial school and orphanages.


Apart from these vows, the Brothers undertake to devote their lives to all people and are forbidden to enter into ‘particular friendships’. Professor Dermot Keogh, in a report he prepared for the Presentation Brothers in May 2001, wrote: Inside the monastery a Superior would strongly advise against the formation of what were known as ‘particular friendships’. No definition is readily available to help amplify the meaning of this phrase. But it was usually intended to refer to the development of a close emotional bond between two brothers.4


He quoted the Visitation Report of 9th October 1901 which exhorted: Particular friendships cannot be too carefully guarded against. They rarely, if at all, are without harm and never do any good ... Familiarities with the boys should be most cautiously guarded against, being most hurtful both to boys and Brothers. Even with employees and externs there should always be maintained a reserve that would keep them at proper distance and enable them to have for the Brothers that respect due to their position.5


The implications of this need to keep ‘a proper distance’ will be discussed later.


The site that was renamed Greenmount in the 1870s was originally called Gallows Green. It was made available in 1852 at a rent of 30 shillings a year for 500 years to the Bishop of Cork, Dr William Delaney and other Catholic Church dignitaries, including Edmund Paul Townsend, one of the Presentation Brothers. On it they built St Patrick’s Orphanage, a residential home for orphaned and abandoned boys, commencing the building in 1858. The Bishop requested the Presentation Brothers to run the orphanage and they took charge of it in 1862. It soon reached its capacity, and had to be extended in 1866 because of the increasing number of boys needing admission.


Dr William Delaney, the Bishop of Cork, who held that position from 1847 until he died in 1886, was a forceful personality and an advocate of educational reform. He was determined that Cork would be the location of a model industrial school run by a Catholic Order, and he saw it as an important step in overcoming the years of discrimination against Catholics by the governments of those years. It was this ambition that drove him to turn the newly founded St Patrick’s orphanage into an industrial school. He saw the industrial schools system as one that would benefit the children who were being raised in poverty and ignorance in the Cork area. Because of his drive, his ambition was soon achieved: the orphanage acquired the status of Industrial School on 14th March 1871.


The existing orphanage building was not large enough for the new project and so, in 1872, work began on a new building adjacent to the orphanage. It was to be named St Joseph’s School for Boys. An aggressive fund-raising effort, spear-headed by Dr Delaney, raised sufficient funds for the construction of the School, with accommodation for approximately 220 boys. The Cork Examiner described the building as it neared completion: The new building itself is a handsome and substantial edifice, built of red brick, in the domestic Gothic style of architecture, from a design and plan furnished by Mr George Ashlin, the eminent architect. The front (or northern) elevation presents the bold and effective appearance of a three-storey house, pierced by about forty windows, of which the limestone dressings relieve the ruddy monotony of the chief material, and a lofty, projecting gable at either end with cut limestone barges, flanks the long range of the body of the building. The edifice as it stands, covers an area of 120 feet by 50 feet high. The first rooms met with in this corridor, on either hand, are intended for a reception parlour, 17 feet by 22 feet; a refectory for the Brothers, 22 feet by 23 feet; and a sitting room for the chaplain, 20 feet by 17 feet. Farther on, in the front of the building, is the refectory for the boys, a spacious and cheerful hall, 57 feet long by 28 feet wide, capable of sitting 200. It is lighted by six large windows of plate glass, and above each window appears a ventilator, which passes upward in the thickness of the wall to the eaves. At the eastern end of the refectory will be the kitchen, 20 feet by 15 feet, separated from the refectory by a partition, and communicating with it through a turnstile ... Opposite the refectory door is a convenient staircase, by which we ascend two flights to the first floor, passing on the first landing a room for one of the Brothers. Another ample corridor, like that in the basement, traverses this floor, and from it we enter the first dormitory, occupying the whole front of this storey, 120 feet by 28 and a half feet, with a similar arrangement as to the light and air to those observed in the refectory. The monotonous interior of this splendid apartment is broken near either end by moulded piers, united by three neatly moulded arches, at a distance of 15 feet from each wall.6


The article went on to describe the boys’ dormitories, which were built over two floors, the one above corresponding in every respect with the dormitory below. Each housed 125 beds. The new larger School was opened on 1st December 1874.


There were also plans for numerous additional facilities at the School, such as the provision for the building of a chapel, schoolrooms and workshops for the training of shoemakers, carpenters, coopers and bakers. Building continued throughout the School’s early history. In 1888, trade shops with schoolrooms were erected. By 1896, buildings comprising a day room, band room, coal house, toilets and additional schoolrooms had been built. In 1900 and 1901, the kitchen, pantries, storeroom, boiler house, scullery, bath and toilets were added.


Bishop Delaney wanted a model industrial school for the Cork area, and the building matched the grandeur of his conception. It was built to the highest standards, designed to be an institution that the Church and the city could take pride in. This imposing building, unlike many other industrial schools, was located within Cork City, and local townsfolk formed links with the School, providing both charity and, later, social contact for the residents.


The Bishop outlined his ideal in a speech given at the Chamber of Commerce in March 1874 to mark the completion of ‘the Greenmount Male Industrial School’. He told the audience: The object of this institution is to take from the streets poor boys who are on the way to perdition, to rescue them from vice and misery, and to save the community at large from the consequences of allowing them to grow up ... untrained, steeped in misery, and with no means of support save what they can obtain by depredations on the community.7


He praised the Industrial Schools Act (Ireland), 1868 for making such schools possible. It stemmed from the ‘finest principles that should govern humanity’. He went on: There is gentleness of treatment for those to be reclaimed; there are reformatories for those who have fallen away, and the perfection of the system was to anticipate evil, and save young people from vice, from misery, and from mischief to their fellow citizens; and for this the Industrial School Act has been passed.8

  1. Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ (Report prepared for the Presentation Brothers, May 2001 and submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19 May 2004), pp 187–188.
  2. For the greater glory of God.
  3. Fratrium Presentionis Mariae.
  4. Keogh, p 54.
  5. Keogh, p 57.
  6. Cork Examiner, 28 March 1874, cited in Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ May 2001.
  7. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, p 41.
  8. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, pp 41–2.
  9. Cork Examiner, 24 March 1874.
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  13. Report on Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1936.
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