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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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


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


The conception was idealistic and motivated by a genuine desire to turn the poor and abandoned children of society, who had to live by pilfering and scavenging, into educated and useful citizens.


Professor Keogh made the point in his report that: There is no contemporary suggestion that the conditions under which the boys would live in Greenmount would be severe. The bishop had stressed the reforming nature of industrial schools. The school ethos was intended to provide a safe environment for the boys, who would range in age from six to sixteen.


The following ground floor plan of Greenmount was made available to the Committee: Source: Professor Dermot Keogh


Having built a model school, the plan then was to extend the grounds so that it would become a farm capable of giving the boys training in farm work, and at the same time provide food for the School and additional income from the sale of farm produce. The School was built on eight acres of land, and the staff and boys in the School began cultivating the surrounding land. The farm was deemed a commercial success. The Cork Examiner reported, ‘In the past seasons Greenmount has sent the earliest and best potatoes to the Cork market and produced other vegetables in abundance and good quality’.9


The Brothers continued to expand the farm. They purchased much of the surrounding land at the turn of the century, and the adjacent farm comprising approximately 39 acres by the early twentieth century. Greenmount also had two further farms located at Lehenagh, on the outskirts of the city. It is recorded in the School annals that the Management decided to sell these farms because of difficulties arising in the day-to-day management of them.


Department of Education records described the farm: The farm attached to this school has an area of 39 acres. It is used to supply milk and potatoes to the institution. Fifteen cows are kept and the feeding for these is grown on the farm.


In a Report to the General Council dated 1954, reference was made to the farm and its produce: There are 10 milch cows, one heifer, 4 sows, 33 bonhams and 3 horses on the farm. There are two workmen besides a gardener employed. Brother Ignado10 is in charge. Brother Arrio11 in his poultry farm has 52 hens and 42 pullets. He gets about 15 eggs per day. (From that number he should get 36 or 40 eggs a day.)


As the following table shows, profits from the farm were modest and, in some years, the farm ran at a loss. The bakery, however, was more successful:
Financial year The farm contribution The bakery contribution
1945 –£1,244 £1,545
1946 –£1,152 £1,396
1947 –£859 £1,137
1955 –£69 £1,736
1956 £775 £48
1957 £114 £1,012


The large profit made by the bakery in 1955 is explained by the fact that there was a five-month strike by bakers in the city, and Greenmount sold bread to the local shops. The demand was so great that they even bought a second-hand van to replace their horse-drawn cart to speed delivery.

  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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