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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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


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.


The original certificate for the School allowed 168 boys to be accommodated, and this figure was increased to 188 in 1885. The late 1890s saw a further increase to a capacity of 200 and, in 1913, the accommodation limit was increased to 220. In 1933, there was a final increase to 235 children. Management made representations in 1942 for yet another increase in the certified number of children, but their application proved unsuccessful on the grounds that nearby Upton and Baltimore industrial schools were not operating to their full capacity. However, in 1944, further funding became available to the Department of Education, and 11 additional certificates were allocated to Greenmount, bringing the certified limit to 231 from 1st February 1944.


The School was recognised under the Children Acts as a place of detention for boys on remand awaiting criminal trials or committal to certified schools, and it accepted a small number of boys in such circumstances. In October 1944, the Brothers were asked whether they would increase the number of places for boys on remand from four to eight, in view of the increasing number of boys coming before the courts in Cork. They agreed to do so on the basis that such boys were under 15 years of age, but regretted ‘having to state that, for obvious reasons, we are not willing to receive boys under eighteen years of age’. It is not altogether clear from the documentation whether or not boys on remand were actually sent to Greenmount, as in 1950 the School was asked once again whether they would take such boys. The Resident Manager responded, confirming that, although he was willing to do so, he felt impeded by the fact that the School did not have separate accommodation to house these boys and the fact that he understood that the School would not receive payment for these boys from the State. The Department of Education, after consulting with the Department of Justice, assured the Resident Manager that the School was entitled to payment for boys remanded to Greenmount, and indicated that the accommodation issue should not present an insurmountable difficulty. Br Esteban12 wrote back on behalf of the Resident Manager, confirming that the School was willing to accept up to eight boys. He added, ‘I would like the age limit not to exceed 16 if possible, and also not to accept any cases who may be brought before the District Court for immorality’. When asked whether they would consider accepting boys between the ages of 16 and 17, the Resident Manager responded, ‘I think it would be an injustice, both morally and otherwise, to the boys already in the School, to accept such youths’.


From 1st April 1952, the capitation grant for industrial and reformatory schools, which were also recognised as a place of detention for remand juveniles, was almost doubled from a grant of 3s 6d per day per child to one of 7s 0d for those children detained there on remand.
Year Number of children under detention
1937 206
1938 199
1939 218
1940 219
1941 220
1942 219
1943 224
1944 218
1945 123
1946 224
1947 230
1948 236
1949 226
1950 209
1951 179
1952 164
1953 148
1954 152
1955 136
1956 70
1957 125
1958 133


The Superior General ensured that the rules and the Constitution of the Congregation were being observed and that there was agreement to the horarium. A system of internal supervision, whereby the Superior General or his delegate visited the School twice a year, was set up for this purpose. While the focus was on the life of the Community, the overall operation of the School was observed and occasionally commented upon.

  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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