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Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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


Lay workers were kept at arm’s length. ‘The time of the lay workers in the Institution should not be wasted by Brothers holding unnecessary conversations with them’, reported the Visitor, Br Diego,14 in his Visitation Report dated 12th June 1934. In the same Visitation Report, he ordered that a nurse should only be called in to attend to a sick Brother after permission was obtained from the Superior General or, in his absence, a senior assistant. Similar lines of demarcation were laid down for the Brothers. Only the Superior and Bursar were permitted to visit the boys’ infirmary, which was regarded as the strict domain of the nurse.


In the Visitation Report of December 1936, Br Diego set out various recommendations for the Brothers and the boys. The local Superior was requested to notify the Superior General if any Brother was outside the house after 9pm, even with permission. Brothers were expected to retire to their rooms at 10pm every night. They were required to stay away from such ‘world amusements’ as were unbecoming to a Brother, as well as places where their attendance would cause scandal. Attendance at horse races, dog races and opera houses was singled out as particularly inappropriate. The Superior was not to, directly or indirectly, supply cigarettes to the Brothers. The cinema was out of bounds unless the film was approved having regard to the Papal Encyclical on Films of 1936. The recommendations for boys included advice that no boy should be allowed to go to a Brother’s room after night prayers. Organised games should be introduced, with playing fields made available.


In the Visitation Report of October 1942, Br Diego complained that the farm staff was unduly large and that staff levels could be reduced by 40 percent. He also noted with criticism that labourers’ wages were above the Government standard and that overhead costs had soared.


Br Diego again visited the School in March 1944 and found that ‘the management, discipline, the general tone and atmosphere of the school have dropped some points’ since 1941. He did not elaborate on the reasons for his view or make recommendations for improvement. There was no Department of Education General Inspection Report or Medical Report for that year for comparison purposes. In any event, by December 1944, another Visitor, Br Enrique,15 noted an upward trend in the management, discipline and tone of the School and was confident that the high standards would be restored.


The Brothers were expected to be completely self-reliant and were forbidden from discussing Community business with outsiders. Br Juan16 visited the School in 1945 and noted, ‘the brothers should be careful not to disclose Community affairs to those who have not the right to know them – not even to priests or relatives’. He also cautioned against incurring expense except when absolutely necessary.


There were no adverse comments regarding the management and conduct of the School in the remaining Visitation Reports of the 1940s.


Br Jose17 reported in June 1951 that the education of the boys was well managed, but warned the Brothers of the Community: ... of the heavy responsibility placed on their shoulders of training these boys to face the world. The spiritual, moral, educational and even industrial training should receive very careful planning and attention.


He recommended that the Brothers consult with each other and pool their ideas as to how best to further the training of the boys.


The following year, the Provincial Report noted, ‘the average age of the Brothers is too high, for the exacting duties they are called upon to perform. A Bursar and another young Brother would be required to carry out the necessary work’. The report went on to state that, with falling numbers, the financial viability of the School was in doubt.


In May 1953, Br Jose recommended that the boys should receive regular instruction in ‘the civic and moral virtues’. The Provincial Report of the same year also recommended that a maid be employed in the Brothers’ kitchen instead of the boys. Further Provincial Reports of the same year complained that there were not sufficient boys in the workshops, despite the fact that half the total number of boys in the School were at the trades training age. In a Provincial Report the following year, it was recommended that all of the boys in 7th class be transferred into trades training classes.


The Provincial Report of June 1955 referred to the fact that Br Garcia18 had complained that discipline under the current Manager was somewhat lax. This report also made reference to immorality among the boys.


Br Blanco19 completed a Visitation Report in December 1955 and he acknowledged the difficulties in running a school of 133 boys from troubled backgrounds, particularly when the average age of the Brothers was 54. He emphasised the need for supervision, and that all members of the Community should pull together to ensure that the School was properly managed.


The Provincial Report of autumn 1957 was most critical of the management of the School and noted: The boys seem to be well supervised etc. At the same time they appear to me to be very raggedy and unkempt. I am convinced that all the uplift which we – a religious body should give – is not being given. We should be able to do something for them and make something out of them and do more than merely keep them. All my suggestions to this, and in fact to any matter were turned down by the superior as Utopian, impractical and impossible ... To sum up, the superior is good to organize, sees about the boys and is efficient generally. He is handicapped to some extent in the staff he has. However, he knows everything, he is open to no suggestion, he is lax about obeying higher superiors and I would say, he does not and will not realize very fully his responsibilities as leader of a religious community.


The Provincial Report the following year noted that the same observations still applied.


The final Visitation Report in December 1958 by Br Jose continued to express concern at the condition of the School. He stated that, although the School was well conducted, ‘the discipline, supervision, food, and general training of the boys would need to be thoroughly investigated so as to devise methods to get the best results’. The School closed three months later.

  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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