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Chapter 7 — Goldenbridge

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Only two of the 10 Resident Managers fulfilled the role of Sister-in-Charge and had direct involvement in the day-to-day management of the Industrial School. One such Resident Manager was Sr Bianca,1 who held the position from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s. The other was Sr Venetia,2 and her term of office ran from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s.


Two of the five nuns who were closely involved with the running of the Industrial School are alive today.


In the Congregation’s Opening Statement, for Goldenbridge, it was stated: The Sisters chosen for responsibility in Goldenbridge were women of ability, sound common sense and normal home background.


There appears to have been no formal structure of communication between Carysfort and Goldenbridge. According to the Opening Statement: Reporting relationships were not very formal and probably depended very much on the personalities and expectations of the Superior in Carysfort and the local superior or resident manager in Goldenbridge.


There are no records of meetings or correspondence or any other documentation between the Resident Manager of Goldenbridge and the Superior General in Carysfort.


Sr Helena O’Donoghue stated that at one time Goldenbridge paid an annual levy to Carysfort and, at another period in time, all income went to Carysfort and an agreed budget was returned.


The convent at Goldenbridge housed approximately 30 Sisters who were engaged in work throughout the local community. The Sisters ran a large national school in the Goldenbridge complex and also had a laundry that was a separate commercial enterprise. The laundry was closed in the mid-1950s, to facilitate the development of the secondary school. In addition, prior to 1954, there was what was known as a secondary top, which was an extension of the national school for children up to the age of 14.


The Industrial School in Goldenbridge was a large institution but very few Sisters worked in it. Prior to 1942, the Reverend Mother of the convent was always the Resident Manager of Goldenbridge. Although there were four different Resident Managers notified to the Department of Education between 1936 and 1942, these Sisters had very little contact with the daily administration in the School or with the children who were committed to it. The testimony of Sr Alida,3 who came to Goldenbridge as a young nun in the early 1940s, was that administration in the school and management were delegated to one nun, Sr Pietrina,4 who was elderly and diabetic when Sr Alida was appointed.


Sr Alida had no recollection of any other nun in the Community being involved in the running of the Institution other than Sr Pietrina. She said that, apart from visiting the Industrial School to watch films or concerts, there was no contact between the Industrial School and the convent, and the nuns in the convent would not have known the children in the Industrial School.


The day-to-day operation of the School and the care of the children were left to two lay teachers, Ms Dempsey5 and Ms Kearney.6 After classes, these teachers supervised the children and put them to bed. They were assisted by four care workers, one in the kitchen, one in the laundry and two generally in the house. In the evening, Sr Pietrina returned to the convent, and the two lay teachers looked after the children until the next day. There were 150 children in Goldenbridge at that time.


Before Sr Bianca was appointed to Goldenbridge, Sr Vincenza7 of Carysfort had appointed Sr Divina8 as Resident Manager in the early 1940s, which prompted the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education to protest. He wrote: I am desired by the Minister for Education to call your attention to the fact that the new Resident Manager whom you have appointed in St. Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, is 79 years of age. The Minister feels that the management of an Industrial School would constitute a very heavy burden and responsibility on a lady of this advanced age. The supervision of the feeding, clothing, education and health of about 150 children, together with the keeping of the many accounts, records etc., which are required and, in addition, the fulfilment of her duties as Reverend Mother of the community would, in the Minister’s opinion, constitute a heavy burden on a much younger and more active person. The Minister would accordingly be glad if you would reconsider this appointment with a view to appointing a much younger Sister who has had experience of children and on whom the complex duties of management would not be so burdensome.


Sr Vincenza replied immediately to the Assistant Secretary: In reply to your letter of 29th September regarding the appointment of an aged Sister as Manager of Golden Bridge Industrial School, I have this day appointed as Manager one of the Staff – Sr. Bianca– to that position. When appointing the Manager on the 12th September I sent an extra Sister to the Ind. School, who holds very high qualifications and certificates for Domestic Economy, Cookery, Needlework and Household Knowledge, to help with the management with the household work and management of the children, so that Sr. Bianca could be free to devote some time to the duties that the Manager would have to undertake. The appointment made today leaves Mother Pia9 free to devote herself to the Community in Golden Bridge Convent.


That, however, was not the end of the matter; the Department immediately replied, seeking clarification: Please state whether it is your intention to authorise Sister Bianca to exercise all the powers, functions and duties of the Managers in accordance with the provisions of the Children Acts, 1908 to 1941.


The Department of Education wanted to ensure that the actual day-to-day running of the Institution would be in the hands of a young, energetic, qualified Sister. Sr Bianca was appointed as Sister-in-Charge of the Industrial School in the early 1940s, and was appointed Resident Manager the following year. At the same time Sr Alida, who was a young newly professed Sister, in her mid-20s, was appointed as her assistant. Sr Bianca continued as Resident Manager until the mid-1950s.


According to Sr Alida, when Sr Bianca took over ‘she was a very powerful personality, controlling person. She went to her major Superior in Carysfort and said she would take the running of the school ... provided she got the handling of the finance’.

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  12. Irish Journal of Medical Science 1939, and 1938 textbooks on the care of young children published in Britain.
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  22. General Inspection Reports 1953, 1954.
  23. General Inspection Reports 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963.
  24. General Inspection Reports 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960.