Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 7 — Goldenbridge

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Rosary bead making


Ms Garvin remembered Ms O’Shea, another lay worker and former resident, supervising the beads class. During her time in Goldenbridge from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, she went to the beads class most days before teatime, where she remembered seeing the girls chatting to each other and that music was playing. She insisted that the atmosphere in the beads room was pleasant, and she never saw a child being beaten in the beads room. There was, however, evidence that Ms O’Shea was violent and irascible.


In contrast to the reminiscence of some of the Sisters that the bead making was a pleasurable activity, the Congregation recognised that learning the skill of bead making: ... could have caused fingers to be tender or skin broken initially, and trying to finish a “quota” must at times also have put unfair pressure on some children. We recognise that this activity is remembered with particular bitterness by some former residents and we deeply regret that something which was intended to be helpful was experienced as harmful and unhappy.


In its written Submissions, it accepted that it was not an enjoyable activity, as there was a lot of pressure to get the work done: For those who were engaged in the process, the activity was undoubtedly experienced as a compulsory activity which was not enjoyable and had to be, at best, endured. While there was the radio to listen to, talking was muted and the main aim was to get one’s work done. There was clearly a pressure to get the work done; work was on occasion rejected as falling short of standards and there was a requirement to complete a quota.


The Congregation stated that the purpose of bead making was twofold: firstly, to provide useful occupation for the children after school; and, secondly, to provide extra funds for ‘pocket money, recreational activities and equipment for the children’. But they recognised that ‘there was too much emphasis on occupation as a means of management and control of the children’.


1.Bead making became an industrial activity that was pursued obsessively; the work was difficult and uncomfortable and it was painful for children especially those who lacked dexterity and speed. 2.The quota system made the work onerous and pressurised and a source of stress and anxiety. 3.Supervision by lay workers or nuns to ensure quantity and quality on pain of punishment created work conditions that would not have been tolerated in factories. 4.Using the children for this work deprived them of normal childhood recreation that was necessary for emotional, social and psychological development.

Sexual abuse


There is only one documented case of a child having been sexually abused in Goldenbridge. The incident occurred in 1962, when a caretaker in the School was convicted of indecently assaulting a girl.


The girl who had been sexually assaulted by the caretaker reported the matter to Sr Alida, who immediately informed the Gardaí. The caretaker was dismissed from his employment and was subsequently prosecuted and convicted. He received a three-month suspended sentence.


The Sisters of Mercy confirmed that ‘the only definite knowledge’ they had regarding sexual abuse in Goldenbridge related to the 1962 incident.


However, the Investigation Committee heard other complaints against this man. One complainant alleged that she had been raped by him. She alleged that the rape had taken place around 1960, when she was 11 years old, and two years before he was reported to the Gardaí. She said she did not report this incident to anyone in Goldenbridge, as she was afraid of being sent to a reformatory. The alleged incident occurred in a room off a dormitory where he was fixing a sash window and she was sent to assist him.


One witness, who did not herself allege abuse by the caretaker, said of him: It was common knowledge that Mr Hurley20 was at children in the laundry.


A small number of other complaints related to sexual interference by older girls on younger girls and by persons to whose care the children were entrusted at weekends.


One witness spoke of being abused by a member of a family to whom she was sent out to at the weekend. This family, she felt, was not vetted. She says she was ‘fondled by an outsider’.


Another witness also spoke of being abused by a man in a family she was sent out to for a weekend. She did not want to go to this family again and, when she tried to explain to the nun in charge, she ‘boxed the face off her’.


Another witness said she was abused by an uncle of a family she was sent to. She alleged that this occurred in the garden of the family’s home. She also referred to an incident of attempted rape by the son of another family she was sent out to in Dublin. She was left alone in the house with him, and he came into her bedroom and threw her on the bed and attempted to rape her.


A witness alleged that he was abused by a lay person who slept in the dormitory with the children. He stated: I was made to play with her for what seemed to go on for some time and whilst doing this I was in fear of the nuns catching me and if I was caught being out of bed I would get the strap or I would get a slapping or a beating. This went on for some time.

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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.