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Chapter 7 — Goldenbridge

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Emotional abuse


One witness described the distribution of bread in the following terms: From my memory there was a window in the hall and somebody used to say – word would get around when you’d get scraps ‘cos you would get them maybe once a month. Somebody said “we are getting scraps today”. It could be from what the lay people had, the crusts could be left over and it would be all thrown into a steel bin, a stainless steel bowl. The window would open and – I am seeing it even as myself, I done it as a child, I done it as a teenager, and that window would open and the bowl of scraps would actually just be thrown out, out the window onto the yard and everybody would scream and charge. You would actually walk on the babies, I am sure I done it myself, it was done on me, and that just went on.


Another witness said: But there was a practice of when the teachers had their meals that there would be leftovers and those leftovers would be brought to the yard window and just scattered out the window and we would dive on them. If you managed to get something your day was made.


Another witness, when asked whether it was possible that the scraps were thrown only at the end of the distribution of bread, stated: Definitely not ... otherwise I wouldn’t feel so horrified and shamed to have to tell you this. First of all, who was going to create this order of this orderly row of children that were hungry to stand in line to wait for bread, who was supervising this? That didn’t happen. It was a free for all and the strong ones and the ones that were a bit heavy were the ones that were first to the front of the queue. Obviously the weaklings, I wasn’t that weak, but I wasn’t very forceful either, they wouldn’t fare so well. What was thrown you would just have to clamber for it. People would walk on it with their sandals and you would pick it up and eat it.


A slightly different version of this story was given by another witness, who said: The window opened up and whether it be one of the teachers or the helpers they had this huge big – I have it here, they had this huge big sieve and you would have all the different crumbs and all sorts, you might even get a piece of cake in it. They would open up the window and this would be flung out, you would know it was coming. You would stand waiting on it and there would be a dive for the thing, all these little crumbs. If you got a bit of cake, you – you would even beat up the one that had a bigger piece than you, a slice of bread instead of a bit bread. They would just fling it out the window ...


The Sisters of Mercy assert that this allegation is a serious distortion of ‘the practice of bringing out a tray of bread and margarine (or jam) to the children in the yard after school’.


Scraps were thrown out of a receptacle into the yard, and children scrambled for them. Whatever the circumstances, this should not have happened and was demeaning for the children.


It was alleged that the children in Goldenbridge did not have access to water during the day, and had to resort to drinking water from either the toilet bowl or the cistern.


One witness described it as follows: We used to all drink out of the toilets. There was toilets at the end of the yard, we used to go down there. There was no taps, you just flushed the chain and drink the water.


When asked whether he recalled a drinking fountain in the yard, he said: No. There used to be a little push handle thing down, that hardly ever worked. I remember it did work, it didn’t always work. I am sure it was there ... We used to ... drink out of the toilets anyway. You followed what the other kids done.


Another witness said: In between meals there was no facility for a glass of water, there was nothing, nowhere you could, we didn’t have money to buy anything. There was no machines, no vending in those days. Nothing like that. You would go to the toilets where they had the loose top and you would scoop water up, you would scoop it up in your hand or you would get something like– I don’t know how to describe it. It was like a funnel from the big dryers, there was a little connection, you would get it and you would drink the water from the cistern. I mean, you wouldn’t think whether this is healthy or unhealthy.


One witness said: We used to drink water out of the toilets, out of the either the bowl or the cistern depending on how tall you were ... I mean, I see in a statement from Sr Alida she said that a tap was in the yard, I don’t know where it was because I was never allowed have a drink out of it.


When asked if she remembered a tap or drinking fountain in the yard, she said: I was there for twelve years and I don’t remember seeing a tap in the yard. I do remember drinking water out of the toilets, out of the cistern, out of the bowl.


Another witness said: Because they wouldn’t give you water. You asked for water and you weren’t given it. So obviously to try and survive, you would come out, you would be in the yard and you would go into the toilets in the yard and flush the toilets and drink water from the toilets. That wasn’t just a once-off, that was on a good number of occasions.


Another witness, when asked about the existence of a drinking fountain in the yard, said that if there had been a fountain in the yard it must have been broken ‘because we used to drink out literally of the toilet or lift up the cistern, the top of the toilet’.


Sr Alida stated there was a drinking fountain in the yard which came from Liverpool and was marked ‘hooligan proof’. It remained in working order until the time she left Goldenbridge. She also stated that children could get water from the kitchen and a small bathroom under the stairs.

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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.