Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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St Michael’s Industrial School was built in the grounds of the convent and, in January 1877, it received 36 boys as its first residents. The Industrial School only admitted boys, as there was already an Industrial School for girls in Waterford City.


The accommodation limit of the School was increased from 51 to 65 in 1928, and from 65 to 75 in 1938. Until 1944, the State capitation grant was payable on only 51 of the children, as those under six did not qualify for a capitation grant; from 1944, it was extended to all 75 children.


In 1969, the School was given permission to keep boys past the age of 10 and, in 1970, was permitted to admit girls for the first time.


Until 1985, St Michael’s Industrial School, Cappoquin was under the authority of the Sisters of Mercy, St Teresa’s Convent, Cappoquin, County Waterford. Accordingly, until 1985 the Mother Superior of the local convent, St Teresa’s held the highest level of responsibility for the Industrial School.


In 1973, a site was purchased from the Cistercian Monks on the Melleray Road in Cappoquin, and two group homes were opened in 1974. For the purposes of this report, we have called these homes ‘Group Home A’ and ‘Group Home B’. A third group home (which is referred to in this report as ‘Group Home C’) was bought as a temporary measure in 1976. The original Industrial School closed in 1977. All the children in care at that stage were resident in the three group homes.


The ownership and responsibility for the group homes were transferred to the South Eastern Health Board in 2005.


A total of 1,483 children were recorded in the admission register of St Michael’s Industrial School over the entire period. For the period 1930 until 1983, the total number of children was recorded as being 582. In the period 1897 to 1960, it was understood that some 96 voluntary admissions were recorded for St Michael’s.


When the boys reached the age of 10, they were transferred to other industrial schools around the country. Most of the children were committed through the courts in the early years and came from the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Cork, Wexford, Limerick, Galway, Clare and Dublin.


The Mother Superior of the convent appointed the Resident Manager of the Industrial School and, during the period covered by the inquiry, there were seven Resident Managers, of whom four account for much the greater part.


The documents available to the Committee included: The reports of the General and Medical Inspections conducted by the Department’s Medical Inspector, Dr Anna McCabe,1 following her appointment in 1938; Memoranda and correspondence between the Department’s Inspectorate and the Resident Manager and Superior for St Michael’s Industrial School following the Inspections; Memoranda and correspondence between St Michael’s School and the Department in relation to the financial viability of the School, the reduction in pupil numbers, capitation grants and such like, and the plans to move from an institutional model to that of group homes.



The pool from which the Resident Manager and the Sisters were drawn to work in the Industrial School was confined to the Sisters in the local convent, St Teresa’s. As there was no central organisation of the Sisters of Mercy at that time (this came much later), it was not possible to source Sisters from outside the Community of St Teresa’s.


The number of Sisters resident in St Teresa’s during the relevant period was approximately 28 from 1940 to 1960, and decreased to 20 in 1985.


Four Sisters worked full-time in the Industrial School; the remaining Sisters were engaged in other full-time activities such as primary and secondary teaching. There was a boarding school from 1963 and a commercial college. From time to time, a number of the other Sisters helped out in the Industrial School. The Sisters who worked full-time were assisted by a number of lay staff. It would appear from the records that in the region of four to five lay staff were engaged. Their numbers and roles varied from time to time, but usually included a matron, cook and various tradesmen.


One witness recalled: I kind of have memories of one nun looking after about 90 kids in the yard, or in the School, in very small rooms.


Another witness said that: The nuns had a supervisory capacity in the sense that they looked after the medical part of it and they looked after possibly the dormitories and things like that. But the lay staff had the day to day practical workings and they would get you in for your meals or they would get you ready for bed or they would get you for walks... generally the lay staff did that.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
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  21. This is a pseudonym. Sr Lorenza later worked in St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny. See St Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny chapter.
  22. Mother Carina.
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