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1 entry for John B Keane


It seems that the general public living in the locality of a School had some broad idea of the conditions. It was not uncommon for parents to threaten children who were misbehaving with some such formula as: ‘Stop it or you’ll be sent to Artane / Upton / Letterfrack...’ Both sides knew what was meant. When John B Keane wrote in 1967 about farmers exploiting cheap labour of youths from an Industrial School, it seems likely that he expected his readers to know what he was writing about.Letters of a Successful TD 73 contains the following passage: We will never again see a worker like Topper. I will never forget him a long as I live. You probably don’t remember Jeremy Tlopper. He died of TB when you were about three or four. It still plays on my conscience that I might have driven him too hard. In those days we used to get youngsters out of Kilnavarna Industrial School to work as farm labourers. They were usually aged about fifteen or sixteen. You didn’t have to pay them much and I know for a fact that most people paid them nothing. I had several lads but they were better for eating than they were for working. It was a mistake, too, to get fellows who hadn’t made their Confirmation because you would have to leave them off every day for catechism. Jeremy Topper was different. He had made his Confirmation. He was a great worker and a light feeder. He was as thin as a whippet but I never heard him complain and he worked out-of-doors, hail, rain, or shine. I often worry that I might have misused him, but no, that isn’t true, because he worshiped me as a son would. He had no father or mother but that was during the Economic War when nobody could afford a regular workman and dead calves were blocking the eyes of the bridges. The only labour we could afford were young lads or girls out of orphanages or Industrial Schools. Jeremy died when he was twenty but I think he killed himself. I never touched him, although I know of boys and girls who were whipped and punched like slaes and there were young girls who were badly abused by certain farmers who are pillars of the Church to-day. May God forgive them and the priests who knew what was going on. I put up headstone over Jeremy when he died. There was no cure for TB in those days. ...

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