Oral hearings were not held into Salthill, and this chapter is based on an analysis of relevant documents, including those obtained by the discovery process from the Christian Brothers, the Department of Education and Science, the Bishop of Galway and the Health Service Executive (formerly the Western Health Board) and submissions from the Christian Brothers.
St Joseph’s Industrial School, Salthill (‘Salthill’) traced its history back to 1870, when a public meeting in the Town Hall in Galway approved a proposal to establish an industrial school for boys and appointed a committee to implement the project. Land and premises were acquired in Salthill in June 1871 and were adapted to accommodate 50 boys.
The Patrician Brothers agreed to manage the School under a committee of laymen and religious. The purpose of the School was to take in ‘neglected, orphaned, and abandoned Roman Catholic boys, in order to safeguard them from developing criminal tendencies and to prepare them for the world of industry’. According to the School annals, on 25th September 1871, ‘twenty-one poor boys were admitted to the School, most of them in the lowest state of destitution and misery’.
The School got off to a difficult start, and initial reports from the Inspector for Industrial and Reformatory Schools were negative. There were problems with management in the School which caused the Patrician Brothers to withdraw. The Government Inspector, Mr John Lentaigne, called to the Superior General of the Christian Brothers in July 1876 and asked him to take over the running of Salthill.
The Christian Brothers inspected the premises and set out the terms upon which they would undertake the management of the School, and these were agreed with the Bishop. By the terms of this agreement, the Congregation held the property with the Bishop of Galway under a trust, of which the Bishop and two members of the Congregation were the perpetual trustees.
All existing debts and liabilities were paid by the committee that had originally set up the School, and an overdraft facility was set up in the local bank.
The Brother in charge was designated the Resident Manager and it was agreed, ‘That he shall not be obliged to furnish any other accounts to the Committee, or sub-managers, than those annually presented to government’.
Although this agreement clearly envisaged that the School would be run under the supervision of a management committee, as required by the Industrial Schools Act (Ireland), 1868, such a committee was never put in place by the Congregation and it ran the School in the same way as it ran all its industrial schools.
The population of the School rose rapidly in the early years, with the certified number increasing to 150 in 1879 and 200 in 1886. Through fund-raising activities the School facilities were extended to accommodate the growing numbers, for example, a chapel and dining room were built from the profits of a three-day bazaar held in 1879. Workshops were built shortly after the Christian Brothers took over. It was part of the agreement entered into with the Bishop that the diocese would support fund-raising activity on behalf of the Brothers.
The annals from these early years showed a great interest in the School from political and religious leaders. The Duke of Edinburgh visited with a dozen army officers in attendance and, in 1895, both the Archbishop of Melbourne and Lord Carnarvon, the Lord Lieutenant, visited within a month of each other. In 1887, the Papal Legate paid tribute to ‘this admirable institution and excellent establishment’.
After 1925, Salthill, like all industrial schools, came under the control of the Department of Education, and political interest in the School appeared to wane. There was no record in the annals of any leading politician visiting Salthill in the years following 1925.
Renovations and redecoration of the premises took place in the 1940s as they had fallen into disrepair. In 1943, Salthill was recognised by the Department of Education as a primary school which continued in existence until the early 1970s, when the remaining boys transferred to the local primary school.
The Institution underwent a radical change in the early 1970s. The Kennedy Report, published in 1970, had identified the problems inherent in the old institutionalised methods of childcare, and had given the existing institutions no alternative but to change their structures radically. All institutions either responded to this need for change or, like Artane, Tralee and Letterfrack, closed down.
In 1973, a new Manager was appointed and he worked with the Department in bringing about the changes that established the group home structure. The new Manager was more sensitive to the needs of the boys, and had the assistance of a trained and experienced Brother who had taken a special interest in childcare and had attended the Kilkenny course shortly after it commenced in the early 1970s.
The transformation of St Joseph’s was completed in accordance with plans that were drawn up in 1987. Most of the land on which the School was located was sold for development and the money was used to build a new complex planned on modern childcare principles. The Brothers ceased to have an association with St Joseph’s in 1995. The centre now consists of two units, each catering for six young people with a staffing ratio of 1:1 and operated by the Health Service Executive.