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St Joseph’s Industrial School, Artane was established under the Industrial Schools Act (Ireland), 1868 by the Christian Brothers at the request of the then Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Cullen. It opened on 28th July 1870 with the aim of caring for neglected, orphaned and abandoned Roman Catholic boys, and it operated as an industrial school until its closure in 1969.
The Industrial School was located in a north-eastern suburb of Dublin some five kilometres from the city centre in an area which was, at that time, open countryside amenable to intensive farming. The application for a certificate in June 1870, to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, stated that Artane Castle plus 56 acres of land had been purchased for the purpose of setting up an industrial school. The request was approved and the School was licensed to accommodate 825 boys on 9th July 1870. From an original intake of three pupils, it quickly grew in scale, housing 700 boys by 1877, and reaching its certified size of 825 boys before the end of the nineteenth century. During its existence, approximately 15,500 boys were cared for and educated in Artane.
In 1870, the buildings consisted of a large dwelling house with out-offices, gardens and 56 acres of arable land. The property had been purchased for £7,000, and it was proposed that dormitories, classrooms etc. would be erected for a further £1,600. Three boys were admitted in the beginning and then tarred sheds were put up to accommodate 40 boys. The Congregation’s Opening Statement described how the ambitious scheme developed thereafter: Public personages of all shades of opinion gave the school generous support. To raise funds for the provision of permanent buildings a petition signed by a large number of people was presented to the Lord Mayor. A public meeting was called by the Lord Mayor in response to this petition and substantial voluntary funds were soon received. From this response and from newspaper articles of the time it is clear that there was strong public support for the work of the school. The design, atmosphere and work ethos of the school received much acclaim from numerous eminent persons in public life and many visitors were impressed with what they witnessed.
Although the initial proposal was that £1,600 would be spent building dormitories and classrooms, an Annual published by the Brothers in 1905 recorded that buildings costing over £60,000 had been erected at Artane by that time. The land associated with the School increased from 56 acres to more than 350 acres by the early 1940s.1 In 1934, some 147 acres were under meadow and tillage, with the remainder being used for grazing, apart from land occupied by buildings and playgrounds. The main building still stands today.
Artane was conceived on a grand scale. Dormitories accommodated up to 150 boys, sleeping in ordered rows of beds with no personal space. The dining area or refectory accommodated all 825 boys at one sitting. A submission in 1934 to the Cussen Commission into industrial schools boasted that a ‘magnificent corridor 365 feet long runs the whole length of the building’.
The undertaking comprised the School, the trade shops and the farm, in addition to the Community house. The trade shops and the farm constituted a substantial business enterprise, of which the farm brought in a large yearly income.
The Investigation Committee engaged a Consultant Engineer, Ciaran Fahy, to examine and report on the buildings and accommodation in Artane, and his report is annexed at Appendix 1 to this chapter.
The Rules and Regulations of Artane were similar to those of other industrial schools and required it to provide for the physical needs of the boys committed to the School, who were to be supplied with suitable accommodation, clothing, food, and instruction. Recreation was to be provided and they were allowed to receive visitors and to correspond with outsiders. They were to receive religious instruction, a secular education and industrial training. The School was also required to develop a spirit of industry, pride and discipline amongst the children.2
The number of children detained in Artane from 1937 to 1969 was as follows:
These boys were ordered to be detained in Artane by the courts for reasons of inadequate parental care, destitution, neglect, truancy or the commission of minor offences. It is clear, however, that poverty was the underlying reason why children were sent to Artane, whatever the statutory category grounding the detention.
The reasons for committals during the period from 1940 to 1969 were as follows:
|Improper guardianship||School Attendance Act||Destitution||Homelessness||Larceny||Other crime|
Other admissions to Artane were insignificant in number in the 1940s but they increased substantially later. Health Board and voluntary admissions increased from 13 in the 1940s to 113 in the 1950s, and 136 in the 1960s. These admissions were not included in the number of children in respect of whom a capitation grant was payable by the Department of Education. They were either privately funded to attend the School or paid for by the Health Board, and in the latter years they accounted for an additional 50% of boys in Artane.
During June 1969, the 211 boys who were still detained in Artane were moved out and the Institution closed on the 30th of that month. 120 boys were discharged to their parents or godparents or placed in jobs. Of the remainder, 26 boys were transferred to Ferryhouse, and the others went in small numbers to different institutions around the country. These dispositions were agreed after much discussion and many meetings between the School authorities and the Department of Education.
In the years leading up to the closure, and particularly during the late 1960s, there was a dramatic decline in the number of children who would potentially have made up the population of industrial schools. Legal adoption, fostering and boarding-out were among the principal reasons for the decline. In addition, attitudes of the public and a number of State officials had become unsympathetic to industrial schools as a means of caring for deprived children. Improvements in economic and social conditions and benefits also contributed.
Artane, as the biggest industrial school, was most vulnerable to these developments. The Superior was a member of the Kennedy Committee that began work in 1967 and was expected to report in mid-1968. He was privy to the thinking of the Committee and was able to inform his colleagues in the Congregation that the Committee was going to recommend the closure of Artane.