- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Social and demographic profile of witnesses
- Circumstances of admission
- Family contact
- Everyday life experiences (male witnesses)
- Record of abuse (male witnesses)
- Everyday life experiences (female witnesses)
- Record of abuse (female witnesses)
- Positive memories and experiences
- Current circumstances
- Introduction to Part 2
- Special needs schools and residential services
- Children’s Homes
- Foster care
- Primary and second-level schools
- Residential Laundries, Novitiates, Hostels and other settings
- Concluding comments
- Volume 4
Chapter 6 — Christian BrothersBack
Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762–1844), a wealthy import and export trader in the city of Waterford, opened a school for poor children in that city in 1802. He began recruiting men who shared his ambition to provide a free education for the poor Catholic children of Ireland. By 1803, a monastery was built in the city and more young men joined. In this way he founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, which became known as the Irish Christian Brothers.
His inspiration had come from a remark made by the sister of the Bishop of Waterford, with whom he was discussing his ambition to become a member of a religious Congregation. A band of ragged boys passed by and, pointing to them, she exclaimed, ‘What! would you bury yourself in a cell on the continent rather than devote your wealth and your life to the spiritual and material interest of these poor youths?’ Inspired by these words, Rice talked to other friends, all of whom advised him to undertake the mission to which he was being called. He settled his business affairs in 1800, the most profitable year he had known, and two years later opened his first Christian school.
The schools were open to all comers and were free to the poor. He developed a system whereby one Brother, sometimes with a monitor as assistant, would teach about 150 boys who were graded not by age but ability. He was adamant there should be no physical punishment, which he found contrary to his own spirit. In 1820 he wrote, ‘Unless for some faults which rarely occur, corporal punishment is never inflicted’.
His schools were a success and, as Edmund Rice’s reputation spread, his Community grew rapidly in numbers. By 1806, schools were established in Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, and Dungarvan, and by 1808 the Community had Houses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Initially, they adopted, with modifications, the Rule of the Presentation Order of nuns and, like them, were subject to their local bishops. In 1820, however, the Order now known as the Christian Brothers became the first Irish Community of men to be granted a charter by the Holy See1 and to be recognised as a Papal Institute. This new status meant that the Brothers were no longer under the authority of local bishops, and could develop their own internal management, under the overall authority of the Holy See, through the Secretariat of State for Religious. Br Rice was unanimously elected Superior General, and all the Houses were united under the new regime except for Cork, as the local bishop there refused his consent. In 1826, they too joined the greater Congregation, although one member, Br Austin Reardon, opted to remain under the old Order and founded the teaching Congregation of Presentation Brothers.
From 1802 to 1868 the Christian Brothers remained a small group of men who managed only day schools for poor Catholic boys. It was the introduction in 1858 of the industrial school system into Ireland that led to the Congregation moving into the management of residential schools. The new industrial schools fitted in with their charism of educating and helping the poor. Moreover, the schools were being subsidised by the State, through a capitation system, whereby a sum was paid for each boy placed in the school. It was a system that for the first time would provide the Christian Brothers with a guaranteed income to feed, clothe, house and educate the boys.
The Brothers opened their first industrial school in Artane in 1870. It was a purpose-built school for 825 boys, built to the highest specifications. From that date, there was a rapid expansion of the Christian Brothers throughout Ireland and Great Britain. In 1868 a small number were sent to Australia, and the Congregation rapidly flourished there. In 1875 they moved to Newfoundland, where they opened another school. By 1900 there were Christian Brothers’ schools in Ireland, Britain, Australia, Newfoundland, Gibraltar, New Zealand, India and Rome. Soon after that, the Congregation developed in Africa, the USA and later in South America. The Brothers are today a worldwide organisation with institutions in more than 26 countries on all populated continents.
In Ireland, the Christian Brothers soon occupied the dominant position in the industrial school system. Between 1868 and 1894 they had control of six industrial schools spread across the country, certified to take in a total of 1,750 boys. In 1831 the residence of the Superior General of the Irish Christian Brothers and the centre of teacher training was moved to North Richmond Street (O’Connell Schools) Dublin from Our Lady’s Mount (North Monastery) in Cork. In 1874 it was transferred to Belvedere House in Drumcondra, now the residence of the President of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. In 1875 the Brothers moved to Marino House, on the original Lord Charlemont demesne, and established their Generalate there. They recruited boys for their novitiates in schools across the country and sent them to their boarding schools, such as the one in Baldoyle, where they studied for the Leaving Certificate.
In 1956 the Irish Province divided into two, St Helen’s Province and St Mary’s Province.
The growth in numbers of Christian Brothers was remarkable. In 1831, there were only 45 Christian Brothers. By 1900, there were almost 1,000; and by 1960, there were 4,000 Christian Brothers in Ireland.2
The six Christian Brothers’ industrial schools in Ireland were as follows:
|Name of School||Years of operation||Certified number of boys|
|Artane Industrial School for Senior Boys||1870–1969||825|
|St Joseph’s Industrial School for Senior Boys, Tralee||1870–1970||145|
|St Joseph’s Industrial School for Senior Boys, Salthill||1871–1995||200|
|St Joseph’s Industrial School for Senior Boys, Glin||1872–1966||190|
|St Joseph’s Industrial School for Senior Boys, Letterfrack||1887–1974||165|
|Carriglea Park Industrial School for Senior Boys, Dun Laoghaire||1896–1954||250|
The Congregation operated, in addition, two day/boarding schools, for orphans – namely, The O’Brien Institute and St Vincent’s, Glasnevin – and a school for the deaf, St Joseph’s School for the Deaf, Cabra, as well as over 100 primary and secondary schools.3 While the Sisters of Mercy managed a much greater number of industrial schools than the Brothers, they were diocesan congregations that were not under central management until the mid-1980s and were in effect independent institutions until then. The Brothers, by contrast, were a unitary organisation under central management and control from 1820.
The Christian Brothers became a powerful and dominant organisation in the State and were responsible for providing primary and post primary education to the majority of Catholic boys in the country. Their greatest involvement was with non-residential education, and only a minority of Brothers were involved in industrial school work at any time.
The extent of the Congregation’s involvement in residential care was reflected in the number of complaints (over 700) received by the Investigation Committee from former residents of its institutions, and in the number of hearings held (149) and interviews given (220).
The Investigation Committee conducted full investigative hearings into four of the institutions: Artane, Letterfrack, Tralee and Carriglea Park. Limited inquiries by way of analysis of discovered documents took place into the remaining two industrial schools, Salthill and Glin, and St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra.
The Christian Brothers’ mission
In 1923 the Christian Brothers set out a new Constitution and Rule that reiterated the mission of the Congregation: The main end of the Congregation is that all its members labour for their own sanctification by the observance of the Evangelical Counsels and of these Constitutions. The secondary end is that they endeavour to promote the spiritual good of the neighbour by the instruction of youth, especially the poor, in religious knowledge, and their training in christian piety. The Brothers conduct Schools in which they teach the poor gratuitously; Institutions for orphan and neglected children; Day Schools and Boarding Schools which are maintained by the fees of the pupils; and other educational works.4
- The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, commonly known as the Pope.
- B. Coldrey, Faith and Fatherland. The Christian Brothers and the Development of Nationalism, 1838–1921 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1988), p 22.
- There are currently 122 schools in the Christian Brother network in Ireland, according to the Marino Institute of Education website.
- Constitutions (1923).
- The general assembly of representatives from the Congregation of the Christian Brothers.
- Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System Report, 1936 (the Cussen Report) (Dublin: Stationery Office).
- A Visitor was a Congregational Inspector who reported back to the leadership of the Congregation. See Supervision/Visitations below.
- An association where the main object is the well-being and improvement of a different group of persons, such as men, women and children, or more specially, priests, youths, church helpers, prisoners, immigrants, nurses, married people, couples, etc.
- Cn 653.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.
- Congregation of the Christian Brothers 1962, Chapter VIII ‘Chastity’, p 23 section 81.
- Const 8 of the 1923 Constitutions.
- Const 97 of the 1923 Constitutions.
- Congregation of the Christian Brothers 1962, Chapter XIII ‘Mortifications & Humilitations’, p 30 section 128.
- The Cussen Report 1936 – Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System, para 74.
- This is a pseudonym.
- There were three programmes broadcast by RTE in 1999 in the ‘States of Fear’ series: ‘Industrial Schools and Reformatories from the 1940s-1980s’, ‘The Legacy of Industrial Schools’, and ‘Sick and Disabled Children in Institutions’.
- Suffer the Little Children, by Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan, 1999, New Island.
- O’Brien Institute.
- This is a pseudonym.
- P394 Circular Letters 1821–1930
- Department of Education Annual Report 1925/1926.
- Report of the Department of Education for the School Years 1925–26–27 and the Financial and Administrative Year 1926–1927, p 83.
- Report of the Department of Education for the School Year 1924–1925 and the Financial and Administrative Years 1924–25–26, p 84.
- Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann Approved by the Minister of Education under the 54th Section of the Act, 8 Edw VII., Ch 67, clauses 12 and 13 (see DES chapter).
- Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann Approved by the Minister of Education under the Children Act, 1908.
- The Department submit this wording ‘education provision’ in other words the internal national school.
- Section 24 of The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 provided:
- the rule of law under which teachers are immune from criminal liability in respect of physical chastisement of pupils is hereby abolished.
- With the removal of this immunity, teachers are now subject to section 2(1) of the 1997 Act which provides that:
- a person shall be guilty of the offence of assault, who without lawful excuse, intentionally or recklessly, directly or indirectly applies force to and causes an impact on the body of another.Teachers who physically chastise pupils may now be guilty of an offence and liable to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of £1,500.
- This is a pseudonym.