Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 4 — Greenmount

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When Dr McCabe next visited the School in November 1956, Br Santiago had taken over the post of Resident Manager. She described him as ‘a great improvement on the previous man’, although she had not expressed reservations about the Resident Manager in her previous year’s report. While she noted that the School was well run, the boys’ clothing once again came in for criticism. She noticed that many of the shirts had no buttons. She also highlighted the need for each boy to be given a toothbrush and to ensure that they used them.


The 1957 report is again critical of many aspects of the School. Even though efforts at redecoration had been made, she stated that ‘so much needs to be done to make this School bright and attractive’. The play hall was ‘dank and unattractive’. Despite the improvements in the kitchen, the cooking methods used were still very antiquated. Clothing had slightly improved, in that the boys were given waistcoats, but there was still much room for improvement. The Resident Manager put these deficiencies down to a lack of funds. On a more positive note, Dr McCabe emphasised that the supervision and medical care of the boys was very good.


Dr McCabe’s final Inspection of Greenmount took place on 29th October 1958. She stated that Br Santiago and the nurse were both attentive and kind to the boys. She noted a slight improvement in the boys’ clothing. She recommended several improvements, that Br Santiago seemed to take on board. She emphasised the need to brighten up the School by further redecoration.


In 1949, a Fine Gael Councillor wrote to the Department of Education regarding complaints he had received in relation to conditions in Greenmount. His letter was in response to the most recent complaint he had received from a mother of a boy in Greenmount. Her 11-year-old boy had been sent to Greenmount because she and her husband were being treated for TB, and they had no option but to have their young family committed to industrial schools.


She made representations to the Councillor to assist her in having her son released into the care of her father, after she discovered that he was not well cared for in Greenmount. She had found his clothes crawling with vermin. The Councillor wrote: For some time past this Executive has been receiving complaints regarding the treatment given to the boys at Greenmount. The boys are made get up at 7a.m. and have to wash portion of the dormitories before breakfast which consists of a cup of black coffee and a couple of slices of dry bread. After this they go to school until 2.30 p.m. when they get their next meal, which, on one day last week consisted of potatoes and lemonade. Besides this we have received at last four complaints regarding the verminous state of the children’s clothes, and I have myself verified one case ... These complaints have become so numerous that we were considering whether to report it to the City Health Authorities and the Minister for Health. It is of no use making any official enquiries. The only way to get at the root of all these complaints is to have some of the Health and Education Authorities visit the place without warning. We don’t like having to report things like this, as they only create trouble but the time has come when something has to be done about them.


The Minister asked Dr Anna McCabe, the Department’s Medical Inspector, to investigate the matter and report her findings directly to him.


Also at this time, a Garda from Union Quay Station wrote to the Department of Education requesting that, the next time an Inspector was in Cork, they call him regarding a matter which he did not wish to commit to paper. He wrote again some weeks later, after a telephone conversation with an official from the Department of Education, and this time the Garda set out his concerns: For some time past I have been receiving complaint from parents having children in Greenmount Ind Schools, these complaints are in respect of clothing and food. One mother complained that a child of hers is in School 12 months and he has the same pair of boots on him as he took in with him, that he has colds continually from neglect. I have got several complaints recently about footwear from parents having children in this School. A number of complaints have also been received about food which appears to be of poor quality. One complaint was that soup supplied to the children is a week old and sour when given to them. No tea and no sugar or coffee or cocoa, bread very scant supply with no butter only margarine. I am not relying on all the complaints received, to be genuine but I have the word of a lady Cook who worked there and has no reason for confirming the complaints I have received for some time. I have all called to the School myself and in my opinion they children are not near as healthy or as well fed looking ... They look cold and miserable looking. The lady who was cook there says some of the food given to the children [was] not fit for dogs and that she says was one of the reasons for leaving. Now I am a particular friend of the Bros’ in Greenmount and has no wish to do any injury to them and their good work; which is at times difficult but I consider I owe a duty towards these children owing to the position I hold and as a representative of the Dept. of Education. I do hope this matter will be treated in confidence as I do not wish it to be known that it was I brought this matter to notice.


Dr McCabe was unable to investigate the matter immediately as she was on sick leave from the Department. However, she did visit the office and was asked by a Department official for her view on the allegations contained in the Councillor’s letter. He made the following note: Dr McCabe said that she considered, from her experience, that Greenmount was a very well conducted Industrial School. On all occasions on which she visited the school, the food for the children was of a very good quality, and she could find no evidence to justify the present complaint with regard to the care taken of the children from the point of view of their personal cleanliness. Her visits were frequently without previous notification, so that it could not be suggested, in her opinion, that conditions as she found them were designed specially because of her visit.


Dr McCabe visited Greenmount in September 1949 to investigate the complaints made. She interviewed the Garda who had made the complaint, and also the cook who had worked in Greenmount and was now employed in the Garda station. She was not impressed by the account given by the cook, who alleged that ‘the boys were taken out into the courtyard and were stripped and beaten with leashes – that they were ill-fed and never got sugar or tea, and that the little boys who helped her in her kitchen ... were always ravenous for food’. She then visited the School and had each boy undressed. She could not see any signs of injury or ill-treatment.


She stated that she was present when several meals were served to the boys and that they were ‘always ample and inviting’. Sugar was put into the boilers rather than into bowls on the table, as was the practice in many schools, to avoid waste. She observed that coffee was served to the boys at one meal, and requested that tea be served instead. The Resident Manager explained that this practice had started during the Emergency, when tea was in poor supply, and agreed that it would desist. She found all areas of the School well kept and clean. She also found that all of the boys had boots which were in good condition, and that repairs were carried out when necessary. She did discover that four boys were verminous and, on enquiring, she was told that these boys had been home for holidays and that the School had difficulty cleaning them up on their return. She suggested plentiful use of DDT and more frequent bathing.


She surmised that the woman who had complained to the Garda about the School bore a grudge because she was summarily dismissed after a short time working there: ‘most of her evidence was conjecture as she had never been in the boys refectory and I do not think anyone would believe her story about the public beatings in the court yard’. She noted that the Medical Officer and nurse always spoke highly of the School, and was satisfied that, if any unkindness was displayed towards the children, they would have informed her in the best interests of the children. In conclusion, she found that the allegations made were without foundation ‘and that the school continues to be as well run as usual’.


The Department accepted these conclusions and that was the end of the matter.


Dr McCabe appears to have disregarded the eyewitness accounts of neglect at Greenmount. She seems to have taken a dislike to the lay person who made some of the allegations, and dismissed all of the complaints on that basis. Garda Bracken37 stated that he had received several complaints from parents regarding food and clothing. He himself had called to the School and was of the opinion that the children were not healthy. He went as far as to describe them as cold and miserable looking. The parent who complained to the local Councillor was so troubled by the condition in which she found her son that she refused to go to the sanatorium for vital treatment for TB until her son was removed from the Institution. The Councillor felt compelled to write to the Department, setting out his concerns regarding conditions in Greenmount, as his office had received numerous complaints of neglect. Dr McCabe made no mention of these complaints in her report. She also dismissed too easily the allegation that boys were stripped and beaten in the courtyard.


Dr McCabe had been critical of food and clothing in Greenmount in the mid-1940s. It was not until 1947 that she noted that food and diet had ‘improved’. She did not make another official Inspection until 1951, but that report has not survived. Her next report was in 1953, and she had a number of suggestions to make regarding the running of Greenmount.


The annals of 1955 record that the boys were bought new boots ‘as their ordinary everyday boots made noise like that of an army on parade’, new raincoats that ‘should last for at least five years’, and ‘good warm jackets instead of jerseys ... for the winter months’. The profit from a concert of £50 ‘helped to pay off some of the bill for the overcoats’. Dr McCabe had criticised the clothing several times in the 1950s, and an effort was being made to respond to her comments.

  1. Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ (Report prepared for the Presentation Brothers, May 2001 and submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 19 May 2004), pp 187–188.
  2. For the greater glory of God.
  3. Fratrium Presentionis Mariae.
  4. Keogh, p 54.
  5. Keogh, p 57.
  6. Cork Examiner, 28 March 1874, cited in Dermot Keogh, ‘St Joseph’s Industrial School, Greenmount, Cork’ May 2001.
  7. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, p 41.
  8. Cork Examiner, 30 March 1874, cited by Keogh, May 2001, pp 41–2.
  9. Cork Examiner, 24 March 1874.
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  13. Report on Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1936.
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