Other Sisters who worked in the School expressed similar sentiments. Sr Gianna5 said that she had received no training whatsoever, although she thought that her previous work with children in the Girl Guides might have been a factor in her being sent to Goldenbridge. In her evidence at the Phase I hearing in the Newtownforbes investigation, Sr Margaret Casey stated: The Sisters themselves would not, as I said earlier, have had any kind of formal training in childcare, actually such training didn’t exist until the 70s. So most of the Sisters there would have had a background in secondary education before they entered. Subsequently they would have received some training, some of them, obviously the primary school teachers would have qualified as primary school teachers. Some of the Sisters working in the Industrial School did diplomas and certificates to Ceidi and Lough Gill and home economics and housewifery, that area. I know that one of the Sisters in 1953 attended an institutional management course that was run in Carysfort. She subsequently was full-time working in the Industrial School. One Sister also trained as a children’s nurse.
Sr Gianna16 gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. She worked as an assistant in the School from 1960 until she took her final vows as a Sister of Mercy a few years later. She stated that, although Sr Alida used a stick for corporal punishment, it would cause no more than temporary discomfort to a child. She agreed that it could leave bruising on a child’s body, but she said she never witnessed such injuries.
Sr Gianna recalled that Ms Thornton, a former resident of the Institution, often supervised the beads class. Although she was of the view that Ms Thornton was kind to the children, she conceded that she had a bad temper and that she heard her shouting and roaring at the children in the class.
Sr Gianna stated that she was very aware of the lack of emotional care for the children in Goldenbridge: I would be very conscious of that when children came in from a family that had just lost a mother and how sad they would be. I would be very moved when I would see that because it was awful for them to come into this big school with this big crowd of children and to be just one of a group after being in a family setting.
The Sisters of Mercy assert that this was never the case; children were never called by a number. The use of numbers was for the purpose of laundry and distributing children’s clothing. Each item of the child’s clothing was numbered so that, when it was washed and ironed, that same item of clothing could be returned to the appropriate child. Sr Gianna, who worked in the laundry and workroom of Goldenbridge for three years, gave a detailed account of the washing and distribution of the children’s clothing. In evidence, Sr Gianna recounted that the children’s clothing, once it had been washed and ironed, was brought down to the recreation hall for distribution: And the numbers called out then. We had them in the big baskets and then you picked out your three articles or four articles and you called out a number and the child who owned these came forward. She went down and she undressed and you had the senior girls there helping the smaller ones to dress and undress. They would bring up their soiled laundry and put it into the baskets.
Sr Gianna’s duties involved working in the workroom, mending and sorting clothes or working in the laundry on a Monday or Friday. She never saw children younger than 13 working in the laundry. She stated that the older girls were involved in keeping the School clean.
Sr Gianna recalled accompanying Sr Alida to the market to buy trays of apples and oranges. Sr Alida recalled that there was dessert every day after dinner, which consisted of tapioca, corn flour, rice or jelly.
Sr Gianna, who worked in the School in the early 1960s, had a very positive opinion of the clothing situation, and stated that: My first impression when I came to the School was that the children had just beautiful clothes. I would also remember the Sisters in the convent, the children used to come up on a Sunday for Mass and a lot of the Sisters would make comment about how lovely they looked. They always had lovely white socks up to her knees, in the summer short white socks. They might have black patent shoes. They had lovely pleated skirts and none of them were the same, they were all different types of checks or plaids. They had nice coloured jumpers, different types of jumpers. I would have always seen them as very well clad.