Goldenbridge “La La’s” = Pets

Goldenbridge inmates. Circa 1950

Goldenbridge inmates. Circa 1950

Goldenbridge had its fair share of – colloquially known in the institution – la la’s = pets.  Indeed – they were the bane of the lives of child inmates. Survivors, in the main, who went before the commission to inquire into child abuse in 2009 in Dublin, were very vocal in their condemnation of favouritism that was shown to certain inmates throughout their whole childhood, as they’ve never recovered from the psychological effects it had on their own personal makeup throughout their adult lives. The following are some examples expressed to the CICA:


7.193 Witnesses complained that children were not all treated alike in Goldenbridge. They were protected to some extent if they had a relative who visited them regularly. Favouritism was a complaint made particularly by witnesses who were in Goldenbridge during the 1960s.

7.194 A complainant, who was aged nine in the early 1960s, described the difference in the way that children were treated. This witness and her siblings were placed in care on the death of their mother, and she noticed particularly how two members of another family were treated so differently that it came as a shock to her to realise they were sisters. Whereas one girl was favoured as a pet, the other was treated with extreme cruelty and was often seen waiting on the landing for punishment.

7.195 Another complainant, objecting to favouritism, remarked that the very fact that the nuns and lay staff were capable of forming attachments with certain children demonstrated that they knew how to treat children properly and show them love and affection:

It was wrong there was no need for it, why couldn’t they treat us all like pets, why not? That’s a choice they exercised.

7.196 A witness, who was five years old when he was committed to Goldenbridge, gave evidence. He was transferred to Artane when he was nine years old. He stated that, before he was committed to institutional care:

I was a happy, young little kid and I believe I was turned into a nervous wreck in these places.

7.197 He was emotionally upset by the death of his mother and was a regular bed-wetter. He was left-handed and was constantly beaten for it in class. This vulnerability made him an obvious target for bullies. He summed up his situation as follows:

I remember just constantly getting beaten. Even in the classroom being nervous, and left handed, you weren’t allowed to do things left handed, the devil was in you, you were told … From constant beatings I had a stutter and I had a turn in my eye as well, and I used to get an awful time off the rest of the kids.

7.198 The Sisters of Mercy in their Submission accepted that this complainant’s circumstances made him more vulnerable.



I know for certain that discrimination has left its mark on me. Whenever, I see people being singled out for favouritism, it instantaneously transports me all the way back to Goldenbridge where I witnessed it every single day.

Ironically, though, those who do favour people can do tremendous harm to the la la’s in the long run, as not only do they give the latter a false image of themselves, the la la’s can also become targets of those who are not deemed good enough. Setting up one against the other is what happens, as those who feel discriminated against, feel they have to knock the la la’s off their high perches.

Discrimination can stir up all sorts of negative emotions in onlookers. It happened in Goldenbridge, where la la’s were constantly ganged up on by other inmates, who pulled off their fancy aeroplane special ribbons; who stuck their tongues out, and gave them digs, as well as ostracising them from the group.

La la’s in Goldenbridge also had the propensity to exude an air of superiority and show off in front of those who petted them. They could never get enough attention paid to them by their admirers and went to the ends of the earth to try to please their petters. La la’s always spent a lot of time reporting children to the staff for the slightest infractions – imaginary or otherwise – and those reported were subsequently punished severely because of their actions.

I know of one particular la la who was very damaged by being a pet, that it affected her life after the institution. She became an alcoholic.

It was mostly those who already had support systems and family, who were earmarked for special treatment. Those with any forms of disability, or, who in any other way – were displeasing to the eye – as Mary McCarthy points out in ‘Memories of a Catholic Girlhood’:

Those who stayed longest, were a raw, red, homely Irishwoman with warts on her hands, the faithful Gertrude, whom I disliked because she was not pretty.

were totally ignored by the staff. They, like Gertrude with warts and all, were going nowhere, as who would want them, with their ugly faces to boot. Not aesthetically pleasing enough to be deemed Goldenbridge “La La’s” = Pets!

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H/t photo:


No Birthday acknowledgements in Industrial “Schools” / Reformatories


I oftentimes – to this very day – cry bucketfuls – over something that penetrated deeply, the inner lives of most survivors of Industrial “schools” and Reformatories in the past. It had / has to do with lack of acknowledgement by people on special occasions, i.e., most notably birthdays. Most family members and friends take birthday cards and gifts that they receive from each other for granted – not so survivors of Industrial “Schools” and Reformatories. During whole incarceration periods in their respective institutions they mostly would have been ignored when it came to birthdays. Survivors mostly never knew how old they were, let alone know their birthday dates. The lucky inmates in this respect were those who had family visitors, as the latter made sure to make a big deal of said occasions. It was the parent/s way of making up for the loss of not being permanently in the children’s lives. Survivors never cried as children because of not receiving birthday cards and gifts, as they obviously never knew what they had missed out on in their lives – being utterly ignorant and all that of such joyous occasions. They certainly made up for it when they grew up and discovered differently in the outside world. The only celebratory identifications Goldenbridge inmates could relate to were religious feast-days. During those times they got ice-cream after dinner and at supper-time a dry sponge-cake that was left in the middle of each six-seater table in the dining-hall.

Christine Buckley, who grew up with me in Goldenbridge, and who runs Aislinn Centre for survivors of Industrial “Schools” and Reformatories in Dublin, made it her remit to see that survivors would be acknowledged on their birthdays. A birthday cake and gifts are a specialty on the agenda. Christine sees it as being acknowledgement of the births of survivors, when there weren’t any parents to acknowledge existence of said survivors in the past. It is always an emotional time for them, as they feel validated, and it goes a long way into correcting that much needed healing. It takes the sting out of things by somewhat making up for lost care that should have been naturally present in their lives in the past. I wholeheartedly give praise to the big deal that is made of survivors on their birthdays. The smiles on their faces is a sight to behold, as they open the wee presents given to them by Christine et al. They were so bereft of gifts as children in the past in institutions and it just means so much.

I know that to those who were never in any kind of State care – it might appear as some kind of conundrum, as to why survivors get frightfully upset when they’re ignored at birthday times by people. It may appear to be very hard to take on board for some people, who may find it thoroughly confusing that survivors should make such a great commotion over birthdays. I know many survivors who have fallen out with people over the years because they were never recognised during birthday times. I don’t celebrate my own birthday, as it is far too emotional. I just cry; cry and cry the live-long day, as the loss of birthday celebrations in the past come flooding back. A counsellor once pointed out to me – when I told her about how I felt at birthday-times – that she came across similar sad emotions with every survivor who had darkened her office. She told me to go out and specifically nurture and indulge myself on those days each year, or soon thereafter. I definitely heeded her advise. This kind of self-nurturing has definitely taken on – and when I also find myself in very negative situations where I feel alienated, I make it my business to treat myself to something nice.

My mother and special uncles and aunts in the past – when they discovered me  – were particularly sensitive to celebratory occasions. It made me feel important, that someone in the world acknowledged my existence. I was spoiled rotten by them. I miss so much being important to people. It lasted such a short time in my life.

Ironically – whenever child inmates in Goldenbridge went out to annual charitable parties, the first thing they did was to save the presents that they got for the host families who took them out. They loved giving presents to people, despite never having had the experience of receiving them as children. Even to this day – they love giving gifts to people. I know I do for certain.

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Freedom of Angels – by Bernadette Fahy

“I entered Goldenbridge orphanage in my Communion outfit. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing there.’ At age seven, Bernadette Fahy was delivered with her three brothers to Goldenbridge Orphanage. She was to stay there until she was sixteen. Goldenbridge has come to represent some of the worst aspects of childrearing practices in Ireland of the 1950s and 1960s. Seen as the offspring of people who had strayed from social respectability and religious standards, these children were made to pay for the ‘sins’ of their parents. Bernadette tells of the pain, fear, hunger, hard labour and isolation experienced in the orphanage. Can a person recover from such a childhood? How does the spirit ever take flight — and gain the ‘freedom of angels’? This is Bernadette Fahy’s concern. Now trained and working as a counsellor, she has had to dig deeply into her past to understand the patterns laid down by her upbringing. She has had to rebuild her life, and now she helps others to do the same. This book is a story of triumph over the harshest of circumstances.”  Amazon.

Goldenbridge Special Bus


Goldenbridge “Special” bus. Circa 1970

Today is Mother’s Day, and I can’t help wondering where all the mothers of the Goldenbridge children were on the day that this photo was taken?

“This photo of children from Goldenbridge circa 1970 will definitely bring back huge memories to past inmates. [I’ve heard that a lot of survivors specifically residing in England have recently frequented the site, so have subsequently placed it here for their benefit]. I would have left the institution at the time. The backdrop is set against the outside of Goldenbridge Convent facing in the canal/graveyard general direction. The children would have been going on a rare outing on the SPECIAL bus – courtesy of nearby CIE. The latter company was very good to children in Goldenbridge. The staff organised Christmas parties for them in the rec (wreck). Kindness incarnate! They would pick up the wee ones in their arns and bring normality into their lives for those few precious hours. There are a lot of men in the photo.” Read the rest: Goldenbridge Special Bus. | Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin 

Catherine McAuley foundress of the Sisters of Mercy


Stained Glass Window of Mother Catherine McAuley – who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831 Dublin, Ireland – H/t Patricksmercy at Flickr.

Catherine established the House of Mercy in 1827 with inheritance money, her desire was to educate young women. She founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin Ireland in 1831.

Fr Willie Purcell, who gave a talk at Mother Catherine McAuley retreat centre, Peru in 2008 stated:

“Mother Catherine McAuley was illustrated as a person whose concern for the poor was limitless.”

“Catherine was a woman of God and God made her a woman of vision”.

“Catherine was a woman who noticed, who was mindful of all around her, present to people and strong in commitment. Mercy was her Mission and Mercy was her seed.  Her “far reaching eyes” could see not just in front of her – she observed potential and her trust in God was absolute.”

If one was to stack up all the evidence of this wonderful, triumphant, Victorious; Venerable Visionary and her religious ideals and work and weigh it against the atrocities that occurred in Goldenbridge and other industrial “schools” run by the Sisters of Mercy… it wouldn’t bear thinking about at all. Mercy may have been her seed, but the fruits of that seed were partially destroyed by the weeds that sprung up amongst them. Mercy was not the mission of the bad fruit, but rather – Mercilessness!

I wonder what she would make of the Ryan Report 2009 if she were alive today? What would her “far reaching eyes” have “observed” in the nuns – who had followed her in Christ – as they poured in and out of the commission to inquire into child abuse? Would she have been ‘mindful’ of the cruelty that they meted out to children and done something about it? Would she have invited them to ‘sip tea’ with her at Baggot St. residence, and comforted them whilst they relayed the CICA’s goings-on?

Mother Catherine McAuley spoke the following words to the Sisters of Mercy on her deathbed:

‘When I am dead and gone do not forget to comfort yourselves with a nice cup of tea.’

The nuns drank tea almost every single day from the best Irish china cups and saucers in the parlour. While Goldenbridge children resorted to drinking black  sugarless cocoa (and stewed tea in later years) from plastic cups. I never saw a bowl of sugar or a jug of milk on a table in all the years I was incarcerated in the institution. The nuns took their foundress at her very word, but never extended the tea to children in their care. A sad indictment.
Some of her followers at Goldenbridge saw zero potential in the children incarcerated into their care. The latter were not even deemed good enough to be seen in the company of her followers in the convent adjacent to the industrial “school”. The nuns may have lived side by side the inmates but the latter were poles apart, not only because of a partition wicket gate colloquially known as the wicked gate that separated them, but also because they were seen as the lowest of Irish society, and not fit enough to be in their holy company. Think Dalits in India.
Nevertheless, what should one expect when the nuns in the nearby convent, who were bound to obedience, never once extended the hand of friendship to children in Goldenbridge. We prayed with them every day in the chapel, but never knew them by name, as we were not allowed to have any contact. They could have been living on another planet as far as we were concerned. It was forbidden to turn our heads around in the chapel and look at them at only three feet away. When they came to the Industrial school several times a year to watch a film, they never spoke a word to us. Upon looking back, it seems so at odds with the Mercy label they carried.
There was also rampant class discrimination in Ireland within Catholicism in the past. It was such a pity that CM’s followers could not then ‘observe’ that there were 150/200 children without mothers and fathers right in their midst, who had a lot of ‘potential’ that could have been positively exploited if they had given any thought about them at all. It would have gone a long way in helping them to adjust to the big world outside when their incarceration periods ceased. After all, ‘Mother Catherine McAuley was illustrated as a person whose concern for the poor was limitless.”

I’ve been reading the Sisters of Mercy website, and there is nowhere to be found any mention of industrial “schools” from my observation, anyway. I think the Sisters of Mercy are still in so much denial about their rotten treatment of the most vulnerable children who were entrusted into their care in industrial “schools” in the past.

Establishment of Goldenbridge

The Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin in 1831.

7.09 In 1855, Cardinal Cullen invited the Sisters of Mercy to provide a rehabilitation service to women who had been incarcerated in Mountjoy jail, by educating them and preparing them for final release. Cardinal Cullen originally rented the premises at Goldenbridge and paid the rent for a five-year period. The convict refuge was opened in 1856. The Sisters continued with this work until 1883.

7.10 In 1858, within two years of commencing this mission, the Sisters of Mercy had established a convent, a national school for the poor of the area, and a commercial laundry on the premises originally acquired by Cardinal Cullen, as well as the rehabilitation service for prisoners. These projects were funded by the mother house, which was then in Baggot Street, Dublin.

7.11 In 1880, a building within the complex was certified as an industrial school for girls, with a certification for 50. It was called St Vincent’s Industrial School and it opened with an initial intake of 30 girls.

7.12 In 1883, the convict refuge was converted into the Industrial School. Dormitories, a dining hall, workrooms and extra accommodation were added over the subsequent two years, at a cost of some £2,000. Within five years, the School had increased its certification from 50 to 150.

7.13 From 1885, the number of children accommodated in the School remained steady, although there was a significant increase over the 1950s and 1960s, up to a high of 193 in 1964. At the time of its closure in 1983, there were 46 pupils in Goldenbridge.

Read more:  Goldenbridge – Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse


Goldenbridge Industrial *School*: Twisted Sisters by Peter and Leni 

H/t photo goldenbridge.htm 


  • Children in Goldenbridge produced rosary beads from the 1940s to the 1960s. They had to reach a quota of sixty decades a day on weekdays and ninety on Saturdays.

The commission remarked that the conditions children worked under caused stress and anxiety and would not have been tolerated in factories. The commission also noted that the bead-making deprived children of recreation that was essential for social, emotional and psychological growth.

Goldenbridge Convent and avenues

142484382I would have driven / walked, whichever, up this long avenue the very first time I entered Goldenbridge industrial “school” in the mid/late fifties. I would have entered the convent door in the middle, as my papers from the Dublin District Court had to handed over to the Mother Superior, before I was released to the management sister in charge at the industrial school, which lay to the left (unseen) of the picture. A lot of my Goldenbridge counterparts would have vivid recollections of going into the convent for the first time, either because of being old enough to remember, or perhaps that they were just able to go back that far in memory as small children. I personally do not have the slightest remembrance at all. All my memories are connected to the convent exterior, such as the chapel to the right, which I attended every single day for the duration of my incarceration period in the industrial “school”. I also have strong memories of the long and side avenues, as they were used by children during annual silent week-end retreats, excepting for prayers, whereby the latter had to walk in twos up and down this avenue as well as the narrow side avenue reciting fifteen decades of the rosary. It’s rather ironic, that the rosary beads given to child inmates were made of cheap string and virginal blue plastic beads, which were not in line with the grand pearl and opulent glass rosary beads that they produced every single day. One would have thought that at least they could have been afforded the luxury of praying on the rosary beads they slogged away at day in and day out of their institutional lives. I also have vivid recollections of looking out the Sacred Heart window every Sunday afternoon at the visitors strolling up the avenue to visit their children. One particular man against all physical odds arrived up the long avenue without fail every Sunday to see his daughter. He always brought tears to my eyes, as I surveyed him from the wet-the-bed dormitory. I wrote about it:

Goldenbridge: Looking out the Sacred Heart Window | Marie  

Apr 1, 2012 – I keep having recurring memories of looking out the Sacred Heart window each Sunday of my young life, whilst an inmate of the now notorious 

Always looking outside a rainy Sacred Heart dormitory window   

Jul 29, 2012 – To this day, I have a recurrent memory of always looking outside the top Sacred Heart window and it overwhelms me with sadness. I’ve also 

Donnybrook garden rose

Click to visit the original postI took this photograph in the summer of 2012 at Nora’s wee cottage garden that runs parallel to the dodder footbridge in Donnybrook, Dublin. The dodder with its river, which was tinkling the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of the late summer sun.

As George Eliot points out in her opening chapter of the “The Mill on the Floss” ‘How lovely the river is with its dark changing wavelets.’ It seemed to me like a living companion, while I wandered along the narrow footbridge and bank to listen to its low placid current into the Floss.” There was also a mill at this very spot.

I thought it would be nice to start the Goldenbridge diary on a flowery note. Besides, I’m now a resident of Donnybrook, which is mostly a very posh part of Dublin. It is colloquially referred to as Dublin 4. It is a well sought after residential area. Unfortunately, I don’t happen to live in the posh part, but the poshness is all around me, and that can’t be too bad at all. For example, I get to enjoy the beauty of the elegantly groomed gardens at nearby Eglinton Rd.

I enjoy taking photographs, and especially of Irish flowers, which grow abundantly in most of the very spacious gardens in the tree-lined area. What pleases me so much about the flowers – such as the pink rose here, is that the garden flowers are mostly well established, due to the agedness of the houses, that date back to the Georgian and Victorian times. Hence the gardens being relatively very mature and solid.