Evidence of respondents
7.260 Sr Alida described the beads room as ‘a room of relaxation rather than pressure’. She said that there was a radio or record player that was played in the room, and the children sang along and chatted amongst themselves. She did not consider the work difficult, and stated that ‘it didn’t take a lot of stress doing the work’ and she felt that the work was comparable to a knitting class.
7.261 Sr Alida denied that children were beaten for not reaching their quota and claimed ‘that there was no difficulty in making the quota in the beads class’. She admitted that it was her responsibility to check the quality and quantity of the decades of beads before they were returned to the factory. If the beads were not properly completed, they would be sent back and ‘it was nasty, to get them back to be repaired, very nasty’. This, she said, resulted in her staying up ‘odd nights’ with children helping her to finish the work to go back to the factory.
7.262 Sr Alida began the beads class with the permission of the Resident Manager, Sr Bianca. She explained that it was important for the children to have something to do:
My chief problem was that the children had nothing in the world to do after they left school in the evening, there was no occupation of any kind. They went to the play hall and they shouted and roared and pulled each other around from 3.30 until 5.45, we were in the convent at that time.
7.263 Sr Alida also viewed the bead making as a means of generating extra income for the School. At the time when she was approached to assemble decades of rosaries, she said Goldenbridge ‘was subject to considerable financial restraint’, and she saw the bead making as an opportunity to increase their financial income:
… I viewed this offer as an opportunity to increase the income of the home for the benefit of the children. I believed that this could provide us with a source of income to improve the welfare of the children and to provide them with little luxuries which were not available to us at that time.
7.264 Sr Alida said that the money from the beads was used to pay for Irish dancing classes, old-time dancing, dancing shoes and costumes for the children, sweets, yearly trips to Butlins, and day trips to Portmarnock during the summer. She also said that the children were given pocket money out of the proceeds of the bead money. These were the ‘luxuries’ that were provided by the beads money, and ‘everything that the children had as extras’ came from that money.
7.265 The bead making became a very profitable enterprise, generating a weekly income of at least £50 for the School. Sr Alida opened a Post Office savings account for the proceeds from the bead making, which she controlled, and Sr Bianca never queried what she did with it. The money made from the beads over a 20-year period was considerable. Sr Alida asserted that the money earned was spent on the children:
… All those things did not come from the allowance the Government paid for the children, it came from the children’s own hands … the beads bought those things for them.
7.266 The money from the beads provided one-third of the cost of the purchase of a holiday home for the children in Rathdrum in 1954. The entire cost of the holiday home was £3,000. The Investigation Committee instructed Mazars, Financial Consultants to review the accounts of Goldenbridge. They confirmed the figure of at least £50 per week.
7.267 Prior to introducing bead making, Sr Alida had a knitting class where girls made their own jumpers. This work was superseded by bead making, although a very small number of bigger girls continued to do knitting.
7.268 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.
7.269 Ms Garvin remembered Ms O’Shea, another lay worker and former resident, supervising the beads class. During her time in Goldenbridge from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, she went to the beads class most days before teatime, where she remembered seeing the girls chatting to each other and that music was playing. She insisted that the atmosphere in the beads room was pleasant, and she never saw a child being beaten in the beads room. There was, however, evidence that Ms O’Shea was violent and irascible.