The colour of the two-piece suit worn on my Confirmation day at Goldenbridge, was the exact colour as the last rose of summer that was blooming in the garden yesterday evening. Alas, I don’t have any exciting memories of the day at all.
I remember another Confirmation girl and myself were given a ten shilling note apiece on the occasion by Sister Fabian. I could not help but notice that the notes were the same colour as my Confirmation suit. Because of being institutionalised, we were clueless as to the significance of paper money. We were beside ourselves too when the money was given to us in the parlour. We didn’t know where to put our faces out of shyness. The parlour, you see, was a very special place, where children, visitors and staff alike were only ever allowed to enter whenever there was something very important occurring.
Indeed, our bent shy heads, as we stood there being nicely talked by the nun, were forcibly focussed on the paper money she had just given us for our special day. We were in awe and clutching tightly on to the notes. I was so fascinated by the lady figure on the note, as she looked a far prettier sight than ever the nuns did in their miserable black habits.
We were imbued with the holy spirit after it had entered our bodies at the Confirmation service given by the bishop at St. Michael’s church, Inchicore. Children never went to mass outside Goldenbridge convent. This was a once off occasion.
Confirmation can be conferred only on those who have already been baptised and have not yet been confirmed. As St. Thomas says:
Confirmation is to baptism what growth is to generation. Now it is clear that a man cannot advance to a perfect age unless he has first been born; in like manner, unless he has first been baptised he cannot receive the Sacrament of Confirmation (Summa Theologiæ III.72.6).
I can still visualise Sr. Fabian standing behind me at the altar rails whilst awaiting arrival of bishop to confirm me. She obviously would have been my sponsor, as I remember getting confirmation name ‘Margaret’, which I had learned was her namesake in lay life before she entered the convent. I happened to have discovered that years later when I was helping a staff member to make Sr. Fabian’s bed in the cell she occupied nearby the now infamous landing. I saw her full name on a plaque on the cell wall. I shan’t release it here. I was talking to a survivor who grew up with me, who would have also made her confirmation in the sixties, and she told me that she had chosen her own name. I was amazed when I heard that, as it would have never occurred to me to have chosen a name, as we were hardly called by our names in Goldenbridge, we were referred to by our numbers. A thought has just occurred to me that perhaps we may each have got a ten shilling note from the nun because of her being our sponsors?!
Miss H. with the glasses, as she was referred to by all, was of tall thin stature. She wore a plaid suit. She was very dour in character. She hailed from the country. Her sister worked in the kitchen. She was given the task of taking the bi-racial girl and myself into town. The other girl and myself did not really have anything in common with each other, let alone, the lay teacher, as she was called, despite not being trained as one at all. In fact I personally remember being very nervous of her, as she was in charge of the medicine press, and children who had to go to her for medicinal purposes were always scared stiff out of their minds, and would put up with their ailments, rather than have to face Miss H. Miss. H. although not physically cruel was very indifferent to children when they had to stand before her each morning in the wash-room. Children had to line up in front of her whilst she fine-combed their hair with a thick aluminium steel comb. She dipped the comb into a stainless steel jar that contained pink paraffin oil, and ploughed deeply into their heads. Some children were left with bleeding scalps as a result. She was sadistic in her steadfast duty to hunt out the hoppers and knits. There were plentiful to be had, that’s for sure, and the blighters too got no warm treatment from the lay teacher.
I recall going into a tea-house, and having dainty cream cakes and tea, it may have been to the renowned Bewley’s on Grafton St.. There was nothing spectacular about the company. We were an odd mix. There was no sense of gaiety or laughter or any sort of elated freedom that I can recollect on the afternoon’s outing. Miss H. allowed the other girl to take off her box-style hat, as she was not pleased about wearing it. I rather liked mine, which was a full sun-syle one, which I could hide behind.
It’s rather ironic that the girl who went out for a short while (when she was approximately 6 years old) with a friend of the Boyne host family, who took me out of Goldenbridge from Communion age, till I was 9, was also the same girl who was with me on the Confirmation day outing.
There is a tree overhead the washing-line at my abode in Donnybrook, Dublin, and it’s filled with beautiful berries. I don’t recall seeing so many of them last year. They’re in abundance all around. Their colour seem very appropriate to the subject to hand. I keep gazing on them, they look like flowers from a distance. So betwixt foxes and blooming berries and a plethora of cats and magpies, I’m in my element were nature is concerned.
I heard from Christine Buckley, after inquiring about her, that she now lives in Germany, and went into adult education, which is very positive. I had asked Christine to apologise to her because of having fled from her when we had both landed up in the Chamberlains office in London working in a temporary office job. I ran away because I didn’t want any haunting reminders of my past institutional Goldenbridge life. I was this other person in my minds eye, who had gone to a boarding school in Ireland. It was wrong of me, but the same thing was done to me as well on umpteen occasions in the recent past. I’ve written about this type of fear of each other that is very common with survivors of Industrial ‘Schools’. Suffice it to say, I’ve mostly overcome it, as I now write about it.
Miss H. was not unfriendly to us on our Confirmation day. She was also not a person who was able to communicate with children per se. She was a very serious person, but then again, Irene, a member of the Boyne host family, told me as an adult that I was a strange child, so perhaps I was in the right company after all. Anyway, I really don’t know how we could have interacted with the teacher, as we did not have any skills to talk to adults, despite us being teenagers.