Day outings to Brittas Bay sea-side

Map Of Co. WicklowGoldenbridge children with no families to take them out on summer holidays, who subsequently went to St. Joseph’s Holiday Home, Rathdrum, went on regular day outings to Brittas Bay sea-side.

I mostly enjoyed those times spent there in the sixties.

Brittas Bay is one of the finest beaches on the East Coast. It has a 5km stretch of beautiful white sand dunes and clean beaches. This beach has won a European Union (EU) Blue Flag – the international emblem for the highest quality beach areas in Europe – for five consecutive years. With no headlands to interfere with the peaceful rhythm, it is ideal for bathing, sailing and walking. Brittas has a 2mile/3.2km stretch of powdery sand and sand dune system which is a designated area of significant interest. The dunes are home to many interesting wildlife species and plants, including a number of rare species.


Even though it was mostly hard work for older children, who, through no choice of their own, were forced to take on enormous responsibilities for 50 and more smaller children, they still found some time to enjoy themselves in the wide open spaces of their panoramic surroundings.

However, children invariably got sand-laced jam sandwiches to eat. The thin white sliced bread was indigestible. I abhor white sliced-processed bread to this day. I’ve also got an aversion to eating outdoors, and I think it stems from the times when I had to eat inedible food outdoors during summer months at Goldenbridge, Rathdrum and Brittas Bay. It also has huge psychological connotations with respect of being thrown scraps of bread and the like, by staff  in the enclosed prison yard at Goldenbridge. Hunger and uncomfortableness concerning eating outdoors are subconsciously embedded in me from those days.

Children also got very raw red painful indentation marks on their thighs from wearing very tight elasticated stretch swimming togs all day. Not to mention red burnt scaling skin on most of the children’s bodies. They were doused with calamine lotion when they went back to St. Joseph’s and St. Kyran’s respectively. The young boys from the latter institution would have been with the girls. Nonetheless, the worst case scenario to witness was the tearful children who had massive water blisters all over their bodies from having been in the sun for the whole day. It was unbearable having to see them suffer so much. It was at times like these that wee children between the ages of four and six really should have been in the tender loving care of their parents, and not with other motherless and fatherless older children, who also needed kind figureheads to care for them.

The nuns always took themselves off to a private part of the beach to swim. Two boys from another industrial “school” drowned when they went on to Donegal on a seaside outing.  They were in the care of the Christian Brothers.  By all accounts, there was no big deal about their deaths in the aftermath in the media. Their three sisters were in Goldenbridge. The sisters were treated abominably by staff when they cried about the loss of their brothers. Children were nonentities.  They were given two bulls-eyes and told to shut up basically. It’s amazing that children at Brittas Bay never had any accidents of that sort, as very small children were not too far away from the waters edge.


Children never saw nuns’ naked flesh at any time throughout their whole childhood. So it was utterly mysterious contemplating the fact that the black robed – from head to toe – nuns had quietly disappeared off to a quiet spot and donned bathing togs and hats. There was almost something sensual about that happening. There was a boy from St. Kyran’s, who later went to Artane Industrial “School” at ten years old. He could not distinguish between the genders of the  nuns and the Christian brothers. They appeared all the same to him, as both genders were attired in long black robes down to their ankles. He also had sisters at Goldenbridge and would have encountered them at the beach. Children who never saw nuns in any state of undress also never saw nuns consume food. Well, I only ever mistakenly ever saw a nun eat food when she had afternoon tea in a quite tiny pantry. I had opened the door in error and got the shock of my life as I saw the nun munching away at a nice piece of cake. I apologised profusely, whilst speedily shut the door. Some children sneaked into that tiny area to rob bulls eyes  that were in the shiny silver cans on the top shelves. That’s another story.

Children were always curious about the nuns’ heads. There were whispers every now and again, as to whether they were shaven, just like some children were in Goldenbridge. Nevertheless, all was revealed one day to a classroom of girls in St. Philomena’s , Goldenbridge, when one of the latter pulled the veil off a nun, as the girl tried to defend herself when the nun tried to strip her off her soiled clothing. The nun got more than she bargained for, and there was a sense of relief at the outpouring of longstanding pent up emotions in the girl, who had severe menstruations, and really should have been under the care of doctors, instead of being ridiculed and mortified by the nun.


I have good memories of Brittas Bay, and it really makes a change for me to write about something that was mostly gratifying during my childhood, as all I’ve ever written about are Goldenbridge experiences filled with doom and gloom.

In the early nineties I took a vagary and brought a group of survivors in my spanking new Ford Focus car to the spot depicted in the photo. We had a whale of a time en-route from Dublin’s Aislinn Centre, which was our pick-up point. We opened all the car windows and sang so loudly as we merrily meandered the winding N11 Wexford roads throughout the Garden of Ireland. We were breathless, as we had to take in gulps of strong wind air, but we didn’t mind, as we were in intoxicated on the atmosphere of such freedom. When we arrived in Brittas Bay we headed for the Sand Dunes and eventually the beach.


We decided to get rid of all our demons by screaming at the tip tops of our voices and casting off all our tension to the sea. There weren’t any people about, so we were as free as the birds overhead to yell and to make primal unpalatable noises and not have to worry about being criticised by anyone for being atypical in our behaviour. We let the roaring animal within us take over.  We let the cries of our past institutional pent up lives come before us and decided dignity time was over for a while. We let all our hair hang loose. We splashed in the sea and jumped up and down like joyous children. It was something else.


The scene reminded me of the time when all the women in Dancing at Lugnasa – by Brian Friel decided to dance and there was a form of madness in the the way that it overtook their psyches. All the pent up emotions of being stifled because they were women living in a rural Irish community dominated by religious teaching just got to them and they went berserk. Well, it was the same with us survivors of industrial “schools” on the beach at Brittas Bay. All were cleansed by the outpouring of pain that was embedded in the gut of our beings. I was glad that there was another survivor of Goldenbridge who could relate to the happy time spent at Brittas Bay. There was also a younger woman, Barbara Naughton with us. She was not a survivor of an industrial “school”, but instead a survivor of incest. She could identify with our pain, as she too had similar symptoms. Whenever I met those survivors afterwards the first thing they always talked about was the day I took them off to Brittas Bay. Sadly one of the survivors has died since with cancer. Her name was Emma Sharma-Hayes. Barbara went on to write two books about her childhood experiences, and even learned to drive herself. Another survivor who was bi-racial discovered that she had Irish siblings that she never knew existed, thanks to Origins a family tracing service for survivors of industrial “schools” that comes under the umbrella of Barnardo’s.


St. Joseph’s Holiday Home Rathdrum Co. Wicklow

Parnell statue, Rathdrum. Co. Wicklow.Here we are again, happy as can be

All good friends and jolly good company

Never mind the weather, never mind the rain

Now we’re all together, whoops she goes again

La Dee dah Dee dah, la Dee dah Dee Dee

*This is an interpretation of a song recalled from memory that was sung by children when they were en-route from Goldenbridge to Rathdrum Holiday Home. “Whoops she goes again” referred to the bumps the ‘Special’ bus made along the way, when it came upon upward and downward hills, which there were many, as it approached the outskirts of Co. Wicklow. There was always uproarious laughter from the children, and even from the nuns, whom it was rare to see with smiling, joyful faces.

As a child at Goldenbridge industrial “school” during the sixties summertime season, I absolutely adored heading off on the ‘Special’ bus to Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow. Bernadette Fahy in her book “Freedom of Angels” referred to St. Joseph’s Holiday Home, that was for Goldenbridge children who had no families to take them out on summer holidays, as a haven. She felt that all the stress built up from being enclosed in Goldenbridge just lifted when she went there. Doubtless, she felt her sanity had been restored. The same was applicable with me. The immense freedom was also absolutely blissful to all the other exhausted children, who were cooped up for the rest of the year in a very cold, damp, outdated, not fit for purpose ex women’s prison refuge that was situated on the outskirts of Dublin city.

In Freedom of Angels a book about Goldenbridge, there is a chapter on page 100 (4th paragraph) about St. Joseph’s Holiday Home. Bernadette says:

In Rathdrum life was much easier. Our holidays there gave great respite from the relentless cruelty of Goldenbridge. Several factors may have contributed to this. The weather was consistently better. there was a lot more outdoor space and fewer children. On arrival the nuns and staff became much more relaxed and humane. We children responded well to these changes in the adults around us and there was far less pressure and stress on us because we were not being bullies and battered so much.

In the photo you can see Charles Stewart Parnell, a famous Irish historical figure from nearby Avondale. He stands proudly with folded arms on a plinth that is exactly on the spot where the old Georgian mansion house stood that once housed the sleeping quarters of the ‘good’ children. The ‘not so good’ children and the wet-the-beds, as they were callously colloquially called by the staff had to make do with the very damp and musty St. Ann’s and the corrugated rooftop cottage respectively that lay yonder from the large palatial house that had cobbled stones all around the grand front entrance.


It was a beautiful old rambling two storied rectory house  with a large door, hall way and a parlour for the nuns. There were gigantic  shuttered windows everywhere. As you can see too from the photo, there was plenty of open space belonging to the home that children could frolic about freely.

I even remember enjoying going to mass in the oratory that dominated a large part of the left hand side of the ground floor of the palatial building. One could view to one’s heart’s content the abundance of old trees and greenery from the aforementioned windows. A bright red swanky carpet donned the entrance floor to the temporary makeshift altar in the centre, that only the serving priest was allowed to use. Children were never forced to attend mass in the tiny oratory. They went of their own volition, which was not something that occurred in Goldenbridge, where they were beaten if they had any qualms about going to the convent chapel, or they resorted to hiding in a cupboard full of old mattresses. What a difference it made to young people to be given a choice for once in their young lives.

I even remember with positivity the bright airy dining room adjoining the oratory. I can still see the royal blue rimmed tea-cups, saucers and plates. The food was even more palatable than Goldenbridge. I remember working one year in the annexed scullery / pantry attached to the dining room with a minor staff. I had ruined a brand new dress with purple stripes in it, after using bleach to wash away some stains in the large sink adjoining the secret eating area belonging to the nuns. I was forced by Ms. D., who was in charge of children’s clothing to wear the dress. It was such a humiliation. Sr. Fabian came to the rescue by telling me to get rid of the dress that I looked altogether ridiculous. The minor staff treated me nicely, as I was available to do any work that was required of me. It was far more interesting than having to work in the laundry room in St. Ann’s. I’d had enough of washing dirty laundry in Goldenbridge. Besides, I was in a good position to see everything that was going on from the main building. I was such a curious youngster.

It was a time in my young life when I knew that it was good to be alive. I knew that I could happily survive without having a kind soul to turn to, as nature all around me became my very guardian. I got lost in the wondrousness of it all.

Children spent hours sitting in the grass making daisy chains, and were delighted to give them to student visitors who came to stay for holidays in Rathdrum.

I particularly remember rolling with extreme delight down the green hills surrounding the big house. I loved to see the curious, quizzical gazes on the faces of the heifers and cows in the adjoining field, as I landed abruptly in a dizzy flurried excitable ball at the fenced off gate, after using my toe-loed sandaled stocking-free feet to safely halt. I was an expert at tumbling over speedily, as I had got all the practice needed at Goldenbridge, when another girl and myself had forever placed pillows on the floor in the new Mount Carmel’  known as ‘Carmel’ (the same name as my mother) dormitory extension, and did acrobatic jumps from the floor on to the double bed. I had even once put my foot through the beauty-board at the back of the head-post, which became a secret hiding place for stored personal goods for the girl who owned the bed. Alas, the hole in the wall was discovered a long time afterwards, and it resulted in me being shifted to the Sacred Heart wet-the-bed dormitory by Sr. Fabian. It was too good to be true to have found myself in the ‘yellow’ dormitory of the new building that was specifically for the ‘good’ girls.

I also liked to scour the grass for tangy reddish /green sorrel sumptuous leaves. The animals also liked to chew them. Children called them ‘sour’ leaves, as they didn’t know the names of anything that had to do with nature, as they had received very minuscule education. Botany was unheard of, only privileged children who went to outside secondary school were privy to knowing stuff of nature. I had never known what an animal was, other than Neddy the donkey who had inhabited the paddock fields adjacent to Goldenbridge Convent, or the monkey that was brought to Goldenbridge enclosed prison yard to teach young children about the “nature” of things. I recall as a very young child out on licence with the Boyne host family of Boyne St. one of the daughter’s having been absolutely terrified of dogs and spiders and anything to do with non human nature. I seemed not to have been affected by this fear that she had of animals. Thankfully so.


St. Ann’s

St. Ann’s was situated more nearer the main entrance to St. Joseph’s Holiday Home. It faced on to the back of St. Saviour’s Protestant church, seen in image. Children were very frightened of the Protestant church, as they were told it was haunted. The graves could be seen from the back windows of St. Ann’s, a two storied building. During the sixties it was forbidden by the church for Roman Catholics to enter a Protestant church, so it was ideal that there was fear surrounding the church. I think some children never heeded the warning and were curious about the church and crept into it, when nobody was around.  The ‘not so good’ children and a few minor staff would have occupied the top half of the building which acted as a mini dormitory.  The staff had ordinary iron beds, whilst children had to sleep in army camp beds that consisted of two thick bars that were criss-crossed and hessian material placed between them. The make-shift hessian mattresses tore very easily with the weight of older children, so it was just unfortunate that some ‘not so good’ children had to sleep in those torn uncomfortable  beds. One half of the downstairs  building housed the laundry room, whilst the other part housed a play area for when weather was bad. It was such a miserable damp area, at the best of times, and children hoped for sunny days, so as not to have to contend with the miserableness of St. Anne’s. Despite everything, it was heaven on earth for children to be able to play and romp about in the vast open spaces. So many Goldenbridge survivors who went to the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse had similar stories to mine to tell.


The bottom part of the image shows a part of the main entrance to what was once St. Joseph’s Holiday Home. So you see that we were lorded over by the Protestants. How ironic that the church was called St. Saviour and the nun who who was in Goldenbridge was called Sister Xaveria.

Sr. F. kicked me out of the main Georgian building where the ‘specials’ and ‘good’ girls slept. It was so grand there, even the beds were so large and snug. I had been in my element. It was to be short-lived. They had the best blankets, not torn ones seen in the other two dormitories which housed those on the lower rung of the Goldenbridge ladder. It was a status symbol to have been selected to sleep there. A minor member of staff was the culprit. She had wanted to get rid of me for her own personal warped reasons. She stole jelly from the mini-pantry and placed it in my bed. Sr. F. was informed of the misdeed, and as a consequence searched all the beds in the ‘posh’ dormitory. The stolen jelly was found in the centre of my French made bed. My good name was sullied, and I was cast out of the ‘posh’ dormitory and sent to sleep in the wet-the-bed cottage in a broken down iron camp bed with holes in the mattress. It’s rather ironic that that wasn’t the first time that Sr. F. put me out of a ‘good’ dormitory.

The Cottage

The wet-the-bed cottage was the worst place of all to sleep. It was  the smallest of the three houses. It overlooked an unkempt ditch. Children who were not favourable, or who had problems wetting their beds, or who were punished for misdemeanours would have slept in the cottage. It was simply miserable having to withstand sleeping there, as it stank to high heavens. Nevertheless, still normal in comparison to the Sacred Heart wet-the-bed dormitory in Goldenbridge.  Sarah, a person I know, whose mother has just moved from Rathdrum, took some photos of both St. Anne’s and the cottage. St Anne’s and the Cottage are presently in derelict condition. Nonetheless, it was still very therapeutic seeing concrete evidence of a time spent in them during my young life at Rathdrum.


St. Vincent’s, Goldenbridge was knocked to the ground and a development of private housing went up in its place. This happened at the time of the outset of the controversy. It makes me wonder sometimes if it was a deliberate move to wipe out all memories of the child prison. I was disgusted that Inchicore Historical society had an awful lot to say about the Sisters of Mercy and their arrival at Goldenbridge, but there was just a bare mention of the Industrial “School”.

The nuns and staff were more relaxed in Rathdrum than ever they were in Goldenbridge. I often wonder had the difference in their nature anything to do with the openness of the holiday home. They would have been naturally under more scrutiny from the public. It had been noted by all accounts in the media at the height of the Goldenbridge controversy in the early nineties that when the head honcho from Goldenbridge had moved in the mid sixties to St. Kyran’s boys industrial “school”,  that lay at the other end of Rathdrum town – that she became a different person. Her dealings with children was noticeably much milder in comparison to the excessive cruel way she treated children in her care behind the enclosed prison- like walls of Goldenbridge.
I don’t have any good memories of my whole childhood in Goldenbridge, but I do have of plenty of them regarding Rathdrum. I may have never gelled with humans or vise versa, but I certainly did with nature, that was everywhere to be seen in the beautiful Garden of Ireland landscape. It stayed with me throughout my whole life. Whenever I thought of freedom and beauty it pertained to Rathdrum.
It stunned me in later adult years to discover that my mother and all belonging to her came from the next county to Wicklow. Wexford. It’s almost, as if the child in me had already subconsciously known my ancestral geographical roots. Oh, how I wish that I’d always been rooted in that kind of
landscape. It suited my psyche. I really believe that I was never a part of the Dublin I found myself.
Mass time:
599415_70b156c7Every sunday children from St. Joseph’s holiday home went to mass in the church of Saints’ Mary & Michael. It was at the other end of the town. I remember going up a lot of granite steps  that you see in the image here. The  exquisite panoramic scenery in the hinterland could be viewed from the church. We saw the boys from St. Kyrans industrial “school” in the church, as they stood out like a sore thumb, just as we did. However, the normality of being among ordinary people in society struck a chord with me, and brought me back to the days when I used to attend St. Andrew’s Church in Westland Row. I even had the honour of being a page girl at the wedding of Esther Boyne. A time I thoroughly enjoyed, despite not being wanted by the page boy, Robbie Irwin. He had a sister and  had wanted to walk up the aisle with her. Not me, a stranger, and an “orphan” to boot. He was rather a spoiled boy, and was used to getting his own way, and couldn’t understand why he had to be with me. I was just a nonentity as far as he was concerned.

I  did not belong to anybody, and was just somebody who happened to have stayed with his extended family. It’s rather ironic, as he went on to lose his own family at a very young age, and if the truth had been known at the time, I still had two parents alive that were unknown to me.

I glanced all around me in the church, a simple act that would have caused mayhem in the Goldenbridge Convent chapel where children were severely punished if they even attempted to look backwards at the nuns in the pews. Oh, how I soaked up the freedom of being in the outside world, even if it was to the extent of being escorted by lay staff.
St. Joseph’s Holiday Home children had to sit in the middle of the left hand side entrance of the church. From this vantage point they could see all the country people coming and going, and their eyes were glued on them for ages. Children felt far safer than they did in Goldenbridge, as they did not have to withstand the disapproving looks on the faces of the nuns at Goldenbridge chapel. Goldenbridge children needed some form of normality in their lives, and mixing with the country people gave it to them in buckets. I don’t have any horrid memories associated with Rathdrum. So there is something to be thankful to the nun who bought the building with the proceeds of the rosary-bead making at Goldenbridge. It’s such a pity that my incarceration years were not filled with full time memories of the ilk of St. Joseph’s Holiday Home.
g-4-1This photo of children from Goldenbridge circa 1970 will definitely bring back huge memories to past inmates.
Children were excited out of their minds, as they mounted the “Special” bus outside the gates of Goldenbridge each year. The locals from nearby Keogh Sq. were often to be seen throwing stones in fun at the windows, as they cheered along the hyperactive children. Can you just imagine, the same children were never allowed to express themselves in glee, within the walls of the dour miserable institution. So, is it any wonder that they went berserk on the bus, all the way down to Rathdrum. There was a song that we used to sing which is very apt. It went along these lines:
Cheer up Goldenbridge – it’s known everywhere
We let down Rathdrum and left it lying there
We all called for Mercy and Mercy wasn’t there
So cheer up Goldenbridge  – it’s known everywhere
CICA Investigation:

It seems that the children from Goldenbridge spent three months of the summer out of the industrial school. Those with familes or relatives were fostered out. The rest spent the three months at the beach side holiday home in Rathdrum.

Have these families who fostered the children ever been interviewed and asked whether the children in their care ever complained about abuse at Goldenbridge?

Q. And accountants can look at that. In relation to Rathdrum, it has been suggested that it was firstly entirely purchased out of bead money, and secondly it was a bad deal because the children only got two weeks out of the institution. Firstly, Rathdrum was up in Co. Wicklow?

A. Rathdrum was in Co. Wicklow, yes.

THE CHAIRPERSON: And still is as far as I know, Mr. Gageby.

Q. MR. GAGEBY: And it was, I think, a rather derelict rectory?

A. It was, that’s correct.

Q. How long did the children get to spend there?

A. The children actually stayed three months there, in fact, Goldenbridge you could say transferred out of its position in Inchicore right out to Rathdrum for the summer months. The children who didn’t have families to go back to, they went for two weeks and then went to wherever their families were, it often wasn’t their own family, it might have been families  of friends or semi-foster families. But they transferred the whole operation, if you like, right out for three months.”

Commission to inquire into child abuse:

  1. 7.48  At some time in the early 1950s or even the late 1940s, Sr Alida was approached by a businessman who suggested that the Institution could become involved in making rosary beads. Thus, the bead-making industry in Goldenbridge was introduced into the daily routine of the pupils, and it continued until the mid-1960s.
  2. 7.49  In the early 1950s, Sr Bianca made the decision to acquire a holiday home for Goldenbridge in Rathdrum, County Wicklow. In 1954, a large house was bought for £3,000. According to Sr Alida, the money earned from the bead-making contributed £1,000 of this purchase price. According to the Opening Statement:… it enabled everyone to have a summer holiday away from the institution. All children would spend some time in the summer at the holiday house and those who could not go home for a holiday spent the entire summer holidays there.

264 CICA Investigation Committee Report Vol. II

1st photo – by 

* Earliest known recording of the song was by Gracie Fields. It was sung by soldiers in WWI.

*The song is called “Jolly Good Company” and was composed in 1931 by Raymond Wallace. It’s been recorded by many artists including Randolph Sutton, Ella Shields, Paul Whitman and Jack Hyton & his Orchestra with vocalist Pat O’Malley.

Jolly good company

Rathdrum holiday home

Goldenbridge and lack of nature

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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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.