They were shivering and were all colours of the rainbow as they stood there waiting to be cleaned

[OB] You may remember that last month I did a brief comment on Goldenbridge, which I knew little about until I saw some comments Marie-Therese O’Loughlin had recently left on a comment from 2005 on industrial schools in Ireland. I asked Marie-Therese to tell me more, and she has; we’re working on an article which will be on B&W soon. Yesterday I asked Marie-Therese for a little basic detail about daily life – and she sent some. I don’t feel like waiting to publish it.

Warning: the following contains material which some readers may find disturbing. I know I do. Marie-Therese finds it very disturbing to recall it.

Morning at Goldenbridge

The children got up at six o’clock each morning. A staff member who grew up in the institution stormed into the dormitories and switched on the lights and roared ‘Get out of those beds immediately!’ If a child hesitated at all the bed covers were flung across the floor, if a child became even more stubborn, as often happened, the mattress with the child was toppled over onto the floor. We then had to make our beds to hospital standards.

Goldenbridge housed on average two hundred children, which included infants and babies; a good percentage of them were infants, babies and toddlers. I remember clearly, at 6:30 in the mornings, when I was eleven years old or thereabouts having to go to St Joseph’s babies/infants dormitory. I had to dress the toddlers. It was normal for some of them to have slept in their own excrement. When I took them from their destroyed beds, I found it so upsetting as they were always covered from head to toe in excrement. They were shivering and were all colours of the rainbow as they stood there waiting to be cleaned. I had to use the clean corners of the destroyed sheets. The only place to get water was from a very small toilet bowl. I dipped the sheet in the bowl and then cleaned the children. The whole dormitory which was a dark dank cold place stank to high heaven. The head honcho of the Sisters of Mercy at this time of morning was up in the convent saying her prayers. The sheets were placed in a soiled open sheet, and with the help of another child we carried them down to the school laundry. There were other sheets there from the Sacred Heart dormitory.

Children like myself who had no family visitors, or big girls who wet the bed, were given the grotesque taks of handwashing the sheets in cold water in the laundry.

This story, like that of the rosary beads, can be properly told only by those who were hidden in Goldenbridge, the ones who were imprisoned behind the doors, who were the lowest on the rungs of the institutional Goldenbridge ladder. Bernadette Fahy, author of Freedom of Angels, or Christine Buckley who appeared in the documentary ‘Dear Daughter,’ would not have been doing this despicable job, as they were both allowed to go to outside school.

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