The House Children

Mount St Vincent’s is a girl’s school in Limerick, owned by the Sisters of Mercy order.   Many of their schools around the country used to have orphanages attached to them, and the children from these orphanages attended school along with the local children.

But they were treated very differently.

Somebody called Christy wrote to me yesterday, inquiring about this establishment:

hi , just came across your blog while looking for information on st vincents industrial school o connell ave limerick where i lived for 4yrs approx this time it was not known as an industrial school but had adopted the title of residential home,unfortunately that was the only change ,its nature and character remained exactly the same. during this time i was subject to and witness to many acts of cruelty degradation and humiliation which were carried out by a minority of religious and lay people.people who i looked at with awe and fear and who now i regard as pathetic. however my biggest difficulty is not actually with our tormentors and abusers but with those people whom i regarded as good or not so bad.were they so blind that they could not see,so deaf that they could not hear or did they simply turn and look the other way. for evil to triumph all that is necessary is that good men do nothing, i don’t know who said that but he was a wise man indeed .and all those senior clergy who scurried to protect holy mother church from the excesses of its deviant members like rats in a sewer.theirs is the greater sin.

That sounded familiar, so I sent Christy’s comment to a friend of mine who attended the school, and this is what she replied:

We used to call those children the House Children and they were all, without exception, treated like shit.

I remember one incident when I was in 4th class.  There was one particular ‘house child’ Marion, a fat kid who was abandoned for whatever reason.  I don’t think Marion had any brothers or sisters in the house.  Anyway, she was brought up to the blackboard to work out some problem, but she wasn’t very bright and couldn’t do it.  The teacher started hitting her with the ruler, first the hands and Marion kept pulling away, the teacher held her hand and the arm got twisted, anyway Marion ended up on the floor with the teacher walloping her all over. 

I was appalled, I never forgot it, I was 10.  Went home told my mother, who was also appalled but did nothing.  There were other incidents but that I can still picture clearly. 

Marion and I had the same dress on that day.  She ended up  a prostitute down the dock road.  I think she’s dead now.

I don’t think there’s anything I can add to that.  Do you?



Also on Bock:

Oh, the Sisters of Mercy, they are not departed or gone.

The Brothers of Charity:ââ€â€œ Raping Your Children Since 1883 !!

Memories of a Violent Teacher

Cardinal Error: Brady Gets the Red Hat

Eileen Flynn Dies

What Is Desmond Connell Trying To Keep Secret?



The God Squad

37 thoughts on “The House Children

  1. Terrible story Bock, but it will surprise some that this was as recent as the early/mid 1970s. The 1908 Children’s Act was still in force. And I think the Mercys, like the other orders, were benefitting from a capitation fee from the State for the children entrusted to their care. They were paid for their pathological tendencies.

  2. Is this the red brick building on O’Connell avenue that later used to house the art college?

    Speaking of the art college, as you know it is now housed in what was The Good Shepherd convent. We were the first students to move in there in the mid 90’s. One day while trying on 50p shirts and 70p jeans in Father Willy’s Thrift shop in St John’s Square, one of the women who worked there went on to tell us how she was born in the Good Shepherd and the appalling treatment she and her mother received at the hands of the nuns and how it had taken her 60 years to be able to forgive those who beat her. It’s something I’ll never fully understand, not having been brought up catholic but I do know it’s something I could never forgive.

  3. Conan — They were indeed, the fuckers. They were being paid to abuse the children of the nation, and now the State is paying on the double for their abuse.

    Eva — Why would anyone even try to forgive them?

  4. i suppose this woman saw it as her christian duty to forgive. remenants of the doctrine that was no doubt beaten into her in the first place. she’s a better woman than i, that’s for sure.

  5. If there is a hell, there’s some comfort in the fact that it’s populated almost exclusively by members of the clergy.
    Maybe if we actually learn from all these horror stories and never let them reproduce, then perhaps, just perhaps, the victims will not have suffered in vain.

  6. I would like to comment, I too went to that school and was not a “House Child”, however I can remember vividly being brought to the blackboard on a number of occasions and being bashed accross the head, I was not disadvantaged in any way. I had lots of friends who were house children who often visited my home and on occasion I would visit them in the convent. I am not seeing things with rose coloured glasses but making an comment on a memory

  7. There’s been a debate in the UK about bringing corporal punishment back which made me sick when I heard it as I’m sure it did everyone who got hammered by those reptiles and their peons. I have no idea why it took me two years to say that I was being hit in school. Fear I suppose. Well it backfired big time because I don’t forgive and the not forgiving keeps me going.

  8. Christy raises a very valid point when he writes about

    “those people whom [he] regarded as good or not so bad.were they so blind that they could not see,so deaf that they could not hear or did they simply turn and look the other way.”

    Yes there were people in those Institutions who didn’t beat us, who didn’t starve us, who didn’t rape or bugger us, who didn’t demean us or denigrate us – in fact they didn’t do much at all apart from standing by as we were abused.

    Some supporters of the Religious Orders go on and on about the fact that the abusers were in the minority – probably true – but I say the majority of them didn’t give a damn.

  9. It’s horrible.
    Christy’s right, the silent majority could have spoken up but they didn’t cowardly careerists the lot of them that would put themselves before an abused child. It’s disgusting.

  10. A letter, addressed to the nun in charge of Newtownforbes Industrial School, told the nun: “I cannot find any excuse which would exonerate you and your staff from the verminous condition of several of the children’s heads.”

    The letter, written by the medical inspector of the Department, Dr Anna McCabe, continued: “I was not satisfied in finding so many of the girls in the infirmary suffering from bruises on their bodies. I wish particularly to draw attention to the latter as under no circumstances can the Department tolerate treatment of this nature.”

    It blamed the “neglect of supervision and individual attention” as the reason for “the dirty condition of the heads and the untreated abscess I discovered in the child in the infirmary”.

    It warned that “immediate steps will have to be taken to remedy” conditions at the school, and that, unless there was “a marked and sustained improvement when the school is next inspected . . . I will be reluctantly compelled to take the matter further.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    And of course she didn’t take the matter further!
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    A QUESTION not addressed in the Department’s letter is “If parents were found to be treating children in a similar fashion to the Sisters of Mercy in Newtownforbes Industrial School what would the authorities have done to provide Proper Guardianship for the children?”


    Well the children would have been carted off to …. an Industrial School !!!!

  11. I am a former house child in the mount, I was in there from 1972 to 1984 and I totally agree we were treated like lepers. The nuns treated us like crap and got away with it. I tried to tell the truth at the redress and i was called a liar, they accepted the nuns lies in a letter and I was treated like a criminal.
    I had years and years of abuse, all kinds and the nuns are nothing but liars and deserve to rot in hell.
    In the school where I attended I was treated like crap and suffered many years of abuse and no one is responsible. Growing up in hell was a nightmare and I wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy.
    I wasnt an orphan but was called one as I was an inmate, This abuse has been going on for many years, I know of women who were there in the fiftees and they tell the same story, the nuns were dictators as were the lay people who worked there who were there just to make the innocent children suffer.
    we are the silent majority and the nuns and other staff have the power because they have the money and paedaphiles behind them so what hope have we???????????????
    Good for you Christy speaking out, we as children had no one to speak out for us, I was 7 years old, what hope did I have???????????

  12. What a pity that whoever gave you that information did not have the courage to put their name to it. Mrs Maher and the area she lived in are more than clearly identified. Mrs Maher also taught me in fourth class and my memory of her was of a strict ( but in no way abusive!!!) and fair teacher.

  13. The person who gave me that information is someone I would trust with my life. That person did not hide their identity. It was my decision not to disclose the source.

  14. is there anyone who was a resident that remembers me from the mount 1971 to 1978

  15. hi is there anyone who was in the mount convent i was there from 1971 to 1978 that was my name when i was in there boyle that is had a brother jim with me to please contact me be nice to hear from yexx

  16. Was in the mount school ,daypupil,not housechild,from 1965 to 1973.not in the same class or end of the school as payricia.probably on a different yard too.when in 5th and 6th we sometimes minded the younger classes at small lunch time

  17. My mother and her two sisters and one brother were left in the mount in the early 1930’s my mother was around 7 years old the eldeet sister 14 years old who died there, I would like to gather as much info as possible to log or maybe write about the life they had there I was told many stories about their lives at the mount, they were not officially orphans, as their father was alive and living in America, my mother has now gone 5 years ago aged 83 also her sisters and brother. If anyone has any info from around that time, or later, I would be interested to hear from you. The daughter of a mother who suffered at the hands of the sisters of mercy at mount vincent

  18. Can anyone help me please? My birth mother, born in 1930,was educated at this awful place. She left there in 1954 to travel to England for a new life.
    Her name is Mary Pauline Geragthy. It would appear that her mother also lived at this place.Does anyone remember Mary? She could have used Pauline as her first name. But Geragthy is definately her surname. I don’t know why but I have a feeling they may not have been from Limerick but Dublin.
    Please help me I’ve been looking for her for years.

  19. I’m trying to trase anyone whom attended the mount orpnage from 1971 until 1977 me and my brother jim were residents

  20. My mother was born in 1928, and was ‘ accepted ‘ into the orphanage with her two sisters in 1932. Their mother was left in debt, with an alcoholic husband.
    My mother never recovered from the abusive treatment she received during her years there. She was a very difficult mother, who struggled to show us any physical affection, but I learned to forgive and understand as I understood why. She never got over her fear of water, as the older girls would hold her head under the water every week on bath night. She was wrongly accused of stealing the rubber tip off a pencil, and had to stand on a chair all day with a flour bag with holes cut in it for her eyes over her head. I also believe there had been sexual abuse too. Does anyone else have any more information of this time?

  21. Annette Amey-Ford, Caroline Warner and pen,

    My own mother was born in Kilmallock in 1924. In 1931 her mother died leaving 8 children under 12yrs. 5 of the girls were sent to the Mount on 8th October 1931.They each left as they reached 16yrs.
    In 1945 both my mother and one of her sisters became pregnant and were subsequently sent to Bessborro, and the whole tragic story goes on.
    I have found out a great deal about my mother’s life and I have also found the child she had in Bessborro and another child she had later in England.

    I am interested in sharing information about the school at that time, and would also be happy to help pen in her search.

  22. does anyone know a girl who went to mount st Vincent convent limerick called Teresa moor or Christine mc mahon at the time of around 1955 Christine is my relative and she also knew a mary burke if anyone knew these people please leave a reply

  23. Sandra I’ve only just read your post because another was recently put on the site. Thank you very much for your response. X

  24. Does anyone know if records are available? My great grandmother & her sister were orphaned. They grew up there.

  25. How can I go about asking for old records, my great grandmother was an orphan back in the 1880s, who would I contact? I heard it turned into a college now. Thanks!

  26. Sarah,

    It is highly likely that the records that you seek are no longer tracable. Nearly all public records —- centuries of records —– were destroyed in the huge Customs House fire of May 1921 which burned for nearly a week incinderating everything. Many of the records were not duplicated elsewhere. I can remember old people who did not even have a birth certificate because it was lost in this fire. Wikipedia have an article on it.
    Wishing you the best of luck in your search.

  27. Wow! That’s really sad to hear. Maybe this is why I’ve run into so many dead ends. It would seem the sisters of Mercy must have their own copies of some records… but I’m certain a RC diocese would never release them. Thank you so much for responding, it’s much appreciated.

  28. Yes! I was able to obtain records back to 1868, call them & they will do a search. I was emailed actual hand written records. My cousin tried to obtain records about 10 years ago- they never responded. But again, I was able to.

  29. Please try- I was able to get records from 1867- I was shocked, even emailed copies of the original hand written records. I’ll find out the lady’s name who sent them from Mount St. Vincent and post.

  30. I was in The Mount from 1956- 1970, my crime being my Mum died. We ( my 3 brothers) & I were forcibly removed from our Grandparents house by the local priest & a member of the Gardaì and escorted to court. My Dad was at work and was unaware of what was happening. We were signed away that day to Industrial schools. My 3 brothers to Cork & I to The Mount in Limerick.under the court order we were detained until we reached 16 & my Dad was to contribute 2 shilling & 6 pence per week per child to the Institution (which was collected by a member of the Gardaì from him weekly) as well as that the nuns also got a grant from the state for the privilege. While in the Mount we were not allowed to form friendships. We worked & got beaten to pulps from morning till night & were so hungry we ate the waste from the nuns bins. We never say any sign of respect or affection. It really was a horrible life. I was 3 & a half when admitted. My 3 brothers were 5, 2 & 1 when they went away.
    In saying all that I would love to hear from anyone that was there in those years 1956-1970. My name then was Mary Greene.

  31. Hi Mary, my mum was there at that time. Her name was Philomena Long. She had a sister there named Josephine. From what I’ve heard it was a terrible place and I’m sorry that you and so many others were subjected to such cruelties.

  32. Hi Fianna….Yes, I do remember both those names from my time there. We were never allowed to form friendships of any kind but scrubbed floors, did laundry work & all the donkey work in the Institution. It was a very strict regime, & deprivation on every front was of the highest order. That is why contact with former detainees is very hard. It would on the other hand be great to talk to others. I read a interview by a nun just this morning when the nuns were going to a lovely purpose built building stating we were cherished & well looked after. I would love now for that one to look me in the eye & state what she did then. The pity is it has taken me so long to see that paper clipping because I most certainly would have set her straight.

  33. Hello. My mother and aunt were at St Vincents from 1946 until 1952. Their names were Norah and Josephine ( Joan ) O’Connell. If anyone remembers them, it would be lovely to hear from you. Both have now passed away.

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