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Industrial Reformatory Schools: Caring and Corruption

Historical Material


the first two books are available from the bookshop and are essential reading.

Kathleen O'Malley, Childhood Interrupted (Virago: London, 2005).

P. Touher, Fear of the Collar (O'Brien Press, Dublin, 2001)

Peter Tyrrell, Founded on Fear (Irish Academic Press: Dublin, 2006).



How do these texts provide 'an alternative narrative' of the past?

What might be the motivations for such texts?

How can we evaluate such texts?

How useful are such texts to the historian?

What are the common motifs of these texts?

How do memoirs relate to the fictional representations of industrial and reformatory schools?


Secondary Reading

Jane Barnes, Irish Industrial Schools, 1868-1908: Origins and Development (Dublin, 1989), chapters 4 and 7. In box.

Mary Rafferty and Eoin O'Sullivan, Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland's Industrial Schools (New Island: Dublin, 1999).

Barry Coldrey, '"A strange mixture of caring and corruption" : residential care in Christian Brothers orphanages and industrial schools during their last phase, 1940s to 1960s'. History of Education, 29:4 (2000), 343-56. In box.


Literature and Film

Week 4:

Mannix Flynn, Nothing to Say (1983)



Nothing to Say

What effect is created by the opening and closing ‘frame’ for the central story (11-12; 171-73)?

Think about the effect of other devices which problematize the documentary function of the narrative: the dream-like italicized passages, the fluidity with which the narrative switches between Dublin and Letterfrack life, the past and the present, etc.

Consider the depiction of the women involved in Gerard’s sentencing (his mother, the other mothers, the old woman with the prayer-book, the Probation Officer, the (female) Judge), the roles that they play, and their relationships with each other.

“I never felt like a child in that cell” (Flynn, 39). How far does Gerard seem to be a child at this point in the narrative? How dispassionate or otherwise is the narrative voice here and elsewhere in the novel?

“My education had begun” (Flynn, 57): consider the presentation of the countryside and rural life in this novel. What values attach to rural life and what to city life?

“This was the law of the inmates. The Brothers had their rules and the boys had theirs” (Flynn, 66). Consider the parallel codes of conduct and law that operate in the school.


Week 5: Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy;

The Butcher Boy (film), dir. Neil Jordan

“I clammed up and gave her a sad, ashamed look instead” (74). Comment on this encounter between Francie (and the industrial school boys) and people on the ‘outside’.

“But he wasn’t that much of a cod” (81). How sympathetic is a) Francie, and b) the narrative to Father Sullivan?

How significant (as Molino argues) is the moment when Francie tries to tell Joe about what Father Sullivan did to him (97)?

Consider the representation of family in all of these works. How far does the industrial school aim to replicate family relationships? How far are the protagonists encouraged to maintain or sever their relations with their blood families?

Secondary Reading


**Michael Molino, ‘The "House of a Hundred Windows": Industrial Schools in Irish Writing’, New Hibernia Review 5.1 (2001) 33-52 [available online]

Helena Kelleher Kahn, Nineteenth-century Ireland’s Political and Religious Controversies in the Fiction of May Laffan Hartley (Greensboro: ELT Press, 2005) [scanned]

Christopher FitzSimon, ‘St. Macartan, Minnie the Minx and Mondo Movies’, Irish University Review, 28 (1998), 175-189 [scanned]

**James M. Smith, ‘Remembering Ireland’s architecture of containment: ‘telling’ stories in The Butcher Boy and States of Fear’, Eire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies, 36 (2001) [scanned; linked from]

Martin McLoone, ‘The abused child of history: Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy’, Cineaste 23 (1998) [available via Factiva on library website]