A True Story of a young boy Abused by the State and Church

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Preface by the Author

As an inmate of a Irish Industrial School and Irish national it gives me no pleasure to assist in recording an account of the heartbreaking suffering of those boys who, largely through no fault of their own, were sent to St Joseph’s Irish Industrial School in Letterfrack, County Galway.

The road to hell being paved with good intentions this hideous and now notorious children’s penal colony began life and for some, death, as a Quaker-inspired school in 1887.Through the passage of time it malformed into what was euphemistically called an industrial school (Scoileanna Saothair) for young boys. Today they are called Children’s Detention Schools.

Irish Industrial School

Under the Industrial Schools Act (1888) their purpose was to ‘care for neglected, orphaned and abandoned children.’ In essence they were a dumping ground for children who found themselves on the fringes of society.

“In 1954 there were three classes of boys placed in Letterfrack’s St Josephs:

  • The Homeless and those guilty of criminal offences
  • The destitute sent by local authorities in accordance with the Public Assistance Act
  • Those voluntarily admitted by parents and guardians”

Letterfrack was mismanaged by the Congregation of Christian Brothers. In respect of those committed for criminal acts it should be remembered that these unfortunates were very young and their ‘offences’ petty in the extreme. It is a sobering thought that within our lifetime conditions at this school find their equal only in 18th Century English judicial barbarism.

Memory to the Boys

The nearby Fields of Athenry are poignant enough for most people’s stomachs. For many of the unfortunate boys who endured St Joseph’s, transportation might well have been a blessing.

The ‘school’s’ notoriety was founded upon the abuse and extreme physical and mental punishments inflicted upon defenceless children by a largely psychotic mob of cassocked ecclesiastical wardens. No fewer than 147 children died whilst under their tender mercies.

“Many of these brothers should be presumed to be practitioners of the dark arts. Only the devil could have been inspired to inflict such miseries on defenceless waifs; only darkness have conspired a whole community to turn aside from the wailing of hundreds of children through those dark decades of its existence. Some of the dreadful scenes are reminiscent of the scenes depicted in medieval tapestries in which the excesses of hell are defined.”

Letterfrack Graveyard

Doorway to Hell, Letterfrack Industrial School


This is the testimony of Mickey Finn, himself an inmate from the age of twelve to sixteen. It is also an authentication, a memorial and recognition for each of the adolescent victims of those men of the cloth and their collaborationists. His account of life in this dreadful institution will give many pauses for thought as to the iniquities of man. It immortalises the cold hearted ethos of the judiciary.

“Readers will also be inspired by the selfless acts, rebelliousness and inborn stoicism of young boys in the face of extreme hostility.”


Memorial to The Boys