Industrial Schools, Letterfrack, Co. Galway

Download this image

More from this collection

Related by When

Related by Where

Research Help!

Where: Galway, Ireland

Try to find the spot where the photographer was standing.

When: Unknown

Try to find the date or year when this image was made.
Nestling under a twin of the Sugar Loaf Mountain is the Industrial School of Letterfrack. Set in the far wilds of Connemara it was known a feared place for its young occupants as much by reason of its dramatic location!

Today's contributions (thankfully/unusually downbeat) highlighted how the pictured St Joseph's Industrial School, while initially set up with likely positive intentions, was so heavily referenced in the reports of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse that St Joseph of Letterfrack was labelled as "the cruel saint" by some. As per the comments below, based on the layout of the buildings pictured, it is expected that the 5 decade catalogue range (c.1860s-1910s) can be refined to perhaps a decade or so (c.1900-1910s)....

Photographer: Robert French

Collection: Lawrence Photograph Collection

Date: Catalogue range of c.1865-1914. Likely c.1900-1910s.

NLI Ref: L_ROY_05374

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 43355
robertfrench williamlawrence lawrencecollection lawrencephotographicstudio glassnegative nationallibraryofireland letterfrack connemara countygalway industrialschool diamondhill stjosephsindustrialschool christianbrothers thecruelsaint lawrencephotographcollection

Add Tags
  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 07:48:15

    Lovely photo ..... Letterfrack ?

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 07:56:45

    OSI 25" map:,470976,757615,11,9

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 07:57:38


  • profile

    Ger Cos

    • 16/Aug/2016 08:24:40

    One of the most notorious and feared places in the country ...

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 09:18:44[email protected] Remote, inaccessible and with a fearsome reputation! Even going there was an expedition and for boys snatched from their families it was a living nightmare! A very fine shot but the history makes it terribly sad viewing! Wikipedia traces the origins of the place: Origins A wealthy Quaker couple, James and Mary Ellis, moved to Letterfrack in 1849 from the north of England, bought a large tract of land, developed it, built a residence and also a school for local children. After the Ellises left, the school was run by Protestant Irish Church Missions to Roman Catholics. The ICM's proselytising efforts continued up until 1882. The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. John McEvilly bought the property in 1884. Opening The Archbishop wrote to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Earl Spencer suggesting that the property was 'admirably suited for a boys’ industrial school so sadly needed in that district'. However, the Lord Lieutenants' advisors were against the establishment of the school on the grounds that there was unlikely to be enough children requiring such an institution in the area and the existing schools were adequate for the educational needs of the area. Despite support from the Inspector of Industrial Schools, Sir Arthur Lentaigne the application was refused. The Archbishop continued to lobby the Lord Lieutenant and the school received support from the Lord Lieutenant in August 1885. The school was initially certified for 75 boys and the Archbishop entered into negotiations with the Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers agreed and after building work added to the property, the schools opened on 12 October 1887.

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 09:32:05

    With the benefit of hindsight, a chilling 1899 description of the place, including the daily routine - ps - it goes over the page, including ...

    On my asking what the Brothers did when they were old, the answer was :— "They still live with us ; they have loved the boys all their lives, and could not bear to be taken from them. When they are no longer able to work, then we are all of us their servants until they die."

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 09:46:23

    How To Get There. An Englishman, who was far off his course and confused about his next directions, asked an Irishman, cutting peat in the wilds of Connemara, how to get to Letterfrack. The old Irishman laboured over the directions, so intricate and roundabout were the roads, until, having done his best, he added this:- "If it was meself that was going to Letterfreck, faith, I wouldn't start from here !"
    From (1926)

  • profile

    Dún Laoghaire Micheál

    • 16/Aug/2016 11:00:33

    Appears to be bed linen or other washing being dried in the grounds

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 11:05:16

    It breaks my heart when I read of the unbelievable horrors the boys at these industrial schools had to endure.

  • profile

    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 16/Aug/2016 12:40:30

    Thanks all - A scary place indeed! It may be a stretch, but do we think there is anything in the photo to help refine the ~50 year date range? Outbuildings, added wings, etc? It seems likely that this image was captured after the Christian Brothers had taken over the school from the Ellis family, and the frontage looks a little weathered (so maybe a few years after the works the Christian Brothers had undertaken). Perhaps 1890s? Early 1900s? Around the time that the strict regimes that links for us were likely in full force?

  • profile

    O Mac

    • 16/Aug/2016 16:52:43

    The gabled building to the far left is not shown on the OSI 25" so photograph had to have been taken after June 1898 when surveyed. OSI sheet # GY023-02Surveyed 01/Jun/1898Published 01/Jun/1899

  • profile


    • 16/Aug/2016 21:41:37

    Buena serie de fotos antiguas .

  • profile

    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 16/Aug/2016 22:23:17

    Thanks[email protected] - Have reflected that date/range in the updated description. The tags, map, etc now also updated!

  • profile

    Dún Laoghaire Micheál

    • 17/Aug/2016 19:25:54

    Seems like that's a telegraph pole near a gateway on the left margin. How early were first telephones introduced to institutions like this? And might there be corresponding old public or private directories?