works in this area provide tantalising glimpses of the Irish Charter
Schools but leave unanswered many questions relating to the founders,
the Incorporated Society in Dublin for Promoting English Protestant
Schools in Ireland. This latest offering is a definitive account in
four sections of 100 years of the history of the Incorporated Society.
first half of section one discusses the impact of the British based
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) on the founders of
the Incorporated Society, and the failure of the penal laws and early
charity schools to proselytise Catholics. While the author highlights
the germ of Primate Boulter’s idea to encourage assimilation to Protestantism
by expanding SPCK’s creed of rearing children in the way of piety,
husbandry, trade and industry to include early alienation of children
from parental and Popish influence, this was neither an original concept
nor an exclusive Anglo-Irish thought. As early as September
1694 Lord Tyrawley informed his kinsman Kean O’Hara of his desire
for an apprentice, who, if a Catholic, was to be under twelve years
old lest his religion had made too much of an impact on him.
The second half of section one explores the denouement of Boulter’s
idea, from the embodiment of the Incorporated Society in Dublin and
the Corresponding Society in London to the establishment of schools
and nurseries. These institutions were patronized by landlords,
prelates and municipal corporations who endowed the Society over three
decades with lands, buildings and contributions towards building funds.
Nonetheless, the schools, as the author explains, fell short of the
numbers envisaged, due in part to financial shortfalls that were only
partially alleviated by parliamentary assistance from 1747 onwards;
the challenge being taken up mainly by individuals responding to their
projected synonymity with the tenets of improving landlords who saw
in them a means to further the aims of the Dublin Society and Linen
two, subdivided under nine headings – working schools, managing the
schools, daily routine and diet, health, masters and mistresses, the
education of the children, the not-so hidden curriculum, transplanting
and apprenticeship – examines the Society’s grand design with its
emphasis on self sufficiency Designated as working schools, the childrens’
earnings were to defray part of the annual expenses, while work experience
was considered as preparatory for useful service in the Anglican community.
Virtuous and upstanding masters and mistresses with some degree of
intelligence, labouring under the watchful eyes of clergymen and select
members of the local gentry, were expected to assume the role of teachers,
local managers and surrogate parents. Although the agenda differs
little from that particularised by other historians, the author avoids
hysterical, judgmental criticism of the Charter School system.
Factual information, some old and some new, is presented objectively
to reveal innovations, both effective and ineffective in such areas
as health care, funded apprenticeships and training schools for ushers
and usheresses, without ignoring its negative impact. As Milne
explains, contracting children to masters, manufacturers and patrons
fostered exploitation, while expected returns never exceeded ten per
cent of the annual sums disbursed to schools. This, combined with
the Society’s policy of implementing its manifesto by proxy, the indifference
and inertia of local committees and clergymen in later years and the
lack of ongoing official scrutiny to create a Dickensian environment,
contrary to the rules and intentions of the founders.
further 127 pages focus on financial setbacks in the latter half of
the eighteenth century, repeated guidelines for change, nearly fifty
years of public scrutiny and efforts to discontinue state funding
of schools that were no better than workhouses. Here, too, preconceived
analogies are disavowed. While the author relies on the writings
of contemporary anti-Charter School critics and official correspondences,
he also makes use of transcripts and interviews taken from Board of
Education papers and parliamentary enquiries and reports. Thus
he exposes the later horrors attributed to the Charter school system
– inefficiency, extortion, fraud, bribery, illiteracy, mental, physical
and sexual abuse, venereal disease, shabbiness, ill health and unnatural
vices in some young males.
of the religious direction it enjoyed under Boulter, it seems the
Society lost its way and the ability to respond to the changing legislative
and religious climate. By the end of the eighteenth century,
the schools were discredited as effective proselytising agents; instead
they were deemed as odious and as. superfluous as the penal laws.
Former inmates dismissed as ‘Charter School Brats’ were no longer
desirable as apprentices and servants. Finding it increasingly
difficult to place children in the community, young adults were exported
to Australia and Canada. Tle extraordinary impunity the society
enjoyed during this period is further explained: it seems parliament
was reluctant to disassociate itself from an institution lauded by
successive lord lieutenants as the bastion of Protestantism; a continued
influential core of politicians and other powerful individuals who
were either diehard anti-‘Papist’ or committed to improvement, placed
the Society above the law, which made it impossible for them to be
impartial on investigative committees.
resurgence of Catholic electoral strength probably influenced a recommendation
to the government in 1824 to sever the political umbilical cord.
As the saga nears its conclusion the reader is taken through the radical
reformation and transformation the society underwent during the latter
half of the nineteenth century. Resurrected from its early eighteenth-century
mausoleum the Society entered the twentieth century, ironically committed
to providing intermediate education to children of Protestant parentage.
are few errors in this precisely documented study. The only
caveat and a minor one, is the lack of space given to the Society’s
claims of dependency on English subscription during its early years.
From the Society’s cash book (N.L.I. p-2843) for the years 1736 to
1778, it appears that between 1736 and 1741 English subscription was
in the region of £200 to £400. This rose to £1,225
in 1751-52, which was significantly less than the Irish subscription
of £2,600. This being the case this area could have been
expanded. This book does not advance any particular argument; it is
however, an accumulation of well documented facts; as such it is a
valuable source of references and a must for students of history'
Denva O'Mahony, Eighteenth-Century Ireland.