Schools for the Deaf in Cabra 1846-1946

  • Catholic Institute for the Deaf

In December, 1845, the very Rev. Monsignor Yore P.P. V.G of St. Paul’s Quay, Dublin accompanied by Rev Dr. Downey C.M and Rev T. McNamara C.M met with five prominent laymen at Ormond Quay to consider the possibility of founding schools for deaf children. Fr McNamara held a life-long interest and commitment to deaf people, publishing number of articles championing their cause. He was deeply concerned that there were no educational facilities from Catholic deaf children in Ireland. Protestant deaf children were provided for in the National Institute for the Deaf and Dumb at Claremont, near Glasnevin, Dublin. The objective of founding schools was met with full approval and it was agreed to form a Committee under the Chairmanship of Monsignor Yore. At the first Committee meeting, 5th January 1845 they agreed to formally approach the Dominican nuns and the Christian Brothers for assistance. The Committee later became known as the Catholic Institute for the Deaf (CID). The Committee continued to raise funding to support the schools.

  • St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls

In 1846 Father Mc Namara approached the Dominican nuns in Cabra to ask them to establish a residential school for deaf girls in the grounds of their convent. The nuns were delighted with the prospect of undertaking the work which represented a great challenge.

Two Dominican Sisters, Sr. M Vincent Martin OP, and Sr. Magdalen O’Farrell, OP were selected to train as teachers of the deaf and Fr. McNamara organised a visit to Le Bon Sauveur School for the Deaf in Caen, France. On 11th January 1846 the sisters set sail for Caen accompanied by two deaf children Agnes Beedam and Mary Anne Dougherty. When they returned in August 1846, their two pupils were enrolled in the new school in Cabra.

By the end of the year there were 15 pupils and within five years there were 50 pupils. A permanent school was built in1848 and this was extended in 1865 to hold 150and in 1880 for 200 pupils.

There was no state provision of any kind and a training course was set up in 1854 to train some deaf pupils as teachers. The Dominican sisters set up a vocational department in 1863; lace making, embroidery, dressmaking and tailoring were introduced. The Sisters tried to place pupils in employment. By the 1860s St. Mary’s reputation had spread and applications were received from England and Scotland. A conference for Teachers of the Deaf in London in 1877 highlighted the fact that St. Mary’s, Cabra was the largest female deaf institute in the United Kingdom.

The approach to language at this time was based on the method devised by Abbé Jamet, the founder of Le bon Sauver School in Caen. This structured system of language teaching was adapted to suit English syntax. Speech was never used. The written word was the principle source of language for social communication. In 1880, a Congress for Teachers of the Deaf in Milan decided that oralism, i.e. lip-reading and speech should be introduced in all schools for the deaf. However St. Mary’s continued to follow a strictly manual approach to language development until the late 1940s. By 1945 the oral method of teaching was compulsory in most deaf schools in Europe and some Irish parents were sending their children to schools in other countries that were using the oral method. Advances in the field of electronics after World War II played vital role in developing the new oral method. Audiometers were developed to test hearing together with smaller and more effective hearing aids. The Dominican sisters studied these new developments visiting many schools for the deaf in Europe including a return visit to Le Bon Sauveur, Caen, France. In 1947, the first oral class was set up in St. Mary’s and the first Audiology Clinic was opened in St. Mary’s in 1947.  The newly admitted profoundly deaf children were taught speech and lip-reading. The separation of oral children from those who used sign language was at that time seen as the best method of teaching the oral method and developing language in both sections. Gradually, speech and lip-reading were introduced to the non-oral classes and a combination of total communication was used. The school became well known outside Ireland and many visitors came to St. Mary’s to study the ‘Cabra Method’. In 1957, a course for the training of teachers for the deaf was established at University College Dublin in conjunction with St. Mary’s School for the deaf and the Audiology Clinic.

Official recognition of St. Mary’s by the Department of Education came in September 1952 and St. Mary’s became a National school for the deaf under the auspices of the newly established Department of Education.

Developments in secondary education commenced in St. Mary’s in 1953 when two pupils began to follow a second level programme. These students sat the Matriculation Examination in 1959 and began studies in UCD. There was a great increase in numbers attending St. Mary’s during the 1960s which coincided in the services available to deaf children. Special units were established at the school for deaf children with additional needs. The first leaving Certificate class was established with two pupils in 1974.The numbers taking the course increased in the following years.

  • St. Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys

The Irish Christian Brothers, under agreement in 1845 to open schools in many parts of Ireland, were unable to provide Brothers to open a residential school for deaf boys. The Catholic Institute for the Deaf bought a furnished residential accommodation for 40 boys at Prospect, Glasnevin from the Carmelite Brothers. Two Carmelite Brothers remained to care for the boys. A young teacher named Sutton was selected and initiated in the teaching of the deaf by the nuns in Cabra. He took charge at Prospect in February 1849 with 4 deaf boys and by 1853 there were 70.

A bigger school was necessary and in 1856 The Catholic Institute for the Deaf completed the building of a new school in Cabra. The Irish Christian brothers, with great courage then agreed to take charge of this residential school. The opening of St. Joseph’s school for Deaf boys, Cabra complemented the establishment of St. Mary’s 12 years earlier and the nuns at St. Mary’s helped the Brothers to acquire knowledge of teaching methods in use for the deaf. The school was enlarged in 1869 when a new wing was added.

In 1862, The CID decided to establish training departments in St. Joseph’s for pupils to learn trades- tailoring, shoe-making, printing etc.

In response to the resolution in favour of oralism at the Milan Congress in 1880, Bro Walsh, attempted to establish oralism in St. Joseph’s but did not receive support from his superior Br. P.M Wickham. The Brothers developed their own system of instruction which recognised their pupils’’ strong preference for sign language. There was a strong emphasis in developing literacy and written communication. During the superiorship of Br. E.L S-Alton, 1882-1947, a Commission was appointed in England to study the different methods and mediums used for teaching the deaf. A fierce controversy was being waged in the press by defenders of the two systems oral and manual. To end the controversy, three experts were appointed to visit all schools over England.  Br D’Alton gave permission for these inspectors to visit. Three or four months later they published a report in which it was stated that of all the schools they had examined with the methods and plans adopted, the system devised at St. Joseph’s Dublin  gave the best results.

In 1929, St. Joseph’s was recognised by the Department of Education as a National School. and 1952, it was recognised as a Special National School. These changes resulted in direct government grants both for education and residential care and towards capital expenditure. These grants made it possible to completely modernist the facilities for teaching and residential accommodation for the pupils.

  • The Amalgamation Process

In 1972 a report on the education of the deaf suggested that the Dominican Sisters in St. Mary’s and Christian Brothers in St Joseph’s jointly manage a co-educational school but there was no real progress at this time. A second attempt was made in the 1990s, perhaps, in response to declining pupil numbers which, came in the wake of Department of Education policies of inclusion and parental preference for the local school. Surveys conducted in 1994 and 2008 showed that amalgamation was favoured by teachers, parents, and the Catholic Institute for Deaf People CIDP (formerly CID).  However a variety of issues- essentially the practicalities made the pathway difficult.

In 1998 and 1999 respectively, The Dominican Sisters and the Irish Christian Brothers ceased to be in charge of the Schools for the Deaf and both schools appointed the first lay principals.

The final process towards the eventual amalgamation was initiated by the Catholic Institute for Deaf People, CIDP in 2008. The Schools’ Patron the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin requested that the process be formerly concluded by the 1st September 2016.

The Present School

Holy Family School for the Deaf is a designated special school under the Primary Section of the Department of Education and Skills. It is a vibrant centre for specialised instruction catering for the needs of deaf children from age 3 to 18 years and across the full spectrum of hearing loss and learning ability and from many ethnic backgrounds.

The school has three sections bi-located on two separate campuses:

  • Early Intervention, Marian Campus, Ratoath Road, Cabra

Established initially with funding support from CIDP, formal sanction to establish and Early Intervention Class was granted to St. Mary’s by Special Education in 2014. These classes came under the remit of Holy Family upon amalgamation. There are currently two Early Intervention Classes with a maximum enrolment of 14 pupils. Accommodation provision includes 2 Classrooms, pupil multi-purpose room, Staffroom and kitchenette and administration office. There is a secure play area to the rear of the building.

  • Primary, Marian Campus, Ratoath Road, Cabra

Formerly St. Mary’s Primary this building constructed in 1988 has 8 classrooms, two large multi-purpose rooms, Pupil lunchroom, general assembly hall, staff room and specialist services & administration offices.

There is a large secure play area to the rear of the building.

  • Post Primary, St. Joseph’s Campus, Navan Road, Cabra.

Accommodation for Post Primary is provided into separate buildings. The main block (formerly known as Edmund Rice) comprises …classrooms, general assembly hall, Science labatory, library, oratory Staff room, 2 practical/Woodwork rooms, specialist services & administration offices.

It has large play-ground areas to the rear and to the side.

The second building known as Clonfert comprises of 3 specialist Home Economics kitchens, a Metal work room, a Construction/Graphic’s room, 2 IT rooms.

Management Structure

School Patron: Arch Bishop Diarmuid Martin,

Board of Management

Chairperson: Fr. Paddy D. Boyle

Patron’s Representative: Mrs Anne Coogan

Principal: Ms. Eimear O’Rourke

Teacher’s Representative: Mrs Elizabeth McLafferty

Parent’s Representatives:

                                              Mother’s panel: Mrs Anna Bury

                                              Father’s Panel: Mr Laurence Dolan

Community Representatives:

                                                 Dr.  Elizabeth Matthews

                                                 Mr Mark Byrne

Upcoming Events