Ancestry UK

St Catherine's Industrial School, Strabane, Tyrone, Northern Ireland

On 30 November 1869, the St Catherine's Industrial School for Roman Catholic Girls was certified to operate in premises at Barrack Street Strabane, Co. Tyrone. It was run by the Sisters of Mercy in conjunction with the Commissioners of National Education, with external day pupils attending the school.

The school's inspection report for 1870 recorded that the average number of inmates under order of detention during the year was 21, with 294 'externs' attending the National school. The establishment was said to be built on a commanding site over the town of Strabane on sixteen acres of land. The Sisters, when their school was certified, at once commenced the erection of dormitory and workrooms to accommodate the children, and farm buildings for their instruction in agricultural skills. The girls were taught the general duties of household servants, and were employed in the washing and packing for export of shirts made in a local factory. They also cooked, made bread, milked cows, made butter, fed pigs and poultry, reared calves, and were instructed in farm-yard management, cottage gardening, and a general knowledge of needlework in all its branches. The staff consisted of Sisters of Mercy, under the superintendence of Mrs Mary C. Atkinson, who had considerable experience in the training of household servants.

In 1871, a new wing was built containing dormitories a workroom and dormitories for the girls. The workroom contained five sewing-machines ranged at the windows round the wall, with a long work-table in the centre, presided over by the work-mistress, who taught the girls various kinds of needlework, and to cut out and make dresses. A stream of water passeed close to the school buildings, providing a constant supply to a tank at the top of the building, and to turn a turbine wheel providing powere to keep a sufficient number of sewing-machines at full work. A good laundry and farmyard were in the process of being built. The children played on the side of the hill, and the better class of externs who atteded the school were permitted to join in their amusements after school hours and on Sundays. It was proposed to grow flax on the farm and teach the girls how to treat and work it.

A large laundry, a new infant school, and other buildings were added to the school in 1873-4. Additional land adjoing th farm was also purchased. The girls now made fine shirts and ladies' dressing gons for the London market. They embroidered cambric, and manufactured lace and other needlework. They spun woollen yarn which they knitted into stockings. The girls worked in the public laundry, to which the most respectable families of the town and neighbourhood sent their washing.

In 1930, the premises could accommodate up to 100 girls, aged from 6 to 16 years at their date of admission.

In 1950, the school was certified as a Training School (equivalent to an Approved School in other parts of the UK). However, its certificate was formally surrendered on 23 May 1951 and the establishment was closed. The buildings no longer exist.


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