Founded on Fear: Letterfrack Industrial School, War and Exile

Founded on Fear: Letterfrack Industrial School, War and Exile
Author: Peter Tyrrell
Language English
Pages: 182
ISBN10: 0716534029
Genre: Nonfiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.00
ISBN13: 9780716534020
Published: October 1st 2006 by Irish Academic Press

This is a memoir of Peter Tyrrell's seven years in Letterfrack Industrial School in the 1920s and early 30s. It recounts his impoverished upbringing and the abuse that he and others suffered at the hands of the Christian Brothers. It gives an impression of the day-to-day life of the inmates in Letterfrack and the misery of their lives. In the final three chapters it also tells us what happened in his life after Letterfrack, his entry into the British Army, his time in a POW camp in World War Two Germany and his subsequent years spent travelling around England as a tailor to trade with his fellow Irish emigrants. The book is written in a fluid and often very childish style, but it is vivid and deeply moving. It engages the reader in its descriptions of the harsh regime at the school, the pen portraits of the children, staff and locals and the picture of life in Mayo and Galway in the 1920s. In addition to the story of Peter Tyrrell's life, the book is important for the story of the manuscript and its place in Irish history. Peter Tyrrell contacted Senator Owen Sheehy Skeffington in 1959 as a result of the high-profile condemnation by Sheehy Skeffington of Ireland's educational system, and its pathological reliance on punishment. Tyrrell wrote to him about his experiences in Letterfrack and he was encouraged to put it down on paper. The correspondence had tailed off by 1968 when Skeffington received a letter from Scotland Yard asking him to identify a half-torn card addressed to him in Tyrrell's hand. The card had been found next to the charred remains of an unidentified corpse of a man who had apparently burned himself alive on Hampstead Heath the previous year. This scrap of paper was the only means of identifying Tyrrell's body. His manuscript was never published and it remained in Skeffington's private papers until Diarmuid Whelan discovered it in 2004 when archiving the Sheehy Skeffington collection for the National Library of Ireland.