Danny Ellis (2012) The Boy at the Gate.

The Boy at the Gate is Danny Ellis aged eight. He’s waiting for his Ma at one of the three gates leading into and out of Artane Industrial School. It’s run by the Christian Brothers and has five dormitories with 175 bed, a cinema and a 325-foot long hall, a concert hall, various rooms, kitchens, administrative block. When Ellis talks about the Christian Brothers ‘caring’ for children he marks out the word care by quotation marks. ‘Christian’ and ‘Brothers’ should follow that pattern.He describes many of them as psychopathic (and paedophiliac) that delight in the torture of small children. The children exist in this factory of locked up fear, but they have camaraderie and a common enemy in the Brothers and authority in general. It’s no great surprise that Artane boys became Atrane men that were more likely than most to fall off the end of the world.  But this is to jump ahead. Danny had a life before Artane. His two twin brothers had disappeared when they were tots and his two younger sisters were also being ‘cared’ for by the nuns, but his Ma had turned up trailing cow turd from the fields into the administration office and stinking of Guinness, but she’d promised she’d come to get him at Christmas. Brother Columbus, who is portrayed as a good and saintly man, tried to convince him that his Ma wasn’t going to turn up and take him back to that old life, but Danny is a boy and like any other boy he needs his dreams. He hears the stars sing to each other in the sky and falls in love with music. He finds his mojo, his vocation and home in  the spell that the voices and instruments of man might cast. In the Artane Boys’ Band and he finds a place to be himself. The boys are dressed in ill-fitting studded boots, shorts, jacket and jumpers made by other boys in the school, but the innocence of that time, the end of the 1950s, is not in the music or the clothes. Think about this. A lump of lad, fourteen, fifteen, going on sixteen that are battered every day and batter each other are discussing sex. Danny's been there for almost eight years and they’re as baffled as four-year-old picking up a vibrator.  One of them suggests that sex is  like a lock and key and that for a woman to have twins you need to turn the lock twice. These were innocent times filled with sad, bad, mad and depraved adults. In the final trick of life Danny when he’s leaving Artane finds out that the two twin lads he’d been tutoring in the band are his half-brothers from that time of hope long ago. He seeks them out to tell them.

'Their eyes hold no question, no surprise, not even vague curiosity; it’s as if Artane had stripped them of every shred of emotion, leaving nothing but distrust and cold distance that none of us cares to cross.'


This is the legacy of places like Artane. We have these prisons here and as our society become more selfish and introverted they grow bigger.   


 I remember Ron McCartane v Artane. I don't think many other victims got heard. They had about three working days to log disclosures from forty odd years back when The Ryan Report came through. Where do you go with something like that, something so tipped against the victims. The bastards.


Ellis does mention the Ryan Report in his epilogue. He describes it as 'a harrowingly accurate picture of Artane and other industrial schools'. He is also empathetic towards the Brothers, their gaolers. Three days, and not full days, say 24 hours to weigh thousands of children's lifes, hundreds of thousands of hours of people's ruined lifes. Could it happen again? With so many children living below the poverty,  line, food banks and live's unravelling that fog of, it's got nothing to do with me, begins to drift in.  


Frightens me beyond belief. Can see a new thing unravelling, different but the same - the BBC thing. I'll read this. Didn't think I could, but to be honest, I was hiding and need to grow a pair.


Institutions seem to breed abuse, the more locked-up they are the worse the treat those they are paid to care for and they always blame those at the bottom, delighting in kicking people who are down. I recently saw the movie Philomena a true life tale of a young Irish mother in the 50s(I think) who had her baby boy stolen from her in the convent mother and baby home and sold to an American family. Horrible.

I shall look up the Ryan report online      Elsie

yep, Elsie, institutions are self-replicating machines.