In the middle of the nineteenth century thousands of Irish children were imprisoned or transported to penal colonies. In Galway, children as young as two years old were arrested for begging, and sent to jail. In 1858, a new law was passed which facilitated the opening of reformatory schools for the incarceration of young offenders. The only reformatory to open in Connacht was at Ballinasloe, and was managed by the Sisters of Mercy. In this lecture, Dr. Geraldine Curtin outlined the background to the Ballinasloe reformatory’s establishment, discussed the circumstances of the children detained there and of the staff who ran it. Considered in its time to be the best reformatory in Ireland, the day-to-day lives of its residents were examined.

A graduate of the University of Galway, Dr. Curtin holds a Ph.D in Modern Irish History, with a particular focus on juvenile crime in Connacht in the nineteenth century. In 2001 she published The Women of Galway Jail. Dr. Curtin works in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room at the University of Galway.