Hidden files reveal plight of the boys 'made into slaves'
A notorious industrial school in Limerick was paid to send boys under the age of 16 to work for traders, merchants and big farmers, according to hundreds of documents that have remained hidden for decades.
Experts say the find demonstrates local communities were involved in the industrialisation and exploitation of marginalised children.
Dublin City University deputy president Daire Keogh has studied and written about the Christian Brothers throughout his career. He said the practice of licensing children was a way for locals to avail of cheap labour.
"These farmers seldom kept boys on once they became men and wouldn't pay an adult wage. The whole thing reflects the level of societal collusion and institutionalisation and exploitation of marginalised kids.
The indentures, or contracts, between Glin and local businessmen or farmers tied the boys to new masters
for three years. The monthly sums paid for the use of the boys increased for every year served, often from £3, to £5 and £8.
Under the terms of the indentures, the boys - referred to as apprentices - were prevented from getting married or working for a competitor.
They could not drink, play cards or "absent himself from his said master's service day or night unlawfully".
The indentures seen by the Sunday Independent are dated between 1895 and 1914. However, Tom also has more recent documents and ledgers dated up to the 1950s
Tom said growing up in Glin was horrific. He was sexually abused and faced regular beatings.
He can recall most of them and still bears the scars from one of the beatings on his forehead. He fell while being thrashed and his head was "split open".
In 1973, with the school about to close, he was told by a brother to take record books and ledgers from a pile of documents and place them in the boot of a car. The rest were to be destroyed.
Some were burned but he held on to many of the documents as he wanted to see if they contained information about his past and his mother. Tom kept the liberated files in an attic for more than 40 years.
The Christian Brothers sent archivists and legal representatives to view the files in UL. They then claimed ownership and demanded the documents be returned for storage in their own archives in Dublin. They threatened legal action to obtain them.