Novel reflects author's experience at Glin Industrial School 

Dr Joseph P Ward spent 30-months at Limerick institution

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Novel reflects author's experience at Glin Industrial School 

The two boys with their heads together, third from the left in the third row, are Joseph and Patrick Ward

A LIFETIME of achievement has not erased the memories of his 30-month stay in Glin Industrial School for Joe Ward.

“I still get night terrors,” says the Caherelly man who has lived most of his life in England and who is now Dr Joseph P Ward, a former senior lecturer at Loughborough University in Leicestershire who now teaches there part-time and who has met Stephen Hawking.

“The memories of Glin keep haunting me,” he says. “It is more so as I get older. Since I was ten up to about 40 I didn’t give Glin much thought. But it  does crop up more often now.”

And the feelings stirred up are complex ones. There is anger, yes, he says. But mostly it is a sense of loss, of hopes gone.

Joseph was born into a large family of ten on a small-holding in Caherelly but his parents separated and his mother left for England.

“My father said he couldn’t cope and myself and my brother were sent to Glin,” he explains.  He was just four years old at the time.

“I can’t remember arriving there. I seemed to be at home one night, then there.It was horrendous,” he says. And although that was 60 years ago, the memory still shakes him and his voice breaks. “I was definitely affected by it.”

Joseph spent two and a half years there.

“The food was atrocious. I was forced to drink sour milk regularly. When you wet your bed  you had to take the sheets out to a water trough and you had to wash your own sheets during winter or summer. If it wasn’t for my older brother I would not have survived,” he says.

But his brother, he adds, was more deeply traumatised by the experience than he was.  

“I don’t think I was abused,” Joseph continues.

But his mother returned and took the boys out of Glin, bringing them and their sisters, back to England with her.

“We were poor in Ireland but we were very poor in Keighley in Yorkshire. We didn’t have any money,” Joseph says. “I failed the 11-plus which meant I couldn’t got to grammar school and went to a secondary modern instead. I didn’t show any progress until I was about 14. Something awoke in me and I started producing results, mainly maths.”

Joseph went on to University of London where he studied maths and general relativity and qualified with a first class honours degree. He undertook research work there in General Relativity leading to the award of a PhD in 1974.

He then had a short spell at Cranfield University working with Professor D. R. Bland mainly in the area of solid mechanics and moved to Loughborough in 1977 to become Senior Lecturer in Engineering Mathematics.

Along the way, Joseph had a rather rare experience with Dr Stephen Hawkins, the famous.

“We used to work on similar topics, “ Joseph recalls, “but he  was much more advanced than I. We used to attend seminars regularly. I didn’t know him personally, our paths didn’t cross.”

But at one seminar, he happened to be on hand when help was needed for Stephen Hawking to bring him to the toilet. It was his only meeting with the famous scientist.

And that chance encounter and incident has been incorporated into Joseph’s first foray into fiction, a novel called The Fiddle,

“I had an idea to write a book, nothing at all to do with Glin,” Joseph explains.

It was, in fact, intended  to be about a kidnapping but more and more as he developed the back story, more and more Glin came into it.

In many ways, The Fiddle traces in fictional form, Joseph’s early life in Glin and in Yorkshire but diverges on crucial aspects. His central character Brendan, for example, is a clever thief.

“I did it mainly for my family,” Joseph says of the book which came out last December. A crucial part of the impetus to write was  his determination to show that the human spirit can triumph. “You don’t have to be limited.. You can write books.. You can go to university if you want to, if you really want to.”

Already, he has other, further books in mind or underway. But Glin is always there now.

“I have been back once. When I was 29, I took my mother back. We drove down to Glin. I did see it before the walls came down. I just remember sitting inside Glin with these high walls.”

The Fiddle by Joseph Patrick Ward is available through Amazon.