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The Royal Hibernian Military School (1765-1924)
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Lost Boys of the Royal Hibernian Military School

Of the hundreds of boys registered to enter the Royal Hibernian Military School between 1832 and 1918, 314 were rejected for various reasons. This high number of rejections needs explaining, if explanation is possible from the information available from the registers. More important for those engaged in research is the fact that, given the paucity of parish records and the high level of poverty in 19th Century, we now have available an accurate record of the children rejected from admission.

The data is contained in two of three extant admissions ledgers held in the National Archives: PRO WO143/27 – RHMS Boys alphabetic index, 1832-1918. The first two entries are John CRAIGH, who volunteered to the army 9 December 1835 and John McManus 14 December 1835. (If admitted at age 9, then entry to the RHMS would have been about 1830) and PRO WO143/78 – Boys alphabetic index 1847-1877. The first of the two registers (PRO WO143/27) was poorly maintained. Also, many admission and discharge dates are missing. This makes the work of indexing impossible except by name, petition and page number.

Fortunately, the second ledger, WO143/78, provided detail missing in the WO143/27 admissions register. By using the data in the scantily written register as a point of departure, the entries were cross-referenced, the data combined and a more complete record built. As a result, a record is now available for registered entrants between January 1847 and December 1877. This includes the applicants by class, petition number, the father's regiment or unit, admission and discharge dates, birthday, age, weight, height and chest measurements, religious affiliation, trade taught, good conduct stripes earned, the musical instrument played (if the student was a member of the band), and the page number of the 'lost chronological ledger'.

Considering the overall available data, a fairly complete body of information is now on record of boys admitted between 1832 and 1918. Equally important is the exceptionally high number of boys rejected or failed to appear, which is the subject of this item. That is, of the 8640 names covered by the combined ledgers, the 314 rejected is 3.9 per cent of the total. However, when those in the 'Not Joined' or 'failed to appear' category are added, the total registered amounts to one-eighth of the total (or about 12_ per cent), numbering 1072 children.

Applicants were rejected for various reasons. Most but not all reasons are entered against the applicant's name in the register. An applicant could be denied entry for being medically unfit or mentally deficient, or for failing to satisfy the selection committee as to the required level of education – rudimentary though this standard might have been. A small number were rejected for no specific reason. Others were registered for entry, but failed to arrive.
Stated reason for rejection
Failed to appear
Med. unfit
Ed. unfit
Father dead
Mother dead
Both parents alive*

The children rejected are recorded for the period 1840 – 1918. They were segregated in four classes as shown in accompany table. Applications were approved, a petition number assigned and a date for arrival specified. Of the four categories of rejection, two appear only as 'UNFIT' or 'REJECT' without further explanation.

*Total for all reasons and classes – 1072
* Father possibly on foreign service.

It might be assumed most applications for entry would have been orphans in the Class 1 category. This, however, was not the case. Applications covered all classes.

There is no record of what happened to these rejected children or other provisions that might have been made for them. Poverty throughout the British Isles in the 19th Century was general and the mortality rate of vagrant children high. Rejection from entry to the Hibernian School meant that the children and their parents or a surviving parent would experience serious deprivation. One can only hope that those denied entry made it to adulthood.

P. Goble

Table of Contents - Royal Hibernian Military School
1769 Petition
1806 Pay and Allowances
1806 Weekly Governor's Report
1806 Time Table
1819 Charter
1819 Diet
1819 Staff Duties
1819 General Regulations
1844 Return of Religions
1849 S.S. Pemberton Orphans
1856 School Inspector Gleig
1857 China
1873 Religion
1900 Review at Phoenix Park
1918 Lost Boys
1919 Roll of Honour
1919 Recollections
1919 Lives of the Hibernians
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
1922 Last cricket match
1924 A soldier's orphan's story
1924 Last roll call
1924 Laying up the colours
1924 The final era
1937 A military misfit NEW
1969 The bicentenary reunion
1994 Capt. Harry Bloomer MBE
2001 IGS No.25 History
2004 Newsletter
2005 The last known Hibernian
2007 Sources of Hibernian documents

Delta Tech Systems Inc
  Duke of York's Royal Military School
Royal Hibernian Military School
Reminiscences of a Queen's Army  Schoolmistress
World War I letters and Reports
Books and Militaria
Wellington on Waterloo
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© A. W. Cockerill 2005

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