Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

Undertakers exhuming the bodies of 133 women at a notorious Sisters of Our Lady of Charity convent found 22 other remains. And almost 60 of the deaths at one of the infamous Magdalene Laundries in Dublin were never registered. The shocking revelations did prompt calls for a Garda probe into who these women were, and how they died.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity sold off land at their High Park convent in Drumcondra, Dublin, to developers in 1993.. Part of the land included a graveyard containing the remains of 133 women, many of whom had been locked away for years without pay in the laundry hellhole.  The Department of the Environment granted a licence for the removal and cremation of the bodies at nearby Glasnevin cemetery. But undertakers who began removing the coffins found an extra 22 remains.  Many of the bodies were buried with their broken bones still in plaster-casts on their ankles, elbows, wrists, and hands when they were taken out of the ground. One of the bodies was headless. Why these bodies had casts on them is no mystery as these women were serving penal servitude for life because they were found to have had sexual relations without the express permission of the Catholic Church.

It is claimed that when they were discovered, the department simply issued an extra licence covering the other remains and did not launch an investigation into who they were. Failing to register a death is a criminal offence. But of the 133 original bodies, just 75 death certificates existed. All 155 bodies were removed and all but one of them cremated. They can now NEVER be identified in the event of a investigation into their deaths.

– – – – – –

The then Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell was asked to initiate a criminal investigation into the unregistered and unexplained deaths. A spokeswoman said: “That’s a matter for the Gardai.”  A Garda spokesman said: “There is no investigation into these unexplained deaths at the moment.”

The Department of the Environment was reported as saying that “no trace” forms were issued for 34 of the dead women and it could not search for the identities of 24 others because of “insufficient details” .  In the case of the 34 women, the department added: “It appears that the statutory registration procedures were not complied with at the time of their deaths.”  Of the 22 extra bodies, it said it only had details of 14 of them. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity yesterday defended its actions.  Spokeswoman Sister Ann Marie Ryan that the exhumation and re-interring of all 155 women was “approved by all relevant authorities”. She added: “We have had no queries from families about our decision in the intervening time. One family took the remains of a deceased relative to a family plot at the time. The remaining 154 were respectfully cremated and laid to rest at a public ceremony.”

The secret of the unidentified women, and many others whose dignity was ignored both in life and death, lies in a double grave in Glasnevin. It may never be known who they were. A grey headstone marked “St Mary’s High Park, In Loving Memory Of” features 175 names and dates of death, the first in 1858, the last December 1994.  But the names on the headstone bear little resemblance to the list supplied to the Department of the Environment by the nuns to secure the exhumation licence.

Only 27 of the names and dates correctly match up.

The nuns’ willingness to opt for cremation has also been questioned. They had been told it would be massively expensive to bury them. The Catholic Church has always frowned upon the practice of cremation preferring burial instead. Canon law banning cremation was only lifted in the mid-1980s.

The nuns did not even appear to know the names of many of the women, listing them as Magdalene of St Cecilia, Magdalene of Lourdes, and so on and on. The final number so callously disturbed from their resting place was 155. All had died in the service of the nuns, working long hours in their large commercial laundry for no pay, locked away by a patriarchal church and society ruthlessly determined to control women’s sexuality.

These are the names of the women & children who were buried within the grounds of High Park, Drumcondra & later exhumed when the nun’s sold the land to developers as they had lost a large amount of money in G.P.A shares. Of 133 bodies only 75 death certificates were found to exist. It was and remains a criminal offence in the state of Ireland to fail to register a birth that occurs in one’s premises. All but one of the bodies was cremated and re-interred in Glasnevin cemetery.


Thomas A O Neill    7/01/1943
James McCormack        24/01/1945
James Christopher Doran    2/06/1944
Brigid walsh        4/09/1943
Margareth Mary Caffrey    5/07/1943
Thomas Matthews        3/02/1947
John Haslam        7/05/1947(3 years old)
Teresa Haslam        7/05/1947(19 months old)
John Malachy Boyle    23/10/1944
Philomena Frances Byrne    13/11/1943
Michael Corry        4/11/1942
Noel Peter Brown    26/09/1941
Patrick Lyons        27/03/1947, DIED 11/05/1947
Margareth Venables    14/11/1942
Margareth Mary Conway    5/05/1936, died 8/08/1936
Anthony Keating        13/03/1947 age 3 weeks
James McCormack        22/04/1947
Laurence & Mary Waters (who both died on)    6/05/1942
Damien John Sullivan    14/03/1944
Lilian and Kathleen Watters    6/06/1936
Rosaleen Donnelly    20/12/1943 age 2 years
John Augustine Kearns    17/03/1931
Anna Bernadette Kearns    26/04/1932
Thomas Anthony Kavanagh    12/11/1940, Died on 14/12/1940
Teresa Christina O Connor twin of Peter    29/04/1941 aged 8 months
Joan Margareth Duignan    27/05/1944 died 7/06/1944
Rita Mary Duignan    27/05/1944 died 3/06/1944 twin sisters
Mary Bishop        18/07/1934
Christina Bishop    5/05/1939
Martin Bishop        24/08/1952


Anne Fisher…27/6/1897
Kate Delmore…14/12/1897
Esther Reilly….28/5/1898
Mary Hayden…20/11/1898
Mary Quinn….22/10/1899
Maria Walsh….12/01/1877
Margareth Callaghan…15/03/1877
Margareth Farrell…11/06/1877
Emma Buckley….29/09/1880
Mary Leonard…..7/04/1881
Margareth Keogh…..7/04/1884
Mary Kelly….27/11/1884
Catherine Coyle….7/7/1887
Eliza Cafferty….10/03/1888
Julia Clarke…..5/11/1888
Margareth Lewis…..30/1/1889
Teresa Finn…..1/04/1858
Henrietta Hussey 7/03/1860
Mary Anne Kavanagh….29/10/1860
Rose Cavanagh….16/04/1862
Brigid Brady…20/04/1863
Eliza Collins….5/03/1863
Mary Connor….1/05/1863
Elizabeth Dunne….25/11/1863
Marie Byrne…13/05/1866
Mary Burnett….29/04/1867
Sarah Connor….26/08/1870
Mary Mc’mahon…..3/07/1889
Margareth Diamond…18/10/1889
Sarah Bennett…..14/04/1890
Ann Carroll….7/06/1890
Sarah Hanlon…29/06/1890
Elizabeth Byrne….18/10/1890
Mary Scully…29/11/1890
Mary Anne Lawlor…21/02/1892
Catherine Grehan…..23/07/1893
Margareth Myars….6/09/1894
Teresa O Neill….19/10/1894
Mary Ayland….1/01/1895
Bridget Bates….2/05/1896

Anne Grady…20/05/1900
Margareth Brady…..16/10/1900
Sarah Grey….24/05/1901
Johanna Prendergast…..14/06/1902
Eliza Kelly….20/10/1902
Frances Hackey….20/12/1902
Anne Reilly…..6/02/1903
Alison Brady…..8/03/1903
Elizabeth Fagan….28/04/1903
Brigid Donovan…27/07/1903
Martha May….15/11/1903
Lizzie Mockley….28/12/1903
Mary Ann Quinn….14/02/1904
Alice M’cauley….8/10/1904
Esther Keenan…30/11/1904
Brigid Mcnally….6/06/1905
Margareth Dunne….10/08/1905
Ellen O Hanlon…..10/01/1906
Eliza Mc’nully…..10/01/1906
Anne Giblin…..6/02/1907
Catherine Odea…..6/04/1907
Mary Doyle….4/03/1908
Cecila ann Brady….17/04/1908
Elizabeth Caufield….28/01/1909
Margareth Savage….7/08/1909
Anne Dunne…..16/11/1910
Brigid Ward….12/12/1910
Kate Tierney….5/11/1911
Anne Barlow….20/03/1912
Anne Burton….30/03/1912
Sarah Davidson….8/04/1912
Belinda Leonard…..4/05/1912
Anne Morrissey…..27/06/1912
Mary Connell……13/12/1912

Fanny Buckley…..27/01/1914
Catherine Mulhall……3/02/1914
Sophia Barnes…..14/11/1914
Elizabeth Mckinley……3/04/1915
Mary Kavanagh…..13/02/1916
Mary Maher……26/12/1916
Kate Murphy…..19/02/1917
Mary F Smith…..4/08/1917
Charlotte Foster……5/01/1919
Johanna Dunphy…….28/02/1919
Ellen Ryan….3/03/1919
Mary Jane Grey……5/05/1919
Kate Quigley……26/12/1919
Elizabeth Culliton…….18/02/1920
Alican Ennis…….21/02/1920
Mary Dunne……23/05/1920
Elizabeth Duffy……21/06/1920
Eliza Mcnally……30/06/1921

Jane Leadon…..20/03/1923
Julia O Brian…..29/09/1923
Elizabeth Cogan…..18/10/1924
Kate Kiernan……5/09/1925
Mary Kelly…..8/12/1925

Emily Collins….18/08/1926
Isabelle Clarke….8/10/1926
Margareth Hayden….15/08/1927
Julia Byrne….22/11/1927
Margareth Mc’cormack 6/05/1930
Mary Ball…..18/06/1930
Joan Maguire……7/06/1933
Jane Kenna….9/06/1933
Margareth Martin…..10/06/1936
Mary Kinsella…..9/05/1937
Mary Margareth Nally…..13/06/1937
Margie Plunkett……15/06/1937
Julia Holmes….4/10/1938
Brigid Masterson…..19/10/1938
Lizzie Quinn…..30/08/1940
Ellen Murphy….28/03/1943
Martha Murray…..28/10/1943
Julia Somers……2/03/1944
Mary Clare Farrell…..27/04/1944
Mary Ann Morgan…..25/06/1947
Alice Bolger…….31/04/1948 THERE IS NO SUCH DATE AS APRIL ONLY HAS 30 DAYS!
Katie O Loughnane…….16/10/1951
Ann Teresa Hickey….29/05/1952
Wilma Mary Hertzburg…..27/07/1952
Bella Kemp……14/05/1955
Annie Brooks……2/10/1955
Catherine McConnell…..10/04/1956
Molly Moore….17/11/1960
Anne Hallinan…..2/01/1961
Brigid Howe…..30/09/1962
Mary Mahan…..10/04/1963
Susan Bateman…….6/05/1963
Mary Mooney…..30/05/1963
Helena Tropey……21/09/1964
Esther Byrne……6/01/1966
Bella Smith …..8/04/1966
Margareth Corcoran……..21/05/1967
Agnes Dunne…..4/08/1967
Annie Lutton…..5/08/1967
Elizabeth Mooney……22/12/1967
Brigid Supple…..13/10/1968
Rose ann Maguire…..15/04/1969
Ellen M Mc’kearney…..10/05/1969
Ellie Guest….19/05/1969
Christina Butler……4/09/1969
Louise Grayson…..11/01/1970
Catherine Tighe……12/01/1970
Josephine Kavanagh…..3/10/1970
Lizzie Kiernan….5/01/1971
Mary Brehany…..28/01/1972
Edith Haverty…..16/03/1972

Mary Wilkinson……22/09/1974

Alice Igoe……14/03/1975
Mary Mulhall….16/03/1975
Ellen Mc’kenna….17/09/1979
Christina Harrison….21/03/1982
Jane Murphy…..22/08/1986
Peggy Cummins……14/09/1987
Julia Treacy……5/11/1987
Eileen Mc’girr…..15/01/1988
Kathleen Floyd……27/01/1988
Rose Kavanagh……6/03/1989
Una Mc’Donald…….12/05/1989
Teresa Murray…..15/07/1989
Sally Bridge…..25/02/1990
Mary White…..26/02/1990
Annie Pollard…….29/03/1990
Kitty Govan……4/05/1990
Nora Gregan……17/02/1991
Nancy Gilbert……1/05/1991
Tessie Fallon…….8/11/1991
Nellie Harrison…..29/12/1991
Brigid Kelly…….6/04/1992
Mary Anne Scott…….10/10/1992
Elizabeth Power……i/08/1993

Mary Quinn……21/11/1994
Brigid Doody…..28/12/1994
Julia Kelly…….3/10/1995
Christina O Brien…..28/03/1997
Philomena Doyle……3/04/1998

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No one refuses a bargain. You might be checking out a funky 1960s coat at Se Si or a well-made pine table in an auction rooms and if you can get it for bottom dollar why say no? Rich as some of us are, everyone knows that if you count the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. The extra few bob come in handy, especially at this time of year. There is one bargain basement, benefit-in-kind which will not be the subject of a Public Accounts Committee investigation – that of the exploitation of child labour. Before getting into detail, let me acknowledge the debt this column owes to Questions And Answers, and specifically to a remark made there last Monday by journalist Breda O’Brien. Without her shared memories of her rural childhood, the insight she hit on would be consigned to the pages of Suffer The Little Children, by Ms Mary Raftery and Dr Eoin O’Sullivan, a book about which she is somewhat sceptical. And I would be fingering funky coats and pine tables without a second thought.  Ms O’Brien has been very busy since she hit the headlines trying to dispute certain facts reported there. Fintan O’Toole noted recently the “extravagant claims she made for her professional capability” in the matter while, of course, respecting her standing as a journalist.

The book is a must-read for every citizen, drawing as it does not only on over two years’ research by the award-winning Ms Raftery, who was accountable to RTE for the original programme’s accuracy, but on close to a decade’s academic scrutiny by Dr O’Sullivan, whose rigour won him a Ph.D. from Trinity College. Nothing it says has been disproved.  Unfortunately, Ms O’Brien’s words coincided with the timing of a debate about the Statute of Limitations Bill, a blunt and arguably unfair instrument now passed by the Dail and about to be heard in the Seanad.  Doubly unfortunate is their coincidence with Dr Patricia Casey’s public remarks about the condition labelled “false memory syndrome”, along with her earlier opinions about what she perceives as shortcomings in both the social worker and counselling professions. Incidentally, those two professions are the principal routes to uncovering child abuse and helping victims survive it.  MS O’Brien shared with us her childhood memories of Artane boys who worked on her father’s farm. It was a touching moment. You glimpsed a family bond which was strong and enduring, close enough for that little girl to ask her daddy if the rumours about Artane were true. He explained that he had also been punished at school.

The unasked question was did everyone have a rough time then? There is a world of difference between being hit with a strap, as my father was also, and being beaten within an inch of your life. We blur that distinction at our peril.

The facts about child labour uncovered by Dr O’Sullivan and Ms Raftery are shocking. So many people gained from the unpaid or underpaid work of industrial and reformatory school children that their sweat, blood and tears are buried deep within this economy.  People could, and did, buy their produce for half-nothing. Many of those goods survive today.  “Artane’s vast army of 800 boys worked the school’s 290-acre farm of prime land. Well into the 1960s, no labour-saving machinery had been purchased . . . With so much free child labour, Brothers presumably felt there was no need,” according to the book. Meat, eggs and dairy products were sold from Artane at market prices until the 1970s. No available records disprove the assertion that profits were denied to the boys who had helped create them.  Individual testimony tells how boys were sometimes hired out to farms and businesses who needed an extra hand. The effect was to offer an invisible layer of subsidy to farms and businesses who would otherwise have to pay considerably higher labour rates.

Older boys often went directly from Artane to be boarded out as farm labourers. Some were never paid, others were paid a low rate directly into an account controlled by the Brothers, with no guarantee that the boys would ever see it. Some were treated badly; others were encouraged and fed well for the first time in their lives.  THE demand for both farm labour and domestic servants was such as to encourage some school managers to reduce the children’s formal education on the basis that it would not get them a job. Within the schools, inmates did the heavy work, which saved on the need for paid staff and thus kept fees down in boarding for the day-pupil children from “respectable” families.  Trained to be meek, the boys and girls were biddable and vulnerable when they took up employment outside.   Dr Mona Hearne’s research on domestic servants revealed that attempts to unionise the sector never succeeded: you couldn’t afford to alienate your employer because only a reference from him or her would secure you another job. For former inmates, the choice otherwise was to be returned to a school or Magdalen laundry.

Even if people didn’t buy the rashers and sausages and eggs they produced for their high-fat Irish breakfasts, or get a “little girl” to do the heavy work, other benefits accrued to those who used their products and services. Tailored clothes rosary beads, hand-finished furniture, souvenirs and ornaments, boots and shoes were made by the schools. Mattresses were stuffed by hand, slip-overs and head-rests painstakingly sewn, tablecloths crocheted, embroidered or laundered according to need.  All were sold relatively cheaply, keeping consumer prices down for those items.  Everything was made possible by the institutional Catholic Church in Ireland. In the absence of contrary evidence, it still stands accused of pocketing the profits for unspecified purposes, and encouraging people who might otherwise have claimed to be “good Catholics” to exploit their labour with official approval.  

Buried in our thriving GNP is the unpaid debt we owe those workers. I’m dedicating my Millennium Candle to them.

Irish Times: Mon 12 Dec 1999



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