18 March 1792: Lady Arabella Denny, Founder of the Magdalene Asylums died on this day

Catalpast

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18 March 1792: Lady Arabella Denny died in Dublin on this day. She is best remembered today as the Founder of the Magdalene Asylums in this Country. Arabella Fitzmaurice was born in County Kerry in 1707 to the family of Thomas Fitzmaurice, subsequently the 1st Earl of Kerry. He was notorious for his hot temper – a ‘tyrant’ according to his grandson - but he had showed courage and talent as a soldier. Her mother was Anne Petty, daughter of Sir William Petty, who was the only person who could calm her spouse.

From an early age Arabella showed compassion to those less fortunate than herself in this life. She set up a makeshift Dispensary on her father’s estate to care for his tenants medical needs. In 1727 she married Colonel Arthur Denny, M.P. for Kerry. They had no children and in 1742 the Colonel died of Apoplexy. She had to leave their Castle & move up to Dublin City. By 1748 she was living in Blackrock County Dublin where she resided at Peafield Cliff House (now Lios na Uisce/Lisnaskea House).


Due to her interest in charitable affairs she became involved in the Dublin Foundling Hospital which took in orphans and unwanted babies. She donated from her own funds a Clock that chimed every twenty minutes to help regulate feeding times for the suckling infants.

Lady Arabella was struck by the terrible plight of unmarried pregnant girls on the city’s streets. Their fate was not a good one. She decided to found an Institution in Dublin that could take in these unfortunates and provide a safe environment for them to recover after birth and reform themselves. The first Magdalene Asylum was founded at Whitechapel in London England in 1758. We don’t know if Lady Arabella had been to the one in London or whether its mode of operation was recommended to her but in 1767 she founded the first one in this Country on Leeson Street Dublin for fallen women or penitent prostitutes, who were provided with accommodation, clothing, food and religious instruction. Lady Arabella was a member of the Church of Ireland and her idea was that Protestant girls and women in trouble could through Redemption become part of civil society once again regardless of their previous misdeeds.

However Lady Denny while well off knew that such an enterprise cost money and just as important in Georgian Dublin the sanction of the Protestant Ascendency. She roped in as many members of High Society to help fund her project as she could and she got no less a personage than Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III to act as patron. For good measure she also later established a chapel adjacent to the asylum and managed to rope in George Viscount Townsend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to attend the first divine service to be held there. As a result of such patronage many fashionable ladies were happy to attend and donate their purses to alleviate the plight of others.

In 1778 Lady Arabella had reached her 71st year and decided to resign as the head of the Committee that ran the Asylum. She retired to her beautiful home in Blackrock where she lived out her days in the company of her niece Catherine Fitzmaurice. She became poorly but her mind was still active. What exercised her mind the most though was a morbid fear of being buried alive! She gave instructions that on her demise she was to be left on her deathbed for 72 hours before she was lowered into her grave. When she passed from this World her wishes were duly carried out.
 


Congalltee

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1792 the asylums were an expression of compassion and humanity.
1992 the continuation of the asylums was an expression of failure by civil society.
2014 we "realised" the horror that was inflicted on single mothers and their children; trafficking, false imprisonment, criminal neglect - all done with the collusion of the State and Society.

We may hypocritically blame the church now. But Ireland has a poor record of dealing with "shame".
 

Cruimh

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1792 the asylums were an expression of compassion and humanity.
1992 the continuation of the asylums was an expression of failure by civil society.
2014 we "realised" the horror that was inflicted on single mothers and their children; trafficking, false imprisonment, criminal neglect - all done with the collusion of the State and Society.

We may hypocritically blame the church now. But Ireland has a poor record of dealing with "shame".
Indeed - things often start out well - the Christian Brothers in the days of Edmund Rice were a huge improvement, even banning corporal punishment!
 
D

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1792 the asylums were an expression of compassion and humanity.
1992 the continuation of the asylums was an expression of failure by civil society.
2014 we "realised" the horror that was inflicted on single mothers and their children; trafficking, false imprisonment, criminal neglect - all done with the collusion of the State and Society.

We may hypocritically blame the church now. But Ireland has a poor record of dealing with "shame".
I suspect that in fifty years time our Arab over lords will be handwringing about the shame of the hospital trolley crisis in the early 21st century.
 
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I suspect that in fifty years time our Arab over lords will be handwringing about the shame of the hospital trolley crisis in the early 21st century.
In 50 years time the abortionistas will be claiming their way is so much better then decrying why there are no young people around.
 

McTell

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.... in 1767 she founded the first one in this Country on Leeson Street Dublin for fallen women or penitent prostitutes, who were provided with accommodation, clothing, food and religious instruction. Lady Arabella was a member of the Church of Ireland and her idea was that Protestant girls and women in trouble could through Redemption become part of civil society once again regardless of their previous misdeeds. ....

Our Catholic sisters at the time being 101% churchgoing and dacent, and wouldn't ever need that sort of help.

The Midnight Court by Brian Merriman, translated by Noel Fahy
 

ne0ica

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1792 the asylums were an expression of compassion and humanity.
1992 the continuation of the asylums was an expression of failure by civil society.
2014 we "realised" the horror that was inflicted on single mothers and their children; trafficking, false imprisonment, criminal neglect - all done with the collusion of the State and Society.

We may hypocritically blame the church now. But Ireland has a poor record of dealing with "shame".
Why is it liberals these days sound a lot like Catholic Bishops of old.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
Did they bury Arabella out the back in a 'sewer-crypt'?
 
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wombat

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Indeed - things often start out well - the Christian Brothers in the days of Edmund Rice were a huge improvement, even banning corporal punishment!
Its an interesting thought which could be worth a study as to why and how organisations betray the aims of their founder. The Irish Christian Brothers are a good example of an organisation that betrayed their founder's purpose yet refuse to disband.
 

Catalpast

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Its an interesting thought which could be worth a study as to why and how organisations betray the aims of their founder. The Irish Christian Brothers are a good example of an organisation that betrayed their founder's purpose yet refuse to disband.
It still gave a lot of kids an education that otherwise they would have not got

Don't forget corporal punishment was rife in Education back then

- and not just in Ireland....
 
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wombat

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Why is it liberals these days sound a lot like Catholic Bishops of old.
I remember seeing a rerun of an old RTE program about Irish emigrants in England and someone made the point that the Irish, rather than being contrary as they are portrayed are really desperate to fit in and conform to the current fad of their environment.
 

wombat

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It still have a lot of kids an education that otherwise they would have not got
I am grateful for the education I received from them but after hearing what happened in Artane and elsewhere, I do not understand how the remnants can honestly say they should not disband.
 

razorblade

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I'm sure it was set up with the best of intentions its only the horrors which came after it which has left a huge stain over the thing.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
Its an interesting thought which could be worth a study as to why and how organisations betray the aims of their founder. The Irish Christian Brothers are a good example of an organisation that betrayed their founder's purpose yet refuse to disband.
The order of nuns who ran the Tuam home are currently in breach of the purpose for which they were given license from Rome to call themselves an 'order'.

The Bons Secours order were given permission to become an order with the imprimatur of Rome so that they could provide medical care to the poor.

They are currently profiting in the main from private health care provision for those who can afford it.
 

Catalpast

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I am grateful for the education I received from them but after hearing what happened in Artane and elsewhere, I do not understand how the remnants can honestly say they should not disband.
Yeah but you see while there were physical and sexual predators in Artane what has happened is that ALL the Brothers are now seen in that light...
 

mr_anderson

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We may hypocritically blame the church now. But Ireland has a poor record of dealing with "shame".
Yes and no.
The two are inextricably intertwined.

It was very often church teachings which led Irish society to deal with ''shame'' in that way.
 

Skin the Goat

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Yeah but you see while there were physical and sexual predators in Artane what has happened is that ALL the Brothers are now seen in that light...
Because they didn't address the issue.
 


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