- Sep 2, 2008
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Alas, I couldn't attend the candlelit vigil & memorial for Peter Tyrrell in London this evening (April 26, 2019), but here's a video of me reading my poem "Letterfrack Man", which was broadcast at the event. A passionate activist, author and survivor of the notorious Letterfrack Industrial School, Galway, Peter Tyrrell fought for years to stop the abuse of children in Irish industrial schools. His efforts fell on deaf ears. He set himself on fire in a London park on April 26th, 1967. He was 51 years old.
Than you Lumpy. Deirdre Finnerty has the ability to explain complex subjects in simple language (hallmark of a great writer).
For a start, responsibility for the burial of these infants lay entirely with the State. Galway and Mayo County Councils paid the Sisters of the Bon Secours a capitation rate to look after individuals and their babies,* but the nuns were paid nothing for their work.* [Victoria White]
… of the babies in cots lined up outside the home in the “scorching” sunshine; the ubiquitous Bina Rabbitte - the woman whose name appears on almost every birth and death certificate for the Tuam home - preparing bottles; and of the nuns tearing lumps off large batch loaves to throw at the children, who would fight over it, like pigeons; and of hunger.
She milked 14 cows in the morning and 14 in the evening and was responsible for feeding the sows, ducks, hens and turkeys. Sometimes she was taken out of school to clean the house.
“The worst beating I ever got was the horse’s whip. His mother went to him over something I’d done. I think it was over a tin of fruit that I took, or over the apples that I took. I did open the tins of fruit and I’d eat them,” she says. She thinks she was 11 or 12 at the time. Her foster mother went for Anne, and when she retaliated, her son stepped in.
"He [son] stripped me half-naked, waist down, and put me across the chair - and the wallop. The blood was pouring down my legs. I couldn’t sit,” she says. My backside was skinned, that was the truth.
The family who took her in would have received a monthly fee of £2 and 10 shillings until she was age 10, £3 a month up to the age of 16, plus an annual allowance of £9 to £11.
In the Sunday Independent #sindo don't miss this stunning piece of journalism by Maeve Sheehan #tuambabies
The girl’s long walk ends at the Mercy school, where tardiness might earn you a smarting whack on the hand. The children from the home are always late to school — by design, it seems, to keep them from mingling with “legitimate” students. Their oversize hobnail boots beat a frantic rhythm as they hustle to their likely slap at the schoolhouse door.
The human rights abuses described by survivors of Ireland’s institutions and adoption system are among the most serious recognised by the international community
The ability of many to piece together their own history – including such fundamental aspects as their own identity and health conditions – has been denied
"Marion was 17 when she became pregnant. She was 20 weeks pregnant before she told a teacher who brought her to a nun who was a friend of the family. She lived in a public house in Cork and was kept hidden away at home for the rest of her pregnancy. No one was to be told she was pregnant. She only left the house once a month for the remainder of her pregnancy [to see a gynaecologist].
"Marion’s doctor decided to induce her a month early as there was a relation travelling from England. She was taken to St Finbarr’s hospital. After a ‘horrendous’ labour and birth Marion was taken by ambulance to Bessborough with her baby boy. On arrival a nun put out her arms, she thought to help her out. Instead she took her son from her. Marion did not see her son again, he was adopted and Marion’s family a few days later ‘bought her out’ of Bessborough.
"Marion has no recollection of signing the initial papers authorising the adoption of her son, who she names Anthony. She went on to meet her son after tracking him down many years later. The experience had a detrimental effect on Marion and she became an alcoholic.