Hell on Earth

WARNING: You will need Tissues. A CRATE FULL.

How can I, an Irishwoman, dare to write a post at this time on the particular subject chosen for us today?

The world has many images of Ireland: –

Lakes of Killarney
Hills of Donegal
Fermanagh Lakes
Cliff of Moher
Giant’s causeway
Ring of Kerry
The Burren
Galway Bay
Dublin’s fair City

Happy go lucky
Book of Kells

Jaunting cars
Irish Coffee
Turf Fires
Forty shades of green

Island of Saints and Scholars
Tír na nÓg

Tír na nÓg “Land of the Young” is widely known as an Otherworld in Irish mythology

The version of Tír na nÓg “Land of the Young” portrayed across the world’s media this week, was a very different world. Definitely no myth. It is now a time for generations of us who claim to be Irish, to bow our heads in shame and weep.

Many of you may have seen the Movie The Magdalene Sisters, it was based on truth.

To think for all, if not more than my sixty six years, this form of torture was metered out on children as young as four, in Magdalene Homes/Laundries across the Island of Ireland.




There are enough words already written to cover the globe, way more succinctly and eloquently than I could ever manage so I offer you four links. The middle two are interviews with victims.

Magdalene Laundries and the Power of Shame

Interview with one survivor “We were Slaves!”

A former Magdalene Laundry resident speaks out.

Involvement of the State

For years, In Ireland, the clergy (priests, brothers and nuns) were all placed on pedestals and we were taught that they could do no wrong. We were to look up to and respect them.

My sister said to me only yesterday:

We were lucky. We might have ended up in a place like that, in 1958!

In that year my father was dying and spent most of the time in and out of hospital. An error was made in surgery and a swab left inside his body. It turned gangrenous and all his internal organs were effected. Out of work meant out of pocket – no wage coming in. Before you ask, it was long before the Compensation Culture was heard of. Daddy did survive. He eventually returned to work and limped through life for twenty years, developing Addison’s disease and emphysema along the way.

We survived, thanks to generous relations who quietly paid the regular bills and friends who visited. These friends usually ended a visit with a hand being pulled from their pocket and a note being left under the little brass bell that sat on the mantelpiece over the fire. The action was accompanied with:

Eileen, I forgot to buy sweets for the kids, you know what they will like!

The sweets we got were soups and stews to keep the life blood in us.

With the Church, State and the Forces of Law & Order in the gutter, where respect is concerned, who in our hour of bleak need can we turn to now?

We haven’t lost our smile at all, it’s right under our noses. We just forget it is there at the moment.

Nature vs nurture was the topic chosen by Shackman that I was supposed to write about. I suggest you skip on over to see what he and the other active members are writing about this time: Delirious, Maxi, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, Shackman speaks, The Old Fossil, Will Knott.

25 thoughts on “Hell on Earth

  1. Grannymar Post author

    Gigi – Life was not always easy, but compared to some of these stories, we had 5* life luxury.

    Ramana – That article you linked to said: The laundries were operated from 1922 to 1996. To get some idea of time scale.. My paternal grandfather died in 1922 when my father was eleven, 1996 was the year my mother died and Elly left school to head to University.

    Maxi – We would not be human if we were not sad about this atrocity.

    Big John – Thank you.

  2. Mike

    I had never heard of the Magdalenes until just a couple of days ago. I agree with Ramana. It is difficult to comment.

    Wikipedia has an interesting article on the laundries and asylums and their extent in Ireland and beyond to Europe, Canada, and the United States.


  3. The Old Fossil

    GM, I’m considering what effect this might have had on those Irish, like many of my ancestors, who emigrated to America at that time. I know little of their stories and they have not been passed down to me. But, I saw effects that I often wondered where it eminated from, a people with a lust for life, but an underlying sense of guilt for something barely defined. I have little idea if it is in any way linked with what you are showing us.

    There is much here to consider.

  4. Grannymar Post author

    Fossie – I have some interesting tales I must share with you some day when we have the chance for conversation.

    Judy – They tried to keep us in the dark too for many many years.

  5. shackman

    GM – add me to those ignorant of this atrocity until recently. None of my Irish ancestors ever said a thing about it but I suspect they were orange Irish – unfortunately the catholic church is rather infamous for atrocities of one sort or another so this is not surprising. It’s the kind of thing that makes me cringe when folks want to go back to the good old days – those days when everything was kept locked tightly in a closet. Better the dirty laundry be out in the open flapping in the breeze for all to see – and change. Kudos to you for posting this tale. My respect for you has taken another leap forward.

  6. Grannymar Post author

    shackman – The Good old days held plenty of hardship, and at times I wonder how the soft youngsters of today would cope?

  7. wisewebwoman

    Will it ever end, GM?

    Thanks for the post, you escaped by the skin of your teeth and by taking on so much responsibility at a very young age.

    I remember people here laughing at Angela’s Ashes as if it was a fantasy.

    If only.

    I’ve never forgotten my visits (with the nuns) to the slums of Cork.

    I still dream of those rooms with the damp running down the walls and their few spare pennies spent on Rome.


  8. Grannymar Post author

    WWW – Of all the visitors with comments here for this post, you have an understanding closest to mine. We are kindred spirits.

    I remember people in Limerick complaining about how their city was portrayed in Angela’s Ashes. The book and the film told the true story of how life was for some people back in the day. Every city had their quota of slums and we need to accept that.

    Bill Cullen’s ‘It’s a Long Way from Penny Apples’, gives a good picture of life in a Dublin tenement and is a rags-to-riches story, far from depressing or self-serving. Bill was only a year older than my eldest brother.

    John McGahern, was another shunned by church and state for writing about life as it really was. His first book was banned in Ireland, but my eldest aunt, who taught with him in Belgrove, Clontarf, acquired a copy. I remember her bringing it, backed like a school book in brown paper, for my father to read.

  9. Grannymar Post author

    Patty – They went on a long time and in the minds of those affected, they still do.

    Delores – It was a case of sink or swim. I hope it made me stronger.

  10. Nick

    Indeed, there’s a big difference between the romantic, sentimental view of Ireland peddled for the benefit of tourists, and the reality of things like the laundries and what went on there for so many years – with government and police collusion, as you say. The reality of the laundries needs to be publicised so widely that nothing like that could ever happen again.

  11. Grannymar Post author

    Nick – I am beginning to think we need a touch of the ‘Cromwells’ to sort out the canker in the RC church, in Ireland and across the world, Let them begin at the Vatican.

  12. Jay from The Depp Effect

    I have always known – by a process akin to osmosis – that the nuns were very cruel to children in the schools and that priests often took advantage of their position to manipulate people, but about this – this latest abomination – I had no idea. And I am ashamed too, even though I am English and have never set foot in Ireland, even though I am not even Catholic. I am a mother and a member of society and I weep for what others have done, in the name of humanity.

    It makes you feel so helpless.

  13. Grannymar Post author

    Jay – None of us can change the past. We need to nurture and love our children and teach them to do the same.


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