Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Do Penance or PerishMagdalen Asylums in Ireland$

Frances Finnegan

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195174601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195174601.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 20 June 2019

“A Citadel of Piety”

“A Citadel of Piety”

The Good Shepherd Magdalen Asylum, Waterford.

Chapter:
(p.82) 4 “A Citadel of Piety”
Source:
Do Penance or Perish
Author(s):

Frances Finnegan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195174601.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

The Illustrated Guide to Waterford by Edmund Downey states that the City's Magdalen Asylum (later under the care of the Good Shepherd Sisters) was originally founded in 1799. A more detailed account of the Home's origins is contained in Rev. Patrick Power's History of Waterford and Lismore published in 1937. Early rescue efforts in Waterford were hampered by the limited accommodation available in Father Dowley's Refuge, and it was feared that applicants who were refused admission had returned to a life of shame. In 1994, the Waterford Good Shepherd Asylum closed, and its Convent, Chapel, Penitentiary, former Magdalen Section and Laundry buildings were sold to the Regional Technical College, now the Waterford Institute of Technology. The former occupants of the penitentiary are now, like the nuns, housed in new accommodation a few yards from their old premises. The “Orphanage” is now used as an Adult Education Centre.

Keywords:   Good Shepherd Magdalen Asylum, Waterford, Citadel of Piety, Edmund Downey, Patrick Power, Orphanage

“…and, last and significant appendage to the [Waterford] list, a convent of the Good Shepherd, with 39 nuns, and in which there is a Magdalen Asylum with 120 selected inmates. Associated with this Magdalen Asylum, and conducted by the same nuns, is a State-supported “industrial” school, drawing £3,173. 9s. 9d. per annum of public money for its 170 vagrant little girls. I do not think it is right that an “industrial” school and a Magdalen Asylum should be conducted by the same community of nuns.”1

Edmund Downey's Illustrated Guide to Waterford, published in 1915, states that the City's Magdalen Asylum (later under the care of the Good Shepherd Sisters) was originally founded in 1799.2 If so, the Home pre-dates all but four Asylums for fallen women throughout the whole of Britain, these being, as noted earlier, the London Magdalen Hospital, 1758; the Dublin Magdalen Asylum, 1767; the London Lock Asylum, 1787; and the Edinburgh Royal Magdalene Asylum, 1797. Such a distinction, though not impossible, is not referred to elsewhere.

All other sources give 1842 as the year the small Home opened, a more probable date for a Refuge of its kind. By then the Rescue Movement gripped the middle classes, particularly in England, and in the great crusade against the “Social Evil”, (p.83) Magdalen Asylums, Refuges and Penitentiaries were established and even duplicated, in all important towns.

A more detailed account of the Home's origins is contained in Rev. Patrick Power's History of Waterford and Lismore published in 1937.This man was Chaplain to the Good Shepherd Monastery for many years, and since his report closely resembles that contained in the Convent's Annals, it is safe to regard these as his source. The same material (slightly embellished) appears both in A. M. Clarke's 1895 biography of Mother St. Euphrasia, and in the 1933 Life of the Foundress, written “by a Religious of the Congregation” and referred to above. Both works discuss the origins of each of the Irish Houses, details of which had clearly been made available for the purpose. The Waterford Good Shepherd Annals then, are the basis, directly or indirectly, of all the above.

These records began in 1858 when, at the invitation of Rev. John Crotty a Waterford priest, the nuns took over the city's existing Magdalen Home. The background and purpose of this early Refuge are confirmed by its Founder and Guardian, Rev. Timothy Dowley, who, in January 1848, published an unusually sympathetic account of the Home and its inmates in a Circular in the Chronicle and Munster Advertiser:

“For many years all classes of the community felt and admitted the necessity of an asylum [for] those erring beings, whose lives have been a profession of sin, but who sincerely desire to abandon the evil of their ways…Many of these helpless victims of crime and despair have fallen an easy prey to the wiles of the heartless seducer, who first corrupted and then abandoned [them] to the nameless horrors of a career of vice. It is no less certain that poverty is one, perhaps the greatest cause of the degradation of these daughters of misfortune…we resolved six years ago to attempt the establishment of an institution [for their reception]…”

The Circular noted that of the 59 women admitted since the Home's foundation in June 1842, only six had relapsed into sin. Two had died in “a fervour of penitence” in the institution, others had emigrated or been restored to respectable society, and 28 were still in the House “happy and contented”, cheerfully washing to augment their own support. In addition they prayed constantly for those whose charity provided them with shelter.

(p.84) According to the paper's editorial, there was no more charitable institution than this Asylum for repentant sinners; for where else could these “daughters of St. Mary Magdalen” be raised from the “depths of their debasement?” Where, but in such an institution, could they repair by a future good life the “scandals of the past”; since in the world, these repentant sinners would find “only coldness and contempt and rejection as outcasts.”3

It is noted in Chapter 7 that reports of this kind were a constant feature of Rescue literature, from its beginnings in the mid eighteenth century, until well after the First World War. Throughout this period hundreds of Homes relied on the good will - if not the funds - of a dubious public, a situation which accounts in part for the material's sometimes misleading, often optimistic, but always sanctimonious tone. “Successes” are highlighted, failures glossed over and deaths in the institutions portrayed in a romantic, unrealistic light. Anxious to forestall, on the one hand, accusations that such Homes “rewarded vice”,4 and on the other, charges of ill usage and exploitation, most Annual Reports and Circulars are, by their very nature unconvincing and contradictory. Thus inmates, though “cheerful and contented”, are consumed with remorse. They pay dearly for their sins, but if allowed to remain at large, corrupting present and future generations, the cost to society would be even greater.

Rev. Dowley's appeal - balanced and kindly, citing seduction and poverty as contributory, if not determining factors in the women's downfall - is in marked contrast to the language and imagery used by Cork priest Rev. Maguire, for example, some of whose violent outbursts to the 1871 Royal Commission are included in Chapter 7. It is part of a significant body of evidence indicating that as the Rescue Movement gathered momentum in Ireland, and was relinquished to enclosed Orders of nuns, its original character was altered, and its purpose undermined. No longer concerned in the rescue of such women, society became as removed from their fate and experience, as they were from it. Normal attitudes and influences, such as had been applied to the (p.85) work in its early years, were no longer brought to bear; and out of reach and out of sight, the Movement became more inhumane and developed along more stringent lines. This is indicated in the Limerick Home, but is particularly noticeable in the response over the period, to prostitution in Waterford. It is apparent too, in the general structure of the Irish Good Shepherd system, which, by the turn of the century was adopting harsher methods and more intolerant attitudes than even the Foundress had proscribed. Further, as the institutions themselves became larger, more efficient and more impersonal; and as local admissions diminished in proportion to cases from further afield, this austerity became more fixed. The same process occurred with Refuges taken over by other Orders, some of which were not enclosed.

Early rescue efforts in Waterford were hampered by the limited accommodation available in Father Dowley's Refuge, and it was feared that applicants who were refused admission had returned to a life of shame. The Governors of the Home (Rev. Dr. Foran, Chief Patron; Rev. T. Dowley, Guardian; Rev. Dr. Cooke, Chaplain; and Thomas Meagher, M.R, Treasurer) were anxious to extend the work, and the above Circular appealed for funds to support and enlarge the Asylum. It was claimed that not only was the terraced house in Barrack Street too small (it could accommodate only 20 women at that time); it was unhealthy, and badly adapted for its use. The dormitory and the rooms for washing, mangling, drying and ironing, for example, were all under one roof, and (most inconveniently for a laundry) there was no water supply. Equally unsatisfactory was its location on a busy main street, and within yards of the Infantry Barracks.

The Appeal resulted in more women being housed, but possibly under worse, rather than improved conditions. Managed by two lay Matrons and under the direction of its founder and another Waterford priest - Rev. John Crotty, referred to above -the Asylum continued unaltered for a further ten years. With Fr. Dowley's removal from Waterford in 1849, however,5 Rev. Crotty became solely responsible for the women in the Home.

Daunted by the work's increasing difficulties, and impressed by reports of their activities in Hammersmith and Limerick, the priest eventually decided to invite the Sisters of the Good (p.86) Shepherd to take over the Refuge, and wrote to the Mother General in Angers. According to the Waterford Annals:6

“On 29th February 1858 Mother Mary of St. Aloysius de Baligand received an urgent letter from Mother Provincial Hammersmith, London, desiring her to meet and welcome a Colony of five Sisters who were being sent by our Very Reverend Mother General, Mother Mary of St. Euphrasia Pelletier, at the request of Father Crotty.”

Early in April the five Foundresses of Ireland's second Good Shepherd Asylum arrived in Waterford from Angers. Though they had trained in the French Mother House the new Sisters were all Irish. The Superioress of the new Foundation, Mother Mary of St. Magdalen Crilly,7 who was to govern the Waterford Monastery for the next forty years, was accompanied by Sister Mary of St. Constantine Cregan, Assistant; Sister Mary of St. Thomas of Aquino Crilly, Mistress of Penitents; Sister Mary of St. Luke Mullen and Sister Mary of St. Appolinaire Fagen. They were welcomed by Mother Louis de Baligand, Prioress of the Limerick Home.8

Various writers, including Rev. Power the most reliable, note that 32 penitents were in the small Waterford lay Refuge when the Sisters arrived; a figure confirmed in, and presumably taken from, the Order's Annals.9 The Sisters’ Register of Penitents* however, a source not made available before the present study was begun, lists only 21 inmates when the nuns first took up the work.

This contradictory evidence probably results from the hasty departure of approximately one third of the penitents, following their exposure to the nuns. It seems likely (as was to be the case with many of Rev. Shinkwin's enthusiasts in Cork eighteen years later (see pages 180–82) that eleven of the women fled the (p.87) Refuge before the Sisters could register them - the very formality of such proceedings, coupled with the nuns’ forbidding presence and hints of impending change - no doubt increasing their alarm. From various records (their source undoubtedly the Waterford Annals) it appears that at the time of the Sisters’ arrival the women were not only self-supporting, but largely self-governing, in a fairly relaxed regime. By the late 1850s, the two lay Matrons of the earlier period had apparently gone, and Father Crotty superintended the laundry himself. The Annals record that in these early years there was no van, for example; and the penitents collected and returned the customers’ washing themselves. Since inevitably, they attended some public place of worship too, there was no question at this time, of their complete confinement to the Home.

Only one glimpse of the Refuge survives - repeated with some amusement in later sources as evidence of how unsatisfactory the existing system was. The Annals record that one very wet Monday, a penitent who had been out collecting the laundry returned with a heavy pack on her shoulders. As she counted out each family's clothes - as usual, in the presence of the priest - it was found she had forgotten a cobbler's shirt. To spare the woman, who was wet and exhausted, Fr. Crotty went for it himself.10 Though trivial, the incident suggests a kindly, almost normal operation compared with the harsh and unnatural structure, soon afterwards imposed.

A. M. Clarke's 1895 account of the take-over provides further details of the system in place when the nuns arrived:

“The Sisters had much to contend with. The young girls had been accustomed to fetch the linen, take it home, purchase whatever they deemed necessary for the household, and, in short, dispose as they pleased of their earnings. It will be readily imagined how all but impossible it appeared to put an end to this state of things, and establish the order and regularity necessary in a duly organised convent.”11

It would seem from this description that in spite of their communal and avowed existence as “penitents” - clear evidence of their remorse and desire to reform - the women were leading semi-normal lives. Treated as adults, and not wholly (p.88) institutionalised, their transition back into society (the professed purpose of their rescue) might well have been achieved. As it was however, of the 21 inmates who in 1858 came under the French Order's control, only 5 were to leave the system alive. It was shown in the previous Chapter, that a similar pattern emerged in the re-structured Limerick Home.

The virtual imprisonment and total isolation of penitents already committed to reform is extraordinary, and was clearly determined by the nuns’ Rule of strict Enclosure, rather than any aspect of the women's lives. The desirability of absolute confinement, and the necessity for such a measure, was not questioned. Instead, women successfully demonstrating their willingness to make amends were wholly removed from society, becoming, as their detention lengthened, and their vulnerability increased, easy prey to those who, purged of their own sexuality, were obsessed with others’ “sin”.

It is worth noting that most of these inmates, contrary to the misleading description above, were not, in fact, “young girls”, but rather in their late 30s when the nuns arrived, the most junior of them being 31 years old. Mary Kenneely, for example, from Waterford, was 22 when the Home first opened under Rev. Dowley; and 38 when the Sisters took control. She died in the Asylum in 1882, her conduct being “very good”. Also admitted in 1842 was 26 year old Honora Power from Lismore. She was 42 when the Refuge changed hands, and died in the Institution in 1886, aged 70. Mary Power from Waterford was 32 when the nuns took over; Joanna Gleeson, who died in the Home in 1891 was 33; and Mary Daly, who died 7 years after the take-over was 31 when the Sisters arrived.12

In contrast to the extreme youth of some of the Good Shepherd penitents later admitted to the Waterford Asylum, the youngest girl to enter Rev. Dowley's Refuge had been 17 year old Julia Curran from Waterford, recommended to the Home by Fr. Crotty in 1845.13 Her conduct with the Sisters was (p.89) later reported as “very good”; and since she entered the Province's new class of “Magdalens” in December 1872 (see below) she clearly remained in the institution for life. Margaret Reid from Cork, who was aged 22 when admitted to the original Asylum in 1848, entered the Order's Magdalen Class in 1873; and Margaret Walsh from Co. Tipperary (aged 28 when admitted in 1855) was another pre-Good Shepherd penitent who progressed to the Order's austere Magdalen Rule.14 An unusually high proportion of this group (16 of the 21 inmates who came under the charge of the nuns) remained in the institution until they died, with 13 of them continuing in the penitents’ section, and the three women referred to above, becoming Magdalens. Even a lifetime's atonement did not guarantee the nuns’ approval, so desperately yearned for in that unnatural setting, but so begrudgingly bestowed. Bridget Barry, for example, from Waterford, had been admitted in 1845 when she was 24 years old; and was 37 when the nuns took over. She died in the Asylum in 1906, when she was aged 85. After 61 years’ remorse, confinement and virtual servitude, her conduct was described as “sometimes good”.15 Another early inmate, Abbey Hunt from Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford, was commented on in the same way following her death in 1908. However protracted her early “sin”, her penance lasted almost sixty years.16

It is clear from Rev. Dowley's early appeals for funds, that even as a lay Refuge, the Barrack Street house had been inadequate. As a Convent Asylum, however, it was quite impossible, and the nuns began looking for new accommodation immediately after their arrival in 1858. With the help of Mother de Baligand who remained in Waterford for two weeks, and Fr. John Crotty who came to be regarded as the Asylum's Founder and first benefactor, the Sisters acquired the lease of a disused Convent in nearby Hennessey's Road.17 Extensive repairs and alterations (p.90) were required; but in spite of a builders’ strike,18 work progressed so rapidly under Fr. Crotty's supervision, that the small Community of 26 penitents and 5 Sisters was able to move into the renovated Convent on 2nd August 1858. Almost immediately typhus broke out amongst the inmates, though all recovered from the disease. With the continued expansion of the Community, additional building took place, including a laundry and a modest new Chapel, completed in 1864

During its years as a Magdalen Asylum (1858–1894) approximately 500 women and girls were admitted to the Hennessey's Road Enclosure, some of them remaining for life. It was not until the end of this period however (by which time the construction of the Order's vast new premises on the Manor was already underway) that the public was told how unhealthy, and how inappropriate for its purpose, the institution had always been. Such an extraordinary admission, published twenty or even thirty years earlier, would have made little difference to the history of the Home. Already the public had become distanced from the matter, enabled to disassociate itself from what was going on. The Enclosure walls - symbolic, as much as physical barriers - were as effective in keeping society out, as they were instrumental in locking penitents in. These women were in the hands of the Religious, and it was not for ordinary citizens, or even governments, to interfere. If, as was rumoured, conditions weren't quite as they should be - the “fallen” deserved no better, and in any case, were accustomed to worse.

In May 1892 the Foundation Stone of the Order's new Convent and Asylum was laid by the Bishop, Rev. Dr. Sheehan -the public's lack of attendance on this important and well-advertised occasion being attributed to unfavourable weather. In his address the Bishop deplored the Order's existing accommodation in Hennessey's Road - accommodation which the Community, pending the completion of the new buildings, was to occupy for a further two years. His description, therefore, (p.91) concerns most of the period covered in this study and can be appropriately included at this point:

“The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, no-one can say, have entered on this work too soon. For many and many a year they have borne discomforts, and such as only a few know. They seek no comforts in their life of self-denial…But to say that the Convent which they have so long occupied was comfortless and cheerless is only describing imperfectly its condition. The House heretofore occupied by the Magdalens, was perhaps of all charitable institutions in the Kingdom the most completely unsuited for its purpose. Its rooms were small and gloomy, its passages were narrow and tortuous. There was very little of pure air in it, and in every way the house was completely unfit as a place for the reception of penitents. No one would say that for them money should be lavished…But I believe it was absolutely necessary that the work of the Good Shepherds should be continued and if it was to be done with any degree of efficiency, I believe it was absolutely necessary that they should seek another house for their penitents.”19

It was noted above that 26 penitents and 5 Sisters had moved into the Hennessey's Road Convent in 1858. In the following decades numbers increased steadily, and by the 1901 Census, there were 105 penitents (15 of them “Magdalens”) and 38 Nuns in the Community's new premises in the Manor.20

Throughout this period the Waterford Magdalen Asylum admitted the same wide range of inmates as the Order's other Homes. In each of the establishments very young, probably hopeful cases, for example, were mixed with severely institutionalised, or more depraved older women. One such adolescent was 14 year old Mary Russell from Waterford, who was recommended by the Home's Chaplain in 1864, but left three years later and was “sometimes very bold”. She returned to the Institution in 1870.21 Kate Noonan, from Waterford, was also 14 when she entered “voluntarily”. Although she was “very good” she left within a month.22 Another 14 year old was Bridget Dorky from (p.92) nearby Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary. She had entered voluntarily in 1880, but was taken out by her mother three months later. Her conduct too, was described as “very good”.23 Fourteen year old Mary Baker from Waterford was brought by her aunt Mrs. Lalor in November 1886; but within a fortnight, she left at her aunt's request.24 It is possible that some of these placements were intended as warnings, or carried out for the girls’ protection. Annie Jelly, for example, a 13 year old, was put in the Asylum by her aunt and a Dr. Phelan in 1891. No further information about her is recorded, except that she came from Clonmel.25 Another 13 year old, Mary Murphy, from Ballytruckle in Waterford, was brought to the Home in February 1888 by her mother, who took her out exactly two years later.26 Three young girls were placed in the Asylum by their mothers in 1895 (by which time the new building was occupied) only to be taken out shortly afterwards by the same women. Sarah Sullivan aged 14, from Green's Lane in Waterford was admitted in February for a stay lasting nine months and was “very good”; Katie Kenny from Tramore, also 14 and “very good” stayed for three months; and Mary Sanders aged 19, was removed by her mother after a stay of less than four weeks.27 In the same year another 14 year old, Mary Griffin from Waterford, was brought to the Home by a policeman, but no further information is recorded.28

In 1897 two very young sisters, Mary and Ellie Doyle from Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny were admitted to the Asylum. The first, aged 14, was brought by her father and mother in August; and her sister aged 13 was brought by her father and brother in the following month. This girl, described in the Register as “idiotic”, left at her own request, though no date for her departure is given.29 A few days after she was admitted another 13 year old, Christina Smith from Wexford, was placed in the Home by a Mrs. Kelly. She too was “partly idiotic”, and left after only ten days.30 Mary Anne Fitzgerald, also aged only 13 on (p.93) admission, was one of several penitents in this period recommended to the institution by the Mercy Nuns in Wexford. Most of their cases were unsatisfactory. Through their influence two 15 year olds. Stasia Purcell and Mary Berry, for example, were admitted in October 1897. The former, “a quiet child”, was taken out by her parents six months later; and the latter - “sullen, deep and vindictive” was removed by her brother after three months.31 Maggie Scallion, aged 23 and admitted in May 1898, was “half idiot”; and 36 year old Maria Flynn, registered in the following month on the recommendation of the Wexford nuns, was described in the Register as “a real discontented tramp”.32

Minnie Morrisey from Post Office Lane, Tramore was 14 when she first entered the Home, having been sent by a priest. She must have left shortly afterwards as she was re-admitted a few months later, only to leave again “half mad”.33 The youngest admission to the Waterford Home was Mary McCabe from Drogheda Row, Monasterevan, Co. Kildare. She was sent by the local Mercy nuns in November 1899 when she was only 12 years old; and died in the Asylum 14 years later, aged 26.34 Meanwhile the Mercy nuns sent two more penitents from Monasterevan in the last weeks of 1899 - 16 year old Annie Brennan (also from Drogheda Row) a “quiet child” who left the Home eighteen months later; and 20 year old Rose Ryan, from Whellans Row, Monasterevan. She too was “quiet” but “unsettled”, and she left after six months.35

Some of the women, of course, were much older when they entered the Asylum, their advanced years making the gruelling regime ahead of them a nightmare. A local woman Anne Walsh, for example, was aged 50 when she entered voluntarily in September 1898. Ten months later she died of rheumatism.36 For women in poor health or elderly, even the climb to the dormitories must have been daunting. The stairs in the Waterford Home were unusually steep - an additional discomfort to women worn out with drudgery and prayer. Various of the women were even older than Anne Walsh when they entered the Asylum–an (p.94) indication of their hopeless state. One, for example, was aged 57 at the time she was registered, one was 58 and another was 59 years old. The vast majority of inmates, however, were aged between 17 and 30 on admission, with a third of the overall total being 17 to 20 year olds. This wide range of inmates, so harmful to adolescents in need of protection rather than punishment, would not have been tolerated in English Protestant Homes.

In common with the penitents in Limerick, those in the Waterford Home can rarely be categorised into groups such as prostitutes, “first-fall” cases, victims of incest, etc., because of lack of information on the women's previous history. Observations on their character and mental state are unusually harsh in the Waterford Register, with comments such as “idiotic”, “half insane”, “dissipated” and “sly”, occurring with greater frequency than is the case elsewhere. Such descriptions (less charitable, perhaps, than the nuns’ vocations required) refer, of course, to behaviour in the Home and are not necessarily an indication of the women's pasts.

In common with the Asylums in New Ross and Cork, the only women who can positively be identified as prostitutes during the period (though clearly, there were others) are those recommended by Miss Farrell, the Matron, between 1870 and 1886, of the country's two “Certified” Hospitals set up under the Contagious Diseases Acts. In addition, various other women were recommended to the Homes by Rev. Reed of Cork; who, as discussed in Chapter 6, was Chaplain to the city's Government Lock Hospital, and gave evidence to the Select Committee of Enquiry into the Contagious Diseases Acts in 1881.

The first of these admissions to the Waterford Asylum occurred in December 1871, when 21 year old Caroline Salbert from Dublin was recommended by “Miss Farrell, Matron of Lock Hospital, Kildare”. The girl was described as “very quite” [sic]; and “died happily”, though no date was given.37 A few weeks later (by which time the Matron had moved to the Hospital in Cork) two of Miss Farrell's cases were admitted on the same day. Eighteen year old Bessy Murphy from Cork stayed in the Asylum for only four months and was described as “very bold”; and 30 year old Mary Walsh, also from Cork, left at her own request eight (p.95) months later, and was considered “very hasty”. Another prostitute recommended by Miss Farrell was 38 year old Eliza Holmes, whose address was not known. She was allowed to leave after only two weeks in the Home.38

Thirty year old Alice Holden, originally from Kilkenny, was recommended to the Asylum by Miss Farrell (“Matron of Lock Hospital, Cork”) in November 1872. Although her behaviour was described as “sometimes satisfactory”, she left after 18 months for “bad conduct”.39 A Dublin woman, 34 year old Lizzie Anderson was possibly one of those much-publicised prostitutes allegedly discharged from Certified Hospitals before being properly cured. In February, 1873, just ten weeks after being admitted to the Waterford Good Shepherd from Miss Farrell's institution, she had to be sent to the Fever Hospital. Although she did not return to the Asylum, her conduct had been “very good”.40

In the same month 26 year old Julia Manaly of Cork was recommended to the Refuge by Fr. Reede [sic], at this time Chaplain to the Government Lock Hospital in that city. Part of his duties under the amended Contagious Diseases legislation was the attempted reform of prostitutes detained for the treatment of venereal disease, and their placement, if possible, in suitable Rescue Homes. This woman - not one of his successful cases - is an indication of how unreliable his evidence to the Government Select Committee was. Far from remaining in the Home in which “Divine Providence” had placed her, she was “very unsettled” and left after only 6 days.41 A few days later another of Miss Farrell's Lock Hospital converts, 19 year old Mary Kelly, originally from Clonmel, was admitted to the Waterford Home. Eighteen months after her arrival she left at her own request, but returned after nine months, only to leave again in August 1875. She was described as “very bold”.42 Meanwhile, in March 1873 Miss Farrell sent 40 year old Margaret McGuire to the Sisters in Waterford. Although this woman had undergone compulsory treatment in the prison-like Hospital in Cork, after (p.96) which she served two full years as a penitent - the most that was required, and even permitted, in the vast majority of Homes - she was described as “very hasty” when she left in 1875.43

By July 1873 Miss Farrell was once more stationed in the Certified Hospital in Kildare. In the middle of that month 18 year old Elizabeth Kavanagh was admitted to the Waterford Good Shepherd on the Matron's recommendation. She stayed in the Asylum for eleven days.44 Meanwhile in the Cork Lock Hospital, Fr. Reed persuaded 24 year old prostitute Ellen McCarthy to enter the Waterford Home. Another of his failed conversions, she stayed only two weeks, and was “disobedient”.45 He was slightly more successful with Margaret Hopkins, originally from Limerick and aged 26. She stayed in the Home for six months, but her conduct was “very bold”.46 Fr. Reed next recommended 38 year old Eliza Keily of Cork, another of those Lock Hospital patients who may well have been prematurely discharged as cured. Within ten days of her arrival she left for hospital because of “ill health”.47

In his evidence to the Select Committee in 1881 the Hospital Chaplain claimed that the vast majority of his cases were successful. He was confident of this because he did not “lose sight” of the women, and had any of them left the institutions in which they had been placed, he would have been informed.48 If Rev. Reed had followed up his conversions more thoroughly before giving evidence (or alternatively, had he not been mis-informed regarding their behaviour in the Homes and their actual length of stay) his faith in the Acts’ tendency to reclaim these women by means of the Penitentiary System would have been shaken. His evidence might well have been different - and certainly, it would have been more to the point. As it is, with such a record of failure behind him, his insistence on the legislation's reclamitory influence is remarkable. If, for example, he had followed the progress of another of his converts, 22 year old Cork prostitute Ellen McCarthy, he would have known that she was (p.97) “very idle”; and that she left the Waterford Asylum in July 1874, just nine days after she arrived.49

His referrals to the Limerick Good Shepherd were equally discouraging. In October 1875, Ellen Donovan, for example, 18 years old and a former penitent of the Order's Cork Refuge, was recommended to the Limerick Home following her treatment for venereal disease. She “escaped from the Asylum” after nine days but was brought back by the police, only to be sent out on the following day. Shortly afterwards another Cork prostitute, 22 year old Ellen Vaughan was referred to the Provincial House by the Hospital Chaplain. “Insubordination” ensured that she too, was “sent away”. Also “sent out for insubordination” was forty year old Mary McGuire, another of Rev. Reed's converts who spent only a few days in the Limerick Home. Before being detained for treatment in the Government Lock Hospital, she had been a penitent in both Waterford and Cork.50

Another Waterford penitent who was clearly a registered prostitute before entering the Home was 23 year old Kate Collen, originally from Wexford. Recommended by Miss Farrell at the Kildare Lock Hospital in December 1874, she left after eight months for “bad conduct”. Also admitted from the Lock Hospital in the period were 48 year old Bridget Brennon, from Carrick-on-Suir (she stayed for two days); 24 year old Elizabeth Perry from England (no date is given for her departure) and 20 year old Kate Ryan from Dublin. This girl, who in 1880 stayed in the Home for only four months, was a more hopeful case and left for a situation.51 Twenty-five year old Lizzie Walsh, on the other hand, was one of the few women of this “state registered” category, to remain in the Home for life - though in her case it was a penance lasting only four years. Admitted from the Kildare Lock Hospital in May 1880, she died in the Asylum in May 1884.52

More typical was the behaviour of 40 year old Mary Clark from Belfast, who “received the name of Winefred” and left in February 1881, only three weeks after being admitted. In common with (p.98) several other cases sent by Miss Farrell, she was “very idle”.53 Mary Filey from Kildare was another 40 year old who came straight from the Lock Hospital. She was registered in the Asylum in February 1881, but her date of departure is not known.54

It has been noted that the Contagious Diseases Acts were suspended in 1883, and repealed in 1886.This makes 29 year old Anne Mulbrooney's referral to the Waterford Home something of a mystery, since she was recommended by “Miss Farrell, Lock Hospital”, in September 1886. The woman, who was from Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, stayed in the Waterford penitentiary for ten months but was “very troublesome”. She was Miss Farrell's last case.55

Several of the above women, as well as others who were not Lock Hospital referrals, were recommended to the Waterford Home from Cork, a city with extensive Magdalen provision of its own. It was clearly thought desirable that some women should be sent to Homes far removed from old associations, where no-one knew them, and where “awakened memories” were less likely to intrude.56 Such transfers began with the opening of the Waterford Asylum; and while the New Ross Mission only marginally extended the process, it was most evident following the foundation of the Home in Cork. As well as these “internal” transfers, women were sometimes referred to the Irish Monasteries by Superiors from the English Province; and occasionally, an inmate from another Order's Asylum was sent to (p.99) a Good Shepherd Home. There is little evidence of reciprocal referrals taking place. It was not only the case that few penitents were recommended to rival institutions. Few were sent to the Order's own, non-Irish Homes.57

Thus 39 year old Bridget Kane, for example “left our Convent of Hammersmith for entering here” [Waterford] in November 1876; and three years later, 40 year old Elizabeth Gregory, was admitted from Dalbreth, the Order's Asylum in Glasgow.58 In October 1880 a Dublin woman, 40 year old Mary Clark, who received the name of Benedict “came [to Waterford] from Hammersmith”; and in May 1887, 19 year old Kate Connelly from Naas was admitted from the Gloucester Street Home in Dublin. She was dismissed and re-admitted several times over the next few months and was “very boisterous and idle”.59 In the following year Ellen O’Neil aged 32, from Ballybricken Waterford, was received direct from the Good Shepherd Asylum, Cardiff, but was “very discontented”; and in December 1891, 19 year old Maria Santo, from Aberdeen, Scotland, was sent to the Waterford Home by the Mother Prioress of Dalbreth, Glasgow. She left three months later because of ill health, but her conduct was satisfactory.60 Shortly afterwards Ellen Dwyer aged 19, though brought by her mother, was recommended by the Order's Prioress in New Ross, the girl's home town. In April 1894, 16 year old Kate McMahon from Limerick was sent by the Mother Provincial in that city (she left after only two months); and in the following year, 18 year old Mary Cooney, admitted direct from the Limerick Monastery, remained for just over a year.61 Another Limerick woman recommended to Waterford by the Mother Provincial was 40 year old Mary Anne Shea, who stayed for 7 months in 1896. Also in this period a Belfast woman Kate Bryd was transferred from the Limerick to the Waterford Home, but was “very violent”; and in the same month (September 1896) a Co. Tipperary woman Katie Burke, aged 20, made the same (p.100) move. She left the Waterford Home shortly afterwards (twice) and was “disobedient”. Three years later she was in and out of the Home on two further occasions, but had now become “very troublesome and quarrelsome”.62

A final example of such transfers is the history of Fanny Forty, a Waterford girl whose father put her in the institution in July 1884 when she was 20 years old. Thirty-one years later she “left for our class in New Ross”. She returned soon afterwards, and died in the Waterford Asylum in April, 1937, at which time she was 73 years old and had been a penitent for more than half a century. Her conduct in the Home was not described.63

Difficult cases were sometimes transferred in the hope that they would do better elsewhere - evidence of the nuns’ unwillingness to relinquish these “lost sheep”. Twenty-two year old Jilly Troy, from Youghal, Co. Cork, for example, was sent from the Waterford Home to the New Ross Asylum in August 1899, being subject to that evil tendency - “full of particular friendships”. Bridget Whelan, on the other hand, a Kilkenny woman recommended by a priest, had been “expelled” for this behaviour, only two years before.64 Jane Sexton, originally from Kilrush, was another girl transferred from the Limerick to the Waterford Home. Soon after her arrival in January 1899, however, she was found to be “half lunatic”, and left of her own choice. Within a few days of her departure she returned, only to be sent away shortly afterwards and again described as “half lunatic”.65

It is noted in the following Chapter that the recognition by the New Ross Sisters that their Magdalen Home would never be financially viable, resulted in their immediate “petition” for an Industrial School, following the introduction of the system to Ireland, in 1868. The Community was fortunate in having a generous benefactor in Richard Devereux; and a substantial permanent premises for the purpose (without which, “certification” could not properly be granted) was immediately built.

(p.101) The other Irish Houses were less fortunate. The Order's temporary Industrial School in Cork, for example, was thrown up with such indecent haste that the insanitary and overcrowded premises endangered the children's health (see page 171); and in Waterford, while the original accommodation may have been marginally better, a similar situation prevailed.66

The Annals record that the Convent in Hennessey's Road was small and bare, with many “privations”; and the Bishop's comments when funds for the new premises were called for, confirm this report. Further, the Annals note that for several years the place lacked suitable grounds. In spite of these drawbacks - or probably because of them, since they could only be remedied by a large influx of funds - in 1870 a preservation class of children was commenced in a “small house” adjoining the Convent.

Shortly afterwards, application was made to have this institution “Certified” under the new regulations. In April 1871 Sir John Lentaigne, then Inspector of Industrial Schools in Ireland visited the Community; and despite its cramped conditions and lack of grounds, the small house next to the Convent was approved as a suitable premises for over 100 children.67 Not surprisingly, it soon proved to be both unhealthy and inadequate.

The Community (presumably on the strength of the profits the Industrial School now secured them) next purchased the semi-derelict St. John's College nearby, together with its adjoining lands. On the site of this premises, and with remarkable speed, the building of St. Dominic's, the Congregation's impressive new Industrial School, began. Fears that disease might break out in the severely overcrowded children's quarters no doubt hastened the project, and were not without foundation. Only six years previously the Order's Industrial children in Cork had been so imprudently housed in makeshift accommodation that an outbreak of opthalmia, lasting five months, occurred. Even more alarming, typhus fever had recently devastated the still temporary institution. Though only one girl died, fifty-six children and one of the Sisters caught the disease. According to the Cork Annals, this had been brought into the school by a child (p.102) “barely recovered”; whose father, mother, two sisters and a brother had all died within the past week. Yet “none of the magistrates knew anything of this when the child was admitted.”!68

As well as buying St. John's College the Sisters gradually acquired the fields between it and the leased Convent in Hennessey's Road. The two properties, now separated only by Convent Hill Road, were linked by a tunnel built under this street, to ensure the complete isolation of the whole Community. This extraordinary arrangement, so revealing of the Order's mentality throughout the period, remained in operation until 1960 when the Sisters “ceded” the fields to Waterford Corporation as a site for a housing estate.69

Early in 1878 the new Industrial School was completed. It remains a magnificent structure, architecturally the most pleasing of the Order's Irish schools, and vaguely reminiscent of George Wilkinson's design for Ireland's thirty or so post-famine workhouses. None the less, its proximity to a Magdalen Asylum provoked Michael McCarthy's comments which introduced this Chapter.*

The opening of the Waterford Monastery's new Industrial School financed and co-incided with other changes in the eighteen-seventies. The increased numbers of children who could now be accommodated - together with a rising penitent population, the expansion of the laundry, and the establishment of the segregated “Magdalen” Class (see below) - all stimulated the demand for additional Sisters to run what was becoming a large, complex and lucrative enterprise. Since the old Convent in Hennessey's Road could scarcely house the existing Congregation, and the penitents’ quarters were overcrowded and unfit, it was clear that new accommodation was urgently required. The land adjoining the large Industrial School was now leased and became the site for extensive development, with, as (p.103) noted above, the foundation stone of the new Convent, Penitentiary and Laundry being laid by the Bishop, Dr. Sheehan, in May 1892.

In his address the Bishop stressed that the public was not expected to contribute to the cost of the “modest dwelling” intended for the nuns. They were prepared to pay for their Convent out of their own slender resources. Funds for the Magdalen Asylum and Laundry, however, “for perhaps the most miserable and abandoned class in the entire community” were required, and the generosity of Waterford's citizens was appealed to.70

It will be shown in Chapter 7 that whereas in 1870, the enormous sum of £7,000 had been collected in a single night for the foundation of the Order's new Magdalen Asylum in Cork, the public's response to an appeal on behalf of the same institution some thirty years later was disappointing. It may well be that the largest Female Penitentiary in that city was, after a quarter of a century, less popular than its founders had foreseen. A similar tendency is discernible in Waterford, and perhaps this was inevitable. It can hardly have gone un-noticed that the Homes had developed along very different lines from those originally envisaged. As “short-term” Refuges, designed to rehabilitate and train fallen women for future employment (the stated intention of their founders) the Homes were peculiarly unsuccessful. The rescue of many women was curiously protracted and, to judge from the state of those emerging from the institutions, achieved at dubious cost. Further, it was clear that many such departures were resisted rather than supported by the nuns; and despite their lengthy “training” remarkably few of the women (in fact, only 4 per cent of the overall total for the period analysed) were placed in situations straight from the Homes.

Yet there were few, if any, complaints. In contrast to the furious response to the Contagious Diseases legislation, there was no organised opposition to the Magdalen system, no agitation for the closure of the Homes, and no shortage of women being “voluntarily” reformed. Most survivors of the system preferred to deny their experience, especially if embarking on a more (p.104) “respectable” life; and in this they were supported and encouraged by the priests.

Nevertheless, rumour was inevitable, and some of the women must have talked, particularly those who left shortly after admission. Hasty departures and dismissals could be justified both by damning accounts of the system, and frightening descriptions of long-term inmates, who, after years of toil and atonement, were no longer quite “all there”.

Included in Chapter 6 is part of the testimony of Cork priest Rev. Maguire, who in 1871 (two decades before Bishop Sheehan's appeal for funds for the new Asylum in Waterford) was called to give evidence before the Royal Commission on the Contagious Diseases Acts. This witness was adamant that women who “fell” in country districts in Ireland could never return to their homes:

“Any woman who commits herself in the country can never go back to it. There is a sense of propriety in the country where no man ever thinks to receive his child back after she has fallen…wherever a woman makes a slip, she must fly, so if by chance a woman yields to passion on promise of marriage, she knows there is no chance of remaining there…they would shun her…”

According to this priest even emigration and the prospect of joining relatives was limited, for in America too, a man's standing rested on the character of his family, whether there or back at home. For the purpose of concealment and punishment, then, Magdalen Asylums were the answer - the resort of relatives, as much as the unmarried mother herself.* This rural intolerance may well have been resented by those living in the shadow of such institutions, less, perhaps, for its hypocrisy than its expense. It may well have been considered that those making use of the Asylums, as well as the local urban community, should be appealed to or targeted for funds. This was a particularly sensitive issue in Waterford, which supported more than its share of (p.105) “sacerdotal institutions” - all of which, according to McCarthy, flourished, while the city and the lay Catholics decayed.71

By October 1894 the new Good Shepherd buildings were ready for occupation. The Convent, a “citadel of Piety” whose accommodation has been referred to in the previous Chapter, turned out to be rather less “modest” than expected; while the whole institution, hailed as one of the chief architectural adornments of a city rich in such charitable works, was said to be second to none of its kind in the world. Its situation and grounds were excellent, and from the upper floors of the Convent and Magdalen Asylum (though in the latter the glass in the windows was obscured) there were magnificent views:

“The work [convent] when it leaves the Contractor's hands, will have cost fully twenty thousand pounds, and this immense sum of money is being provided for out of the resources of the Community alone - a fact which speaks eloquently for the self-denial and earnestness of the Sisterhood.72

The immense sum demonstrates too, the huge amount of money the local Order had so rapidly acquired.

Waterford's new Magdalen Asylum was the last to be built in Ireland. From a sanitary viewpoint it was admirable - the late Victorian obsession with through-ventilation and lofty, airy rooms being evident. As a place of lifelong, or even short-term confinement, however, it was a forbidding structure. The penitents’ refectory, 52 feet long and 34 feet wide was approached and used in silence. Their workroom, of the same dimensions, was also their place of recreation and here too, the women were often forbidden to talk. A packing room connected with the vast laundry section at the rear of the building, housing washing, drying, ironing and starching rooms; in each of which again, for most of the time the women worked in silence or were obliged to sing hymns or chant prayers. There was also a penitents’ airing ground or enclosure. The upper floor of the penitentiary contained an infirmary, a pharmacy and a convalescent ward, plus two large dormitories which housed (p.106) more than a hundred women. We have seen that here particularly, the Rules of Silence and Surveillance were always enforced. This was the extent of the penitents’ world, except for the cloister, which following its completion in 1903, led to the new Chapel.

Attached to the penitentiary, but entirely cut off from it, were the quarters of the Province's “Magdalens” - former penitents, now so consumed with remorse that they practiced strict self-denial and lived out their mortified lives in silence, solitude and prayer.* Engaged in lace-making, needlework and making altar wafers, they were isolated not only from the world, but from the Monastery itself. A small refectory and workroom, an infirmary and a dormitory were reserved for their use, as was a tiny private garden.

Shortly after the completion of these buildings the public was asked to contribute to the third phase of the Waterford Enclosure - the new Chapel. The Bishop's appeal occasioned a further opportunity for the Madonna/Mary Magdalen contrast, in which the nuns were elevated to extraordinary heights:

“Round about that alter will ascend daily to heaven the co-mingled prayer of the consecrated virgin and the penitent girl that no blight of sin or sorrow may ever rest upon you or your children. My brethren, will it not remind you of that last, most touching scene of the life of our Divine Lord, when Mary the sinful but repentant Magdalen, and Mary His Immaculate Virgin Mother, stood beneath His cross.”73

The Chapel is a superb and costly example of late Victorian Gothic, its use of high screens and separate cloistered entrances ensuring the complete segregation of the Classes. To the left of the altar a small room secluded the Magdalens, whose access to their quarters was via a private covered way.

A total of 703 women were registered in the Waterford Good Shepherd Asylum between 1842 and 1900, some of them being re-admitted several times. The youngest girls were aged 12 (one) and 13 (five) when admitted, and the oldest woman (one) was aged 59. Table 9 gives the age distribution of entrants over the period.

(p.107)

Table 9 Age on Admission: Waterford Good Shepherd 1842–1900

Years

Total 703

Percent

12–19

191

27

20–29

314

45

30–39

134

19

40–49

35

5

50–59

11

1.5

Not Given

18

2.5

Table 10 shows that almost half of the women in this Asylum were described in the Register as having “entered voluntarily”. Most of the remainder were referred to the institution by priests, the Superiors of other Good Shepherd Convents and various other nuns.

Table 10 By Whom Recommended: Waterford Gd Shep. 1842–1900

 

Total 703

Percent

Entered Voluntarily

348

49.5

Priests

189

27

Nuns

28

4

Ladies

23

3

Female Relatives

23

3

Other Good Shepherds

21

3

Miss Farrell

18

2.5

Prison

7

1

Hospital

4

0.5

Other

36

5

Not Given

6

1

Table 11 lists how inmates left the Home. For 137 individuals (approximately 20 percent of the overall total) this information was not recorded. Of the 566 penitents for whom this evidence exists, almost two thirds left at their own request. Yet although 348 women entered the Home voluntarily (almost 50 percent of (p.108) the overall total) and 357 left “of their own accord”, the extent to which voluntary admissions and departures are linked, is less than these figures would suggest. Only 166 women (approximately one third of the inmates for whom both types of information is listed) were classed as both entering and leaving the Asylum at their own request.

Table 11 Reasons for Leaving: Waterford Good Shepherd 1842–1900

 

Total 566

Percent

Own Request

357

63

Expelled

51

9

Died in Home

48

8

Left for Family/Friends

45

8

Hospital

27

5

“Magdalen” Class

16

3

Left for Situation

5

0.9

America

5

0.9

Other Good Shepherds

4

0.7

Escaped

4

0.7

Other

4

0.7

Inmates’ length of stay in the Waterford Asylum is given in Table 12. There is no discernible pattern or change over the period analysed, i.e. 1842 when the lay Refuge opened, to the 1940s, when the last of the penitents admitted in the period under review, died. The average length of stay for the 404 women for whom this information is recorded was 4.6 years. More than half the inmates, however, remained for less than nine months in the Home.

Table 13 shows that with only 40 percent of inmates coming from the city and county of Waterford, the Home might well have been viewed as catering for non-local needs - a factor which, as mentioned above, possibly contributed to its declining popularity by the end of the period. The public, though having little information on the origin of inmates, would certainly have been aware that many women coming in and out of the Asylum, were not from their own community. They are still remembered as being (p.109) “not local, but coming from outside”. It is significant that in spite of the Order's Asylum in nearby New Ross, the county of Wexford accounted for 12 percent of admissions to the Waterford Home.

Table 12 Length of Stay in Waterford Good Shepherd: from 1842

 

Total 404

Percent

Under 1 week

19

4.7

1–2 weeks

11

2.7

2–4 weeks

34

8.4

1–2 months

39

9.7

2–6 months

71

17.6

6–12 months

44

10.9

1–2 years

83

20.5

2–5 years

46

11.4

5–10 years

15

3.7

10–15 years

6

1.5

15–20 years

4

1.0

20–30 years

10

2.5

30–40 years

8

2.0

40–50 years

7

1.7

50 years +

7

1.7

Table 13 Birthplace of Waterford Penitents: 1842–1900

 

Total 703

Percent

Waterford City

220

31

Co. Wexford

87

12

Co. Tipperary

78

11

Co. Waterford

64

9

Co. Kilkenny

50

7

Co. Cork

38

5.5

Other

124

18

Not Given

42

6

Apart from 2 Protestants and one inmate whose religion was not recorded, all were listed as Catholics in this source. Eight of the women were married.

(p.110) The 1901 Census reveals that at the end of the period, there were 38 Sisters in the Waterford Good Shepherd Convent. The Forms for the Religious were completed by the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Raphael O’Loughlin, who, at that time was 45 years of age, and had been Superioress for five years. The Magdalen section contained 105 inmates, classed as “Reformed females employed in laundry of Good Shepherd Convent”. For 90 of these women, their Rank, Profession or Occupation is described as “Penitent”, after which, on each Form, are the words “All laundresses in Good Shepherd Convent”. The other 15 inmates, appearing together on one form, are classed as “Magdalens”; and were members of the Province's austere contemplative Class, referred to above.

Table 14 gives the age distribution of all these women in 1901. The youngest nun at the time of the Census was 27 years of age, and the oldest was 75. The youngest penitent was aged 15 and the oldest was 82. The youngest Magdalen was 25 and the oldest was 71.

Table 14 Ages of Nuns, Penitents and “Magdalens” in the Waterford Good Shepherd: 1901 Census

Years

Nuns Number

Total 38 Percent

Pen. Number

Total 90 Percent

“Mags” Number

Total 15 Percent

15–19

-

-

11

12

-

-

20–29

4

11

37

41

1

7

30–39

6

16

13

14

4

27

40–49

11

29

15

17

2

13

50–59

4

11

7

8

5

33

60–69

10

26

2

2

2

13

70–79

3

8

3

3

1

7

80–89

-

-

2

2

-

-

(p.111) Like the Sisters, all the Magdalens were described as able to read and write. For the penitents however, it was a different story, with only 16 (18 percent of the total) being literate. A further 53 inmates (59 percent) could read only and 21 of the women (23 percent of the total) were completely illiterate. This information approximates with that recorded for the New Ross and Cork Asylums; and indicates that the Limerick figures (showing a 93 percent literacy level) should be viewed with caution.

Some of the women recorded as illiterate or able to read only, had been in the Waterford Asylum for years. Mary Power, aged 82, for example (unable to read or write) had been admitted to the Refuge fourteen years prior to the nuns’ arrival, and by 1901 had already been confined for well over half a century.74 Bridget Barry, aged 77 at the time of the census, was unable to read after 56 years in the Home; and Mary Ann Barrett, who at the age of 40 was still illiterate, had been in the Waterford Asylum for approximately 22 years.75 Maggie Hastings from Co. Dublin was another 40 year old whose lengthy stay in the Refuge had done little to improve her literacy; and even much younger women, such as 25 year old Maggie Duggan from Wexford were illiterate after several years’ confinement in the Home.76 As noted earlier, this reflects to some extent the situation for the general population (particularly the poor) as well as the fact that some of the women were probably of the “feeble-minded” class.

The birthplace of all 38 nuns and 15 Magdalens included on the Census was recorded as Waterford City - clearly an error on the Superior's part. Of the 90 ordinary penitents listed in the new Asylum, on the other hand, only 44 percent came from either the city or county of Waterford, and could be classed as “local”. While 32 were from adjoining counties, others came from as far afield as Dublin, Belfast, Clare, Limerick, Kildare, Carlow and Galway.

(p.112) It was noted earlier in this Chapter that the number of penitents in Waterford steadily increased over the period. At the time of the Census there were 105 women in the institution, and by 1904, according to the Annals, there were 130 inmates in the Home. In the reactionary climate of the 1920s and 30s, the Irish Magdalen Movement experienced something of a revival, and ambitions for expanding and consolidating the system soared. In that period of dire poverty, a magnificent Chapel was built for the Community in Limerick; and in Waterford (where hopes for the new Asylum sheltering “at least 300 refugees” were never to be realised) confidence in a glorious future was restored. Extensions to provide accommodation for 160 inmates were carried out in this bleak period, and the Irish Magdalen system, appalling in concept and practice, was given a further lease of life.

In July 1928, in an appeal against the Valuation for Rates on the Laundry, Magdalen Asylum, Convent and lands of the Waterford Good Shepherd Community, some interesting facts emerged. Counsel for the appellants stated that some 190 women now worked under the direction of the nuns. Money received from Laundry work done for the public went into the common fund; and the produce of the farm was used in the institution. The nuns’ dowries were invested and could only be withdrawn in the event of a Sister leaving the Community. In addition to the interest on these sums, further income was received from the State-supported Industrial children, as well as from donations, subscriptions and bequests. Yet it was claimed there was a deficit of over £3,000, and they sought exemption from a valuation of £567.77

The nuns continued to plead poverty. According to an advertisement in 1931, a daily increase of penitents made their support impossible without the aid of generous benefactors. The large Laundry had lately been remodelled, the latest new machinery had been installed and the most up-to-date methods were used in every department. As well as laundry work, hair mattresses were (p.113) made and re-made, plain and fancy needlework was offered, shirt making was a speciality, hand embroidered ladies’ trousseaux could be made to order and mortuary habits were kept in stock.78

But endless washing, starching and ironing was the mainstay of the community and continued to be so for the next half century. By the late nineteen seventies, however, the widespread use of the domestic washing machine (rather than any reforming legislation, public concern or liberal debate) heralded the end of the Magdalen system. No longer profitable, the Laundry was closed in 1982, and it was decided at provincial level that admissions to the Penitentiary (or “Home” as it was now being studiously called) should no longer take place.

In 1994 the Waterford Good Shepherd Asylum closed, and its Convent, Chapel, Penitentiary, former Magdalen Section and Laundry buildings were sold to the Regional Technical College -now the Waterford Institute of Technology. There are few reminders of its dark past in what is now the School of Humanities.

The former occupants of the penitentiary are now, like the nuns, housed in new accommodation a few yards from their old premises. The “Orphanage”* is now used as an Adult Education Centre.

Notes:

(*) Properly titled “List of the Names of Penitents Admitted into this Asylum and their Discharge”.

(*) The shocking exposures concerning the Order's Magdalen Asylum and adjoining Industrial School in Limerick, entirely justify Michael J. McCarthy's apprehensions -though even he could hardly have envisaged the dangers inherent in such a system.

(*) This situation remained virtually unaltered (though the Mother and Baby Home replaced the workhouse as a place of confinement) until the mid-twentieth century. See, for example, the tragic evidence of Christina Mulcahy, who was forced into the Galway Magdalen Asylum in the 1940s by her father, after she tried to return home following the birth of her child. Sex in a Cold Climate, op. cit.

(*) Until the mid-twentieth century the Order always referred to these women as Magdalens, and collectively, they were known as the Magdalen Class. In 1969 these women (now known as Sisters Magdalens) were removed to Belfast -at which time there were approximately 2,600 of them world-wide, but a mere handful in the Irish Province. They are now called the “Contemplative” Community.

(*) The persistent and widespread misconception that Industrial Schools were “orphanages” has been challenged by the author of this study for at least twenty years. The recent publication of Suffer the Little Children (op. cit.,) allows for no further prevarication on this point: “The second important myth is that these institutions were “orphanages”, and that the children behind their walls were orphans [whereas most] children's institutions were specially defined as industrial schools, established and funded for the industrial training of the children within them. Most of the children within the system had either one or both parents still living, and so could not in any sense be described as orphans…Had there been a proper understanding of the true nature of the system, it is likely that it would not have survived for so long. Public concern would most probably have been voiced at a much earlier stage (as in Britain) about the inappropriate nature of such institutions for child care. In Ireland, the State's policy of removing children from their families and funding religious orders to care for them remained unchanged until 1970. The ‘orphan’ myth essentially meant that the obviously preferable option of giving that same funding to families to allow them to keep their children at home was never publicly debated.

This misconception was so pervasive that even many of those who grew up within the system were not aware that they had actually been in an industrial school”, pp. 12–13. More inexcusable is the fact that some of these children - taught to regard themselves as “orphans” - were unaware that their parents were alive, or, as has since been reported, were actually informed that they were dead.

(1) Michael J. F. McCarthy, Priests and People in Ireland (1902) pp.492–3. It is, of course, well-known that this man was a noted anti-Catholic. The facts presented in the above quotation, however, are undisputed; and his restrained comment - particularly in the light of recent evidence regarding both Industrial Schools and Magdalen Asylums -reveals not only his courage and sagacity, but the extent to which he was in advance of public opinion. There can surely be no-one a century after he wrote these words, who would disagree with his sentiments.

(2) E. Downey, Illustrated Guide to Waterford (1915) p.51.

(3) Chronicle and Munster Advertiser, 22 January 1848.

(4) As late as 1922, for example, the Eighty-sixth Report of the Female Aid Society - (Sixty-fourth Annual Report of the Female Mission to the Fallen) noted that the Bishop of Kensington “recently took great pains to prove that the common excuse for withholding support to rescue work, viz., that it condoned vice, was groundless”, p.3.

(5) He was appointed parish Priest of Rathcormac in Co. Waterford.

(6) Properly titled, Annals of the Convent of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd of Angers at Waterford.

(7) This woman's younger sister, Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception Crilly, was also in the Order; and had recently joined the Limerick Convent from Angers. Typescript of Limerick Annals op. cit., p.5.

(8) Ibid., p.6.

(9) To add to the confusion, the Annals note at another point, that “30 inmates” were in the House.

(10) Waterford Annals.

(11) A. M. Clarke, op. cit., p.303.

(12) Waterford Register of Penitents, 22 July and 8 December 1842, 8 May 1844 and 28 August 1845.

(13) Ibid., 24 July 1845. Rev. Crotty continued to interest himself in Rescue Work even after his appointment as parish Priest of Powerstown, Clonmel. In August, 1869, for example, he recommended 24 year old Bridget Walsh, of Waterford, to the New Ross Magdalen Asylum. She left the Home three months’ later. See New Ross Register of Penitents, 2 August 1869.

(14) Waterford Register of Penitents, 9 October 1848 and 11 August 1855.

(15) Ibid., 28 June 1845.

(16) Ibid., 8 May 1849.

(17) This Convent had been built for the Presentation Sisters in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Following their removal in May 1848 to their Pugin-designed premises in Lisduggan (then on the outskirts of Waterford) a healthier as well as exquisite set of buildings, the Hennessey's Road property had been acquired by the Poor Law Commissioners for use as an auxiliary workhouse. Waterford's Presentation Community, A Bicentenary Record, 1798–1998, pp. 12–22.

(18) “We understand that what is commonly termed a “strike” has taken place amongst the men employed in repairing the above Convent for the reception of the Sisters of the “Good Shepherd”. The sum for which the men originally agreed to work, was 18s. per week. On turning out for higher wages, the Rev. John Crotty agreed to their terms; but no sooner had he done so, than they again struck. The Rev. Gentleman was then obliged to proceed to Clonmel and Limerick, and engage men to complete the work.” Waterford Chronicle, 17 April 1858.

(19) The Waterford News, 4 June 1892.

(20) 1901 Census.

(21) Waterford Register of Penitents, 30 October 1864.

(22) Ibid., 20 September 1880.

(23) Ibid., 20 September 1880.

(24) Ibid., 27 November 1886.

(25) Ibid., No date, July 1891.

(26) Ibid., 22 February 1888.

(27) Ibid., 12 February, and 24 and 3 May 1895.

(28) Ibid., 3 September 1895.

(29) Ibid., 2 August and 3 September 1897.

(30) Ibid., 7 September 1897.

(31) Ibid., 23 May 1898, 15 September and 2 October 1897.

(32) Ibid., 21 May and 21 June 1898.

(33) Ibid., 24 September 1898 and 12 February 1899.

(34) Ibid., 10 November 1899.

(35) Ibid., 29 November and 9 December 1899.

(36) Ibid., 24 September 1898.

(37) Ibid., 8 December 1871.

(38) Ibid., 23 January and 22 June 1872.

(39) Ibid., 12 March 1872.

(40) Ibid., 29 November 1872.

(41) Ibid., 20 February 1873.

(42) Ibid., 6 March 1873.

(43) Ibid., 16 March 1873.

(44) Ibid., 18 July 1873.

(45) Ibid., 14 August 1873.

(46) Ibid., 3 February 1874.

(47) Ibid., 8April 1874.

(48) See pages 169–70.

(49) Waterford Register of Penitents, 20 July 1874.

(50) Limerick Register of Penitents, 31 March and late April 1875; and 7 October 1876.

(51) Waterford Register of Penitents, 30 December 1874, 19 February 1876, and 2 October and 14 December 1879.

(52) Ibid., no date May 1880.

(53) Ibid., 6 February 1881. Curiously, the previous entry in the Register was also for a 40 year old Mary Clark (29 October 1880). She, however, was originally from Dublin, had been sent from the Hammersmith Home, had “received the name of Benedict” and was “very good”. Admissions at this time were unusually infrequent, with only 7 inmates being registered in 1881. Between October 1880 and June 1885, only 28 penitents were received - an average of 5.5 per year over the four year period.

(54) Ibid., 7 February 1881.

(55) Ibid., 28 September 1886.

(56) This practice occurred in English Homes too. An 18 year old prostitute Margaret Elizabeth Madden, for example, was admitted to the Lincoln Asylum for Female Penitents in November 1901. She had spent her childhood in an Industrial School in Hull before going into domestic service in Bradford. She then worked in a factory, “lived a bad life”, and was imprisoned for 12 days. Her conduct in the Home (where she met past associates) was so bad that she was transferred to the Salvation Army Refuge in Leeds. (Ladies Minute Books, 1901–2.)

As mentioned in Chapter 3 and illustrated above, another manifestation of this attempt to break with the past, was the Good Shepherd practice of assigning new names to penitents, though in the process a woman's identity, as well as her background, might well be suppressed.

(57) This occasionally occurred. In 1880, for example, Johanna Cokely left the Cork Good Shepherd for the Peacock Lane Asylum (run by the Sisters of Charity) - though whether she was “recommended” to do so, is doubtful. Seventeen year old Ann Frost, on the other hand, admitted to the Cork Good Shepherd in 1885, was actually “taken” to the Peacock Lane premises in the following year.

(58) Waterford Register of Penitents, 27 November 1876 and 27 July 879.

(59) Ibid., 29 October 1880 and 18 May 1887.

(60) Ibid., March/April, 1888, and 9 December 1891.

(61) Ibid., 19 April 1892, April 1894 and 28 August 1895.

(62) Ibid., 20 January and 2 and 27 September 1896.

(63) Ibid., 2 July 1884.

(64) Ibid., 24 August 1899 and 27 May 1897.

(65) Ibid., 13 January 1899.

(66) For an account of similar conditions in other Industrial Schools, see Suffer the Little Children, /op. cit.

(67) Notes of Waterford Annals.

(68) Cork Annals, 1875. It is hard to believe that such a catastrophe - necessitating the child's admission to the Industrial School in the first place - would not have been known, both by the authorities and the Sisters themselves.

(69) Named Rice Park, after Edmund Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers.

(70) Waterford News, 4 June 1892.

(71) “Every variety of religious institution is to be found in Waterford, and they are all flourishing. It is only the town itself and the lay Catholics that are decaying”. McCarthy, op. cit., p.492. Also, “Waterford is, next to Dublin, the most priest-infested territory in Ireland. How shall I count up the lists of male and female religious in this diocese, where priests accumulate and men decay?” p.488.

(72) Waterford News, October 1894.

(73) Waterford News, 1 May 1903.

(74) Waterford Register of Penitents, 8 May 1844.

(75) Ibid., 28 June 1845. Mary Ann Barrett, who came from the nearby industrial village of Portlaw, left and re-entered the Home several times. 23 December 1879.

(76) Ibid., 27 November 1886 and 24 June 1895.

(77) Waterford News, 27 July 1928.

(78) The Fold of the Good Shepherd,op. cit.