Tuesday, 21 March 2017


'They’d put me in a room with nothing to eat and no windows. Then they would cut my hair to the bone'
A survivor returned this week to the Magdalene Laundry where she had been forced to spend her youth.

MARY MERRITT FIRST entered the High Park Magdalene Laundry in 1947, at the age of 16.
Born in a Dublin workhouse, she was put into the care of the Sisters of Mercy in Ballinasloe, Co Galway when she was two.
Mary (85) never met her mother, and has never found out who she was.
“To this day I don’t know who my mother is,” she told TheJournal.ie last week.
I’m 85 now, I’ll be 86 next month.
After 14 years in the orphanage in Ballinasloe, Mary (who was known as Mary O’Conor at that time) said she went out one night with four other girls and stole some apples from a nearby orchard.
“They came into me the next morning – on the 7th of January 1947 – and they said O’Conor get your clothes together, you’re going to a situation in Dublin,” said Mary.
Two nuns brought me down to Westmoreland Street Station, put on a train, sat each side of me, and brought me up to here.
“Here” was the Magdalene Laundry at High Park Convent in Drumcondra, Co Dublin.
Mary was to spend the next 14 years at High Park where she was given the name Attracta by the nuns.
She spent that time living in harsh conditions, dealing with psychological trauma and abuse and doing the endless amounts of laundry delivered from hotels and colleges around Dublin.
“We had a terrible time. We got up for mass at 6 o’clock in the morning,” she said.
“We went in and we had a bit of breakfast, a bit of porridge, we went from there down to the laundry and we worked in the laundry then until 12 o’clock.
“Then we had cabbage and potatoes for our dinner and we went back down to the laundry again and we worked there until half past six/seven o’clock.
And then they’d bring us in then we would have prayers and we would got to bed. And that was our day every day of the week for 14 years. I’ll never forget it.
Similar Laundries – centres run by the Catholic Church for so-called “fallen women” – existed in other locations in Dublin and Ireland for decades.

Mary spoke to TheJournal.ie in the chapel of the old laundry where she had lived over 60 years ago. She was a guest at the official opening of the High Park Family Hub – new group accommodation from Respond! Housing Association for homeless families.
Addressing a gathered crowd – which included Housing Minister Simon Coveney – Mary spoke of the hardships she endured while at the laundry and thanked people for changing the building into a place for families to live.
“I had a very difficult time here,” she said.
I was raped by a priest and sent to a Mother and Baby Home before being sent back here.
Mary has spoken previously of how she had become pregnant and had her child taken off her at the Mother and Baby Home. A Daily Mail article from 2014 details how she met with the daughter who was taken from her decades later.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie after her speech, Mary said the nuns didn’t usually physically abuse her while she was at the laundry, but they mentally broke her down.
“They use to cut my hair and if I did anything wrong they’d bring me down to a room,” she said.
“It was small and we used to call it the hole. They’d put me in it with nothing to eat and no windows.
Then they would cut my hair to the bone. And then they’d bring me up and make me apologise in front of the whole room, kiss the floor and apologise.
Mary also said that food was scarce and the portions small at the Laundry.
While she spoke to us, her husband Bill Merritt held her hand throughout, interrupting from time to time with his condemnation of what had happened to his wife early in her life.
Mary said she was finally released by the nuns in 1969, with no clue where she was supposed to go.
She was 31 and had lived in institutions for her entire life.
“The clothes I went in with of course at the age of 16 didn’t fit me so they gave me some bits of old rags I don’t know what they were, and I went out and I didn’t know what to do.” she said.
“I sat on Griffith Avenue on a seat and a woman came up to me – Mrs Cronin – and she came over, I’ll never forget it, and said ‘what’s wrong?’
And I said ‘they’ve just put me out of High Park and I have nowhere to go’.
Mrs Cronin – who Mary kept in touch with until her death three years ago – took her back to her house.
She brought me back to her house, she put me up, she gave me a bath, she gave me clothes, and she brought me down the next morning and said I’m going to get you a job somewhere and somewhere to live.
Mary got a job with Marlowe Dry Cleaners O’Connell Street. She moved into her own small flat and set about beginning a life outside of the institutions.
She eventually moved over the London to work in the cleaners over there, where she met her husband Bill.
“Bill was in the Royal Marines and he came in to get a job in the cleaners,” she said.
And 50 years on we’re happily married.
The pair started a family and bought a chain of dry cleaning stores, before selling the business and retiring. Mary now spends time working for justice for other survivors like herself.
She has been compensated by the State for what happened to her, but said that she had never received an official apology from the Catholic Church
She said that the conversion of the old building into homeless accommodation for families in need was a positive step and that she was happy to see the building where she had suffered being put to good use.
She said she harboured no anger with the State now for what happened, but that she was still angry with the Church.
“I am angry with the church. I’m very angry with the church,” she said.

“The last time I was in a church was the day I got married.
“But I still believe in it, don’t get me wrong. And I still say my prayers at night… and I think keeping that bit of religion has helped me along the way.

Mary has not been to church for decades and who would blame her.
She says that she still believes and prays.
Obviously she has realised that there is a massive distinction between God and those people who "CLAIM" to be God's servants.
She no longer needs them to talk to God. She goes directly to God. She has cut out the power abusing and money making middle men and women.
The real Christian Mary met was not any of those wicked nuns or clergy - but MRS CRONIN who treated her with Gospel values and love.
Jesus constantly talked about judging people by their fruits.
Mrs Cronin showed love, Christian compassion and practical care.
The nuns showed exactly the opposite.
If there are a hierarchy of places in heaven Mrs Cronin will rank very high.
I would not like to be one of those wicked nuns or indeed their bishop and priest masters approaching the Pearly Gates or the judgement seat of God.
MATTHEW 7:15-21
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.


  1. Yes, Mrs Cronin was a genuinely good soul. Her 'chance' meeting with Mary on the day of her release from High Park was scarcely that, a chance occurrence. And yet, if God inspire the meeting between Mary and her Good Samaritan, why did he intervene so late in the day? Why not sooner? Troubling but legitimate questions for any Christian.

    As for the priest-bastardo who raped her, I expect he was never held to account for it? Did those 'Mercy' nuns suspect him of this terrible crime? I wonder.

  2. It is a little ironic pat that you post Matthew, false prohpets and what not. The absolute irony!

  3. I can only admire this lady and drop a jaw at the way she was treated. But as me mammy used to say talk is cheap. One of my aunts was born in Killarney and at an early age disappeared into the care of the sisters of Mercy in Athlone. Her dad must have been posh because to this day she has no notion who he was. The civil birth cert is blank on the father's name and the convent was not able to give any further insight. My aunt never said much about her time there except she helped look after the older sisters at one stage. She thought she had a vocation and spent some time in the U S On returning home she went to work for a family in Co Roscommon. It was there she met and married my uncle. They moved to the UK as many Irish did. When I left Ireland I stayed at her house for 12 months and owe her a great deal of thanks. She and her daughter went to a reunion in Athlone some years ago but still no inkling of who her dad was. If I noticed anything about her it is that up to the present day she is always doing for other people and finds it very difficult to be assertive. Perhaps this is one of the traits embedded into the young people of the day

  4. Painful as this account is to read, and I cannot begin to imagine what those experiences do to a human being, you cannot detach the existence of these institutions and the cruel bishops, priests and nuns who ran them from the overall context of Ireland post 1916. The nascent state was bankrupt, without any provision for any sort of social service or welfare. The people were largely uneducated and ignorant, and that included the clergy and religious, and people where deeply intolerant of difference or social stigma (read David Norris's excellent and moving account of growing up as a gay man in Dublin in the 50's to see what I mean). The women who got pregnant outside of marriage, or who had a reputation for being "easy with their virtues" as the nuns used to say, would have been cast out by their families and left to die on the streets, had it not been for the existence of these places. Harsh, cruel and barbaric - yes all these things, and more, but by the standards of the time actually better than starving to death on the street and being spat upon by the likes of our grandparents, who no doubt where kissing the altar rails at the same time. Ireland is just beginning to emerge from the toxic blend of religiosity, superstition , ignorance and fear that have characterised her priest-ridden people for centuries. Thank God. But these priests and nuns where not from another planet; not landed here from another solar system; no they were our sons and daughters. We made them. Ultimately we too are all responsible for the crimes they committed and the crimes we let them commit on our behalf while we turned the other way. It is only in facing up to our part in this misery that true healing can begin.

    1. MournemanMichael22 March 2017 at 11:42

      A temperate, objective and timely comment. Other than when you say :"we let them" no doubt referring to our forefathers, I agree with much you say. Thank you

  5. Pat is your blog solely on ridicule of the Church, there much be some good that you can highlight on?

    1. 14.01 There is logic in what you say. This blog has highlighted much of what is wrong with the church. Pat has done much to identify needs. There is a big shouting match and they carry on doing what they please. The best response is witness. Highlight the good. Present people with a realistic and viable alternative. People then have options to choose from

    2. What a welcome breath of fresh air! "Highlight the good"
      That's is precisely what is sorely needed. Thank you for that, Sean.

  6. Pat, can we just have comments on your blog published.
    Trolling and comments about you personally I have no wish to read
    Loving your blogs, keep up your insightful Posts

  7. 14.18 I totally agree with you. Bishop Pat does a good job. He should not have put up with this abuse.

  8. 9 .02
    I don't believe for one moment that our families cast out their pregnant daughters.
    It was the families religious upbringing and venom spouted from the altar that caused theses girls to be ostersized.....yes I remember the "" missions'" and the shouting from the pulpit
    I'm almost 80 and I know of ninty year old women who kept their illegitimate
    children within the family and my own mother supported her niece
    who had a baby very young....but these were the exceptions
    Thank you Jane.

    1. I think you may have meant to say "ostracised"?

  9. There has been a dreadful dualism in the church. All the good was in the bishops, priests and nuns...all the sin was in the laity. It has never been true. The church has often acted like the playground bully. The laity were not educated and were impressed by their fancy clothes and incompressible language. We had a teacher at school, who looking back, probably was totally unbalanced. We were thumped, winded,dragged round by our hair not because we had done anything wrong it was just that she could not control her temper. He brother was high up in the Dominicans, so nothing was done. If anyone said anything they were told they had committed "calumny and detraction". That terrified us even more. We were seven years old. The church has done some foul things to people....with God on their side.

    1. Your kind of vicious school experience was not uncommon, Jane. Sadly, the institutional Church turned a condoning eye to much of this cruelty.

      But its day has come and... . Well, it is going, at any rate.

      I am no fan of Marie Stopes clinics, but I do agree with at least one comment Marie Stopes made: 'the tyranny of Roman Catholicism'. And so it was, with its worldly, hierarchical, mammon-and-God model of Church.

      But if any Roman Catholic cleric is stupid enough (and, God knows, there still are many such) to think that the Church remains a hierarchy after that old, discredited model, then he needs to think again. Of course, he can't think again, since he is so stupid. Which is why this institution will continue to lurch from one crisis to the next.

  10. Pat, where did you go to school?

    1. Sisters if "Mercy" in Carlow :-)

      "Christian" Brothers in Dublin :-)

  11. Which schools, I mean?

  12. The blog is getting boring. Time for some gay scandal for comic relief.

    1. Are we not as bad as theses places like the Tumebaby scandal who are we to point the finger at when we abort baby ever day send woman away;tearing the poor babies away from their mothers woman and dumping them into the waste bin not even a burial for them. The poor women sent home with nothing only guilt and shame how dare we point the finger at any organisation. Have we learnt anything nothing. Pat I have been reading your blog for some time now and I have not seen one bit of compassion or mercy is this not what Jesus's is about. Your other writers would need to take a good look at themselves and hold there head in shame. I am no angel but everyone deserves a second chance do they not. Thanks be to God it will be him that will judge.