Brigid Diskin - Abstracts
(Name has been changed)

Brigid Diskin is from Cork. She was put in the Good Shepherd Institution in Limerick in the 1940s because she was mitching school and she remained there for over thirty years. Here Brigid recalls some of her memories and thoughts about her experiences.

I came in to the Good Shepherds in the 1940s during the war. Ireland in those days was very tough. I worked in the laundry for 12 months in the beginning in the washhouse as it was called and then I was put in the packing room. I got on great with the Mother in charge of the packing room in those days. She got sick and another nun took over from her. I didn't like her it. She was stiff.

I remember the Glenstal boys and the priests. If there was a hole in a sock I often darned their socks if there was a break time in the laundry to have them ready for them going home. If there was a button missing on a shirt it wouldn't go out without a button. And we left out a darning needle one day in the priests clothes, Oh Lord have Mercy he came on the phone and said 'why had we no interest' and what harm but we were breaking our neck. Of course maybe it might have stuck in him and woke him up!

When I left I went to work for a parish priest…I stuck it for two and a half years. He was very contrary…You know he would say to me the kitchen will be your place and not to go into his room you know. But I wouldn't dream of going near him. I'd sit out in the kitchen. I had a little budgie.

I was an Auxiliary for a good few years but I didn't stay as long as the rest of them…You had to say an office (your prayers) and you had to be careful and you got charge of certain duties wasn't organised. We were nothing in the eyes of the church...Not like religious vows or anything like that... You had a kind of a veil but you wouldn't be like a novice or anything like that. You took what you got. You had a black dress and a cincture and a belt. And a fan as they called it - A pleated bonnet and it was fan shaped.

Friday was an instruction day if you did anything out of the way – small things now – you were corrected…You'd be called in and you'd have to leave whatever you were doing. And they'd have you unhappy for the whole weekend if you did anything that you shouldn't be doing. Instruction took place in the recreation room and you'd be called out in front of everyone and corrected and if it was a bad fault you'd be made kneel down in front of her while she corrected you. Like, you go to bed at 9 o clock, and you wouldn't talk to anyone and if you did that was a fault. If you did meet somebody and you said something that was a fault. You wouldn't be missing a thing in the packing room from anyone's laundry. You know they would tell you, you were careless and must have it gone somewhere. But it would turn up after a while and we'd have sleepless nights over it. It would upset you, you'd be crying for the night.

I had good memories too because I was innocent or something. I think I'd never come down in the morning until I'd see the Mother in charge and in the evening after my tea I'd go into the church for a visit and I'd look down the choir and I'd see her and she'd be over to me… I didn't let things get me down or anything because it was no good. It was the one thing you would get – you wouldn't have along face on you.

I left a few times. I went home to my very own home but I couldn't settle because they'd say that they'd be afraid anything would happen you.

But I think even if you never did anything and you were in here people would look down on you. They wouldn't talk to you because you were in the Good Shepherd. That happened to me. It was many years ago that it happened and I still feel that... It was very cutting.

I never knew it was a Magdalene Laundry until all this trouble started up a few years ago. When I ever heard anyone talking about it they always said the Good Shepherd laundry. That's what was on the van but you know people, the last time the hullabaloo arose again, they said we were prostitutes and that is the first time that I ever heard the word prostitute. I never knew what a prostitute was.

The nuns, they wouldn't even talk to you now if you met them. That is the hardest part of all. It's what I feel now most of all. I feel that I am not trusted you know… but I am getting used to it now. Now I do my bit of baking and I do all my own little jobs and I'm happy. But still you get the cut you know. That hurts me terrible that I wouldn't be trusted.

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