Caitriona Hayes - Abstracts
(Name has been change)


Caitriona was incarcerated in the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in the late fifties when she was 11 years old. She remained in the Good Shepherds until 1964. She worked in the packing room. Here Caitriona shares her story and memories:

The reason why I went into the Good Shepherds was because my grandmother and the parish priest thought I would get pregnant and that's the only reason they took me in. I never did anything wrong to anybody. I was only a child. I couldn't understand why I had to leave home at such an early age but I've gotten over that bit but I still think a lot. It's upsetting to be speaking about it at the moment...My grandparents were very cruel. So they took me off in to the Good Shepherds and all I remember was walking up them big steps in behind that brown door which is still there. I was taken over to the middle dormitory. I was in the middle bed and I can actually show you where the bed is... I got no education. I should have been going to school by right. All I ever wanted to be was a nurse.

You couldn't leave of your own accord. And we didn't have our own names. We never had our own names. And then you had to handle all this dirty laundry coming in from the houses, the people's laundry, all the butchers, the hospitals. Glenstal used to go there, Lord Harrington out in Patrick's Well – they were all looked after well. All their laundries were done there from the city and county.

The Packing Room meant you were taking in the dirty clothes and you had to sort them out. You had to put each item together – all the underwear, knickers, bras that kind of thing, shirts, jumpers anything at all, towels mostly. There were sheets coming in. You wouldn't mind the sheets because they were clean but there were some very dirty clothes. You weren't allowed to wash your hands. You were not allowed to wash your hands... And you'd have to work Saturday for a half day and you'd be over in your room then, over in the dormitory doing your own bit, whatever that was – making the bed, tidying up around the bed. That was it basically. You had to polish the seats in the church. You had to do different things – either cooking, learning to cook in the kitchen.

There was one nun in particular that took me under her wing and only for her, God only knows, I mightn't be here today. She was very kind to me. She said I should have been going to school. And then when she died another nun came in and she took over and she was like a mother to me. I wouldn't like to go through it again. It was cold there, very cold. You got your breakfast, dinner and supper basically but that was it.

You were to keep quite when you were in the refectory. That's where we used to have our meals there in the refectory room. You couldn't speak. And if you did anything wrong you were punished… I remember one time, and you'll laugh at me now at this. … I didn't know any different but I wanted a bra and one came in to the laundry and of course I took it. And the Reverend Mother came in and she said 'who took this bra?' I said 'I did.' So she put me, kneeling on my knees for two hours. But it was more the embarrassment of it than anything else because everyone else was wearing bras. I don't know, I just wanted a bra and that was it.

I was raped three or four times when I was young and nobody knows what it was like…until you go through it. I was put into the Good Shepherds in case I would have a child. My mother had me at seventeen years of age. She never wanted me. It's hard to say when your own mother didn't want you…No point in saying she loved us because she didn't. Everyone thinks you're happy then when you are smiling but you're not. Inside here it hurts. That's the worst of it.

There are times I get depressed and I say what is the use because it's over and done with. The future is the thing to look forward to. But I have no future. If I was educated I wouldn't mind. I could be going out and doing something.

They never told you nothing. I never got sanitary towels or nothing. Cloths, bits of cloth, flower bags and things like that, that time. There was no such thing as ST's that time. You could be doubled in pain and you wouldn't even get an aspro…I had a problem with my eye when I was young. I was born with it. I have no sight in that eye. I've only sight in one eye. They wouldn't even take me for that operation. I was supposed to go to Dublin to get that rectified.

I went in then at eleven, taken away. I can't even remember sitting in the car. All I remember is the steps. There are so many steps up to that front door in the Good Shepherds, that big brown door. It's still there.

Some of the women were very wealthy. They came from wealthy families. You wouldn't know their stories. They never talked about it that time because you weren't allowed. They are all the ones that are dead now. I knew a few of them. Mary F now, I knew her. She's dead. She was lovely. She was down in St Joseph's part but she came up to St. Mary's part when that closed down. St. Joseph's, there was more people there, but whether they had children or what, I don't know. See we were never told anything.

I remember the tunnel... It was on this side as I say, to the right of the school; St. Georges was on that side. My cousins were in there at the same time … My cousin used to be crawling in to mass and I'd be watching them and I knew they were related... I'd see her coming into the church, crawling in to mass and the other little one was caught by the hand. Isn't it strange? I used to look across to see was there any new ones there. But I did ask Sr. Bernard one day could I talk to them and she said 'no, you are not allowed to talk to them.' …The girls don't really talk about it either. But she did tell me she was thrown out through a pane of glass. She told them one day, she threatened to burn down the place. They used to put her into the boiler room with rats.

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