Michael Cowhey - Abstracts

Michael was a pupil in the Crescent College in Limerick. Each Christmas the pupils performed an opera for the Good Shepherd residents. Here he recalls his memories of these visits to the Good Shepherds and of seeing children from the Mount orphanage being taken for walks.

Every year we would put on an opera in the school and that opera then we would bring to the Good Shepherd convent… I suppose it was the ignorance of the time, but we didn't care. We were just led along without asking questions. We were put into a bus. We were brought down here. I think we entered from the Pennywell side. I don't think I've ever come in this drive from Clare Street. So we would come in the back door. I always remember people there were always in the distance. I can never remember meeting anyone even though the hall would be full. You would have, as far as I remember; you would have nuns, old women and younger girls. I can actually half see them. They were just standing there. There was absolutely no communication as far, as I can honestly remember. And they would come in and we would do the show and everybody enjoyed the show. It really seemed to be a big occasion at the time. After the show then there was always a big feast for us with biscuits and cakes and orange juice. I cannot remember who served us. I have no visual memory of whether some of the young girls were there. I actually have no idea. I don't ever remember being in contact with any of those people. There was always a gap between us. You know, we just didn't mix. We didn't say hello.

We had the orphanage out there, the Mount… These girls on a Sunday used to be dressed up and walk out past our door. And there was always a black girl among them, which was unique. This is going back to 1960. I always remember my mother saying that we really should bring some of these out for Christmas. We never did which is probably the life story of every family around. But that school was only up the road from us, that orphanage. We never gave it a second thought. When they used to march out in double breast out Ballinacurra we'd stop and we'd look at them...

You couldn't talk to them. You see you didn't want to either. This is the sad thing. Isn't this what it all comes down to really? We were there and we'd see them coming and we probably cleared the footpath that was probably our contribution. And they'd walk past and we'd see was the black girl there. There was no overtones or undertones or anything like that… But it was still just the viewing; just view them passing by us and never gave it a second thought.

It hasn't been mentioned that much but there was a woman who came on one of the programmes there when all this was breaking and she said she was abused in the Mount. And I felt guilty, I think, because she was just up the road from me. And none of us gave a damn. And if you did give a damn nobody would listen anyway in the 1960s. So what was it like in the 1950s? They had complete power.

I have an aunt a nun so of course one day I had to say it to my aunt, and she did find it very hard to accept, being honest, but she said it's very very simple she said when you had a priest like that calling - its an honour to have him in the convent. You are brainwashed that the priest is superior and better than you and you didn't question that.

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