Pat O'Byrne - Abstracts

Pat grew up in a large family and lived close to the Good Shepherd Institution. As a child during the late 1960s he served mass in the Good Shepherd church where the women and children went to mass every morning. Later, when in secondary school, he had summer job working in the laundry in the delivery section. Here Pat shares his childhood memories of serving mass, the women, and his time spent delivering laundry.

We used to get lovely breakfasts - that's my memory and every Easter and every Christmas we used to get a bainin sweater and two pounds - two brand new pounds. My memory is the girls coming up for communion - you'd be assisting the priest - and they were very shy and inhibited, young girls and older women and the nuns would be there. There would be a lot of people in the church you know when I think about it.

I didn't see any kind of cruelty but all I noticed is they were doing hard work. You would know they were kind of institutionalised, you'd know the way they dressed - these little boots on them and the clothes were very, how would you put it, not fashionable clothes... All I can remember is that they were clothes that were kind of - institutional clothes I'd call them really – Kimono's – that's what I call them. They were brown, thick material, heavy-duty type of material.

We'd often do a Sunday mass and you'd see them all walking in queues with the nuns and they'd be bringing them to different sections of the place – inside the grounds. But you always kind of knew - you were kind of naive too at the time, you know we were young - it was a kind of institution. There is no doubt about it. I couldn't share now that I saw brutality because I never saw anything like that. All I know is that they were very shy and inhibited. You wouldn't chat with them or anything like that.

I remember then you'd get the odd funeral there and you'd say mass and you'd get paid - there'd be a little envelope left with 50 bob for you. There was one case I remember: Fr. Power was the priest there at the time and there was a funeral mass there.

There were a few of us then that worked in the laundry. We used to drop the laundry off and we'd pick it up. But I remember they'd have it wrapped in brown paper delivering to all the hotels at the time in Limerick. It was big business you know. It was a big money spinner and all the work was done by the, what would you call them, the inmates, if you want to use that word… It was a huge thing when you think of it. They had four vans on the road and I remember then they had two brand new vans. They had a Bedford van that was a second hand but they were all in good nick. The whole thing was professional but very fair - they would pay you. I'd say we were the only ones getting paid. You could see where they were making the profit – the staff weren't paid at all as such.

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