‘You Can Leave at Any Time’ will run at The Little Museum of Dublin from September 29 - October 5.
Irish woman Mary Merritt, who spent 14 years in a Dublin Magdalene Laundry, will have her story told in a 15-minute installation at The Little Museum of Dublin.
Read More: Emigrant life of sorrow and pain after his mother forced into Magdalene Laundry
Writing for The Irish Times, Trevor White, the director at The Little Museum of Dublin, explains how the unique production was born out of a desire to better highlight a ledger that had come into the museum’s possession.
“Our ledger had come from High Park, a laundry in Drumcondra that was run by the Religious Sisters of Our Lady of Charity,” writes White.
“At first glance, the contents are innocuous, for the copybook contains only a list of names: of families, companies, schools, clubs, religious orders, and State institutions. They were clients of the largest Magdalene laundry in Ireland.”
White says the now-notorious Laundries were “for orphans who had grown up in State care; for cruelly named “fallen women” who had given birth outside marriage (often as a result of rape); for girls who were simply outspoken or even high-spirited.”
Keen to bring the story to the forefront at the Little Museum of Dublin, White reached out to Mary Merritt, who was featured in previous programs and documentaries about her time in the Laundries.
In 2017, The Journal reported that Mary was born in a Dublin workhouse before being placed in the care of the Sisters of Mercy in Ballinasloe, Co Galway at the age of two. Merritt never met her mother.
When she was 16, Merritt was caught stealing apples from an orchard and was consequently sent to High Park, a Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, where she stayed for 14 years. As a teen, Merritt was raped by a priest who impregnated her. She was sent to a Mother and Baby Home where she was forced to give up her son before returning to High Park.
“I would like to take up your invitation and tell you my heartbreaking story. It is with me always,” Merritt told White.
Read More: Magdalene Laundries victim who was starved and forced to work receives compensation
After spending about a year with Merritt learning her life’s story, White says: “She still has the scars on her body; still wakes up crying in the middle of the night; still wants an apology from the church. When she talks about these things it is with the resolve of an extraordinarily strong woman who would not be silenced by malicious forces.”
Merritt recently told White: “I never received an apology from the church, and I am still angry. I want that apology before I die. And until then, I will continue to speak out.”
The two teamed up with writer and director Gerry Stembridge, designer Stephen Dodd and actor Amy Kidd to craft ‘You Can Leave at Any Time,’ the 15-minute installation that will run at The Little Museum of Dublin between September 29 and October 5.
In our new installation, Mary Merritt recalls her time in High Park Magdalene laundry and her search for justice that...Publiée par The Little Museum of Dublin sur Lundi 23 septembre 2019
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The production can only be viewed by one person at a time, and afterward, attendees are invited to examine the ledger that inspired White’s journey to better tell the Magdalene Laundry stories.
White says: “You Can Leave at Any Time is not exactly a play, a memoir, an art installation or a museum exhibition, although it is indebted to each of these forms. We don’t care what people call it, though we do know that some will find it an uncomfortable experience. If my contemporaries feel a measure of shame, that is not inappropriate. Younger visitors may be shocked to discover quite how recent it all was.”
“We hope that people of all ages will be transported, horrified and ultimately inspired by the story of a woman who refused to allow her life to be ruined by powerful men and women who were almost unimaginably cruel.”