In one instance, up to 30 Irish women escaped en masse from this Galway Magdalene Laundry.
Thanks to a newly published booklet, incredible stories from the Mercy Order building in Galway are finally coming to the fore.
The booklet, entitled Remember, Respect and Record, recounts the experience of inmate number 105, who climbed over the roof during a rainy night in an attempt to escape, and the incident where one family smuggled girls out of the building in a laundry basket.
The life of the late Lily McAllister who escaped from the laundry in the 1950s and the mass escape of multiple women via a workman’s ladder also feature in the written project. The stories were collated using interviews with former inmates, families who tried to help the women.
Names of 80 women who were buried either in the on-site grave or in a nearby cemetery are also published as a tribute.
The booklet was compiled for homeless agency Cope Galway, which has been given the convent section of the Mercy Order building to develop a facility for its domestic abuse service. The initiative was produced by John Tierney, Director of the Historic Graves Project.
“But I am pleased with one thing. They are giving the Convent to COPE Galway. I see that as a little token of atonement... There will always be women or girls in need of shelter but never again a shelter when you go in and the door is locked behind you and the key thrown away!” pic.twitter.com/n5GYjLK2AB— COPE Galway (@COPEGalway) November 7, 2018
Cope Galway chief executive Jacquie Horan said the research represented a “small . . . sensitive contribution towards acknowledging the lived experiences of women who suffered enormous personal pain and loss”.
The Magdalene asylum in question, in Galway’s city center, was opened in 1822 and was taken over by the Sisters of Mercy religious order in 1854. Said nuns ran it as a combined “commercial enterprise and care facility” until the 1990s.
In the tale of inmate number 105 (also known as Maisie Kenny - although this is not believed to be her real name) was sent to the laundry in 1948 at the age of 14. She escaped around Christmas time in 1951 by climbing out over the roof.
Our booklet has launched to Remember, Respect & Record the Magdalen Laundry in #Galway to pay tribute to this important history as we prepare to renovate the donated convent building for our new state-of-the-art #domesticabuse service. More info: https://t.co/ba9lrA4uWN pic.twitter.com/DaFm1yPOYY— COPE Galway (@COPEGalway) November 5, 2018
As for the group escape in the 1960s, Áine Hickey and her sister recalled witnessing an estimated 30 young women descending down a ladder left by workmen replacing windows.
While some were captured and returned by the local police, others made it to Dublin or England and never looked back.