Mammy Please Don't Leave Me - Chapter 6
Mammy, please don't leave me here.
"Mammy, where are you taking us? Where are we going?", I am asking my mother as she walks brusquely without saying a word. I am trying hard to keep up with her and I am the eldest.
It is a bitterly cold winter’s night and the ground is muddy where we are walking. We got off a bus and we are walking through a very dark place. There are some boys standing near a barrel that has fire coming from it. They are standing around it warming themselves. We are in a place called Keogh Square. It used to be a British Army Barracks in Inchicore but now is a slum that houses all the poor people.
My mother asks the boys who are standing by the barrel of fire for directions. She is carrying my brother and my sisters like me are also trying to keep up with her. I am tired and I want this night journey to end. She keeps urging us to hurry up but won't say where she is taking us.
We arrive at a big gate and walk up a very long driveway. We go up steps and are shown into a room with a nun and two other women. I see a big bunch of of keys around the waist of one of the women. I don’t like this place and I am worried.
Thrown to the Wolves
I watch my mother talking to these women and am also curious of my surroundings. Their voices are like the droning of an aeroplane in the distance and everything they are saying goes straight over my head. Suddenly my mother turns and walks very quickly out the door leaving us with these people. I run after my mother screaming for her. I am restrained. I am not allowed to leave the room. I cry and cry and cry. I can’t believe my mother has left me. I can’t believe it. I place my face in the lap of one of the women who is sitting in a chair and I cry so much that her skirt is sopping wet. I am taken away and accompanied to the dormitory. I am in shock. I am about 5 years old.
I see rows of children sleeping in metal beds. I am told to be quiet. I am given a torn night dress and my clothes are pulled off. I am told to put the night dress on. There is a long tear under the left arm but the material is a soft brush cotton and I find that texture comforting. I hear children coughing and whimpering around me. We are told to be quiet. I am alone in an orphanage in Dublin and I becomes very small curling up into hibernation.
My mammy left me here and she never said anything. No Mammy, no Daddy any more...just me and "I"!
"I" has never forgotten that feeling and I wear it like an old coat to this day.
It was Ireland in the 1960's. The Catholic Church was at the height of its power and orphanages like the one my mother left us in were places people could put unwanted children. They were a source of income for the church which was providing a service for the Irish people. The Catholic Church has recently apologised for its treatment of that generation of Irish children after an official investigation in the 1990's but the damage done to so many children is a legacy of both the church and the Irish people who knew waht was going on but looked away.