Magdalene Oral History Project
The voices of five former Magdalene Women are central to the Atlas of Lost Rooms. Their testimonies are taken form transcripts available from the Magdalene Oral History Project.
The Magdalene Oral History Project [a.k.a. Magdalene Institutions: Recording an Oral and Archival History] was an oral history project run by University College Dublin with support from the Irish Government and Boston College.
Its objective was to record and preserve the memories and testimonies of those connected with Ireland’s Magdalene Institutions, including former Magdalene Women, activists, key informants and relatives. It contains 84 transcripts from 97 interviewees, many of which are available on their website [here].
The five women features in the Atlas of Lost Rooms all spent time in the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean MacDermott St in the 1960s and 70s. Links to their transcripts can be found below:
Lucy [pseudonym] spent approximately one year in the Sean MacDermott St Laundry from 197/8 – 1979 approx. She was around 14/15 years old at time of entry into the Laundry, where she was sent [escorted by two members of An Garda Síochána – the Irish Police] due to an abusive family situation at home. She was put to work in the Laundry as ‘Polymarker,’ although she was a residence in the Youth Training Centre on the site. She attempted suicide during her stay at Sean MacDermott St Magdalene Laundry. She eventually ran away from the Laundry upon finding an unlocked door on one occasion.
Martina spent two years in the Sean MacDermott St Laundry between 1969 and 1971. She was sent to the Sisters of Charity when she was 16 as an alternative to being sent to prison on remand. After two years, she was suddenly released without prior notice, and with only a bus fare.
Mary [pseudonym] was institutionalised in several Magdalene Laundries between 1962 and 1964/5. She spent 5 weeks in the Sean MacDermott St [then Gloucester St] Magdalene Laundry, before being sent to the Good Shepherd Laundry in Limerick for a further 2 1/2 years. Mary was born in St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home on Dublin’s Navan Road, then sent to St Philomena’s Convent in Stillorgan until the age of four, before again being transferred to St Mary’s Industrial School until age sixteen. Her early years evidence the connections between the Magdalene Laundries and Ireland’s other church run institutions.
She was approximately 17 on entry to Sean MacDermott St, and was sent there from the Industrial School, escorted by a member of the police. She attempted escape from Sean MacDermott St with a fellow Magldane, but was caught and sent back.
Mary May [pseudonym] spent time in Sean MacDermott St Magdalene Laundry & High Park Magdalene Laundry [both run by the Sisters of Charity] between c.1974 – c.1976. She lived in Sean MacDermott St in the Ri Villa Hostel but was sent to High Park to work, She was fourteen when she was sent to the Magdalene Laundry from her Industrial School, where she was reportedly rebelling and repeatedly running away.
When she turned sixteen, she was sent to work at an appliance factory in town, from where she later ran away.
Sarah [pseudonym] was sent to Sean MacDermott St Laundry twice around 1977-8, although her length of stay in unclear. She was sent to the High Park by her family, and was later sent to Sean MacDermott St after a period of living homeless, possibly at the direction of a Juvenile Liaison Officer.