Shh! Don't Tell; A True Story Of SurvivalJune 2010 i went through the most frighting experience of my life "I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE After that I decided to write my life story . It took me almost a year to do it . But since I have written it. I feel now my life seemed to have changed. If i can help one person from my experiences I have done good with love
This is the poem on the back cover of my book
FROM HELL TO ME
Hidden away by a Mother's love
To the protective torture of the clergy glove
Sentenced to a life of hell
Before life began, the hammer fell
Frightened children, black and white
The dog yard coffin, the dark of night
The stars looked down on naked flesh
Scared eyes looked up through wire mesh
Until the stars could look no more
And the sun, it opened daylights door
The demons woke and walked the halls
The scream of silent “help me” calls
No one hears their silent pain
Or see’s the blood between the grain
A nation’s fear of God above
No one to hold, no one to love
Finally a letter states
We want them home, freedom awaits
But where is heaven, where is hell
Through their fear, they cannot tell
Violence, drink and Daddie’s girl
Wishing she could be a pearl
All safe and snug, within the clam
No one to fear, but who I am
So, who am I and what’s my worth
What’s my purpose, on this earth?
I’m here to live, and one day die.
I am me – myself – Just I
Shh! Don’t Tell; A True Story of SurvivaL
My story begins first through my eyes when I was a child. The horrific abuse that was inflicted on me and my siblings. during my interment in an industrial school in Ireland. .
When writing my story. . I had to put myself back into the school and relive it as it happened.
It was not easy. My story explains the way I was controlled, conditioned and programmed by the very people who should have been protecting me, My sister Joan who was only a child herself taking over the role of a mother at the tender age of five. The very people who were paid to take care of me were called the Sisters of Mercy. They showed me no mercy.
I will also disclose the legacy that followed me into adolescence and adulthood.
The horrors I had to endure outside of the Industrial school. And the unconditional love between two sisters.
Running away from my home to London in1979. I thought I would be safe and the answer to all my problems. It was only the beginning of another nightmare. I ran into the arms of the first man I met
When he told me he loved me I believed him and married him eight month later. I was five months pregnant. No family around me. I was alone now. I felt dirty and unclean. The guilt i carried around for years was heavier than the cross Jesus carried. . I blamed myself for everything. I felt ugly inside with no one to turn to. I was afraid of my own shadow.
I was a naive young l girl. In the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world
The only tool I had was my heart and i followed it .I went on to endure a volatile and quite often violent abuse from my husband. My marriage of twenty years ended in 1999. I finally got the courage to leave. I returned to Ireland with my two young sons. I lived in a women’s refuge for three months.
My journey led me into the unknown A path was laid out for me and I was determined not to stray off it Against all the odds I have survived and have moved on. .At a very late time in my life I have found true happiness. I have also found it within myself to forgive all those who made my life a hell on earth.
My story begins in a small town called Tralee, situated in County Kerry, Ireland. I was named Mary and was the youngest of six children. During the 1950s, Tuberculosis was rampant in Ireland. My mother had lost all her family through this disease. She was the only survivor.
It was early in 1959 when my mother contracted TB and was hospitalised in Edenburn Sanatorium. By then a cure had been found. One can only imagine what went through her mind knowing that her whole family had died from TB and now she had contracted it. She was forced to leave her six children. My mother must have been distraught, leaving us behind in the care of my father and grandmother. Mom must have often wondered if she would ever come out of that place alive.
I lived in a two-bedroom cottage with my father, grandmother and five other siblings (two boys and three girls) in a place called Powlawadra in Ballyseedy, just three miles outside Tralee. The eldest was nine. I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances that surrounded the events, but the Irish Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children got involved. One thing was for certain, I wasn’t being looked after properly. I was removed from my father’s care by the “cruelty man”, that’s what he was known as. My two older sisters and I were committed to an industrial school in Tralee.
Below is the exact transc
Case no. 543
Complainant: Michael O’ Regan ISPCC
Defendant: Mary Moriarty, Powlawadra
The above named Mary Moriarty was before Killarney District Court on 16th June 1959 on foot of application of the ISPCC that she appeared to be under the age of 15 years, having been born on 5th November 1957 and found at Killarney having a parent who did not exercise proper guardianship.
And the court did order that the said Mary Moriarty be committed to Pembroke Alms Industrial School, Tralee to be detained until 5th November 1973.
Child’s father present in court consented to making of said order.
Judge M. P. Buckley presided over the case.
I was now being sentenced to 14 years, four months and 20 days by a court of law. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “How can this be? I was only a baby!” The only crime I had committed was being born.
A couple of weeks after entering the school, my two sisters contracted TB and were admitted to Foynes Hospital in Limerick. I was on my own again and don’t remember my sisters ever being there without me.
It was Christmas 1960 when they came back. I remember standing at the parlour door and Sister Attracta held me in her arms. I wore a pink dress with two pink bows in my hair. I introduced myself and acted as if I owned the place.
“I am your sister, Miriam and I’m going to show you around.” I showed them the statue of Our Lady in the corridor. To this day, I don’t know why I showed everyone that statue but I did. One time my sister, Joan asked the nun why my name was changed. Sister Attracta simply replied, “Miriam suits her.”
At that time I wasn’t attending school so the nun allowed me to hang around with her. She was so nice to me and always had me dressed in pretty dresses. This is a very vague period of my life and I don’t remember much but I do recall spending lots of time in the kitchen sitting on the table next to her.
In September 1962 and at nearly five years of age, I started school. It was situated on the same grounds of the industrial school but was not part of it. The school was attended by girls from the town of Tralee and the surrounding areas. The teachers were nuns from the convent, and not part of the industrial school regime. A nun took charge of the Pembroke Alms shortly after I started there. Before she arrived, Sister Attracta arranged a welcoming for her. Seven girls were selected to welcome the new principal. Sister Attracta taught us a song. Each of us held a separate letter of the word “welcome” and we had to sing for the new nun. I held M, the only letter that coincided with my name and this letter was given to me by Sister Attracta. She did love me and we had a special bond. This bond was soon broken, however, as she was set to leave and was being replaced by a nun named, Sister Enda.
My first memory of being in that school was in babies class. Sister Fabian was our teacher. We all feared her because, as she reminded us many times, if we misbehaved she would tell Sister Enda and we’d be punished. Everyone disliked and was afraid of Sister Enda even though she had just taken over the running of the orphanage. There was something about her mouth. It looked as if her lips were super-glued together. Everyone stayed clear of Sister Enda as much as they could. She ruled with an iron fist.
Just before the Christmas school holidays, Sister Fabian told us that Santa was coming to visit. We were warned to be on our best behaviour because he would know if we had been good or bad. Just like the other children, I was excited about his visit and couldn’t wait to see him. Poor Sister Fabian was very patient with me because I kept asking her, “What time will he be here?” After what seemed like an eternity, a knock came to the door. Just to be extra sure that Santa would see me, I stood up on a chair.
When he entered the classroom, I fell off my chair with fright because he wasn’t what I was expecting at all. A tremendous sense of consternation enveloped me. I started to scream because Santa had the most grotesque face I had ever seen.
“Why does he look like that?” I asked Sister Fabian.
“He comes from the North Pole and it’s very cold there,” she replied.
His face looked as if it was cracked, and he had a white beard and a large belly.
As Santa approached my desk, Sister Fabian told him that I was an orphan and was living in the orphanage. Because of his rather frightening appearance, everyone was fearful of him. Some may find this hard to believe but I urinated in my underwear out of sheer dread. I didn’t want him near me.
“Have you been a good girl?” he asked.
“No,” I shouted and began to cry.
“Well then, little girl, you won’t be getting anything,” he replied. “Only good girls get presents.”
After returning to the industrial school that afternoon, I went to Sister Enda and told her that I didn’t like Santa Claus.
“He was horrible and ugly, and he scared me,” I said.
Sister Enda’s reply astounded me and still does to this day. “Little Miss Primp, you look just like him. You’re ugly too,” she answered. It was then I realised just how much I missed Sister Attracta. “Get out of my sight,” Sister Enda added cold heartedly.
The decorations were put up and I went into the recreation hall where a large Christmas tree was decorated. This sight did not fill me with happiness like it usually does to other children. Instead I ran past it and felt fear like I had never felt before! I was dreading Christmas Day, wishing it never happened. I was now five years old.
On Christmas Morning, all the girls congregated in the recreation hall. Joan sat next to me. I couldn’t stop crying and was hiding behind Joan’s back, sitting on the floor, waiting for Santa to arrive. Of course, deep down, and this may sound selfish, but I was hoping he wouldn’t come.
Then the sound of his bell and voice reverberated around the entire hall when he said, “Ho, ho, ho! Happy Christmas!” This startled me and caused me to wet myself. Santa did not call us by our name but only by our number. It was my first memory of my number been called out in the industrial school.
We were all given a number; mine was 1061. I was petrified. When he called it I did not move. Fear had that tight a grip on me. The routine was when you went to get your present, you’d have to sit on his lap. I was wet and afraid of him and Sister Enda. He called my number again. I stood up and then told him that I wasn’t a good girl. Joan told me he was wearing a mask and not to be afraid of him. Because I didn’t go up to Santa, that meant there was no presents for me that year. I didn’t care and was quite content to sit where I was. At the time I didn’t like Christmas and there was something dark or false about it. Maybe it was the mask, the covering of his face that didn’t sit right in my mind. He scared me so much. Back then I remember thinking, “Why did Santa have to hide his face and scare me?” It didn’t bother me if I never saw another Christmas again.
We returned to the same routine and everything was done regimentally. I have a memory of standing in Our Lady’s room with other girls from the school. There must have been about 50 of us there in the room. We were all wearing our night dresses and were told to extend our right arms. A man with a white coat gave me an injection. This procedure was called “the pic”. The man could have been a doctor, I don’t really know. The needles would be administered at least four times a year. As I said, this would be called, “getting the pic”. I was also given sugar lumps. There was some kind of liquid on it. On quite a few occasions after taking the sugar lumps or after getting the injections, I became very ill. When this happened, I was given another injection and this made me feel better.
I was now five and a half years of age. The weather was beautiful and the sun shone brightly in a cloudless, blue sky. My sister, Grace was making her first Holy Communion. It was a very exciting time for me. Joan had made it a couple of years earlier and I didn’t remember her big day. When she made hers I was only three years old so for me, this was special.
The evening before Grace was due to make her Holy Communion, Sister Enda called us. “You have a visitor,” she said.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“She is waiting in the parlour for you,” Sister Enda answered. My first thought was that our mother had come to see us. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know if I had one. We ran up the corridor.
When we got to the parlour door, I was the first to run in. A young girl was sitting on the chair.
“Who are you?” I enquired.
“I’m your big sister,” she told me. Her answer amazed me because I never knew I had another sister until that evening. A great joy now filled my heart and I asked her if she was coming to live with us now.
“Oh no, love,” she replied.
“I live with Mom and Dad.” It was the first time anyone had told me that I had a mother and father. I felt sad and begged my sister to take me away with her.
“Mom is very sick. I’m sorry, Miriam. You can’t come home, but she gave me a bag of sweets for each of you.” She also gave Grace a prayer book and rosary beads. “Mom asked me to give them to you. She told me to tell you she was sorry and will not be able to call to see Grace making her Holy Communion.”
“Will you be there?” one of us enquired.
“I can’t come either as I have to help Mom.” Her face was awash with sadness as she told us this. I was happy to get the sweets from Mom. I looked at my big sister for a long time and couldn’t stop bombarding her with questions.
“Do you also live in a big house?”
“No I live in a little house.” She was 13 years old at that time. Joan began crying. We left the parlour when Sister Enda walked in. I ran back to tell my sister to thank Mom for the sweets.
“Tell her I will pray every night she will get better,” I said.
The three of us ran down the corridor and up the stairs to the dormitory with the sweets stuck in our underwear. Joan and I ate our sweets straight away. It was the first time I had tasted something like that. It was special as Mom had given them to me and I was also afraid they would be taken off me by the other girls. They were delicious even though they were in my underwear. I can still taste them now.
The following day was Grace’s Holy Communion so Joan started to do her hair. I sat on the bed watching her, thinking to myself, I can’t wait for my own Holy Communion. I was so excited watching Grace getting her hair done.
“You will be beautiful tomorrow,” I said. “Will you make me beautiful when I make mine?”
“Of course I will, my Princess!” Joan rubbed my cheeks affectionately as she said this.
Late that night I went into Joan’s bed and we were whispering about how we got away with the sweets and we were giggling under the bed clothes. I was very happy and couldn’t stop talking. I kept asking Joan about what Mom looked like.
“She’s beautiful, just like you, Miriam,” she said. Joan kept telling me go to back to my bed in case I got caught but she had her arms around me so tight and kept rubbing my head. It felt lovely and I fell asleep.
Early the following morning, Joan woke me and told me to go back to my bed. She woke Grace to do her hair and to remove the bits of the pillow case she used to curl her hair the night before. When Joan had finished doing her hair, Grace looked marvellous. Tears sauntered down my face. My only wish was for Mom to be here to see her. I was so proud of my big sister. Grace really looked amazing. Sister Enda then came in to the dormitory and asked us to leave. She was holding my sister’s dress and veil.
Joan and I went downstairs to wait for Grace. Another girl was also making her Holy Communion. I was standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting to see Grace in her Holy Communion dress. Joan and a few of the other girls were with me. The wait seemed to last forever. Joan held my hand and there were butterflies fluttering around in my stomach. I just wanted to see my sister in her white dress.
Then I could hear shouts coming from upstairs. I heard Sister Enda’s voice and thought she was giving out to one of the girls. The other girl who was making her Holy Communion, appeared and she was very pretty.
“They’re coming now,” I said to Joan. Again we waited a long time to see Grace.
What happened next will haunt me forever. I was looking up at the top of the stairs when Sister Enda callously threw Grace like a rag doll over the balcony and onto the floor below, which was about a 20 foot drop. Joan started to scream. I was stunned and couldn’t move.
“You won’t eat sweets again and you’ll burn in hell!” Sister Enda kept repeating. I just stood and stared at my lifeless sister lying on the floor. Around her head was a pool of blood and it kept expanding. I kept holding Joan’s hand, she was hysterical. It was as if my whole body had become paralysed with trepidation. I stood like a statue, just like the one of Our Lady in the corridor. Sister Enda came down the stairs with a black leather strap in her hand. She glared sinisterly at Joan and me. The nun just stepped over Grace and left her lying there.
Joan ran over to Grace. A few of the girls had gathered around us. Grace was still not moving. I was in total shock. Joan knelt down next to Grace and began calling her name. As she did this, the tears flowed down Joan’s face.
“Please wake up. Oh my God!” Joan said at the top of her voice. “Please help me! She’s dead,” Joan kept saying. “Will someone please help me!” Joan lifted Grace’s head and placed it on her lap. There was no movement. Joan then recited the Hail Mary and repeated it a number of times. We all started to say the prayer with her but I still did not and could not move. Joan turned Grace on her back and began kissing her forehead. Joan’s tears were just like raindrops falling on Grace’s face. Then Grace made a slight movement and moaned a little. Her hand fell on the floor and beside her were the prayer book, rosary beads and sweets that Mom gave her.
“Please wake up, please wake up!” Joan cried. Sister Enda appeared again. “Sister Enda, please help her!” Joan pleaded.
The heartless woman looked down at my sister and said, “I hope she dies and burns in hell.” Sister Enda just passed us by and called Grace ‘the devil’.
I don’t know where the courage to say this came from but I suddenly found myself roaring, “If our mother had been here, Sister Enda you wouldn’t have done this to my sister.”
With that, she turned around and smacked me across the face with her black leather strap.
“You knew that our Mom was not coming to see Grace,” I continued. “If our mother was here you wouldn’t have done this!”
“Shut your mouth or else you will get the same again, you little imp,” Sister Enda yelled. She just walked on with the other girl who was making her Holy Communion. I turned around to see how Grace was. Her white dress and veil was covered in blood and so was Joan. Grace never made her Holy Communion that day. Deep down, I think she still suffers the effect of that brutal assault. Grace was seven years old, Joan was nine and I was five and a half on that horrific day. To the best of my knowledge, Grace was not taken to hospital or received any medical attention. She didn’t stand a chance.
This is one memory that is truly seared into my brain and one that time will never erase. I don’t know what effect the fall had on Grace but she couldn’t speak properly after it. Yes, Sister Enda ruled with an iron fist indeed and had a heart of stone to match her evil reign over the place.
My story is the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Some of the names of my family and friends have been changed to protect their privacy, as this story is about me and my journey through life I hope my story will help to inspire people who have been through similar circumstances. To move on with their lives and realize it's not too late to find happiness within themselves.
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MIRSTAR 51-55, F 0 Mar 12, 2012