Mute Swans Emmet Bridge, Harold’s Cross, Dublin March 2011

This amateur video of Mute swans and humble pigeons was taken on Wednesday the last day of March 2011, at Emmet Bridge off Harold’s Cross Rd. Dublin Ireland. It was a very cold breezy afternoon and the small Kodak 12MP EasyShare C182 was shaking in my hands. The swans and cygnets were doubtless in fine fettle and some of the latter were even practicing much needed flying skills in the centre of the grand canal. So Adorably joyous and uplifting to observe.

Some well intentioned passerby strollers were enthusiastically throwing loaves of white bread at them when suddenly scavenger pigeons and overhead seagulls appeared out of nowhere and landed on the bread-laden scene. People should be publicly alerted to the fact that white bread is not good for the swans digestion tracts. I do wish as well that some strollers who frequent the canal do not let their dogs or children up too close to swans who are resting on the bank; as this kind of behaviour totally upsets the equilibrium of the swans. I witnessed a man repeatedly swinging a year old child to and fro at the swans,; the swans were scared out of their wits and the laughing man thought it was the best of fun for the child. The child’s enjoyment at the expense of the swans was the motto of the father? Another young stroller did not bother that her wee Jack Russell, by the way, on a lead, was right on top of the swans and barking away at them like mad, almost as if the swans were mere nonentities. It’s okay to love your own pets and children and have obligations towards them, but not so with mere stranger swans in the canal. Another thing that frightens the swans is gangs of screaming teenagers. There is also indiscriminate dumping of large black rubbish bags; it is an absolute eyesore and a disgrace to the environment. I don’t mean to rant here but these are the not so nice observations that I’ve come across whilst visiting the swans.

Some weeks ago sixteen Mute swans from adjoining Portobello Bridge mysteriously died, it was speculated in the media that it may have been from botulism; the jury is still out on this one. After a fleeting glance, yesterday, I was thus thrilled to see swans back there again. I always go to Emmet Bridge to visit the swans as they are far more accessible there than from Portobello Bridge. It has to do with the lay out of the grand canal.
I won’t be long before the swans will travel to the other end of the earth. I shall miss them dreadfully when they go as i’ve so enjoyed watching them over these past few months and seeing how they interact with each other. Enjoy!


Goldenbridge: It all comes out in the wash

There is such an ongoing high gust of wind outside. It prompted me to wash my Egyptian sheets, duvet cover and pillow-slips. So, I did something that has always been part of my nature. I steeped them for a while in cold sudsy water then hand-washed them in very cold water. There is a washing machine available, but still and all, I’ve gone out of my way to do them in this particular fashion. Old habits die hard.
I know that I took the opportunity of washing them on a day that good Roman Catholics in general would not wash clothes. The Lord’s Day! A Day of Rest! A day of Sabbeth that would be displeasing to the Lord – who is cognisant of every move we make.
In the interim whilst the bed-linen is dancing in the Donnybrook breeze I was transported back to Goldenbridge… from whence the root of the old habit first gave birth.
I was on the lower rung of the Goldenbridge ladder and that meant I was always chosen specifically by Ms. MD to do the lowliest of tasks at the institution. One of these tasks entailed gathering up the destroyed (full of excrement) sheets (as they were commonly called) every morning from St. Joseph’s babies dormitory and the wet-the-bed Sacred Heart dormitory. Another child of approximately 11 years old and myself would separate the wet urine sheets from the destroyed sheets and then open some of the driest of the wet-stained sheets and place the destroyed ones in them. We then knotted the sheets at the four corners to keep them intact and firm for gripping as we dragged them down the flight of stairs. We had to do this denigrating task with one hand held firmly to our noses, as invariably the stench was nauseating. Luckily – this job was all done in the early hours of the morning before breakfast, otherwise we would have puked something terrible.
We then had to heave the soiled sheets by their knotted ends down the brown linoleum back-stairs that were close to the babies dormitory. We were not allowed to go down the front stairs near the Sacred Heart. Those particular stairs led directly to the front-hall porch. It would have been deemed totally out of order to be seen by nuns and others alike in charge trampling down a good front flight of stairs, leaving a grotesque whiff behind us. It would automatically render a punishment. We could have accidentally bumped into the priest at that hour of the morning. Who knows. Those stairs would have been used only by children who had to wait in the dark cold cloister until the priest had arrived at the convent  chapel to say mass just before
When the smelly sheets finally arrived at the end of the stairs – after great difficulty trundling them – there was a large door that led us into the prison yard. There was an arm off it that was known to us as the end of the yard. To the right at the end of the yard there was a Victorian laundry-room nestled underneath a silvery-blue corrugated verandah that brought one right to the top of building. I never once went up that verandah in all my 12 years in Goldenbridge. It was in the antiquated old laundry that we plonked our dirty wares. We then repeated the same task till all the dirty sheets were gathered on the stone floor. By this time, mass could have been over and we would then go to the dining-hall to have breakfast. We faithfully arrived back in the laundry-room and started washing the excrement off the sheets with cold water.
There was always an older girl there doing cleaner type of laundry-work with the help of a washing machine with an attached mangle. She washed jumpers and socks and clothes of that ilk. We helped separate the laundry for her and stretch the cardigans and put them into the massive industrial tumbler. The vent outside was used by us to dry our wet clothes and keep ourselves warm. It always came in handy as well for children such as Bernadette Fahy who used it to dry her hair in preparation for outside school. Children also secretly used it to dry their underwear having first washed same down dormitory toilet the night before. You see, children had to show their underwear to the religious and were severely humiliated and beaten if they were found to be soiled. In fact they were hung up on a pole for all to see in the work-room.
When the sheets were bereft of the excrement, they were put into the washing machine and then the tumbler, as it was called and were folded by us. It was then time for so-called *school*. I always remember a huge white ash-stick that was hidden behind the tumbler. Some girls were sent to this laundry-room to be beaten in secret. It was the one of the two most scariest of places where children went to be slaughtered by the nuns. We stank to high heaven by the time we arrived at so-called *school*. Sr. F. would turn her nose up at us if she encountered us on the corridor. She would call us dirty things.
When I lived in a hostel for Irish girls at Medway St. London in the late seventies. I had the insatiable need to steep my sheets in cold water in the bathroom that was luckily situated nearby my cubicle. Sr. Raphael, who resided in the cubicle along-side bathroom was always asking residents ‘who left sheets steeping in the bath’. I never owned up. It had to have been a throwback kind of behavior pattern from my Goldenbridge incarceration days.
I’ve been to many homes of survivors of Goldenbridge. I was amazed at the meticulousness of them indeed. When I commented on that fact to one or two of them, they pointed out that it was because of all the cleaning, scrubbing and general dogs-body work that they were forced to do as children that caused them to be overly house-proud. As one of them aptly put it, “cleanliness was always the next best thing to Godliness in Goldenbridge. It was basically inherently inbuilt into us to be spotlessly clean”.
So betwixt the hosing of excremental sheets in cold water in Goldenbridge in the past and the Egyptian sheets currently blowing in the Donnybrook wind, ‘It all comes out in the wash’!

Survivors of Industrial *Schools* vs. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

I know that most survivors of industrial *schools* whom I’ve personally encountered have been diagnosed with the severest form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. One can multiply that over their whole childhoods.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined in DSM-IV, the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Since my arrival on the Internet scene in 2004 I’ve never claimed to be like most mainstream people who grew up in normal environments. I’ve always been upfront about my institutional background and pointed out the down-side of being one such survivor. It has endeared me to some people who’ve been very empathetic about my sad history. However, my openness and different kind of behavior patterns have also seen many professional people – whom I never would have dreamt in the first place – scarper before even attempting to communicate with me. I sincerely thought that they would have been beyond that kind of behavior given their credentials. Not so, apparently! Credentials before nature ruled I guess? You see, even when I’m on best *normal* behaviour the antennae are raised because I appear to have written all over – BE AWARE! It’s the price survivors pay in life because of not having received proper education and the emotional wherewithal to survive. Education is power. Emotional strength is power. They’re a passport and visa respectively to success in life. When you have these gifts you are automatically accepted by all sorts of people.

Survivors of industrial *schools* with PTSD are too deep and troublesome for those who grew up in loving environments.

Although I’m speaking about me here, I’m representative of most survivors who can’t put into words the anxiety and pain they feel because of suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (not to mention lack of writing skills with which to express same). It is such a crippling disorder to have (and it’s only one of many that survivors of industrial *schools* have to contend with on a daily basis). It takes the quality and normativeness out of one’s life.

Survivors thus continually feel EXTREMELY isolated and alone in the world, because of the unwanted, inherited, dreaded institutional legacy that has followed them throughout their lives.

To give but one typical example:

I boarded a bus yesterday, along with a very drunken person in the queue. He had a rucksack full of drink that rattled as he wended his way down the aisle. He stood in the part of the bus where the prams are normally placed. He was in full view of a captive fully-seated passenger audience. He had a bluetooth microphone in his ear and was talking very loudly to somebody on the other end of the phone, whilst simultaneously taking a beer bottle from his rucksack. “I never had a birthday card in all my life in the institution” he hollered. “I was left at the gates of Goldenbridge as a young boy, and remained in institutional care for eighteen years”, he went on to say in a drivelling drunken voice. Everyone, I’m sure, was overhearing the conversation, as he intermittently swilled on the fresh green glass bottle of beer to the blindness of the bus-driver, who didn’t object to his stultifying inebriated demeanour. He started muttering on about the cruelty of Sr. X the infamous nun from Goldenbridge. I was in full sympathy. I recognised his face. However, it wasn’t until he’d mentioned Aislinn Centre that I realised from whence I’d seen him before. I wanted to talk to him, but decided that it wasn’t the right time or place, as I felt it best not to draw attention to his plight. I came to the conclusion that it would only further an already exacerbating situation, especially because of his tipsiness. Besides, he was on the phone. When he got off the bus at the Central bank, the people behind me started to comment about the beer that had rattled in his rucksack. ‘There’s more where that came from, to be sure’, whispered one of them, as they both sympathetically sighed, though, thankfully, not in a condescending way, ’twas more in sympathy of the unfortunate survivor. I too was perplexed by the man. He triggered so much of how survivors in general feel about life. He had such a forlorn look about him and his eyes appeared so sad and vacant. He had that look of a person who grew up in an industrial *school*. A look that I’ve talked about before that survivors recognise in each other without even knowing them personally. Some survivors sadly express their pain through alcohol. That is inevitable given their history of neglect and lack of love in the most essential years of their lives; as well as systemic abuse suffered on a daily basis in their respective institutions. I couldn’t help but think that the swanky blue-tooth and posh phone and the rucksack full of expensive bottled drink was probably affordable because of redress money – and that the latter was only to the detriment of his health. Many survivors have drank themselves to death after getting their awards. The primal screams of survivors must be aired even on a Dublin bus on a stormy end of April afternoon. There for the grace of Betsy go all survivors of industrial *schools*. Post traumatic stress disorder expresses itself in many forms.

Photography: A Tribute to Guido Sterkendries

Rainforest Wildlife Photography: A Tribute to Guido Sterkendries.
Guido Sterkendries has seen paradise. And this photo proves that: 4 beautiful blue macaws captured during their flight. I saw this jaw-droppingly exquisite photo‏ – a retweet by Earth Mother (Suzie) the latter of whom, tweets about very interesting stuff from all over the globe.

A mother and her young captured in close-up photography. Location: the forests of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. There are countless more amazing photos of this calibre that are really worth seeing.

Tinkers: Louis le Brocquoy 1916-2012

Le Brocquy, Louis (1916- ) – 1946 Sick Tinker Child (Private Collection)

Irish painter and decorative artist. [His sister, Melanie le Brocquy (b 1919), was a distinguished sculptor]. In 1934 he joined the family business and studied chemistry at Trinity College and teaching himself to paint. He first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1937 and from 1938 spent two years studying Old Master paintings at the National Gallery, London, the Louvre, the Prado, and in Venice and Geneva.

I think expressions in “The Tinkers” painting are so surreal. They bring across true life-like images of them, especially of times when one sees them gathering in groups at the annual Ballinasloe Horse Fair. The distinct appearances of the one on the left is particularly identical to those seen on Travellers’ faces. They have very unique Irish features – which I know they’re very proud. I’m not at one, though, with paintings being called The Tinkers. They are now referred to as Travellers. However, this painting is from an earlier series that focused on the Travellers that Le Brocquy so admired, mostly because of their independence inspired by the human condition they evoked.

Farewell: Louis le Brocquy 1916-2012

Condolences on the death of Louis le Brocquy Louis, a member of  IVARO since 2006, he was one of Ireland’s most renowned painters.

“CHILD WITH FLOWERS” (c. 1954) Well, these pieces by the now deceased Irish painter Louis le Brocquy are mid-century rather than MoCo, but there are times when we just have to throw caution to the wind and simply enjoy the gorgeousness.

By all accounts, the figure of a child holding flowers was a recurrent motif in le Brocquy’s work of the early 1950s – his so- called Grey Period. That idea. I’m thinking out loud may have come from Picasso’s Blue Period. I can’t help but notice that the face is round. The hair is round and the belly is round. The eyes are round. The ears are round. I like the way the neck is both shadowed and unshadowed to coincide with the light and dark shadows against the backdrop. The child is mesmerised with the simple Spring flowers. The hands out-streched reminds me of a religious painting.

In paintings such as A Family (NGI), Two Rooms and Indoors, Outdoors, all painted in 1951, the child is depicted in profile, but by 1953 his figures are shown squarely head on, confronting the viewer.

The most obvious comparison is the open- mouthed child clasping two bunches of wildflowers in Child in a Spring Field of 1954, and it is on this basis that the etching can with reasonable certainty be dated likewise. Child With Flowers and Child in a Field are from le Brocquy’s Grey Period. I notice in a lot of the paintings that he uses squares and triangular shapes. See: grey/light ones to each side of the top part. I see too that the child is clasping on to the flowers. In the painting of the family he has the man clasping on to the sheet?

In a statement, President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the artist.

“Louis le Brocquy’s pioneering approach to art, influenced by the European masters, was highly inspirational,” he said.

“His works including the Tinker Paintings broke new ground and opened dialogue around the human condition and suffering. Through painting, tapestry and print Louis le Brocquy has provided us with individual works and collections that give the insight and response of an artist of genius to Irish history, culture and society.”

Our siincere condolences to his wife Anne, their sons Pierre and Alexis and their friends and families.

Louis le Brocquy’s life and works: official website

News: Louis le Brocquy dies aged 95

Mute Swans Emmet Bridge, Dublin

The commentary that follows was written on the day after St. Patrick’s Day 2011.

If one is in a pensive mood one can turn the sound off and just watch the movements of the Mute swans as they go about their business. I didn’t want to have music playing in the background, as I felt it was important to maintain the good, bad and indifferent sounds of the natural city environment that Mute swans have to endure every day of their lives in Dublin.

I took this very amateur video of Mute swans on the day after St Patrick’s Day 2011. It will not be very long before their departure to foreign shores. The Kodak 12 mega-pixel Easy Share C182 camera is no bigger than a large mobile phone so quality of video is not 100%.

I’d heard in the media that some sixteen swans had died, so thus went frantically to my favourite spot at the grand-canal to see if my old friends were still there. I was very relieved to see they were indeed. I peeped over Portobello Bridge, which lies on the opposite side of the road and saw that there were no swans there. I had been promising myself to meander down that side of the canal at some time before their departure, but I never got around to it at all. I’m now left wondering if the swans that died were in fact resident in that part of the canal? I did see swans there a while ago. I shall look into it further.

The swans seem to settle for this particular grass area to look after their young sygnets. I don’t know how they put up with the constant traffic noise? I know they have such sensitive advanced hearing. A lot of people out walking along the canal continually throw bread to the swans, which is not very good for them at all. Whenever there is bread thrown at them by well meaning folk, out of nowhere an assortment of birds, such as pigeons, mallards and sea-gulls appear on the scene. A ginger cat also appeared, not knowing exactly what to make of the beautiful feathery white/grey/brown friends. Listen closely to the vocal bugling or honking! A passerby told me that some of the swans were tagged.

I do hope that the ambulance with its roaring siren at the very tail-end of the video got to its destination pretty quickly and that the sick patient(s) recovered okay.


The following is information pertaining to Mute swans.

Mute Swan. Cygnus olor Eala bhalbh. Status: Resident at wetlands throughout Ireland.

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland, as more than 20% of the European population winter in Ireland. The European population is considered to be Secure.

Identification: Large white swan, with an orange-red bill with prominent knob on the forehead, black nostrils and cutting edges.

Call: Despite the name not mute! Adults give a curious snorting or rumbling sound. Juveniles beg with high-pitched whistle. Hisses when alarmed. Does not call in flight, but a loud whisteling sound is produced by the wings.

Diet: Water plants, which these large birds can reach with their long necks at depths of up to one metre. Also graze on land and occasionally feed on small amphibians, snails and insects.

Breeding: Clutch: 4-7 eggs (1 brood) Incubation: 34-45 days. Fledging: 120-150 days (precocial). Age of first breeding: 3 years. Breeds on lakes, ponds & rivers, and nests are a large mound constructed from reed stem and other aquatic vegetation, with seaweed being used in coastal locations.

Wintering: Widespread on lakes, ponds and rivers.

Where to See: Largest wintering numbers (250-2,000 birds) found on Loughs Neagh & Beg & Upper Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, and Lough Ennell, the Shannon Callows and River Slaney in winter.

Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS).


Swans stricken with mystery illness: from @the_irish_times

Goldenbridge: Baby Marion Howe Dies?

I encountered two sisters of Baby Marion Howe, the latter of whom was found dead at Goldebridge in 1955. It was a few years ago at their house in Dublin. They were so keen to speak to me because of also having been in Goldenbridge. Although, I did feel helpless in not being able to give them information pertaining to their little sister, as I too, at around that time would have entered the institution as a wee tot. I was not the better after coming out of the house. It was so heart-breaking listening to the sisters’ recall the loss of their beautiful sister. I had visited them with a survivor from another institution, who was very disturbed. Consequently the conversation was continually hijacked by her, as opposed to being rightfully concentrated on that of the tragedy of the Howe’s wee sibling. That was the raison d’être of invitation after-all! My head was spinning around so much in the aftermath at hearing the story first-hand. The survivors’ interruptions didn’t help. In hindsight I now see that wee Marion’s tragedy triggered off painful stuff for the survivor who suffered an indescribably miserable life in two industrial *schools*.

The following Vatican Crimes Report on the tragic death of Baby Marion Howe speaks for itself. It’s so harrowing even to read it as too many reminders of that god-forsaken hellhole re-emerge. She was such a pretty child and judging from the photo she looked so well-cared for by her parents.

Vatican Crimes Report:

On May 17th 1955, Christina Howe dressed her beloved baby daughter Marion in her best frilly lemon dress, combed her freshly washed blonde hair, adding a kiss curl to the top, before giving her a last kiss and cuddle. Marion, a happy bouncing baby, waved goodbye, calling out ‘dayday’ to her mother and one of her sister’s, Mary, in the normal baby vernacular of a bright child just discovering language.

She was then handed over to the ‘care’ of the nuns in Goldenbridge Industrial *School*; where she was due to spend the next two weeks while Christina recovered from an illness in hospital. Christina never saw her baby daughter alive again; for after only four days in the nun’s care, the nuns claimed baby Marion was dead. She was only eleven months old and perfectly healthy baby.

Marion’s father Myles was working in England in the 1950’s, supporting his wife and five children, when Christina was taken ill and sent into hospital to convalesce. With their grandmother caring for the other children, on the suggestion of the Almoner of Meath Hospital- who assured Christina her youngest baby would be well-cared for by the Sisters of Mercy – she agreed to send Marion to Goldenbridge Orphanage for two weeks while she got better. On May 21st just four days after Christina sent her baby to Goldenbridge, Myles received a telegram in England informing him that his baby daughter was dead.

Myles Howe realised immediately that something terrible had happened to his daughter, so went straight to Kilmainharn Garda (local police) station to file a complaint. ‘The police told him to come back in a couple of days,’ says Frances. ‘When he went back he was told it was just an unfortunate accident and to let it go. In those days the law just wasn’t on their side. People had no voice.’

In the grief and pain of losing their baby, Myles and Christina went to Goldenbridge two weeks after her death to try and get some answers. They were not looking to cause trouble; like any parents they only wanted to understand why their beloved child had died. However when the door was opened on the bereft couple, Sister Xaveria, the nun in charge, responded to their heartfelt pleas by waving her hand in a gesture of dismissal, saying ‘it was only a baby’ before the door was closed in their faces. That any human being could treat grieving parents with such callousness beggar’s belief, but she did, and the Howe’s were forced to go home distraught; no closer to the truth of what had happened to their adored youngest child.

The death certificate stated that baby Marion had died of acute dysentery infection, (with no mention of bums) but the couple never saw a post mortem report, police report or hospital report pertaining to their daughter. Broken-hearted they had no choice but to get on with their lives for the sake of their other children, and although they did, much had changed:

‘Our parents never trusted anyone to look after their kids,’ remembers Frances. ‘We went to adifferent school away from all our friends as they didn’t trust us to be educated by nuns. Our mother used to say if she had pockets in her apron big enough, she’d mind us all in them.’

Baby Marion was a constant presence in their lives, with Christina including her in their thoughts and celebrating her birthdays without fail; talking about her, wondering who she would look like if she had lived. But there was also sadness: ‘We would see our mother upset,’ recalls Frances with tears in her eyes. ‘We’d ask her what was wrong and she would try and hide it, but it was always there, that sadness.’ Mary, the sister who waved goodbye to Marion on that day in 1955 has no memory of the rest of her childhood, so badly traumatised was she by what happened to her sister. But somehow the family retained their faith and Christina would tell her children that their baby sister’ was anger up in heaven, with God’.

In 1996 when the police re-opened the case, the Sisters of Mercy told them that there had never been a Marion Howe in their care. There was no record of her arrival in Goldenbridge so it was only when the police discovered her name in the ‘sick book’ (beside the entry, ‘leg burnt/ history of vomiting’) after a search of the orphanage, that they finally admitted baby Marion had been in Goldenbridge.

Do we need to ask ourselves why the sisters would go to such lengths to conceal the truth, or do we already know the answer? The Howe’s discovered that people would not, or could not, speak out. ‘We put out an appeal in the newspapers in 1997, asking people if they remembered anything,’ explains Frances, ‘but people were afraid to talk. They still are.’

Baby Marion’s case went before the courts in 1997. It was to be a test case, the outcome of which would either open, or close forever, the floodgates for all the other victims of institutional abuse in Ireland. Before trial the Howe’s agreed to settle the case out of court for the sum of £20,000. While the money never mattered, Christina Howe, who had fought the case while ill with cancer, saw the settlement as the only way of ensuring that other victims of institutional abuse got their chance to be heard in court.

‘Our mother said that if she couldn’t help those children in 1955, she’d help them now’ remembers Frances. ‘She died six months and seven days after the trial. And she died with a broken heart, never knowing what had happened to her baby.’ Myles also died never knowing what happened to his much loved daughter.

Incredibly the Sisters of Mercy never admitted any liability for what happened to baby Marion; nor did they apologise for her death. Instead they apologised: ‘IF there had been a lack of caring or compassion at the time.’ That says it all – even with their backs against the wall the Sisters of Mercy did not have the humanity to stand up and acknowledge their own failings.

Today, 54 years after baby Marion’s death, her family- whose grief and pain at the loss of their sister is still palpable- has yet to discover the truth about what happened to that beautiful baby girl during those four days at Goldenbridge. This shadow has affected every aspect of their lives. ‘Our own children are also touched by this’ explains Geraldine Howe, who also works within this close-knit family to find the truth. ‘My own nine-year old daughter told me she was sick of this project. I was always doing, and asked ‘why those people couldn’t tell the truth so that we could then go the police, who live up by aunty Frances’.  All our children are deeply affected.’

This is not about compensation or money. The Howe’s are quick to reiterate that they only want the truth. They now hope that they can get permission to have baby Marion’s body exhumed in a last attempt to find out why she died, so they can finally put it behind them and get on with their lives. That these crimes against the most vulnerable in our society – our children – remained hidden for so long is, in itself, a crime; that the Howe family should be still forced to fight for the truth is an indictment of our society- government, religious and secular- as a whole. In this so-called era of accountability and openness their story is a harsh reminder that there are still many dark secrets lurking in the history of our state; secrets that it seems, will never come to light.

• The Howe family desperately need information pertaining to those days in May 1955. If you were in Goldenbridge Orphanage, working with the babies or as a resident, or if you have information that you think may help, please call: (305) 433-6966 or email us at Any information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

THE family of a baby girl who died three days after she was admitted to the notorious Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin is calling for her exhumation to investigate the cause of death.

Frances Howe, sister of 11-month-old Marion, says her parents were left “devastated” after the death of their youngest daughter in 1955.

“Marion’s birth cert says she died of dysentery, but when my father went to the hospital to see her she had a bandage on her head, burns on her legs and holes the size of a silver dollar coin,” says Ms. Howe.

Marion was placed in Goldenbridge after her 29-year-old mother Christina had fallen ill. As her own mother was already looking after her other four young children, Christina agreed to leave Marion with the Sisters of Mercy until she was well again.

The placement was meant to be just for two weeks.

Three days later, word was sent to Marion’s father, who was working in England at the time, that she was dead.

“My father went to the police but he was told a few days later it was an ‘unfortunate accident’ and to forget about it,” says Ms Howe.

Christina and Myles Howe never received a satisfactory explanation as to how their daughter died and spent their lives wondering what happened to Marion.

Now, her family is calling for the exhumation of her body to resolve what they believe to be the unanswered questions surrounding her death.

“We want a forensic examination to find out the exact cause of death. We have seen no hospital records, no postmortem results, just a death certificate to say the cause of death was dysentery,” added Ms. Howe, who says her mother always knew something bad had happened to Marion.

“My mother used to say if the police had listened to what our father was saying in 1955 it could have saved an awful lot of children from being abused. We just want the truth about what happened.

“If there is anyone out there who knows what happened to Marion, an 11-month old happy baby with blonde hair and blue eyes who was in Goldenbridge in May of 1955, please get in touch with us. We are not looking for compensation, we just want answers.”

Read more at the Irish Examiner

The Mirror (London, England), 11 October 1997 by Neil Leslie

The elderly mother of tragic Goldenbridge baby Marion Howe claims her daughter’s death at the hands of nuns was “nothing short of murder”.

Distraught Christina Howe has revealed for the first time that she believes her 11-month-old toddler was assaulted with a hot poker.

She was speaking after receiving a £20,000 payout from the Sisters of Mercy and an apology over the death of baby Marion. But she said the payout was no substitute for an explanation of her child’s mystery death.

It is 42 years since Marion died but pensioner Mrs Howe sobbed: “I just can’t forgive them.”

Speaking at her home in Dublin last night, she said: “What they did was murder, that’s my view of it anyhow.

“I am still very angry and I still don’t know the truth. That was all I wanted to know, the truth. Money didn’t matter. But now we will never know because there are no witnesses. It’s an awful burden. I will never get over it.”

She revealed that the nuns had initially offered £7,500 for her and her husband Myles to drop court action against them.

“They offered us that money a few months ago. It was an insult really. But we didn’t want the money, we just wanted to know what happened to our lovely little girl.

“She was such a beautiful baby. I had 16 children and 10 are alive and I just look at them now and wonder which one would she have been like.

“It’s heartbreaking. We will try to put it behind us now. My husband is still too upset to speak to anyone about it.”

Christina wept again as she recalled why her little girl was taken from her all those years ago. She said: “I was sick. She was only supposed to be there for two weeks but she was dead in four days.

“Some of my older daughters remember. Mary, who was around four or five, recalls her being taken away in the pram and saying ‘Day Day’.

“Little did we know it would be the last ‘Day Day’ we ever saw her alive.

“We are still angry. The nuns never even told me what happened at the time.

“They rang my husband who was in England and told him not to bother coming home, that they would look after everything.

“They wondered why we were so upset and told us: ‘It’s only a baby’.

“But our little girl was lucky because she had parents. What about all the little ones that didn’t. How many more have been buried like that?”

Christina believes horrendous burns to her baby’s legs were caused with a hot poker. “I always said it was a poker because of the shape of the holes. She was only 11 months old.

“It’s really awful what they did. Marion had burns on both her legs, not just one which was reported.

“You could place your fingers right through the hole in her little leg. How could anybody do that to an 11-month-old baby.

“It is frightening to think such things could have happened to a little infant.

“And these people had the cheek to say they would bury our baby. They were covering up. Do they think we are fools?

Mrs. Howe and her husband visited the orphanage near Dublin three weeks after Marion was buried in an attempt to find out what happened.

She recalled: “The nun who answered the door shut it in our face. We were devastated. There was no any investigation, yet we told the Guards.

“We were left thinking, year after year, day after day, what ever happened to our little Marion.

“We never got the truth. No money will ever replace her.

“When my husband reported it to the police they should have looked into it.

“Think what we could have done to save other orphans from torture?”

The court victory has opened the door for a flood of similar settlements against the Sisters of Mercy who ran a cruel regime in Goldenbridge 40 years ago.

The scandal was uncovered after orphan? Christine Buckley exposed the brutal life in her television documentary Dear Daughter last year.

Christine told of the reign of terror in which kids were beaten, and placed in tumble dryers and forced to sit on potties for hours. Christina Howe saw the moving film and was horrified.

“It was then we realised that if all this had happened to this woman, what had happened to our little girl,” she said.

Christine Buckley last night offered her sympathy to the Howes.

She said: “It must have been like burying their baby again.

“If they had got a million pounds it would have been nothing because they did not get an honest explanation as to what happened.”

She said it was time for an independent public inquiry.

“The state has let us down badly. Had one of us been the daughter of a VIP this would never have gone so far.

“The Howes have waited 42 years for the truth. Someone knows the answer to their question.”

I just stumbled across a post by Martine Brennan on Little Marion Howe. Her story needs to be heard.