“Dear Daughter” v “Goldenbridge Girl”

Dear Daughter
Irish Times, 1 May 1996, Letter from Ann Mahr

I am a former “Goldenbridge Girl” I was in Goldenbridge Orphanage from 1955, age 2 weeks to 1965. I have nothing but happy memories of my childhood during that time. When I saw the media coverage of alleged abuse in the orphanage I was shocked. I have shared many of my happy memories of my childhood with my children as most parents do but when they heard these allegations they felt I had misled them.

While I wouldn’t dream of disputing these allegations I feel that perhaps the whole thing wasn’t investigated properly. Before the media coverage nobody consulted me about my time at Goldenbridge or consulted me before a photograph of me in a group of girls which included Christine Buckley was printed in a Sunday newspaper. A number of people have contacted me who were also in Goldenbridge at the time who wondered where these allegations were coming from as we were not aware of any of it.

I feel now that my childhood has been taken from me, and just because I was unlucky enough to be an orphan nobody bothered to hear my side of the story. I sympathise with those who have suffered pain because of things which they endured, however, the loss of my childhood has caused me a lot of mental anguish and a sense of a loss of identity. “Who am I now?” Being referred to as an “inmate” of Goldenbridge by Pat Kenny horrified me as I always assumed that I was just a little girl who had no parents but who had caring people looking after me in what was my home for almost 10 years.

How do I now get my childhood and identity back? Who can help me? What about the unfortunate mothers who were forced to give their children up for one reason or another? Surely they are in anguish as to how their child was treated. This needs to be investigated thoroughly for people like me to get on with their lives. If a documentary follow up to Dear Daughter is to be made I hope the producers will research it properly and look into where these babies are that were supposedly strapped to potties as I was one of these babies.

Yours, etc.,

(formerly Teresa A. Norton), Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

Teresa Norton definitely had to be a La La (pet) at Goldenbridge. Pets were the bane of our lives, as they were treated so differently to the rest of the inmates. They were singled out for special care. For example, they were allowed to wear their hair long and had special aeroplane ribbons. They went to outside school. They were petted right in front of us, and were called by endearing names, while the rest of us were just the scum of the earth. They were given clothes that belonged to us – given by host families. They went out with rich families, while poor families were chosen for the rest.

I don’t remember Teresa Norton at all. I would have to see a photo in order to recognise, or perhaps know what her number was in the institution. What a lucky person she was/is that she has not been psychologically affected by Goldenbridge industrial school, since she was only two weeks old. I’ve met many survivors who have blocked out the reality of their childhood there.

I’ve met past inmates who worshipped the ground that Sr. Xaveria walked upon. The same  inmates were given the opportunity to go to outside school and excel, and would have been treated leniently by Sr. Xaveria in Goldenbridge.

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