Lifestyle – Testimonies from the survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home form the basis of a new production from drama students at NUIG that mixes drama, music, poetry and memory as it explores a dark period in Irish history. These stories were gathered as part of the Tuam Oral History project, an ongoing initiative to ensure that what happened to the babies of Tuam, and to their mothers, is never forgotten or repeated. Those involved, including survivor, Christine Carroll tell JUDY MURPhY about the project.
Watching Nochtaithe, a new performance piece based on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, which was created and performed by drama students at NUIG, was a deeply emotional experience for Christine Carroll from Headford.
This powerful piece – a response to the testimony of people who lived in the now infamous Mother and Baby Home – brought back memories for Christine, one of the children raised in this institution.
“When I saw it first, I didn’t know how I felt,” she says honestly. Nochtaithe premiered online on Saturday as part of this year’s Bealtaine Festival, celebrating creativity and age, but Christine and other survivors of the Tuam institution had seen it in advance to ensure they were happy with the finished work, which has been months in the making.
“It brought up a lot of issues,” says Christine, who is grateful to the students and to Dr Miriam Houghton of NUIG’s Drama and Theatre Studies Department, who led the project, for staging this work.
“I’m glad they’re telling the story, so this doesn’t happen to anyone anymore,” she adds. Christine is referring to the abuse that she and so many others suffered at the hands of the Bon Secours nuns who ran the Tuam Mother and Baby Home from 1925 until it closed in 1961.
It “was never a home” to Christine and the other vulnerable children who lived and – in many cases – died there.
“What the students are doing shows my daughter and granddaughter what we went through,” says this smart, humorous woman who still bears the scars of what was done to her.
One especially poignant scene of Nochtaithe was filmed in the Quad at NUIG and featured the female performers amid a series of wooden cots, evoking the institution’s single mothers and their pain at being separated from their infants. The pristine cots caught Christine’s eye.
“Ours weren’t spotless like that,” she says of the cots in the institution. “And if someone got measles, we’d all be put in together,” she adds, referring to a practice which maximised the chance of children getting infected to develop ‘herd immunity’.
Nearly 800 children, mostly babies, died in Tuam during its 36 years in existence and measles was listed as a major cause of death.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.