PATSY McGARRY and MICHAEL PARSONS
LETTER OF COMMITTAL: A COLLECTOR who bought a letter relating to the committal of three young girls to a Cork industrial school a century ago has donated the document to abuse victims after they complained about the nature of the auction.
On September 24th last abuse victim and Aislinn founder Christine Buckley and colleague Carmel McDonnell-Byrne protested at an auction in Dublin that was selling documents related to the committal of three young girls to a Cork industrial school a century ago.
Ms Buckley said she found the sale of such documents “physically nauseating. I am so shocked. It is absolutely grotesque and completely dehumanising. That could be me in 100 years’ time. I was ‘found wandering’ . . .”
The documents were sold to an anonymous telephone bidder who, she assumed, lived abroad.
They referred to Mary O’Connor (6), Wellington Street, Dublin, “found wandering and not having a proper guardian”, Catherine White (8) of Henrietta Place, Dublin, “found destitute and being an orphan” and Kate Keohane (11), Ring, Co Cork, “found wandering”. The lot was offered for “€200-300”.
The three children were detained at Clonakilty industrial school. One document detailed how on June 29th, 1911, at the request of “Monsignor O’Leary of Clonakilty”, Kate Keohane was committed to St Aloysius’s industrial school “being a school conducted in accordance with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church”, to be detained until January 17th, 1916.
It was run by the Sisters of Mercy. So was Dublin’s Goldenbridge orphanage, where Christine Buckley was detained as a child.
But the anonymous bidder at the Whyte’s auction last September was a Dublin man who read of Christine Buckley’s distress in this newspaper. He has since presented the documents to her and to the Aislinn Centre for abuse victims on Jervis Street.
He found his visit there “very emotional” and has undertaken to supply it with computers to help its education programme. “It’s terrible how we let these people down so badly,” he said.
The man, a company executive who wishes to remain anonymous,recalled how on that Saturday morning in September he and his wife were so moved by what Christine Buckley had told this newspaper, they decided to buy the documents for her. He was not to know that, doing so, he outbid Brian Donnelly from the National Archives at the auction.
Working to a tight budget he bid to €320. The anonymous bidder paid €470. Ms Buckley now plans to present the documents to the National Archive. Mr Donnelly said they would be “delighted” to accept them.
The Irish Times 20th December 2011