The Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in Limerick

At the corner of Pennywell Road and Old Clare Street in Limerick there is a plaque on the wall that reads: 'Farrancroghy: The place of public executions in the 16th and 17th centuries.' The Good Shepherd Convent and Magdalene Laundry was later built on this site. The building which now houses the very recently renovated Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) and which acknowledges the site as a place of executions in the 16th and 17th century, does not have a single official marker to indicate that it served as a Magdalene Laundry for almost a century and a half.

Opening its doors in 1848, The Good Shepherd Institution continued its operations in Clare Street until 1990. The complex consisted of a commercial laundry, an industrial school, a reformatory school for girls, an orphanage, convent and church. It is likely that 1000's of women and children passed through this building during this time.

My interest in this subject began during my time as an undergraduate art student and subsequent MA student in LSAD. The college was undergoing extensive renovations during the period of my study. With every structural change that was taking place it seemed that the history of the building as a Magdalene Laundry was put further out of reach. At national level also the issue is shrouded in silence. In addition, my concern was that the generation of witnesses is passing and with them their knowledge and stories.

This website endeavours to make available material gathered in the course of my research. It is a collation of oral histories, from a range of perspectives and experiences including: women who were incarcerated in the institution; workers employed by the Good Shepherds; relatives of women incarcerated, users of the laundry service people who had opportunity to visit the institution. It also contains visual information (archival photographs and remaining traces) and written documentation – Census figures and local information.

It is my hope that this material adds to the existing information on this subject.

"The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work… Survivors challenge us to reconnect fragments, to reconstruct history, to make meaning of their symptoms in the light of past events."

Quote: Judith Herman, Truama and Recovery, p. 3.