Abandoned Ireland: Good Shepherd Convent, Cork

This is the most disturbing place we’ve ever visited. Delving into its past has brought up more horrors than can be imagined, and the fact that these atrocities happened relatively recently is all the more shocking.

The Good Shepherd Convent overlooks the city of Cork, high on a hill in an area known as Sunday’s Well. It opened in July 1872. The haunting Victorian building was one of Magdalene asylums.

“Let their be no mistake, there are thousands of women and children secretly buried on the vast grounds surrounding the Magdalen Asylum, at Sunday’s Well. As we know, judging by another Convent in County Galway, in Tuam Town. The Tuam Mother and Baby Home, where there are at least 800 children and babies who were disposed of into a septic tank, and probably 1,800 more women and children buried in secret burial plots on their former lands. Be sure that the same is here in the Good Shepherd Convent, Magdalen Asylum, and Orphanage at Sunday’s Well, Cork City.” –Tuambabies.org

The asylum housed “fallen women,” and was also an orphanage and industrial school. In operation until 1977, the ghostly building incarcerated thousands of women and children against their will inside its red-brick walls. They were forced to work in terrible conditions and without pay in the large commercial laundries run by the religious institution that ran the site, The Good Shepherd Sisters. This heavily religious body profited from the work of those it trapped inside, sins committed by those who claimed to be doing “the work of God.”

An estimated 30,000 people were detained in Magdalene Laundries across Ireland, with the last finally closing in 1996.

The young women and children were imprisoned at the request of family members or priests for prostitution, being an unmarried mother, being mentally challenged or even for being raped. Young girls as young as four who were considered “too flirtatious” were reported to have been sent to the Good Shepherd Convent.

“Mary Canver (born Mary O’Sullivan) was placed in the Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well at the age of 11 after her father died. She was separated from her siblings and forced to work by the nuns, who denied her an education and left her seriously malnourished. For six years from the age of 11, her duties included minding small babies through the night, cleaning, working in the laundries and preparing meals for the nuns. ‘They held me there and worked me until I was nearly 18. We weren’t allowed to talk or associate with anybody else.'” -Corkbeo.ie