Monday 20 November 2017

Former Sean Ross resident claims nuns were real victims of abuse

HOME: The dormitory for the young mothers in Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea
HOME: The dormitory for the young mothers in Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea

Anita McSorley

A former resident at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea has defended the nuns at the mother and baby home, claiming it is they who suffered abuse.

Ann Tobin (83) from Tullamore was in the Co Tipperary home for four years.

Speaking to Will Faulkner on Midlands 103 this morning she said she saw “girls striking, pushing, and swearing at nuns but I never, ever saw a nun hitting a girl.”

“There’s so much innuendo and people are saying such awful things. I couldn’t come in front of you this morning and tell you otherwise than the truth,” she said.

Ann was brought up on a small farm at the top of Cullahill Mountain in Co Laois with four siblings. When she was 15 years old, she became pregnant and was sent to Sean Ross.

“I noticed about three months later when I came home from holidays and had morning sickness. My mother wondered and she asked me about it. She said “Did anybody get at you?” and in tears I told her.

“I said, yes, I had a boyfriend and then they arranged that I would go to Roscrea. My sister was after going into the convent to be a nun, ironically into the Bon Secours. Because of that I suppose they had to kind of hide me and I was in Roscrea very early,” Ann told The Midlands Today Show.

But while Ann said she can’t remember much about giving birth, she maintains she was treated very well all through her pregnancy.

“Michael was presented to me after he was born and I breast fed him. I was treated very well in the hospital,” she added.

Ann, who married and raised a family later in life, said the nuns “were very, very good” and claimed she “never saw a nun strike a girl” during her four years in their care. 

“I saw girls striking, pushing, and swearing at nuns but I never, ever saw a nun hitting a girl.”

“I’m very grateful for the simple reason that I learned a great way of life. I learned how to do laundry, I learned how to make butter, I learned about gardening and cooking, so it was very helpful to me,” she said.

At the home, Ann said the mothers were allowed to see their children for an hour a day, enabling her to establish a bond with her son Michael.

She vividly describes the moment he was adopted. “I remember going into the room with the Sisters and they said a lady in America wanted Michael to bring him up. They asked would it be okay to send him and I said yes.

“I still can see it. We were up on the parlor when they went out and we were allowed to look out the window and wave to them. I can still see him in his little plaid jacket with a velvet collar, and he waving at me and that was it, into the car and away. I spent all day crying but we still had to go on. I had to get back to the kitchen and do my thing.

Years later, she received a phone call from a Sister Hildegarde to say her son was looking for her, having flown to Ireland on honeymoon and to make contact with his birth mother.

Ann’s son Sean, who was 18 at the time, took her to the convent to meet Michael the following week for an ultimately successful reunion. “We have a marvelous relationship,” she said.

“He was over for my 80th birthday and his son did a semester in UCD and he came down to visit us. All of the children relate very well to each other.”

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