It was a time of desperate poverty in Fore. As it was throughout much of rural Ireland. It was the tightly woven fabric of generations living in the same community that kept families together and as whole as possible. These were hard times. These were times when survival was a fragile balance.
His mother died when he was only eight weeks old leaving his father to raise and support the now seven children. Determined to keep his family together the father relied on the generous support of brothers, sister, aunts and uncles – and others within this small community. Though their hearts were willing their generosity was tempered by the little they had to spare and share.
That’s when the Church stepped in. Not to offer assistance with food and clothing. Not to offer support for the beleaguered father. But to take the children from him and place them in institutions. Institutions like the Magdalene Laundries. He said no. And despite tremendous and tenacious pressure from the Church clergy he continued to refuse to relinquish his children to what are now being called institutions of slavery. Institutions from which the Church derived huge profits. The newspapers here are filled with the stories, the pain and the grief. For these are not old stories. The Magdalene Laundries only ceased their operations in the 1990s. And this story was just given to me last week by the daughter of that eight week old baby.
The church in Fore, pictured above, towers above anything in the village. Its size and opulence are in stark contrast to the scattering of modest homes and buildings. It would have been the clergy from this church that relentlessly hounded that poor father. It was this massive building that witnessed that father’s courageous rebellion.