Annette13 was resident in St Joseph’s, Kilkenny from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. She was three months old when admitted into care.
Annette now knows that the Laceys were not in fact married. They were of different religions and, although one of the conditions for them to be allowed to foster her was that they would protect her religion, they never brought her to mass or church when she was with them.
Annette was not aware until recently where she read the documentation that the Sisters were opposed to her going to the Laceys.
Sr Klara15 wrote to a senior official of the Department of Education on 25th November 1960, telling him of the request from the Laceys. She explained that Annette could not be adopted legally, as her mother was alive but untraced. She suggested that perhaps the Laceys could be her Godparents, and sought his opinion on this matter. She hoped he could help find the mother so that her consent for adoption or the Godparenting arrangement could be sought.
On 10th December 1960, Sr Klara wrote to Mr Wade of the Department of Education as follows: Since our conversation (phone) I have received a letter from my friend to whom I wrote for information re. couple who wish to adopt Annette. It seems this “party” is only here for the past few months from England. The husband is a lapsed Catholic, and the wife a Protestant. As we have been warned that “couples” are going through Dublin trying to adopt children, and from the information just received, I don’t think it wise to go any further unless we get a very definite proof of the suitability of the Adopting Parents.
Sr Klara wrote again to Mr Wade on 12th December 1960, expressing her continuing uneasy mind regarding the couple who wished to adopt Annette, and seeking his advice as to whether she should pursue the matter with the parish priest in the UK, as the couple had only resided four months in Ireland. The parish priest in Terenure had vouched that they were attentive to their Church duties in the four months that he knew them and were worthy and reliable people.
In a letter dated 15th December 1960, Mrs Lacey wrote to the Department: Dear Sir, As requested I herewith make an application for permission to have Annette the child from St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny for the Christmas period. My husband and I have already had her out for one day and we have asked the Mother Superior to let us have her with us, as we are giving a children’s party at our café, and the Mother Superior said as far as she was concerned it would be alright. The child having no parents or relatives we are both willing to help her in every way possible, by giving her a good home, with a Mother’s and Father’s love, bringing her up in the Catholic faith, and educating her in the best possible manner. We are quite aware on account of her age that we cannot adopt her legally, but are more than willing to be her Foster Mother and Father. My husband being Managing Director of a large firm tells you that we have the means to do the very best for the child. Trusting you will grant us this permission. Yours Faithfully Mrs Lacey
In a letter to Mrs Lacey dated 8th January 1961, Sr Klara informed her that Annette was safely back in Kilkenny and had been telling the Sisters about the wonderful time she had with ‘my Mammy and my Daddy’ and thanking her for giving her such a good time.
The child obviously had an accident whilst with the couple, because Sr Klara also noted that ‘on the following day she would take Annette to the Dr. to have the stitches removed D.V’.
It appeared from the documentation that followed that the Laceys travelled to the UK in early January 1961, to expedite references and other matters required for the adoption of Annette. Mr Lacey had written to his parish priest in Oldham in England, seeking confirmation that he was married in the Catholic Church. The parish priest was unable to provide this, but said he saw no reason to doubt Mr Lacey’s word that he had been. There was also a short note from another parish priest where the Laceys resided for six years, which said the couple were known to him and well suited to have care of a child.
On 8th February 1961, the Laceys contacted the Department to press for the release of Annette, citing the fact that they had purchased a new house and were anxious to purchase furniture with Annette in mind. This prompted Mr McDevitt to write to the parish priest of Oldham to seek confirmation that the Laceys had married in the Catholic Church sometime in 1928, possibly around May. He could not provide the exact date.
The Laceys followed up with another letter to the Department on 16th March 1961, pressing the Department for a decision about releasing Annette to them. They felt they had provided more than enough information to the Department about themselves and asked the Department to give the matter urgent consideration.
In a detailed report in April 1961, concerning the Laceys’ application, Mr Wade wrote to Mr McDevitt, Inspector. He set out the circumstances of how the couple came to Ireland in 1960 and immediately contacted the Adoption Board with regard to taking a child into their household. They had been referred by the Adoption Board to St Joseph’s, Kilkenny as an institution that might be able to ‘supply their want’. Sr Klara understood from this referral that they had been vouched for by the official in the Adoption Board, and she introduced the couple to Annette. Mr Wade had met the couple on several occasions as they had called into the Department. On the surface, they appeared pleasant but he had a number of concerns. First, Mr Lacey admitted to being lax about his religious duties; secondly, Mrs Lacey protested that she was a convert to Catholicism but was hazy as to the date of her conversion from the Protestant religion; and, finally, although she could give the location, she was not sure of the exact date of her marriage to Mr Lacey. Added to this, Sr Klara had her own doubts about the couple’s religious persuasion and had been warned that couples were going about the country seeking to adopt infants – therefore, she was not prepared to make the decision on her own authority. Mr Wade concluded that the application should be refused on the grounds that the whereabouts of the child’s mother were unknown and her consent would be needed for final discharge, coupled with the vague replies by the Laceys about their marriage.
The following additional particulars were recorded: Annette was discharged on May 5th 1961 by Order of the Minister of Education to Mr and Mrs Lacey, [address redacted]. Mr McDevitt and the Resident Manager (Sr Klara) were not in favour of this adoption.
On 11th May 1961, Mr and Mrs Lacey were informed officially in writing that, after very careful consideration, the Minister for Education had now ordered the release of Annette to their care with the condition attached that, if her parents at a future date claimed custody, they would have to immediately surrender the child to them. Mr McDevitt signed the letter on behalf of the Minister and also asked the couple to keep him informed of any change of address made by them. The Resident Manager in Kilkenny was informed in writing at the same time.