Sharon9 was one of five children. She lived with her parents in Dublin. The home situation was not good: her father and mother had problems, there was domestic violence and alcohol abuse, and the family faced eviction. In these circumstances, the children were taken into care. She and two of her sisters were admitted into St Joseph’s, Kilkenny. She saw very little of her two sisters in the School. Her parents did not visit, her mother only came once. Her first memories were of being very frightened and trying to keep herself small. She hid under beds or behind her older sister. She remembers being very lonely and isolated. She had no one to turn to except her sister.
Sharon said that the nuns in St Joseph’s were obsessed with religion. There was an endless litany of Mass, Novenas, Benediction, retreats, fasting, grace before and after meals, prayers night, noon and morning, and so on. She felt that the nuns were more concerned with saving their souls then anything else. They did not encourage the children to nurture friendships, and she remembered one occasion in particular: when she held the hand of a friend as they went for their Sunday walk, a nun came from behind and silently separated them.
Sharon said that St Anne’s, even though it was a reformatory for girls, was wonderful in comparison to St Joseph’s. There was more freedom, she did not feel she was under the microscope. She never felt safe in Kilkenny, but she did not have the same feeling in St Anne’s. The transfer papers had described her as ‘not of previous good character’, yet the Sisters in St Anne’s never made her feel like that. In St Anne’s, she was recognised as a person. As an example, she described the following: In a little way ... that I was walking on my first walk and Sister Ellen12, who was in charge, actually took my hand. I can never forget that moment because on the one hand what was so sinful in Kilkenny, well maybe that is going too far but I wasn’t allowed to do that and here I was in St Anne’s and Sister Ellen took my hand.