Bethany Home

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Bethany Home (sometimes called Bethany House or Bethany Mother and Child Home) was a residential home in Dublin, Ireland, mainly for women of the Protestant faith, who were convicted of petty theft, prostitution, infanticide, as well as women who were pregnant out of wedlock, and the children of these women. The home was run by evangelical Protestants, mainly (up to the 1960s) members of the Church of Ireland. It catered to "fallen women" and operated in Blackhall Place, Dublin (1921–34), and in Orwell Road, Rathgar (1934–72), until its closure. The home sent some children to Northern Ireland, England, and to the United States.


Bethany House was founded in Blackhall Place in Dublin in 1921, and moved to Orwell Road, Rathgar in 1934 where it was based until it was closed in 1972.[1] On opening the home in May 1922 the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg, declared Bethany "a door of hope for fallen women". The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral presided over the first evening meeting setting up the Home, and Church of Ireland Prison Mission to Women with Convictions charity was incorporated into the Bethany Home[2]

Following the passage of the Registration of Maternity Homes Act, 1934, Bethany House became subject to inspection by the Department of Local Government and Public Health.[3]

Former residents have claimed that as children they were victims of physical abuse and neglect while resident in the home, and that this accounted for the high mortality rate amongst children in the institution.[4]

It is claimed that while the home was not run by the Church of Ireland, it was affiliated through clerical and lay members sitting on the home's managing committee, church fundraising and reference of unwed pregnant women to the home by clergy. In a letter dated 9 April 1945 from the Church of Ireland's then Archbishop of Dublin, Arthur William Barton, to Gerald Boland, then Minister for Justice, he described the home as "a suitable place for Protestant girls on remand".[5] Bethany Home was already a place recognised by the courts as a place of detention.[6][7]

Critical reports on nursed out Bethany children were compiled in January 1939 by inspectors in the Department of Local Government and Public Health. In August 1939, newspapers reported critical discussion at the Rathdown Board of Guardians on hospitalised Bethany children. The government's Deputy Chief Medical Adviser, Winslow Sterling Berry, visited the home on three occasions in 1939, once in February and twice in October. In February, Sterling Berry reversed an inspection report on a child said to have been in a "dying condition". He stated in October, "it is well recognised that a large number of illegitimate children are delicate and marasmic from their birth." Sterling Berry observed that the home's most objectionable feature was admittance of Roman Catholics into a proselytising institution. He successfully pressured Bethany Home's managing committee into ceasing the admission of Roman Catholics. The Residential Secretary, Hettie Walker, claimed in 1940 that the measure was only agreed to because of a threat of refusal of funding under new legislation.[8]

The superintendent of the Church of Ireland's Irish Church Missions to the Roman Catholics, the Revd T.C. Hammond, was a member of the home's managing committee.[9] In the 1950s Bethany Home facilitated the adoption of children by Protestant families in the United States, while some sent to Bernardo's in England may have been sent on to Australia.[10]

During the 1960s children were transferred from the Bethany Home to the Protestant evangelical Westbank Orphanage in Greystones (which closed in 1998), from which few children were adopted.[11][12]

Bethany Home closed in 1972. In 1974, its assets were distributed to two other Church of Ireland run institutions, 85% to the Church of Ireland, Magdalen Home (founded by Lady Arabella Denny) on Leeson Street and 15% to Miss Carr's Home, North Circular Road, Dublin.[13] The records of the Bethany Home are held by PACT (the Protestant adoption service), along with records of other Church of Ireland social services.[14]

Mount Jerome Graves[edit]

More than 220 children died in Bethany Home between 1922–49 and 219 were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin.[15] In 2010, a memorial meeting was held in the cemetery to remember them, in attendance was some former residents and relatives of residents along with public figures such as independent Senator David Norris, Joe Costello, TD, and Labour Equality spokeswoman, Kathleen Lynch.[16]

Bethany Survivors Group[edit]

The Bethany Home Survivors Group campaigns for redress on behalf former residents. The group has called on the Church of Ireland to publicly support this demand and to acknowledge its role in the home.[17] The group called on the Irish government and on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, to permit Bethany Home to be included in the state redress scheme,[18] The group's call to be added to the State redress scheme for victims of child sexual abuse received political support.[19][20] In May 2011 the survivors group met with the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, as part of their campaign.[21]

Former Bethany residents called for inclusion in an inquiry headed by Senator Martin McAleese, into the state's role in the Magdalene Laundries, as similarities were drawn between both institutions and the needs of survivors. Irish Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, subsequently announced in June 2011 a refusal to include Bethany Home in the McAleese inquiry.[22] Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) then opposed Quinn's announcement and supported the call for the inclusion of the Bethany Home in the McAleese Inquiry.[23]

Bethany born notables[edit]

  • Derek Leinster, writer (Hannah's Shame, 2005; Destiny Unknown, 2008), Chairperson, Bethany Survivor Group.[24]
  • Patrick Anderson-McQuoid, artist who worked with the Irish Ballet Company in Cork City before founding and serving as Artistic Director of the Triskel Arts in that city; currently resident in County Leitrim.[25]
  • Tom McClean, former British paratrooper, SAS Parachute Regiment, who planted the Union Jack on Rockall Island in 1985.[26] He had been sent to an English orphanage at the age of 3. He authored Rough Passage (1983).[27]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Meehan, Neil. Presentation on Bethany Home Westbank Orphanage for Ministers, MLAs, Belfast, 22 July 2013
  2. ^ Justice needed for the survivors of and victims of Bethany House abuse by Victoria White, Irish Examiner, Thursday, 3 January 2013.
  3. ^ REGISTRATION OF MATERNITY HOMES ACT, 1934 Irish Statute Book.
  4. ^ Starved to Death by Galen English, Irish Daily Mail, 10 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Bethany Home Church of Ireland link claimed", BBC website, 8 October 2010.
  6. ^ The Irish State & the Bethany Home by Niall Meehan, submission to Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education, Leinster House, 24 May 2011, by delegation consisting of Derek Leinster, Noleen Belton, Patrick Anderson McQuoid, Niall Meehan, Joe Costello TD
  7. ^ Letter links Church of Ireland to horror home, by Ian Carey, Irish Daily Mail, 8 October 2010
  8. ^ The Irish State & the Bethany Home by Niall Meehan, submission to Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education, Leinster House, 24 May 2011, by delegation consisting of Derek Leinster, Noleen Belton, Patrick Anderson McQuoid, Niall Meehan, Joe Costello TD
  9. ^ Church & State and The Bethany Home by Niall Meehan, supplement to History Ireland, Vol 18, No 5, September–October 2010, pp. 5, 8
  10. ^ Church & State and The Bethany Home by Niall Meehan, supplement to History Ireland, Vol 18, No 5, September–October 2010, pp. 4–7
  11. ^ Inquiry into 'exploitation' of orphans, letter by former Bethany, Westbank residents, Derek Leinster, Sydney Herdman, Colm Begley, Helen McCarthy Fitzpatrick, Irish Times, Thursday, 17 May 2012
  12. ^ Protestant abuse history has been swept under the carpet, by Victoria White, Irish Examiner, Thursday, 5 July 2012
  13. ^ RUAIRI QUINN wrong to deny redress to Bethany Home survivors – here is the evidence
  14. ^ PACT Records and Archives Archived 20 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Graves of Bethany children "located at Mount Jerome" by Patsy McGarry, Irish Times, 21 May 2010
  16. ^ "Bethany residents remembered", Irish Times, Wednesday, 26 May 2010.
  17. ^ Letter links Church of Ireland to horror home, by Ian Carey, Irish Daily Mail, 8 October 2010
  18. ^ "Protestant abuse victims must also be heard, Irish Times, 1 July 2009.". The Irish Times. 7 July 2009. 
  19. ^ "Dáil Éireann – Volume 639 – 11 October 2007". 
  20. ^ Letter to the new Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn Bethany Survivors Group, 11 March 2011.
  21. ^ "Anglican Archbishop of Dublin meets with former Bethany Home residents" Tuesday, 24 May 2011.
  22. ^ "Quinn rejects Bethany survivors' redress call", 22 June 2011.
  23. ^ Press Release: JFM supports Bethany "Survivors in rejecting Quinn's refusal to include Bethany Home survivors in redress scheme", Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), 24 June 2011.
  24. ^ Protestant abuse victims must also be heard
  25. ^ Bethany Home Children’s Graves discovered.
  26. ^ "I claimed Rockall for England when I was Irish!” He observed, "I'm an Irishman, sounding like an Englishman, living in Scotland! My mother, my father, my aunts and my uncles – every single person in my family going back generations is Irish. It's quite a story, with Ireland and England and everything." Irish Times, 12 February 2010
  27. ^ Private Lives: First Person by Derek Leinster, The Guardian, ibid.