A WOMAN who married a West Clare farmer, in response to a News of the World advertisement, took shelter in the County Nursery in Kilrush after she was kicked out of the family home, it has been revealed.
This, according to Kilrush and District Historical Society, gives credence to the belief that the County Nursery, which is what the mother and baby home was known as, may have doubled as a refuge for women who were victims of domestic violence in the 1920s.
Kilrush and District Historical Society has unearthed details from a court case which suggests this could have been the case. At a Kilrush District Court sitting in 1928, it was stated that a woman who sued her husband for a separation allowance had married him in response to an advertisement in the News of the World.
Historical society PRO, Paddy Waldron told The Clare Champion that the court sitting he refers to, details of which were published in The Irish Times on September 20, 1928, indicates that the home on the Cooraclare Road also housed wives forced to leave their marital home.
“I only have that one case to prove it but, if you look at the number of admissions and births, there is no explanation for the discrepancy, other than that they were admitting women with children,” Mr Waldron said.
“Whether many of them transferred from other institutions or were admitted as victims of domestic violence or came in other circumstances, we can’t tell without more research,” he added.According to The Irish Times report, Alice Cullinan, a farmer’s wife, who lived near Kilrush, summoned her husband, James Cullinan, for separation allowance.
The complainant stated she married the defendant in 1919 and after the first three months, “until this day she never had quietness. He was always looking for trouble. He beat and kicked her and she left him several times. He put her up against a wall, caught her by the neck and told her to make an Act of Contrition, as she had only a few minutes to live. On August 14, 1928, he kicked her out of the house and she was in the County Nursery since then with her children. In all her years married to him she had only got to clothe herself and he only left her wet turf for a fire,” the report read.
Alice Cullinan also accused her husband of assaulting her on July 14, 1928.
For the defence, it was stated that Mrs Cullinan did nothing but smoke cigarettes. Mrs Cullinan replied that she got the “fags” for nothing from her husband’s sister, who had a shop in Kilrush.
The husband said that he had no objection to her smoking if she “gave him quietness and he was willing to work until he fell”.
Justice Gleeson asked was Mrs Cullinan from the area.
“Oh no,” Mr Killeen, solicitor for the defendent replied. “Jim advertised for a wife in the News of the World and this is what he got.”
The judge dismissed both cases.
Paddy Waldron says he is carrying out further research in an effort to elicit more information as to whether or not the County Nursery in Kilrush accommodated many victims of domestic violence.
“That one newspaper article is the only evidence I have come across so far. I suspect that a lot of women just had to put up with it because they had nowhere to go. It’s a long time ago but even today there are women with nowhere to go in those circumstances. It would have been a great source of shame back then, to leave your husband, no matter what the circumstances were,” Mr Waldron noted.
On a general note, he was surprised that very few people in Kilrush or West Clare seemed to have heard of the County Nursery.
“There certainly was very little awareness among generations not old enough to remember it. I suspect there are one or two people out there, who are a little older, who do remember it,” he said.
One hundred and eighty children were born and 321 women admitted to the County Nursery between 1922 and 1926.
By Peter O’Connell