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The Story of Front Cover St. Michael’s House 1955 - 1985 1

This story is dedicated to the founders of St. Michaels House, the volunteers, staff and parents and especially to the many children and adults who have learnt, trained and lived under the care of St. Michael’s House. They have taught us so much. ii

The Story of St. Michael’s House 1955 - 1985 Paul Russell Paul Russell is head of new media in RTE Radio. He has produced several radio shows both RTE 2fm and Radio 1, including the Gerry Ryan show, the Dave Fanning Show, John Kelly’s Mystery Train and the Ryan Tubridy Show. iii

Title The Story of St. Michael’s House 1955 - 1985 Author Paul Russell Editors x and y Design & Layout Patsy Carton First published in 2022 by St. Michael’s House, Ballymun Road, Dublin 9, Ireland. © St. Michaels House 2022 All rights reserved. The material in this publication is protected by copyright law. Except as may be permitted by law, no part of the material may be reproduced (including by storage in a retrieval system) or transmitted in any form or by any means, adapted, rented or lent without the written permission of the copyright owners. Applications for permissions should be addressed to the publisher. Photographs © St. Michael’s House unless otherwise credited. iv

Contents v vi Acknowledgements vii Foreword Introduction Chapter 1 A Decade of Discovery. 1955 - 1965 1 Chapter 2 1965 - 1975 37 Chapter 3 Ploughing Fresh Fields and 1975 - 1985 69 Growing the Services. Fostering a Culture of Passion, Hard Work and Innovation. Acknowledgements The work of compiling the story of St. Michael’s House would not have been pos- sible without the many people who have contributed towards this project. I would like to thank the staff, volunteers, families, and service users who were inter- viewed and shared their recollections with me in 2005/6. A special thanks goes to Michelle Dicker, Sonya O’Flaherty and Liz Kavanagh who typed up the many in- terviews used to unfold this story. In particular I would like to thank Patricia Do- herty and Paul Ledwidge for taking the initiative to start this project and have the unique and inspirational story of the beginning of St. Michael’s House told. To Frank Fennell and Lensmen photographers for permission to use their work. Thanks also goes to Patsy Carton for locating documents, records, images and photo- graphs, and design and for managing this project. v

Foreword This book charts the extraordinary growth and development in services for people with a disability which was achieved by “The Association of Parents and Friends”, - St. Michael’s House in its first 30 years, 1955 -1985. This progress happened at a time when resources were scarce, the State was not taking responsibility for the development of services for children with a disability, and apathy was pervasive. Thus, a small group of parents and friends began a journey. With social justice and the human rights of the person with a disability as core values they established an Association that would go on to achieve increasingly ambitious goals. The growth in services 1955-1985 is testimony to the vision, ambition and drive of these early founders and leaders. From its earliest days St. Michael’s House understood the value of networking and of using influence through the contacts and connections of families and friends to achieve its goals. Links were firmly established with key influencers in the social milieu, the various professions, north and south of the border, including the educational and medical professions, the accounting and legal professions and of course the world of politics. The involvement and commitment of Declan Costello was a powerful link into the highest levels of the establishment. SMH from the outset “shouldered” the responsibility for developing services and meeting needs of service users and families. A pattern emerged of developing needed services without the funding or facilities and then retrospectively looking to the State for funding. This strong sense of responsibility has become an integral part of the SMH DNA and influences the role the organisation plays in advocacy with the State for service development and in leading and pioneering new service developments nationally. SMH executives appear in these pages playing key roles in NAMHI, the Health Research Board, the International Congress, and the National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers. Arising from their central role in founding the organisation and their formative contribution over the first thirty years a core element of the SMH “way” reflected in these pages is the close partnership with families. From the very beginning families played a central role in supporting the service not only in fundraising but also more importantly with governance, serving on the Board of SMH, on the local service management committees and on the schools Boards of management. The first appointments to SMH were a pediatrician and a psychiatrist. The first services were assessment/advisory clinics and schools. From the beginning SMH was established as a professional organisation which sought to pioneer and advance evidence based best practice and saw the importance of the provision of education and developmental interventions. A practice of keeping abreast of international research and introducing this new innovative thinking to SMH clinicians and service staff is apparent in SMH from the outset. The appointment in 1977 of Head of Research and in 1979 a Head of Training would place St. Michael’s House in the forefront of service innovation and development nationally and internationally. This cocktail of continuous research/publication and the provision of a range of training and development opportunities for staff, promoted a learning organisation vi

culture which resulted in continuous service improvement and collective commitment to the development and delivery of high-quality services. SMH developed a reputation for attracting the brightest and the best. Thus, many talented clinicians and service leaders spent their entire career in SMH and these in turn attracted the next generation of leaders who wanted the opportunity to work with them. Many of these clinicians and service leaders went on to be appointed to key leadership roles in SMH and those who left went to leadership roles in other organisations. These pages chart a remarkable journey of love and humanity and reveal some of the essential ingredients for building a great organisation and service. Those ingredients, an inspiring vision, clear values, partnership with parents and staff, social influence and contribution, responsibility and ownership, strong engaged leadership, education training and research are the enduring legacy of the founders and early leaders. These created strong foundations for the following 30 years which saw SMH grow to become one of the leading and largest services for people with an intellectual disability nationally. Patricia Doherty CEO 2015 60th year vii

Introduction This book shares the remarkable story of how a small group of individuals changed Ireland’s attitudes towards intellectual disability. The story begins with a newspaper article from the mid 1950’s, and within these pages are a great many other articles, quotations, and documents from the years and decades which follow. They are presented ‘as-is’ to reflect the views and voices of the time and allow consistent cross- referencing with supporting documents. Despite being professionally appropriate at the time, the terms used to describe intellectual disability during these early eras of understanding are not the terms we would use today. Indeed, the nuances and diversities of the human mind deserve only the most respectful treatment, and even today’s terms have their flaws. ‘Disability’ carries a negative emphasis which already some professionals are preparing to leave behind. The historic context for this story also deserves some explanation. Until that summer of 1955, the story of services for the intellectually disabled hadn’t really begun. Children born with a learning disability for the most part played less than a shadow role within the Irish household. There was nothing they could do. A disability upset the framework of a family and was seen as a flaw suggesting that all was not right within the family unit. For generations, the only solution was to have the child sent to an institution where they were supposed to live with people of a similar kind. Often that child would never return. The history of such institutions has been traced by Dr. Bob McCormack, former Director of Research and Service Development at St. Michael’s House, in the book Trends in the Development of Irish Disability Services (2004). I encourage this as a complementary source of information, and I summarise some key points below to provide the reader with useful context for this book. Two hundred years ago, Ireland had just undergone a 20-year boom period under Grattan’s Parliament, which brought with it a wave of beggars onto the streets of Dublin. To address the situation, the Dublin House of Industry was built in the late 1700s. Its initial purpose was to house the beggars; but it quickly became a “catch-all institution, a one-stop solution to every social problem: a place for beggars, the ill, the disabled, the destitute and the troublesome.” By the time of the Great Famine, there were more than 150 institutions across the country, including workhouses, poor houses, and asylums. At a base level, these were drop-off points for the destitute and unloved in a country ravaged by starvation, disease, and poverty. Into these gaunt, grey-bricked buildings poured the so-called flaws of society for more than 100 years. Conditions were appalling, yet for most parents with large families and no money, there was no place for these children in their home — the only option was to have them put away. The first crude method of classifying learning disability in Ireland came as a side effect of the new national education system introduced in the 1800s. This produced the basic standard of a child’s learning curve. If the child could not master the basics, they were considered slow learners and were sent home. Abroad however, there were early examples in the study of disability and viii

rehabilitation. The ‘wild boy of Aveyron’ was discovered in the late 1700s, a nine- year-old who had been raised apparently in the forest among animals. The story of his capture attracted the attention of Jean Itard, a doctor who tried to educate the boy to sit and eat, to use a knife and fork, and learn how to dress himself. The experiment wasn’t a huge success, but in other ways it captured the public imagination. A number of schools “for idiots” (as opposed to those who were considered mad) were established in Paris and in other European centres. This new pedagogical approach came to Ireland after the Great Famine, when in 1869 the Stewart Institution for Idiotic and Imbecilic Children was opened. It was a start, employing four teachers and a basic code of instruction. Progress stalled for some decades. Then, after the founding of the Irish Free State in the 1920s, the new Government abolished all workhouses. These were seen as a reminder of bad times. As the Catholic church was a key stakeholder in the new Republic’s education system, the Archbishop of the time decided there needed to be a Catholic Institution. He approached the Daughters of Charity who were running a school on the Navan Road in Cabra. The school was granted approval by the Government to be re-opened as a centre for girls with less severe forms of learning disability in 1926. A separate school for boys followed a few years later in 1931, run by St. John of Gods. Then came the Brothers of Charity a few years after. These were all residential services. Still, by 1955 there was little on offer in the way of practical help. The medical profession had little time for “lost causes” and living with a learning disability continued to mean living in the shadows of Irish Society. And this is where the story of St Michael’s House begins. ix


1 A Decade of Discovery 1955 - 1965 “When I realised that my baby was not like others and whose potential was very limited, I well remember my feelings of utter hopelessness. At that time I could find nobody to whom I could turn to for advice.’’ - Patsy Farrell. The summer that sparked the change was like any other. Bord Fáilte was expecting 40,000 US tourists. Pleasure cruises were launched for the first time on the River Shannon. It would be holiday time soon for those sitting their Leaving and Intermediate examinations. Clerys and Switzers ran advertisements for the forthcoming summer sales. But one day, among the buy and sell notices on the back of the Irish Times, came a small and curious request, under the heading ‘Personal’: The date was Thursday 2 June 1955. The lady with the wish was Patricia Farrell, a mother who wanted to help and who was keen to share her life experiences with other mothers and fathers. 1

Patricia ‘Patsy’ Farrell’s door was always open. Visitors who knew her would walk through the impressive pillared entrance of Gigginstown and were welcomed in the big old living room where she liked to sit and chat in the evenings. Inside this expansive country house was a busy household at the centre of a substan- tial farm, near Kinnegad, in County Westmeath. Set off the road, with a long driveway, its noises were its own – the tractor, the horses, the cattle, the hens and, the sound of a blacksmith at work. The cook, the farm hands and the governess all came in the morning, and there were regular deliveries. Everyone mucked in, including Patsy’s sons from an early age. One minute they might be out playing and the next they’d be assigned a brush and pot and told to paint the fence. In Gigginstown, there were balanced measures of play and purpose. Central to all this was Patsy Farrell, the distinctive forty-one year old owner of the estate. Dressed in jumper and jeans and a pair of old boots, she began each day on the farm with a reserve of energy so palpable that it seemed to charge the estate. She was the boss, of that there was no doubt though she did her fair share along with the rest. If a slate fell off the roof in a storm, she would climb up there and fit another. If the cook needed vegetables from the garden Patsy would dig them out. No job was too small. 2

Born Patricia Wilson in Boltown, Co. Meath, in 1914, Patsy was the youngest of four daughters. Her parents were well-to-do Protestant farmers and Patsy received her first twelve years education from a governess at the family home before going on to school. She showed an early passion for animals, loved the outdoor life and she apparently in- herited her Mother’s “get up and go”. Antony Farrell, the youngest of Patsy’s three sons described how Patsy’s grandfather died in the early thirties from a hunting accident and how: Patsy’s mother then took over running the family. She was an astute businesswoman who lived off stocks and shares, and buying and selling cattle. Her only son became a big cattle dealer and then a racehorse trainer. My mother had an extraordinary equine interest, so she used to breed horses in the fifties and the sixties that her brother would then train. At twenty-eight Patsy married an aeronautical engineer, John Farrell. He had been Below posted to Jamaica and they married there in 1941. Their first son, John was born three years later after they returned to Ireland. Then came Brian in 1946 and Anthony fol- Patsy and her first two lowed in 1950. sons John and Brian. In the neighbourhood Patsy was well respected, known as a straight talker, and yet very ap- proachable. She was equally at home with a lord in one room and with the local farm hand in the next. She wasted nothing and was in- tolerant of laziness. Her pace was of her own making and if someone could not keep up or failed to do a job properly then they soon moved on. There was one special ex- ception however – someone in Gigginstown who moved at their own pace. His world had a very distinctive rhythm where eve- rything seemed to move more gently and many of the apparently smaller aspects of life became very significant. Brian Farrell was nine. The second of three sons born to Patsy and John Farrell, he was a strong- willed child and as with the spirit of the house he was never idle for very long. Brian was energetic and strong and he played games and did jobs around the house. Those who worked in Gigginstown knew 3

him well, liked him, and accepted him as he was. His mother was his world and Gigginstown his playground. Patsy brought Brian everywhere, to Sunday school, to garden fêtes in the summer, sometimes on visits to her friend Madge Atock, who lived in Dublin. With Madge, Patsy would talk about her son and her concerns for him. She was determined to give him every opportunity in life and she decided that meeting other people who had children like him was a really important first step. At first Patsy didn’t spot any difference in Brian. He could be a difficult baby and he had trouble sleeping. Brian was happy and so Patsy got on with the daily challenges of rearing her two young children and managing the estate. But as he grew to be a toddler, Patsy noticed that perhaps his development was some- what out of step with that of her first son, John. She took Brian to a number of doctors but was not satisfied with the opinion that “the poor boy was slow and would probably remain so for the rest of his life”. Not even her sister Sheila, an anaesthetist in Dublin’s Adelaide Hospital could offer help. ‘Sheila was very interesting,’ says Antony Farrell: “Sheila knew that my brother was Down Syndrome, but she never told my mother” Unlike many parents in her situation, Patsy was in a position to look beyond the con- fines of the Irish medical service. She had money, connections in the medical profession, and family in the UK. When Brian was two, she travelled to London to have him assessed. In the consultant’s surgery in Great Ormond Street Hospital she heard what she suspected all along, ‘Oh I see you have a pretty little Downs baby.’ Like any mother, Patsy was devastated. How did this happen? What does it mean? What would they do? What will happen to him? The striking quote which introduces this chapter is from a speech she gave more than thirty years later, on the twenty-fifth an- niversary of St. Michael’s House, where she described how she felt after hearing the news. The advice in Great Ormond Street was basic, but at least they could offer the chance of further assessment. In Ireland there appeared to be no such service. Unsure as much about the present as the future, Patsy could only rely on her instinct and upbringing to decide what to do next. Of one thing she was certain; Brian was not going to be put away in some institution. Why should he be put into a home? He already had a home. She had discussed this and much more with Madge Atock and other friends, all of whom were bright, educated and well connected. If ever there was a community who could offer help it was Patsy’s. She had become acutely aware that there was little in the way of help outside the home for families in similar situations, and she started asking questions. ‘There were a number of key women who played a significant part in the development of services,’ says Dr. Barbara Stokes, former Medical Director of St. Michael’s House. ‘And they represented a very small proportion of the population in the 1950s. Patsy’s back- ground had a very get-up-and-go tradition. There was a certain sense of that these Anglo- Irish women had not just an education, but a mind-set.’ That determination brought Patsy back to England. Her sister Eileen, who lived there, introduced her to a group of parents near Birmingham who had children with intellectual disability. There she heard first-hand accounts of their concerns, the day to day practicali- ties of living with a disabled child in the home, and about the limited services available to them in England. 4

She returned to the group several times. The meetings had a profound impact on her Above and more than anything they gave her hope. The support she felt from simply sharing her story, as well as hearing the stories of others, inspired her. Camphill School in Glencraig, Northern Ireland’s promotion Patsy gathered information on her son’s condition and sought out any possible services leaflet 1954. The school’s available in Ireland. Her search took her to Northern Ireland, where in June 1954 she vis- teachings are based on the ited the Camphill School in Glencraig. She had heard of this from Madge’s youngest sister, methods and principles Dorrie Murison, who lived in Belfast. of Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Dorrie and her husband had two children, Heather and Terry. Terry was born in 1944 with Down’s Syndrome but, still in infancy, a brain haemorrhage caused severe disability including loss of speech. After a difficult early childhood, he benefited enor- mously from education at Camphill, Glencraig when the Rudolph Steiner School opened in 1953. Madge and Dorrie were close – they talked by phone and visited each other regularly. Terry’s disability was therefore very much in the forefront of Madge’s mind as the formation of St. Michael’s House was in its infancy. Dorrie knew the personalities involved in mental health in Northern Ireland and hence was a very significant help in pointing Madge and Patsy in the right direction. This, of course, ran in parallel with Patsy’s own research both in England and on a subsequent visit to Camphill. 5

Located on the southern bank of Belfast Lough, Glencraig was one of the first schools of its kind in the world that espoused the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian philosopher who believed ‘that by living and working with people who are differently abled, we ultimately get more in touch with the true meaning of life and our own spirituality’. This philosophy and practice of inclusiveness and community living for all was a far cry from the prevailing reality for people with disabilities in Ireland. In 1939, Dr. Karl Konig an Austrian paediatrician, set up the first Steiner school for special children in Aberdeen in Scotland. The inclusive teaching methods involved the skills of physicians, artists and carers. The focus was ‘on the individual, not the disability’. ‘Eight of us came over from Aberdeen’, says Christof Lindeberry, one of the original teachers at Glencraig: Below We got the whole estate, sixty acres and a huge mansion house and stables for £8,000, Patsy and John Farrell’s three but we had to spend as much again in bringing the place up to scratch. A parent put down sons, (from left to right), the first thousand pounds, which was unbelievable in those days. Anthony, John, and Brian. Glencraig had opened in April 1954 and Patsy paid her first visit there the following year. Brian was eight years of age when together they met the school principal, Cornelius (Carlo) Pietzner. Carlo assessed Brian and Patsy was shown around. While she was immediately impressed with the school, its methods, and the charm and experience of its principal, Pasty decided against sending Brian to Glencraig. That would mean spending years away from Gigginstown from his family and from a way of life which both Patsy and Brian held very dear. It was a difficult decision but once again she followed her own instincts. Brian and Antony continued to receive their schooling in Gigginstown from their governess Miss Lynch who lived in Monaghan. She became part of the household early in their childhood and Patsy thought very highly of her: ‘She did so much to help Brian in his early years, thanks to her he could read and write,” says Antony. “My mother’s passion was horses and because of this we were brought up to ride a horse from an early age, Brian had no fear of animals, so it was great for him, very therapeutic. ‘Gigginstown was a very happy house’, Rory O’Neill a neighbour and lifelong friend of the family recalls. ‘Brian was very gregarious. He would be up at six in the morning and you couldn’t keep him down. He could ride a bicycle at a young age. Miss Lynch was more than a governess.’ Indeed, Patsy was pleased with the progress Brian was making. She was happy that he had friends like Rory in the local community. She could have left it at that. But, as Rory reflects, it was in her nature to want to help others: She was very giving. She would pick out a lame duck and she would say something to me like, ‘Would you go over to that old lady and help her with her chair?’ I remember once we were at a point-to-point and it was pouring rain. She took her coat off and put it over my head and she just got drenched. She never thought about herself. 6

Realising that families with disabled children must be terribly isolated, Patsy wanted Above to meet and help them. It was this simple desire of hers, coupled with the support from her friends like Madge Atock, that would help bring about a massive change in the way Madge Atock (on left) co- Ireland provided for people with learning disability. founder St. Michael’s House selling a fundraising flag to ‘Madge was really the co-founder of St. Michael’s with Patsy,’ says Violet Gill, a vol- Actor, Derek Farr and his unteer and eventually Chairperson of the Association. ‘The whole idea was hatched wife Actress, Muriel Pavlow. out in Madge’s house on Ailesbury Road.’ The house had been purchased by her father, who was a builder, Alex Strain, when she was widowed, aged 37 in 1941. He converted the house into three apartments. Madge and her young son, Alex, occupied the hall apartment, two bedrooms and a living room. While the basement and second story apartments provided rental income for her. Following the loss of her husband Madge devoted herself to charity work, firstly for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA – in conjunction with Col. Eddie Cotter she ran its annual national raffle in Ireland for several years), then to Cerebral Palsy prior to joining Patsy in the St. Michael’s project. Madge and Patsy knew that the most effective method of contacting a great number of parents was through the pages of the country’s national newspapers. And so, on Thursday 2 June 1955 Patsy’s request was published in the Irish Times amid the advertisements for the summer sales and forthcoming theatre attractions. The notice, Patsy’s plea to the ‘parents of mentally backward children’, ap- peared for a second time on the 22nd of that same month in The Irish Independent. Parents immediately responded to the printed Box Office number. Hundreds of let- ters poured in from all around the country: ‘Dear Madam, I am a parent of a mentally handicapped child – now almost three years. I would be glad to join your organisation and would like to hear from you further.’ ‘In reply to your advert in The Irish Independent of June 22nd, will you please supply particulars of your proposed formation of Association for mentally backward children. I am most interested in your project and shall look forward to hearing from you.’ Many wanted to help. Many wanted to talk. All wished Patsy success in her goal. The letters revealed a great deal about people with disability in Ireland. There were children from all backgrounds, some in institutions, and others in the Steiner School in Glencraig. Some letters offered advice on forming such an Association. The Association of Parents of Children in Need of Special Care in Belfast advised that such an Association is ‘uplifting and beneficial, and we are able to bring our burdens and problems to the authorities with a force not possible to the individual’. Other parents described sons or daughters who they feared were too old to ben- efit. Some believed Patsy could find a place for their child in a school or institution. One mother wrote: 7

Below ‘I have one boy aged seven who is mentally retarded. I have six other normal children. I The Country Shop, St have been trying for over two years to get him into an institution or school to have him Stephen’s Green which trained – for at times he is quite good and intelligent. But I find it most difficult to get any was run by Muriel Gahan interest or attention from either doctors or heads of schools’. (Irish Country Women’s Association) set up to Another mother wrote, promote Irish culture and sell crafts from all over the ‘We have been to all the special schools in Ireland, but somehow we do not like him to country. In the evenings leave the home atmosphere.’ Muriel hired out rooms for various groups to meet. This Patsy wrote to each of the respondents, but she realised the limitations of corre- was where Patsy Farrell spondence. Forming an organisation needed interaction. She met some respondents held the first meetings of the individually, having tea with mothers mostly and their disabled children in venues like Association for parents. the restaurant in the Savoy Cinema, on O’Connell Street. 8 That summer was spent mostly corresponding with parents and hosting small gath- erings for friends and interested colleagues in Madge’s house. A plan was made to hold monthly parental meetings, the first of which was held in October, in The Country Shop on Stephen’s Green. Located at No. 23 Stephens Green, between the top of Dawson Street and the Shelbourne Hotel, The Country Shop, apart from selling produce and serving lunches and teas was a meeting centre for a diverse selection of groups and Associations. Patsy’s first meeting in the basement of The Country Shop included a small but attentive crowd. There she made friends with some of the people who would help form her Association. One of the first couples to actively help Patsy was Lillian and Dudley Robertson. Their son, Alan was di- agnosed with Down Syndrome and they were told he would ‘probably die young’. Buoyed by the success of this meeting, Patsy pro- posed to invite a bigger audience to the next gathering in November. She sent letters of invitation to all the original respondents. She also sent information sheets to the papers and which were reprinted in full in The Evening Mail and the Evening Herald: ‘This is an important announcement,’ the article read, ‘for parents of mentally handicapped chil- dren and to all those interested in their welfare. You are invited to a public meeting to be held in the Country Shop on Thursday 24 November at 8pm.’ Patsy invited the Principal of the Camphill School in Glencraig, Carlo Pietzner to give an introductory talk on disability at the meeting and he readily agreed. The meeting was attended by more than 200 parents. Not so much an intimate gathering to share first-hand experiences but a show of hands. Most im- portantly it generated its own momentum towards founding the Association. Parents came from around the country. Some stayed with friends and new ac- quaintances of Patsy’s. Names and addresses were saved, and details given of another meeting in the Mansion House in December.

Carlo’s presentation that evening was particularly Left welcome to many frightened parents who until that night, had been left virtually alone in a world of so Carlo Pietzner , Psychologist many questions. ‘He was a charmer’, said Eithne and Principal of the Camphill Clarke of Carlo. Eithne’s baby daughter had been School in Glencraig. He ran born that year with Down’s Syndrome. ‘Nobody knew advisory sessions for parents anything about what you were meant to do. I was told and carried out the first Mary would live to be about fifteen. The first bit of assessments on children with help I got was from Carlo. It was a wonderful thing intellectual disabilities. Patsy did.’ Such was the enthusiasm at the meeting, Carlo of- fered to return in the new year to assess each child’s learning ability in a series of early advisory sessions. Patsy saw this as the perfect opportunity to help parents and give her aims a more definite impetus. However, a properly formed Association needed aims and rules and an official title to attract attention. This Association would require the backing of strong and respected members of Irish society – a group of motivated professionals who, with their participation, would attract interest and co-operation from those who could be of help, including the Government itself. In the few short crucial weeks that followed she relied heavily on and received much support from her network of family and friends. These friends gathered in the Mansion House in December to call the association into being: ‘An organisation called The Association of Parents and Friends of HandicappedChildrenwasformedatameetingintheMansionHouse, Dublin, on Wednesday at which Mr. Declan Costello, TD, presided’. ‘This Association will cater for the parents and friends of handi- Above capped children who were not in institutions and who were not undergoing institutional treatment. It will be involved with the in- Lillian and Dudley Robertson struction of parents and their children, and the provision, if pos- attended the first meeting in sible, of Day Centres not only in Dublin but in the principal towns the Mansion House. They both throughout the country.’ joined the committee. Their son Alan had Down Syndrome. That was the night St. Michael’s House was born, an historic moment when a large Dudley became first group of interested people from all backgrounds gathered together in the Round Room Treasurer and Lillian set up of the Mansion House to lend their support. social clubs for the children in Grosvenor Road School which The newspaper report also quoted Patsy, ‘Mrs Farrell, Gigginstown, Joint Honorary she ran for over 30 years. Secretary, said that for many years she had thought about this problem of handicapped children and she had wanted to do something about it. She had the names of about 100 people who were anxious to join the Association.’ Patsy proposed its formation. The motion was seconded by Mrs F. Ballam. Among the committee members were psychiatrist Dr. Maureen Walsh and lawyer Christopher (Christo) Gore Grimes. The treasurer would be Dudley Robertson. Joining Patsy as Joint Honorary Secretary was Madge Atock. 9

Right Irish Times article published the day after the meeting in the Mansion House where the Association of Parents and Friends of Handicapped Children was formed. 8th December 1955. A number of well-to-do families became involved and took leadership roles. This small group of parents and professionals would fuel their plans with energy, vision and determination, and make Patsy’s simple wish to help parents a reality. Eithne Clarke described how her husband, Gerard ‘spoke from the floor offering suggestions as to how the new Association might be made up.’ Declan Costello responded by inviting him to join the committee. Declan Costello was a rising young figure in Fine Gael at the time and had been elected to Dáil Éireann in 1951. His father, John A. Costello was Taoiseach from 1954 to 1957. The committee invited Mrs Costello (Declan’s mother) to be president of the Association. Declan worked closely with Christo Gore Grimes on official matters for St. Michael’s House for many years: 10

Christo was a good bit older than I was. He was a very suc- cessful solicitor, a well-known figure in Irish society actu- ally. He was involved in an organisation for civil liberties and he would have been known in the theatrical world and we got on very well. He had no family connections with the mentally handicapped but was dedicated to working on the committee. The day after the meeting, the parents began receiving Above letters confirming their appointments with Carlo Pietzner Declan Costello, TD. and on 11th January 1956. President of the Association. The new Association committee held its very first meeting Below on Friday 16 December, in Madge Atock’s house. ‘Madge,’ Dr. Barbara Stokes, Declan Costello remembers ‘was a very pleasant person, intel- Medical Director. ligent and practical. She wouldn’t say much but she was very influential on the committee and she was liked by everybody.’ The committee immediately began discussing possible candidates for teachers and therapists. They were already searching for a permanent venue to hold classes and as- sessments and identifying methods for raising funds, from coffee parties to charity golf matches. The parent’s meetings – which were far larger affairs, continued in The Country Shop. Patsy proposed establishing an advisory panel – a board of specialists, including speech therapists and psychiatrists. Among the names proposed that evening were Dr. Patricia Sheehan and a friend of Maureen Walsh’s, a paediatrician called Barbara Stokes. ‘I was doing ordinary paediatrics at the time,’ Barbara recalls, ‘the usual thing in Harcourt Street Children’s Hospital, in Stevens’s and I did a day a week in Baggot Street and some in Mercer’s. One did that in those days.’ Born in London in 1922, Barbara’s family moved to Dublin, and she studied medicine at Trinity College. She qualified in 1947, and quickly grew to love paediatrics where each day brought a new challenge. ‘I was with a doctor one day, tending to various children,’ Barbara recalls, ‘and one of them was a Down’s Syndrome baby. The doctor just said, “Oh I can’t do anything for him” and moved on to the next patient.’ But Barbara saw something in this moment. She hesitated and returned to the child. I took them aside and the mother told me that her son had been doing awfully well until lately. I discovered that he had pneumonia and was anaemic. We admitted him, put him on an iron tonic and he was still going forty years later… It’s one of those things that stirs one in life. That’s how I re- ally got into it. I got cross that these kids were getting a raw deal and that the medical profession were not prepared to help them. I just got more interested; these children needed to be looked after as well. They were entitled to their bottle of medicine the same as everyone else. 11

She recalled while studying medicine she was strongly influenced by the work of Dr. Robert Collis . ‘He is an enthusiast, a visionary, and has been a devotee of Social Medicine long before we had the first Professors of Social Medicine’. His concern with the ‘broader issues’ resonated with her and drew her toward the problems of handicapped children and their parents. Right Extract from speech Dr. Barbara Stokes gave as she was elected President to the Paediatric Section of the Royal Academy of Medicine 1960. Below Barbara and her husband shared a love of sailing with their friends Maureen Walsh, One of the many letters and Christo Gore Grimes. Through her friends she learnt about the formation of this Patsy Farrell sent to parents arranging an assessment new group at the Mansion House. She was coaxed by Maureen to come along to one for their child with Carlo Pietzner in Madge Atock’s of the early meetings in The Country Shop. “It was Maureen that got me into this, she flat on Ailesbury Road. was a psychiatrist, she had a practice on Grafton Street. Her husband was the head of the Botanic Gardens and they lived there. She was full of enthusiasm and knew of 12 my interest in Social Medicine and encouraged me to come along”. By January 1956, Barbara had been invited to join the committee as part of Patsy’s plan for a medical advisory panel. Carlo Pietzner, visited once a month, to meet and assess mother and child. The mothers attended with their children and what medical records, if any, they could ac- quire. Carlo assessed the child and offered basic advice on their care, including diet. Records were compiled on the children and their varying degrees of ability. Madge offered her apartment for these consultations and Carlo would nor- mally arrive around mid-day, consult in the afternoon, stay the night and carry on consulting the following morning be- fore departure. Madge’s son Alex Atock recalls these visits and remembers coming home from the Veterinary College in Ballsbridge, where he was studying at the time, to find all the rooms (including his bedroom) in the flat fully oc- cupied with mothers and children eating tea and biscuits! In addition, Patsy’s sister, Sheila also became involved and offered the use of her house on Eglinton Road for these con- sultations” Carlo wouldn’t take any money for this valuable work. Unlike regular medical assessments, his approach provided hope, interaction, support and individual atten- tion for the parents. The main activity continued to be the vital parent meetings in The Country Shop. They were the lifeblood, providing an outlet for parents to share their experiences, as Eithne Clarke recalls ‘I attended those meetings from the start. Each time they had different speakers who addressed

some of the problems facing us. I had never met another person with a Down Syndrome baby until then.’ The meetings were always full. Different people stood up to tell their story. I remember a story of a boy who was brought to a coffee shop after getting a haircut. In those days people stared and stared. One woman came over and said, ‘Excuse me, may I ask what is wrong with your son?’ His father responded, ‘Oh he’s Down Syndrome.’ The woman started to cry. She said, ‘Do you know that my first and only grandchild looks exactly like your son. They could be brothers.’ In oth- er words, the parents knew there was something different with their son, but it was probable that they hadn’t yet been given a diagnosis. Another woman said that after she’d given birth she was in a room, on her Above own, in Holles Street. She couldn’t understand why she had been moved. Then Dr. Patricia Sheehan and she read the chart at the end of her bed, which said Downs Syndrome. That’s Dr. Maureen Walsh who how she found out. started with the Association as visiting consultants The parents, mostly mothers, found great comfort in the knowledge that they were in the early years. not alone and hope in what this new Association might offer. Below By March 1956, Barbara Stokes was chairing the committee and hosting the meet- Eithne and Gerarld Clarke, S.C ings in her residence on Fitzwilliam Square. At this time, also, the Association found with their family. They both its first ‘curative’ teacher, Sheila McCabe Reay, who had trained as a Steiner teacher in attended the first meeting Germany. She accepted a teaching post at £2 a week. But the questions remained: who in the Mansion House and would she teach, and where? Gerarld joined the committee. ****** 13

Below The Association committee was already clear in its first objective. They would open a day centre where parents could bring their children to receive specially designed tuition Letter from Patsy Farrell and they would return home in the afternoon, like any other child attending school. asking Dr. Barbara Stokes to speak at the next meeting for On the 22nd of March 1956, the committee agreed an important change to the name of parents in the Country Shop. the Association. They became known as ‘The Association of Parents & Friends of Mentally Handicapped Children’ clearly identifying the population they would provide for. Costs to the Association were kept at a minimum from the start, with the main expenditure being the hiring of The Country Shop each month and postal expenses. Committee members themselves contributed and donations came in from friends who could afford it. Even the new teacher, Sheila McCabe Reay offered £500 of her own money as a loan towards the purchase of new premises. But it was clear they were going to need new sources of income if they were to provide a professional learning service. Letters of appeal were sent to more than 200 individuals and businesses throughout the country. The intention, apart from inviting donations, was to create more awareness of the Association and its aims. Barbara Stokes proposed the first ‘business sub-committee’ to handle donations. Dr. Robert Collis, a well-known paediatrician, whose work she greatly admired, attended a committee meeting and confirmed a donation of £100 from the Marrowbone Lane Trust towards the appointment of their first teacher. The Trust would also give the Association publicity in their forthcoming newsletter. Dr. Collis offered advice on the running of the Association. His input was welcomed with his agreement to join the committee. The committee was growing and by June there were sixteen members meeting regularly, usually on the same day as the parent’s meetings in The Country Shop. Barbara was often the main speaker and her talks were descibed by parents as “enlighting and encouraging”. Declan Costello returned to the committee that summer, soon after his mother, the first President of the Association, had passed away. He became the Association’s new President, began chairing the meetings and drawing up a constitution with Christo Gore Grimes and other members. Declan describes how the strength of the organisation grew from the commitment of its members: People got on well with each other and we were all inspired because the services were so dreadful. I had a letter at the time de- scribing how the children were ‘alright in little (mental) hospitals’ and the relations between the mentally handicapped chil- dren and the mentally ill were very good. I mean it was dreadful stuff. What we and these parents were working for was to get a day service, not to send their children into mental hospitals. Carlo’s assessments provided the first list of twelve boys and girls who could benefit from 14

special education provided by the Association. The teacher was standing by. They Below needed a suitable premises. The first of many letters of appeal sent to the public Several organisations offered temporary accommodation, including the Meath Street asking for donations. Crèche and the Children’s Hospital on Harcourt Street. But the Association’s priority was to find permanent accommodation. Below Letter from Patsy Farrell to Finally, after a summer of disappointments Dr Barbara Stokes thanking the committee discovered a suitable house in her for offering to carry out Ranelagh. No. 1 Osbourne Terrace, Northbrook medical checkups on the Road appeared to be an ordinary two-storey first 12 children selected building, but it was a big house with plenty of for the Day Centre. room and privacy. They purchased it for £1,650. Dudley Robinson arranged a loan of £1,100 and more than £600 was raised through loans and donations from committee members, in- cluding £500 from Patsy. Dr. Collis proposed applying for a grant from the Education Authorities who should be invited ‘as soon as the centre is working’. The full Association title was too long and cumbersome for the new centre. At a com- mittee meeting on 25 September 1956 Patsy proposed that as the Association comprised of Protestants and Catholics, it should have an inter-denominational name. St. Michael, the protector and the patron of sickness was the archangel and recognised by the two main reli- gions in Ireland. The name St. Michael’s House, which would reflect trust and reassurance for the parents and the children, was there- fore chosen for the Association’s first centre. Sheila McCabe Reay’s class had been moved from one temporary accommodation to another, including Madge’s front room. She readily accepted a permanent home upstairs in No. 1 Osbourne Terrace. On Monday 15 October 1956, she opened the door to the first group of children chosen for places in the centre. Carlo had announced his list of twelve children three weeks before the centre opened at a Parents Meeting. Many parents were disappointed, but he stressed that for those chosen their attendance was only a trial period. It was hoped to begin a class in the after- noons for some children who had missed out. Prior to the children starting Barbara Stokes had offered to do a full check up on the general health of each child who had been selected. Brian Farrell wasn’t on the list, though his mother had worked selflessly to bring this Association into being. She had attended the meetings, raised money and was a driving force on the new fundraising committee. The centre was too far away for Patsy and Brian. And besides, he was very happy in Gigginstown 15

Above with his family, his friends and a governess who gave him daily lessons. Juggling several jobs at once! Letter from Patsy Farrell to Life was a very different for most families in Madge Atock with the list of the city who had a child with a disability. One the first 12 children selected mother whose child was placed in Northbrook for the first Day Centre. Road couldn’t afford the daily bus fares and the weekly school attendance fee of 2s 6d. The Association wrote to The Marrowbone Lane Fund who agreed to pay a portion of her daily transport costs and advised that St. Vincent De Paul might contribute towards the weekly attendance fee. Another mother who couldn’t afford the bus fares decided to stay each morning and help with the cleaning so she would only have to pay two fares instead of four. They pressed on with their vision, meeting regularly and planning more services. Carlo ad- vised they needed a second class in Northbrook and they began to search for another teacher. He also pressed for an afternoon club for older children. By December 1956 Declan Costello and Christo Gore Grimes had drawn up the association’s first constitution. Core aims included the provision of: ‘alternative or additional facilities as in the opinion of the committee shall be conducive to the welfare of mentally handicapped children or be of assistance to their parents and friends ’and ‘the opening of Day Centres ‘for the curative and educational treatment of such children’. ****** The first anniversary of the Association was marked, not by pomp but by the regular parents’ meetings where ordinary mums shared the fears as well as the funny side of their daily lives. A lot had happened in twelve months, due to the perseverance and drive of a small band of people. Already they had a property, a teacher and many new plans for growth. A formidable challenge was presented when the Committee met in Northbrook Road in December, to discuss concerns Catholic members had about their children being taught by a Protestant teacher. ‘Irish education was then and is now denominational’, says Declan Costello who chaired that meeting. ‘There were Catholic National Schools and Protestant National Schools; the Parish Priest was the Catholic school manager and the Protestant Pastor was the Protestant school manager.’ St. Michael’s House wished to remain non-denominational. But religion dominated education in Ireland. The core question was whether their services were primarily 16

educational or medical. Declan proposed that if they were medical, then the religion Below of the teacher was ‘unimportant’. If, however they were providing education, then a Catholic teacher was essential. Declan’s personal belief was that their provision fell be- Note confirming a favourable tween health and education. response from meeting of committee members with Carlo Pietzner stated that he believed the whole purpose of the training was to Archbishop McQuaid. educate the children and he would resign from the Association if others believed his practices to be a hindrance. It was noted cost factors had influenced the selection of the teacher as the Catholic applicant had required a significantly higher salary. One member however insisted that ‘as Catholics they were bound by strict and tried laws on the subject of education’. Patsy asked Declan if the Government might fund the salary of a Catholic teacher. Considering how little the Government had done to help them to date, he replied, he didn’t hold out much hope. The Catholic members did agree that Miss McCabe Reay’s services were satisfactory and that she should be retained ‘if Canon law would permit’. It was agreed that a delega- tion should meet with Catholic Church authorities. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. John Charles McQuaid, was an austere man. He held huge influence at a time when Catholicism permeated every facet of life in Ireland: particularly education. Indeed a representative of the Archbishop’s office had already visited the Day Centre within weeks of its opening. Declan, Gerard Clarke and Patricia Gallagher met with Dr. McQuaid and told him they were an inter-denominational organisation. Declan proposed that they would be a Catholic school, to ease the concerns of their members, but that they would employ a lay manager instead of a Parish priest. Archbishop McQuaid asked Declan to write a detailed letter outlying the facts and their proposal. The outcome of the meeting was described later as ‘favourable’. Official recognition from the Department of Education was essential to secure grant-aid of up to 75 per cent towards the purchase of fur- ther schools. The question of whether they were a school, or a medical centre was resolved when: ‘We met with Dr. Hillery, who was the Minis- ter for Education at the time’, says Declan. ‘We pressed our case for funding, and he took the key decision – that these children were educa- ble, so they were in a school and therefore it wasn’t a medical problem.’ This was a fundamental development. The Department of Education recognised the Association’s Day Centre on Northbrook Road as a school, but they would not pay grants or teacher salaries without the endorsement of the Archbishop. The Minister eventually agreed to the appointment of a lay person as school manager but insisted that the association settle the matter with Dr. McQuaid. While the committee waited for a reply from the Archbishop the day-to-day run- ning of St. Michael’s continued. Sheila McCabe Reay requested that another two chil- dren join the school from the waiting list. The Marrrowbone Lane Fund donated a further £200 and the Association’s very first Flag Day raised more than £700, which 17

paid off the loan on Northbrook. Carlo continued to press for a special club for older children and suggested that the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God might provide support and training. Countless avenues were explored with a common view to expansion and development, and Barbara applied for grant aid from Dublin Corporation. In the background, Patsy and Madge used every contact they had to make sure they had a government official or similar opening the school. They knew this was their chance to get some much-needed publicity for these parents and chil- dren and a great opportunity to raise awareness and funds both from government and the community. On Wednesday 10 April 1957, Mrs Seán T. O’Kelly, the wife of the President of Ireland, officially opened St. Michael’s House School, Northbrook Road. The Irish Times reported Declan’s speech: ‘This Centre is the first of its kind in Ireland. Inside are twelve little children. In the few months in which they have been attending, their lives have been changed, their personalities developed and their capacity for happiness increased, under the expert guidance of Miss McCabe Reay.” Above The Official opening of St. Michael’s House School, Osborne Terrace, Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, 10 April (1957) by Mrs. T. O’Kelly, wife of the President of Ireland, standing close to her were Patsy Farrell , Madge Atock, (cofounders) Barbara Stokes, Christo Gore Grimes , Carlo Piezner, Declan Costello, Patricia Sheehan, Eithne Clarke, Mrs. G. Aston, Mrs. Patricia Gallagher and Dudley Robertson. 18

The positive press coverage, together with the participation of some of Irish society’s Opposite most prominent individuals, could not have gone unnoticed by the Church or Government. Within a month a second teacher had been appointed. Eva Bieler, a Montessori trained Letter from Patsy to Christo teacher, agreed to volunteer until the class was set up. Gore Grimes asking him to work with Declan to find In May Carlo’s afternoon club was finally opened with the assistance of Fr. Eugene “someone of importance” to and Br. Raymond from St. John of God and a small group of volunteers from the Legion open the first St. Michael’s of Mary and parents who also became involved. House Day Centre. The club ran from 3p.m. to 5p.m. each Monday and Wednesday. A programme soon evolved which included music and dancing, as well as basic training in basket weaving and other crafts. Its members were happy and eager to participate, and it quickly be- came a permanent part of the week in Northbrook. ****** Above Extract taken from article written by Sheila McCabe Reay , St. Michael’s House first “curative” teacher who had trained as a Steiner teacher in Germany. She captures the essence of the beginnings of the Association and the official launch of the opening of the first St. Michael’s House Day Centre/School in Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, by Mrs. Sean T. O’Kelly, the wife of the President of Ireland, 10th April 1957. Published in The Crescent: Journal of the Camphill Movement Vol V, no. 1 Michaelmas 1958. 19

Below Early in 1958 Declan Costello chaired the fledgling Association’s first AGM. A series Mrs. Pat Richardson with of reports were given to a well attended meeting which included parents, volunteers her husband, one of the and committee members. The crucial importance of the voluntary commitment from first volunteers with St. the ordinary members, was repeated throughout the meeting. The development of more Michael’s House. Every Day Centres, including one on the Northside of the city was agreed as was the need to year she ran the Flag Day improve on existing resources. Northbrook was running at a loss and so more fund- fundraising and eventually raising was necessary. Many of the parents stressed the need for a transport service like would become a member of that provided by National Association of Cerebral Palsy, Carlo was concerned that initial the Board until she retired. assessments of children were not followed-up to monitor progress. 20 The daily business of running Northbrook continued. The rota system for volunteers was dependent on the goodwill of the parents and friends. One such friend was Pat Richardson, who lived near by: I was a very fortunate person. I had a lovely home, I had four healthy children and when my youngest was going to school I was left with all my mornings free. And so, I came to St. Michael’s House. They had a system of voluntary helpers, ladies like myself. Volunteers helped prepare the children’s lunch, a part of the school day considered to be of tremendous value: From the beginning Dr. Stokes wanted to make sure these twelve children would not be shut away. They should be able to be taken out with their families to a restaurant to sit at a table and know how to behave. She said their lunch in St. Michael’s was as much a part of their education as anything else. So the tables were set properly. Their school year ended like any other in July, and Christo offered his house and garden in Howth for a special party that was to become an annual tradition. ‘They were fantastic,’ says Celia Gore Grimes, Christo’s daughter and a speech therapist with St. Michaels. ‘I remember the sponge cakes, the meringues and the chocolate crispies ... we used to lay them out on planks in the garage down by the sea. Then the children used to play on the beach all afternoon.’ However, recognition as a National School remained stalled, as the Department re- quired the decision of the Archbishop. In spite of this St. Michael’s House continued to develop plans and initiatives. Eva Bieler had started a second class in Northbrook in September 1958. Carlo pressed for reviews for the children. He could not do them himself and suggested they could be done as home visits by a qualified volunteer, perhaps a social worker. In October 1958 Barbara Stokes proposed that a professional advisory service be established to assess and sup- port all children and families receiving services from the Association. This would provide medical and psychiatric evaluations. There would also be an an- nual educational report for each child who attended Northbrook. Assessments would be carried out by a team including Barbara Stokes and Maureen Walsh, while Carlo would evaluate educational progress. This was a major break- through in establishing a comprehensive service aimed at monitoring the chil- dren as they developed. It would also provide opportunities for parents to share their own observations and concerns with a group of professionals at the core of the Association. The first advisory sessions took place in January 1959, when the team re- viewed six children and their parents.

Patsy continued to be closely involved in the plans and opinions that shaped the growth of the Association. The delays and discussions frustrated her, and she always sought a clear direction and action plan at meetings. She welcomed the news that a similar group in Waterford was asking their Association for advice. Patsy was a parent first and foremost, and she promoted the need for a close con- nection between the Association and parents. Parents, she felt, would always be their lifeblood – a fact that was sometimes lost in the business of maintaining what they had established so far and at such a pace. Every year Patsy continued to contribute funds to the Association and donations were received from individuals and groups like the Lions Club. Other fundraising activi- ties included charity rugby matches, golf outings, concerts, card games, bring and buy sales, and the occasional sale of work. A special fundraising account had been set up. This was their only income to pay the salaries of the teachers and clinicians, as well as maintenance and supplies for Northbrook. It was a massive responsibility and it meant the Day Centre was run on a shoestring budget. ‘Dudley Robertson was our first treasurer,’ Barbara recalls with a smile: ‘When I asked him for half a crown a week for nappies he said, “half a crown! We couldn’t pos- sibly afford that.”’ At their second AGM, held in The Country Shop, Patsy reported on the growth of classes in Northbrook Road and their renewed search for premises on the Northside. She highlighted the advisory sessions that ensured the connection between profes- sionals and parents. The national press was praised for their coverage over the year and Dudley stressed the link between publicity and receiving State aid. That same month, Dr. Hillery confirmed in writing that in order for State aid to be paid, the association would have to ‘obtain the approval of the Ecclesiastical Authority’ to appoint a lay Board member as school manager. As the school year ended in July the committee realised that they were at a critical juncture. They could continue with the one Day Centre, possibly two, with regular ad- visory sessions for existing members. The urgent need for services for children beyond their agreed school-leaving age of twelve had already been agreed. However, to grow into a valuable service, funding from the State was vital. Without this, says Declan, ‘We would have survived, but on a much lower level”. A new momentum for Church and thereby State approval began that Autumn. Ongoing meetings were held both with the Department of Education and with Archbishop McQuaid. Both authorities were given reports on the history and development of the organisation, along with projected costings and statistics. There were long gaps in the process and an answer was urgently needed. Meanwhile, Northbrook’s two teachers had agreed to provide extra afternoon classes for children over twelve years of age. However, maintenance costs were rising, and the Board had to consider looking for bigger premises on the Southside. Charitable support thankfully continued. The donation of £500 from the proceeds of a will was gratefully acknowledged at a committee meeting. In December 1959, The Lions Club donated the proceeds of a jumble sale. They also visited Northbrook, and, im- pressed by the work being done there, they offered a further £200 towards the purchase of their first bus. It arrived the following spring. A volunteer, Mrs Peacock, acted as a bus driver for the final school term and this was such a success that they continued with a female driver in September. 21

This new bus service was a welcome relief for many parents and a terrific boost to the Association, at the end of a year marred by frustration as Church and State hesitated. In January 1960 the frustration was allayed when the Association Chairman was invited to the Archbishop’s Palace. Declan reported to the committee that, ‘in prin- ciple His Grace is perfectly agreeable to a lay Catholic Manager of the Day Centre at St. Michael’s House. There would be no question of dispensing with the services of any of the teaching staff,’ and ‘In the event of the Day Centre becoming a recognised school, children of other denominations would be eligible to attend.’ This was real progress and it was greeted with relief and applause. Dr. Hillery, the Minister for Education welcomed this development and urged Declan to apply for recognition of St. Michael’s House as a National School and thereby ensure State funding. He requested that the President of the Association, meaning Declan himself should be the School Manager. In a letter in February, the Archbishop confirmed the arrangements as agreed with one new proviso ‘a Catholic clergyman must be appointed as a trustee of the Association’. Declan, Christo and the rest of the committee agreed to his request and their constitution was duly amended. The third AGM was a celebratory affair, with Patsy’s describing the progress made with the Archbishop and the Department. Barbara Stokes reported that more than 100 children including some from the country had been assessed since the advisory sessions began a year previously. A new nominee was elected to the committee, J.P. (Joe) O’Brien. Former Director of St. Michael’s House, Pat Maloney who worked alongside Joe for many years, described him as “very forthright”. ‘He worked his way up from the lowest rung in the Gas Company to be Head of Personnel. He wasn’t afraid to disagree with other members, and he and Barbara Stokes often had constructive discussions over issues.’ A further encouraging initiative in 1960 was the publication of a Government white paper recommending that a special Commission of Inquiry be established to thoroughly investigate all mental health services. The Association welcomed this de- velopment and applied for inclusion on this Commission. A Department of Education Inspector, Mr. O’Cuilleáin visited Northbrook. He ob- served the teaching and the challenges in Sheila McCabe Reay’s class but as Eva Bieler was on sick leave and there was no substitute cover, her class could not attend. The search for a Northside premises was gathering momentum. An architect, P.J. Robinson (whose wife was on the board) with help from the Town Planning Department, found what appeared to be a suitable plot of land in Ballymun. Board members visited the site in September and agreed to purchase part of the plot. In a re- mark characteristic of her desire to get things done and “damn the expense”, Barbara Stokes ‘expressed her strong opinion’ that they should buy the whole plot now and build later. In October 1960 the letter from the Minister for Education, Dr. Hillery, confirming St. Michael’s House as a National School with roll number 18671, finally arrived. It specified that the manager was to be Declan Costello. Both Church and State had ac- quiesced! It had been a remarkable year for Patsy and her colleagues. Now applications for places began to grow. Maureen Walsh reported to the com- mittee that sixty-three children were on the waiting list for Northbrook. Barbara 22

Stokes suggested a third class and Sheila McCabe Reay offered to move out to make room. They urgently needed bigger premises. ****** Despite an outbreak of influenza which closed the School for a week, 1961 got off to Below an optimistic start with proposals for expansion and new schools. Barbara Stoke’s voice became more prominent at committee meetings. With the establishment and success of The first St Michael’s House the Advisory Service, she carried more clout and she used it judiciously. ‘I knew Barbara school on the Northside of long before I came to Michael’s House,’ says Pat Moloney. ‘She used to say “Every damn Dublin. Jamestown House, child can learn!” It didn’t make a difference about their disability. And every child can Finglas dontated by Mr learn; it’s just about finding out how. Barbara’s introduction of this mind-set was her & Mrs Matt Gallagher. great achievement.’ Barbara believed that anything was possible if you pushed for it. And now, with Government recognition established she introduced ‘New’ at every committee meeting. In January she proposed that the new centre on the Northside should have the capacity for at least three classes. The following month, noting that St. Michael’s House had not been included on the Commission of Inquiry into mental handicap she immediately ap- pealed the decision. She was focussed on development, which, included borrowing money. Many of her colleagues urged restraint, but as Declan admits, ‘She was right…we would borrow money and get it back some way or another …somehow it worked. She was a very dy- namic person.’ Barbara immersed herself in the development of the association. She remembers after meetings going down to the local pub for a few drinks: ‘That was where the real business got done.’ There was a special chemistry on the Board between the parents and the profes- sionals, with each group contributing to nudging the Association forward. One parent who made a significant contribution at this time was Patricia (Pat) Gallagher, the wife of one of Dublin’s best-known builders, Matt Gallagher. They had a son with an intellectual disability. She saw clearly the need for premises on the Northside and being aware of how her husband’s business was thriving she stra- tegically linked these two developments. Matt was building a new estate in Finglas. On the site was a ‘large house with a fair expanse of land around it’ in good repair. In February he offered it to the Association, for free, to be used as a centre. Jamestown house had imposing pillars and steps up to the entrance and was more than a century old. The committee gratefully accepted, and it was agreed they use it as a school until the new centre at Ballymun was complete. On the night of their fourth AGM Christo Gore Grimes announced the gift of Jamestown House ‘through one of our com- mittee members, Mrs Gallagher’. He outlined 23

plans to build a brand-new school in Ballymun. He welcomed the first bus service to Northbrook and thanked the Lions Club and the volunteer bus drivers. Patsy paid tribute to the committee members, volunteers and fundraisers who had helped develop the Association to this point, and in turn, her work and dedication was acknowledged. The meeting was addressed by Dr. John Rees, Director of the World Federation for Mental Health who stated that: The image of mental defect has to be changed. This is not just the idea of better care. It is an attitude of mind, which must be passed on to other people. The stigma of mental health is passing. Prejudice is more difficult to overcome. In April, Archbishop McQuaid’s nominee Revd Dr. Michael O’Connell, the Parish Priest of Rathmines, attended his first meeting as a trustee of the Association. Many important items were up for discussion: the Department of Education’s decision to grant aid; a new school on the Northside; developments for funding a bus service; a visit to Jamestown House by committee members and the annual teachers report on the children’s progress, in which reference was made to the negative impact of television. These educational reports were initiated by Sheila McCabe Reay who as a Steiner teacher had been so concerned that the observations and concerns of the teachers were not being acknowledged and considered by management that she had offered her res- ignation the previous year. The committee persuaded her to remain after she and Eva were invited to present an annual report of the school’s activities including a display of the children’s work. Everyone involved with St. Michael’s House participated in fundraising, and Flag Days in particular proved more successful every year. ‘Help the Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Handicapped children!’ You try waving a flag box and saying that at the same time!’ laughs Pat Richardson. ‘We used to have four or five caravans as depots, including one on St. Stephen’s Green.’ Right One of the most successful ways of raising funds for the Association was the annual flag days run by the many volunteers of St. Michael’s House. Pat recalls how many volunteers sported fur coats for the occasion, including Mrs Vernon who was the top collector for years. “She would stand outside the Gaiety during the opera season, in her long black fur coat and fill box after box.” The final amount raised by volunteers during the 1960 Flag Day collections was just over £1,400, the price of a house at the time. This event continued to provide substantial financial support for many years. In mid 1961, at a special meeting of the executive committee Madge Atock proposed that the Association needed a leader, someone who would oversee the daily running 24

of the organisation. She had consulted with Declan Costello and she nominated Barbara Stokes. Up to then Barbara had committed a great deal of time to the association while still working in the city as a paediatrician and raising her family. Her characteristic energy and dynamism in the area of learning disability had been inspirational. Barbara was offered the post of Director and in accepting she said, ‘I plan to put the Association in the forefront of the area of mental health rather than in the background where we could well become overlooked.” St. Michael’s now had a Director, a school, and State approval. Barbara immediately began planning the development of many more services, especially for those more se- verely disabled children who were excluded from the new educational provision. ****** The summer of 1961 was a busy time with plans for a Northside service pre-eminent. While the Ballymun purchase was delayed Barbara focused the organisation’s energies on Jamestown House which, although a generous gift, needed a lot of renovation. Barbara, as the new school manager, was determined to open for the new term in September. She met with the Department of Education and they agreed to fund two thirds of the ren- ovation, the school furniture and a new teacher. Barbara appointed the experienced Sheila McCabe Reay as principal of Finglas. A new Principal, Mrs. K. O’Byrne and a new teacher, Maura Fleming, were appointed to Northbrook, where Declan continued as manager. At a meeting in July the committee agreed that in future all centres belonging to the Association would be called St. Michael’s House just like Northbrook. At that same meeting, the committee regretfully accepted the resignation of Carlo Pietzner. He was leaving to lead a new Steiner-inspired Camphill community in Copake, upstate New York. Carlo had played a major role in motivating parents and personnel and in the development of St. Michael’s House. He gave parents support, hope and advice when policy makers and professionals had ignored them. Classes started in Northbrook at the end of August. Renovations were ongoing in Finglas when the first class arrived on the morning of Monday 16 October 1961. Barbara believed that Sheila McCabe Reay’s experience and expertise were vital to the early days of Jamestown. But in fact, Sheila’s move North side was a step too far. This, added to her continuing sense that she was set apart from the decision-making process of the Association, led to her handing in what would be her third and final letter of resignation. She agreed to stay on until Easter to give time to find a suitable replacement. Following Carlo’s departure, Sheila’s leaving was another significant loss. While this marked the end of the direct Steiner involvement, a relationship con- tinued into the future. While the classrooms were adequate, Finglas was an old house and required con- stant repair. A new fence was erected with the help of volunteers and local businesses like Unidare factory, who were also on Jamestown Road and who installed lighting and heating for free. Walton’s music shop donated a grand piano. That Easter Sheila McCabe Reay reported that the children had grown accustomed to the big house. ‘They will sit quietly at dinner while one child from each table serves them’, she said. 25


A short time later, Mrs. Elizabeth O’Driscoll, who subse- quently lectured in the Special Education Department in St. Patrick’s College, was appointed principal and Bernard Greene became the first male teacher in the Association. My first impressions of the big old Georgian house with the large Above stone steps leading to a huge panelled door was one of excitement. The first St Michael’s House Most of the rooms were big square and had high ceilings with im- sign carved by Christof pressive mouldings. It was a happy atmosphere and all the staff Lindenberry from Austria were dedicated and caring. I was assigned to the senior pupils and and of Camphill, Glencraig, we formed a curriculum that suited their needs. The emphasis erected outside Jamestown was on independence training. I played piano and there was lots House School, Finglas. On of singing and dancing. The pupils were very expressive and they enjoyed the experience. top, the first logo of St. Michael’s House designed An assembly hall was added to the school and this improved the quality of life for pupils by Carlo Pietzner. and staff. I encouraged and developed inter-school sports contacts starting in the Dublin area then expanding to Kildare and Louth as other schools were set up. This led to foot- Opposite ball and basket-ball leagues. Games were played on a home and away basis, accumulat- Children in St. Michael’s ing in a presentation of trophies and party at the end of a season. Each school in turn House, Finglas (see Ronnie hosted this event which was eagerly looked forward to by all the pupils. Deegan, top photo on right, child centre left). Barbara’s family friend Catherine Dillon was appointed the driver of the Finglas minibus in March 1962’ . P.E and Music in the Prefab built beside Jamestown House. ‘I was no more than twenty-one,’ Catherine recalls, ‘I was told to collect the bus from the North Circular Road and that was that.’ In between school runs Catherine made Jamestown Communion Day meals and washed clothes as well as sometimes looking after the children when they lunch in Spanish Convent on needed it. Catherine has fond memories of two years hard work: Wellmount Road, Finglas. I left home at seven in the morning and got home at six in the evening. The children were Bernard Greene, Teacher, always out and ready to be collected. If they weren’t you didn’t give them that much time. staff, volunteers, and the children from St. Michael’s We never had any real problems with the kids. We had our meals and we had our volun- House (photo bottom left). teer ladies who came in and were wonderful. Lunch was at 12.30 pm and at 3 pm. I’d take my first busload home and return for the next lot at 3.45 pm. The Minister for Health Sean McEntee officially opened St. Michael’s House School, Finglas in April 1962. A section of the Minister’s speech featured as part of the News Reel at many Dublin cinemas in the months that followed. The school minibus was presented by the Lion’s Club. During the summer, the Department of Health proposed leasing the Ballymun site to the Association at a nominal rent for 150 years, a most welcome offer as they could then concentrate on fundraising for the new building. In May 1962, the St. John of God’s Service organised a three-day conference on learning disability entitled ‘The Right to Light’. Launching the conference, Sean McEntee stated: ‘You may be sure that your deliberations will be closely studied by me and my advisers. I am certain that they will afford us light and guidance in the formulation of particular proposals.’ The conference provided a forum for those involved in the development of services for people with learning disabilities in Ireland. Many members of the Commission of Enquiry attended. A visit to St. Michael’s House in Finglas was included in the schedule. 27


Barbara Stokes delivered a paper entitled ‘Starting a Day Centre’ in which she de- Opposite scribed the practicalities of running the centre, the number of rooms, the staff and their Ronnie Deegan one of the duties. But the essence of her presentation was a radical step away from the traditional first students in Jamestown residential model. Barbara believed that these special day care units could be set up for House, Finglas (first SMH a more severely disabled community, who would not be eligible for a place in a school. School on the Northside) Her presentation was the highlight of the conference. recalling his memories of his school days, where he In the Autumn, an impressive house with a big garden on Grosvenor Road, in discovered his love of trains, Rathmines was found to replace the school in Northbrook. Association members were particularly model railways invited to a pre-Christmas drinks reception in “Grosvenor” where they toasted a hard but and collector model cars. fruitful year’s work, and then immediately began discussing plans for the following year. 1959-1962. ****** 1963 started with a cold spell that closed all schools. It would end with the assassina- tion of President John F. Kennedy whose renowned family would recognise the work of St. Michael’s House in later years. Waiting lists at the two schools continued to grow, as did the attendance at the monthly parent’s meetings. The owners of The Country Shop suggested that the Association lo- cate bigger premises for their gatherings. While lifelong friendships sprang from the cups of teas and chats, the lectures and practical advice given at the meetings provided an important education for parents. As Pat Richardson confirms: A Dutch man came over to talk to us, and he produced a pair of runners at the meeting. He said to us in his broken accent, ‘Would you look at that please? Would you be able to make a pair of those?’ Of course, we said no. He said, ‘Neither could I, but they’re made by the mentally handicapped.’ Dr. Speijer was Head of the Department of Mental Health in Holland. He had spoken of the concept and reality of ‘The Sheltered Workshop’ at the recent St. John of God’s conference. The Sheltered Workshop had been in existence in Holland for more than a decade and more than 500 pupils had participated. Speijer spoke of the daily work at the workshop, the wages paid and the pupils who attended. He described the different types of work being taught, from welding to packaging, working in groups, and the use of conveyor belts, and the provision of a variety of skills to enable the trainees to learn different tasks: We have to consider the sheltered workshop as a rehabilitation centre, and not as an institute where some who have just left school, and for whom, as a result of their behav- iour, it is impossible to find a job immediately will be placed. The improvement of work- ing methods are of course very important but we have to be careful that their economic rehabilitation is not considered as the main objective, but only a way to reach the end, namely their social rehabilitation. Barbara was inspired by these words. Soon afterwards she visited the workshops in Holland. She returned with a plan to convert Finglas into a workshop once the new school had been opened in Ballymun. This would be a major step towards providing services beyond school-leaving age. 29

Above It would take time, however. The design for the new school at Ballymun was progressing slowly. This innovative building needed to Life Long Volunteers. be designed to be adaptable for future change. Irene Ricardson, bus driver, With a bitterly cold winter, attendance at classes and the caterer and supervisor Advisory sessions began to drop. The volunteer rota suffered too. with St. Michael’s House The committee responded by initiating a campaign to recruit new Grosvernor Road. volunteers. Violet Gill close friend of Irene ‘I was more of a conscript than a volunteer,’ says Violet Gill, who ar- and volunteer. Subsequent rived soon after Grosvenor Road was opened. She received a call from her Committee member and close friend Irene Richardson who was in charge of the volunteer ladies: Manager of St. Michael’s House Toy Library. We all knew Barbara Stokes. Irene drove the children to school, fed them, looked after them and then drove them home in the afternoon. Irene rang me one day and told me to get myself to Grosvenor Road, saying ‘I’ve thirty kids here, I’ve no kitchen and I have to serve them soup and sandwiches.’ I went, and that was my introduction to St. Michael’s House. Violet was particularly struck by the way that parents treasured the service: Many of the parents were having a hard time. In the 1960s Irish people lived on very lit- tle. I had a lot of contact with the parents. I remember one parent who was a wonderful supporter of St. Michael’s, even collecting for us in the pubs. She had to get two buses to bring her daughter to school and she couldn’t afford the double run. On the Northside there was an urgent need for a second bus as they had more than sixty children in Finglas and occasionally the school had to pay for a taxi to transport the children. The food available to the two schools was described at a committee meeting in April as ‘dire’. Violet adds: Opposite top The sandwiches we got from the corporation had this very peculiar pink meaty filling. Letter written by Patsy Farrell Irene refused to serve them, saying that we could do much better for the same cost, so to Nat Coleman Showband instead she negotiated with the local butchers in Rathgar and was able to provide a decent asking him and his band meal for the children. The department eventually agreed to the extension of Grosvenor to play at the New Years and with a kitchen, we put on a proper two-course meal. Some of these kids wouldn’t Eve fundraiser ball held in have had meat or vegetables at home, but here they even had a dessert, provided they her home for St. Michael’s ate their dinner! House. Letter dated 1963. The 1963 AGM in the Mansion House was upbeat. Overall, conditions were improving. Opposite bottom Later that evening Declan Costello held a party for Association members in his house. Patsy Farell with her son Anthony at one of the many When school resumed in the Autumn, a new Principal, Mrs. B. Morrin, had been fundraising balls she held appointed for Grosvenor School. There was a fresh energy at the monthly Committee in her home in Gigginstown meetings. The business of St. Michael’s House had become a more sophisticated re- for St. Michael’s House. sponsibility than just the pursuit of a group of parents and friends. A proposal to become a limited company was initiated to take the responsibility off the personal shoulders of the executive committee. But they had only recently commenced a relationship with the Departments of Education and Health, based on the trust and commitment of the Association. To alter that structure too soon in their development might cause unforeseen difficulties. 30

However, they did decide to create separate com- mittees, accounts and budgets, which would be sub- mitted every October, for the two Day Centres. Each centre’s committee would play an active role in the day-to-day operation of their activities. On the advice of their accountants they engaged a firm of efficiency experts for advice on improving the running of the Association – ‘to keep them in the game... and remain a prominent and pioneering or- ganisation’ as Barbara said. In late 1963, when Catherine Dillon handed in her resignation, Barbara’s tribute reflected the wide- reaching influence on the service of many of the early employees of St. Michael’s House: Catherine personally painted and repaired much of the school. She has organised outings to the sea, cross country walks, games and has taken groups of children shopping and to the Spring Show. All this activity is necessary to fulfil our aim, that these children must be accepted by the community. Catherine’s replacement, Sally Keogh (then known as Sally Connolly) had been a driver in the British Army. ‘This was a whole new world, I had never re- ally noticed any handicapped people before that. They were kept at home; they weren’t introduced to society.’ But Sally gained confidence, and it was the beginning of another long and valuable relationship with St. Michael’s House. Patsy’s New Year’s Eve dance brought in £700 at the start of 1964, news which was greeted with loud applause at the committee meeting. The Association had been in existence now for almost nine years and was evolving at great speed. By then Patsy had stepped back as Honorary Secretary and was now listed as a Founder Member. “The annual fundraising ball in our house was like a hunt ball, you would pay five guineas for two tickets, which was a lot at the time. There was a card room upstairs for people to play bridge. There would be dancing in one of the rooms with a three-piece orchestra. In the basement there was a traditional fiddler, you know it was very much 18th Century” Antony Farrell. Receipts from the Flag Days that year topped £2,300. A contribution from the UCD Rag Week was augmented by a recent scheme to raise money through the ‘pools’. 31

Below But the business consultant’s report forced the Committee to face the fact that they were running at a loss. They had to present more regular accounts and to prepare a Grosvenor Road School budget for future growth. Staff salaries also needed review annually and should reflect opened by Dr. Patrick the fact that there was no pension scheme. Hillery, Minister for Education 13th May 1964. In addition, a Financial Secretary should be appointed, a post which had not been filled since Dudley Robinson’s departure. During this process Barbara announced her intention The bus parked outside was to stand down as the Association’s first Director. The endless meetings involved in run- one of the first donated ning the business and the assessment clinic together were stifling her true skills. by the Lions Club to bring children to and from school. The temporary post of Administrator was given to committee member and retired army Colonel P.J. Whelan. Barbara would carry on in the capacity of Medical Director. Pat Moloney insists that Barbara was responsible for initiating the development of Special Care Units for children with more severe disabilities: The principles that Barbara had applied to the schools she applied to the Special Care Units, and that all boiled down to – we can’t let them down. Provision must be made for them. So she set about designing special units for these children, with things like under- floor heating, sandpits, you name it. Up until then this kind of thing was unheard of. Minister for Education Dr. Patrick Hillery officially opened St. Michael’s House School at Grosvenor Road, Rathmines on Wednesday 13th May 1964. During his speech he said: “In 1960 when I recognised St. Michael’s House as a National School, a new situation de- veloped. While in this country, we may have been tardy in dealing with the problem of the mentally handicapped child, we can claim to be the first country in Europe to make provi- sion for these children in the general system of education.” 32

The committee were pleased to hear his acknowledgement and support. However, Above during the lunch and light refreshments for more than 100 children and guests that fol- Eva Bieler, born in Munich, 1913 she trained at Peslatossi lowed, Barbara and Declan reminded him about the grant aid needed for Ballymun and the - Froebal Hans in Berlin provision of two portable cabins in Finglas, where overcrowding was creating problems. and Switzerland where she was awarded a Diploma in The structural changes introduced by the efficiency report delivered in June 1964, had Mental Handicap. She started a dramatic effect on their finances and the Association accumulated a surplus of £7,000. It in Northbrook Road in Sept was an incredible achievement within six months 1957, eventually moving to Grosvenor Road School where In October, Barbara introduced her design for the first Special Care Unit. From the she taught for 20 years. annual advisory sessions, she had classified twenty-one children requiring special care. These children also had specific medical requirements and so she prepared a report for the Department of Health. This was a prescient and significant initial attempt to gain grant approval. 33

Below Many families must care for a child too severely handicapped to benefit from the Special Joe and Kay Connolloy’s National School. The child still requires nursing and training. A Special Care Unit is needed son Paul who started to share the responsibilities undertaken by these parents, and to help thier children learn the in St. Michael’s House maximum independence. Speech therapy, physiotherapy, social training, music, handcraft, Grosvenor Road, 1964. group play and contact with other children were vital for the full development of severely- handicapped children. 34 That same month the Association finally received approval from the Minister for Education to build Ballymun School and a contractor was appointed in November. P.J. Whelan became Project Manager. At their eighth AGM in Grosvenor Road, it was announced that work would begin soon on the new school in Ballymun. The provision of Sheltered Workshops for the school leavers and a Special Care Unit were next on the agenda. The restructuring which had created a more solid financial platform on which to progress was commended. Fundraising activities, including a recent, successful sale of work in the Mansion House had raised more than £4,000. That night, the committee agreed to a proposal that the Association tap into the fundraising of a number of county groups active within Dublin. A special information evening was subsequently arranged to inform the different groups about the work of St. Michael’s House. A short time later, the county groups reconvened and established the United Counties Organisation. In May, they agreed to fundraise for St. Michael’s House, a relationship which proved very worthwhile over the coming years. During that AGM Declan Costello highlighted an article on St. Michael’s House that appeared in the Evening Herald in October entitled ‘The Story of The Mentally Handicapped Children’: Until a few years ago a mentally handicapped child was looked upon with shame by other members of the family. Parents kept such children hidden from outsid- ers and very often such a child was isolated even from its own brothers and sisters. It is a different story today. Children are able to attend National School, participate in games and physical exercises, are taught arts and crafts, have regular schooling and learn how to care for themselves in every way. The stigma has gone and parents not only help them to live a normal life but they now have reason to be proud of their children. For Joe and Kay Connolly, their proudest moment came when their son Paul, born in 1957 with a learning disability got up off the ground and started walking. Kay remem- bers the moment vividly: We went through a lot of hardship, worrying and crying. We cried for years. We didn’t know what was wrong with him. But then one day when Paul was three and a half, I was chatting to some of the ladies at the door, Paul stood up on the Avenue and he just started walking. The joy I felt seeing him walking, with everyone cheering… it was brilliant. In 1963 Paul and his mother went to see Dr. Stokes. Barbara placed Paul on a waiting list and told Kay to make sure he was toilet trained. A year later they received a letter from St. Michael’s House. This was what they had prayed for. By the start of 1965, Kay’s life had changed. For the first time since Paul was born, she finally found some help and a little relief. She smiles as she recalls. ‘You couldn’t tell anybody how much that freedom meant. But to also know that he was happy, he was learning. He’d come home in the afternoons delighted.’

Right The letter Mrs Kay Connolly received offering her son Paul a place in Grosvenor Road School 1964. In April, the Department of Health published a report by the Commission of Inquiry on Mental Handicap. This commission was set up in 1961 to establish and understand how services should develop for persons with intellectual disability, and it had spent the past four years gathering information from services, professionals, and parents. The report contained many recommendations and strategies for informing govern- ment policy and service providers, asserting there was ‘a clear obligation on health authorities to provide a diagnostic assessment and advisory service, available to all’, and it advised that where possible a greater emphasis was to be placed on providing day services rather than residential services. The report also proposed a working classification of three separate categories: mild, moderate, and severely disabled, and recommended that specialised programmes of education should be developed for individuals in the mild and moderate categories. One recommendation referred to ‘voluntary agencies’ such as St. Michael’s House: They have brought to the field an exceptional degree of dedication, sympathy and under- standing. We consider that the services of these agencies should be used to the maximum 35

Below extent and we recommend that the Minister for Health, the Minister for Education and health authorities should encourage and assist the continuance and development of vol- Artists drawing of the of untary organisations. the planned St. Michael’s House Special National That same April, building work had begun on the new Ballymun Special National School building, Ballymun. school, which was to cost £77,670 and was mostly funded by the Department of Education. In May, Barbara met with the Department of Health to pursue funding for their first Special Care Unit planned for the same site in Ballymun. She also looked for additional funding to expand the Advisory sessions, seeking the involvement of the professional services of a paediatrician, a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a part-time social worker. Remarkably, the Department agreed on both counts, funding both the Advisory Sessions and the Special Care Unit (SCU). It was while reading the Irish Times in June that Barbara discovered the extent of the grant for the SCU: 75% of the total cost. The news was an acknowledgement of the pioneering work of this relatively new Association. Patsy’s Farrell’s ad, the one that had first sparked the idea of an Association, appeared in that same newspaper, in June, ten years previously. Her son, Brian was nineteen. He continued living his life on the farm in Gigginstown with his governess, his family and his friends. As family friend Rory O’Neill attests, it was never Patsy’s motive to gain services for her son through St. Michael’s House, ‘She thought about other mothers. She was con- cerned about how they were coping with a Down Syndrome child.’ There was hardly any time to reflect on all that had been achieved. There was still much to be done. If the first ten years had been a decade of discovery, the next decade would be one of extraordinary growth. ****** 36

2 Ploughing Fresh Fields and Growing the Services 1965 - 1975 What is happening is that our very small family has grown to a very big family due to the fact that so many people are coming to us for help. Madge Atock, 1970 The seeds of future expansion in St Michael’s House had already been sown, thanks to the determined efforts of the founding members and their friends in the mid-50s. In their annual report for 1965, Declan Costello wrote: This year has been the most significant in the history of our Association. In asking all our members for their continued unselfish support, we can look forward to a dramatic expansion in the work of our Association and to the long-awaited improvements in the services for the mentally handicapped in our city. On the Association’s tenth anniversary in December, Declan announced he was standing down as Chairman for health reasons. He remained President of the Association, and would continue to play a valuable role in future decisions, and in particular negotia- tions with the Government. Declan appreciated that the Association needed a proper financial grounding on which to grow these services, and the crucial importance of securing the right people for the job. A long-standing friend of Declan’s, Mairtin McCullough recalls: ‘One day we were having a coffee. In his inimitable style, Declan said, “Look, you’re a businessman and you have a lot of experience. Perhaps you could give the benefit of your experience to St Michael’s House and be involved in the committee”.’ Mairtin knew about the work of the Association through Declan and at that time felt a desire to give something back: ‘I couldn’t say no to Declan. He said to give it a couple of months and see how it goes. That was in 1964. Thirty-five years later I was still “giving it a few months”.’ 37

Right Joseph Patrick (JP) O’Brien had Mairtin McCullough joined St. Michael’s House soon after recruited by his friend his daughter Dympna was born with Declan Costello served on a learning disability. He was elected the Board of St. Michael’s to the Executive Committee in March House for several decades. and became Chairperson in 1965. Mairtin recalls: Right The day of the closing ‘He was a dynamic, straight-talking, of Jamestown House blunt chairperson, and he was a School, July 1966. joy to work with. In those early formative years, when St. Michael’s was ploughing fresh fields, Joe really got things done.’ While JP did impress Barbara with his efficiency, tensions did arise between them. In particular, Barbara believed the waiting lists provided indisputable proof that more services were needed. Construction of the first Special Care Unit was six months away, and with so many parents already looking for places she predicted each child would get just two days of care per week. ‘Not good enough’, she said. The waiting list for school places was also growing. By September 1966, she was already calling for another Northside school to service Raheny, Artane, Coolock and adjoining areas. 38

The school in Jamestown House closed in July 1966, all the children would now be transferred to the new Ballymun School, due to open in September. One of the students Ronnie Deegan recalls the day well: ‘there was a big crowd of people and every child was given a small gift and a bag of sweets.’ The building would not stand idle for long. As soon as renovations were completed, it was to become the location for their first post-school training workshop. ‘The provision of sheltered employment will become more urgent with the increased flow of school leavers’, Patsy and Madge had written in the Honorary Secretary’s’ report for 1966. ‘The Association cannot allow them to drift along after leaving school. Some can be placed in open employment, but the majority will need a sheltered workshop.’ St. Michael’s House opened their first small-scale training centre for six trainees in a wooden chalet next to the school on Grosvenor Road in January 1966. The teachers’ salary was paid from the Association’s own reserves while they awaited recognition from the Vocational Education Committee. St. Michael’s House could not wait for state funding approval; the service they were growing could not simply end at the school gate. While spirited arguments on the practicalities of change continued, the whole ethos of the Association was to look to the future. Fundraising continued to grow in importance. The Sale of Work in the Mansion House and ‘the gallant collectors who sold flags in the pouring rain’ earned an ‘Oscar’ from the Sunday Independent. Left Ad for the annual Sale of Work in the Mansion House, Irish Times, 1966. In May 1966, the United Counties Organisation (UCO) presented £750 towards paying Left off the £3,000 needed for the building of the new Junior Special Care Unit in Ballymun. Patsy Farrell presents the The Carnegie Trust donated £1,500. key to Minister Donagh O’Malley at the opening And, on Wednesday of the St. Michael’s House 22 October 1966, the Ballymun Special National Minister for Education, School 22 October 1966. Donagh O’Malley opened the new £80,000 Special National School at Ballymun with more than 200 guests present. It was the achievement of a major objective, he said, adding that there were now sixteen special schools in the country with the promise of more to come. 39

Right The Minister then took a Minister for Education, crumpled £50 note from his Donagh O’Malley being pocket, saying that he had introduced to the children won it on a horse and wished by Mrs O’Driscoll, Principal to donate it to the Association. at the opening of the He asked those ‘members of Special National School, the racing fraternity present’ Ballymun October 1966. to give part of their next win to St. Michael’s House. At the Right same function, Declan Costello The first 81 students announced that Dublin VEC of St. Michael’s House were funding a full-time Special National School instructor for their training opening October 1966. workshop at Finglas. Right Donagh O’Malley, Minister for Education donating his £50 note won at the races at the opening of the Special National School, Ballymun October 1966 with Declan Costello, President of St. Michael’s House (holding the note), Eugene Timmons, Lord Mayor and J.P. O’Brien Chairman of St. Michael’s House. 40

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