Goodbye Grangegorman

Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 00:00

The 199-year-old St Brendan’s psychiatric hospital, in Dublin’s north inner city, is about to say goodbye to its last patient, before being redeveloped as the Dublin Institute of Technology campus

In the dimly room are hundreds of boxes, stacked high towards the ceiling, containing the remnants of people’s lives. In one is a black-and-white photograph of a man in uniform, a picture of the Virgin Mary and a form guide for horse racing. There are hand-written letters, postcards and jaunty get-well-soon cards.

“I am very sorry I cannot say ‘yes’ to your request to come home just now,” reads one letter, sent from Dún Laoghaire in the 1960s. “Will you try and content yourself where you are for a while longer? You see, I would not be able to look after you [the way] you would need to be looked after.”

Another box tells another story. There are small family photographs. One is of a stern-looking father with a large moustache. Another is of a vulnerable-looking younger woman, her hands clasped. Inside the pages of a prayer book, which sits beside rosary beads and make-up, is a handwritten note. “To Kathleen, wishing you a happy exams, from Nellie and Mattie.”

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