Monday, September 25, 2023

Commemorating the Women and Girls of the Dalry Magdalene Asylum

The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, also known as Magdalene asylums, were institutions, usually run by Roman Catholic orders, which operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. They housed so called "fallen women", an estimated 30,000 of whom were confined in these institutions in Ireland. Less well known is the fact that Magdalene asylums also operated in Scotland. They were not quite as strict as those in Ireland, but that doesn't mean they were pleasant places to be incarcerated. 

The Edinburgh Magdalene Asylum stood for a time in the Dalry part of Edinburgh and a number of the girls and women who were housed there are buried in North Merchiston Cemetery. One of the projects that the committee of the cemetery friends group has been involved with is preparing a plaque to commemorate the lives of these women. 

We are very pleased to report that the plaque is now in place on the burial mound in the cemetery. 

The plaque says: 

"The Dalry Magdalene Asylum. Conceived with the notion of Christian charity and philanthropy, the first Edinburgh Magdalene Asylum opened its doors in 1797 in Canongate as a kind of half way house for women leaving prison. In the mid 1800s, The Dalry Magdalene Asylum (subsequently renamed Springwell House) was founded as a reformatory school for what were then called 'fallen women'. The Asylum remained a reformatory school for women and girls until the 1950s. It has now been converted into apartments on the corner of Ardmillan Terrace and Gorgie Road. This is the mound in which some of the residents of the asylum are buried."

The burial mound was formerly marked only by this pretty but uninformative gravestone: 

Thanks are due to our committee member Lauren for putting the plaque together, and to Dr Jowita Thor for helping with the research.