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The Bishop of Cork and Ross, John Buckley, wants the body of “Little Nellie” to be exhumed from its grave at the now-derelict Good Shepherd Convent site in Sunday Well (Irish Examiner, 18 August).
Ellen Organ was a five year old girl who died in 1908. Her short life was marked by ill health and extreme religious devotion. After her death, she attained a certain celebrity as the “unofficial patron saint of Cork” and her grave became, for a time, a site of pilgrimage.
The Bishop told RTÉ News that he favours exhuming her remains and moving them to “a more public place”. It may have slipped the Bishop’s notice - and that of the locals - but Little Nellie is not alone in the Good Shepherd grounds. There are also two mass graves on the site, pits containing the bodies of unknown numbers of women who lived anonymous lives of suffering and shame, and who died in the service of the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry.
By all means, exhume Little Nellie. Exhume all of the bodies. That site should be declared a crime scene and the Catholic institutions responsible for those deaths should be held to account.
In the meantime, by all means, say a prayer for Little Nellie but don’t forget all of the women who died unloved and unmourned in the “care” of the Good Shepherd Convent.
Brian Boru Grove
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