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Bird's Nest Soup
Bird's Nest Soup


 
Our Price:9.95
Authors: Hanna Greally
Publication Year: Softback 2008
Pages: 158
Size: 195 x 127mm

ISBN: 9781855942103
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Description
 

Hanna Greally spent the best part of the 1940s and 1950s incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital in the Irish Midlands. In Birds Nest Soup she recounts with vivid detail the terrible suffering she endured there. Though mentally well, and accepted as such by the authorities, she was condemned to life in an atmosphere calculated to bring about the steady degradation of the person. But Hanna lived to tell this remarkable and poignant tale of survival.

New Introduction by Dr. Eilis Ward, National University of Ireland Galway

...Mentally well, but unclaimed..¯ –this sums up the horrendous situation in which Hanna Greally found herself for the best part of twenty years She saw what she anticipated was a short rest in the Big House, St. Loman's psychiatric hospital in Mullingar stretch and stretch as it became clear to her that none of her relatives surviving after her mother's unexpected death had any intention of applying for her release.

In those days there was no way out for an unclaimed patient. She knew herself to be unwanted, fully conscious of her position and acutely observant of her surroundings, in an atmosphere calculated to bring about steady degradation of her personality. She survived this Kaf ka-esque situation, emotionally and physically whole, and when a more enlightened system was introduced regained her freedom through a rehabilitation institute in 1962.

Here is a remarkable story, told with reticence and naturalness which makes it all the more moving.

Hanna Greally (also known as Johanna or Joan Greally) was born in Athlone in 1925.

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Average Rating: 5 of 5 Total Reviews: 1 Write a review »

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This pair of highly affecting books work on two le April 25, 2012
Reviewer: Mark Edmund Hutcheson The Irish Catholic from Republic of Ireland  
This pair of highly affecting books work on two levels: primarily autobiography  they are also valuable windows onto Irish social history. Bird s Nest Soup chronicles Hanna Greally s almost 20 years as an involuntary patient in St Loman s psychiatric hospital near Mullingar. She was 19 when admitted in the early 1940s  and was not released until 1962.Why she was there is never clear. Her   breakdown   is mentioned and she is told she needs   a rest    but no more. The nurses   some of whom seem like gaolers   do not discuss her   illness    and doctors rarely call. Insulin  shock therapy and electro convulsive therapy are administered  yet without any indication of the   symptoms   targeted or the   benefit   envisaged: certainly none materialises.Hanna s hospitalisation is incarceration. However well she may be  she cannot leave unless officially   claimed  . Only her mother visits her  but she falls ill and dies. The rest of Hanna s family abandon her. She s fit to go yet cannot.However  laws and practices change  and a new psychiatric superintendent  with more humanity  arrives. He offers Hanna the opportunity to transfer to Coolamber Manor in Co. Longford  a rehabilitation school for young women. Here she can learn a trade and re enter the world.Bird s Nest Soup  the first part of Hanna s story was given to the world back in 1971  a small landmark in the then reviving Irish publishing industry. It was later reissued by the present publishers  who have now brought out her second book  the story of what happened afterwards.The first section of Flown the Nest recounts the year Hanna spent at Coolamber. It was happy  liberating  helpful. She got on well with the other girls  with the teachers  and most of all with the lady President  whose kindness  thoughtfulness and leadership make you weep for joy. Hanna studied various occupations  and decided to become a housekeeper/cook.Part Two follows Hanna s pilgrimage beyond Coolamber. She travels to England and works for various families and people  even a monastery. She has many lovely stories to tell  but by far the most beautiful has to do with Dr Joseph OBE.Hanna served Dr Joseph as housekeeper/cook for six years with diligence  as was her wont. Over time she developed deep love for him  as only woman can love man  and tended him right up to his death  an emotional resurrection for her.The St Loman s of Bird s Nest Soup is with us even today. Dr Pat Devitt  Inspector of Mental Services  has used expressions like   unfit for human habitation   and   dilapidated  desolate and depressing   when describing it to The Irish Times. He spoke in similar terms of St Ita s and St Brendan s in Dublin. There is plainly still much  much room for improvement despite political promises again and again that psychiatry in Ireland will be modernised.Yet for every St Loman s  there is a Coolamber  where the afflicted are not wastefully  perpetually imprisoned  but are equipped   compassionately   to contribute to society and so find fulfillment.Resolve and courage shine through these books. A woman of Christian faith  hope and grit  Hanna makes the very best of very unfavourable circumstances. Eventually she discovers love for another human being. Six years appears paltry but such love constitutes the greatest achievement of any life. In that sense  Hanna Greally is a heroine.

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