Magdalene Laundry

Amateur, Irish Culture, History
Directed by:
Father Jack Delany
Produced by:
Father Jack Delany


10 mins

One of the most notable of Father Delany’s films was made on the grounds of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Convent and features a Magdalene Laundry (which closed its doors in 1999).

In the film we see nuns and residents playing games in the garden, as well as dancing and performing in a play. Although the film is short, it is the most extensive footage known to have been filmed inside a Magdalene Laundry. These institutions were mostly run by Roman Catholic orders and operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. Many of the residents were classed as ‘fallen’ women and an estimated 30,000 women were confined as punishment and against their will in such institutions in Ireland. The footage shows what the residents wore, how they played, how they related to each other, the nuns and to the filmmaker.

Father Jack Delany (1906-1980) was ordained in 1930 at the age of 24 and served as a parish priest in Dublin in the 1930s and 1940s. He served mainly around Seán McDermott Street (then Gloucester Street), Rutland Street and Gardiner Street. His films offer a fascinating glimpse of life at the time in inner-city Dublin and include scenes of trips with parishioners, tenement life, school children at play, religious processions, and residents of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Convent (which housed a Magdalene Laundry).

To see more of The Father Delany Collection, click here.

With kind permission from Father Delany’s niece, Irene Devitt, and facilitation by the IFI Irish Film Archive access officers, this film has been used many times by contemporary filmmakers to illustrate life within a Magdalene institution.