I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Punished for being Poor

Punished for being Poor

Jeremy Kearney
The Cruelty Man: Child welfare, the NSPCC and the State in Ireland, 1889-1956, by Sarah-Anne Buckley, Manchester University Press, 225 pp, £75, ISBN: 978-0719087660 The much-told story of the founding of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) movement involved a church worker in New York in 1874 who was concerned about a young girl, Mary Ellen McCormack, who was being regularly beaten by her foster mother. As there was no specific agency at the time she could report the abuse to, her last resort was to contact Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The foster mother was prosecuted using legislation to protect animals. Bergh apparently saw the girl as a “vulnerable member of the animal kingdom needing the protection of the state”. The case became a cause célèbre and quickly led to the establishment of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children later that year. Following a visit to the New York SPCC by a Liverpool businessman in 1881, a meeting of the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals in the city extended an appeal for a dogs’ home into one that included the protection of children. Consequently, the Liverpool SPCC branch was formed in 1883, followed by one in London in 1884. The first Irish branch was set up in Dublin in 1889 as the Dublin Aid Committee, which formally became known as the NSPCC in 1890. I can vouch for the fact that the story of the need to use animal welfare legislation in the first child cruelty case was still being mentioned by the NSPCC in the United Kingdom at public meetings in the 1980s (sometimes with the embellishment that the child was taken into the court in a horse blanket) and would usually provoke a gasp from the audience. Presumably they were unaware that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1824, some sixty years prior to the establishment of the NSPCC and in Ireland the Dublin SPCA was formed in 1840, some fifty years before the Irish branch of the NSPCC. The relative worth of animals and children was not a straightforward issue for a good deal of the nineteenth century. It was not until 1877 that the Local Government Board issued a list of conditions that had to be followed…



Dublin’s Oldest Independent BookshopBooks delivered worldwide