Posted by: annmucc | February 22, 2009

Suffer the Little Children

After last night I was feeling quite lazy, so I took the time to read a bit…and read I did! I started and finished the book ‘Suffer the Little Children‘ by Frances Reilly. This is the story of Frances’ childhood (and her sister’s) and her life growing up in a convent after being abandoned their by her mother. Growing up in a Catholic country, I have of course heard of abuses in the convents and institutions owned by the church, so I had an idea of the cruelties going on in some of these places (though certainly not everywhere, and certainly not restricted to these institutions only – which doesn’t make it any better!).

The book tells the story of a girl who was repeatedly beaten, hit, and demeaned. For some reason she also seemed to be particularly picked on by one of the nuns, maybe because she didn’t have anyone visiting her, like others did. It tells the story of how she tried to escape numerous times, both from the convent, as well as from the remand house she was moved to after trying to run away one too many times. More so it tells how on a visit outside the convent to go spend the weekend with a family, she was then repeatedly abused of by the men of that family. Nothing seemed to go right.

The book gets to you, as you go through the story. However, I found it a bit lacking particularly at the end. I wanted to know what happened to her now…how did the events influence her life…how does she feel about it? There is an epilogue at the end, but the book left me wanting to know more about this girl. I understand though that writing this book would definitely not have been an easy task…I thus praise the author for even coming so far as to write it.



  1. iIwas raised up in Nazareth House with Ms Reilly and would like to know where all the other children where when this was happen to her? I dont remenber waking up to a bell by the Reverend Mother every morning the only time we the children seen the Reverend Mother was at Christmas time.When she would come down to see the children and wish a happy christmas and give us all a bag of goody’s.I would like to remind Ms Reilly of. In the goody bag was a toothbrush/toothpast/soap/hairbrush/ we also got an apple and orange, plus full christmas dinner.The handyman in the convent would dress up as santa.My Christmas in Nazareth House were happy one’ regards to Frances not having an education WE were all given an education.most of us all made it as far as the dunces class and stayed there untill we had to move to the big school .There were some children smart enough to move into p7 and do 11+Frances was in this how come you diden’t get aducation?.As for the beating’s every child in the convent got beat at one time or another,But the way you tell it in your book. anyone would think you and your sister where the only one’s had to srub floor’s wash wall’s WE all had to do this all of us NOT just you and your sister.I never was washed in jay’s fluit.sometime’s jay’s fluit a small amount was put into the bath to try and kill of headlice as you well know.Also i would like to know who give you permissiom to put these’s photo’s into your book without asking any of the children in them?why also were you given a number to sew on your clothing as none of the rest of the children our age diden’t have to do this We all new you as Frances Reilly your christren name.Lots and lots of question’s need to be asked about this book frances .And by you and not your lodger Kev.

  2. Judging by the sheer illiteracy of Hilda’s response, I can onlu conclude that she at any rate didn’t get much of an education at Nazareth House.

    As to the substance of Hilda’s ranting, she clearly attributes to Frances claims that Frances doesn’t make, and then happily demolishes them — the old, well-worn Aunt Sally technique. At no stage in the book does Frances claim that she and her sisters were the ONLY ones to suffer the beatings and unspeakable humiliations inflicted on the children. Indeed, her assertions that the Reilly sisters were singled out — and she in particular — for the malicious attentions of Sister Thomas are in no way inconsistent with the statement that other children came in for severe corporal punishment. Frances mentions the existence of one individual in particular who became a favourite for allowing a lesbian relationship to develop between herself and a pedophile nun, and likewise mentions other small groups of favourites who WERE favoured with special treatment and were sometimes given lollies. The author clearly mentions plenty of other girls who were subject to beatings, and who were very near to breaking point. A number of these assisted and/or took part in escape attempts.

    I hope that other visitors to this website will read the book and decide for themselves, rather than swallowing accepting Hilda’s contribution. Frances Reilly’s account of her upbringing has the unmistakable ring of truth. Finally, I commend Ann’s review as a very balanced one. Like Ann, I’d have preferred to learn a lot more about Hilda’s later life, and the impacts that her brutal upbringing had on her at various stages.

  3. There are lots of things in this book that need to be questioned. Frances says she was never taught to read and write. She was in the same class as me,to be in that particular class you had to have brains and be capabile of taking the 11+ exam.Of course we had xmas parties, the tuck shop, we watched films. No one was so hungry they had to eat grass. No one was singled out. I got the impression she was out to get at one nun in particular. I noticed the photo on the back of the book did not show the few christmas decorations that are on that photo.

  4. […] posts in the Top Posts List: How to Be Happy (126); Suffer the Little Children (120): Quite surprised with the number of people seeing this last post, as wella s the number of […]

  5. I was saddened, but not surprised, to read DH’s comments above. As a close friend to Frances for thirty year I have not doubt about the truth of her book.

    Since writing the above DH (Deirdre O’Donoghue) has been campaigning for a report into the abuse that she, and many others, suffered at the hands of the church. I was pleased this week (2nd Nov 09) to see a photo of her and fellow campaigner Margaret McGuckin, on the BBC website, handing in a partition to the N Ireland assembly calling for such a report. Interestingly, descriptions, on BBC news and in the Belfast Telegraph, of the abuse suffered by both these brave women are very similar to that described in Frances’ book.


  6. Kevin, Get you’r facts right. I had no good friends in N H. I still sick to what I said reg F R’s book. We did have access to paper, we did have xmas parties, tuck shop, watched films etc, I’m glad to know my name has now been taken out of her book. I am not and have never said I am leading a campaign. As my aim has been for redress to be made available in N Ireland I set up a petition. I got many signatures in and around my area. Margaret very kindly agreed to do her bit in N I.
    I feel that F R should have been the one to help others reg these issues in N Ireland. However if you & F R are willing to arrange a support group & become involved in helping others I can supply you with all the details etc. D H

  7. Kevin, Since when was I a close friend to Frances for thirty year!!!
    As you know I was in N H for 8yrs. I did not see or hear from her again till she found me just over 3yrs ago and we know the reason she contacted me & it certainly wasn’t for her to help me or anyone else.
    That does not add up to 30yrs.
    Are you her P R ? as she is still not speaking for herself,
    However should you wish to discuss things further, either through you’r solicitor, the faries, the cukkoo’s please feel free to do so.

  8. Excuse my spelling, It should be stick not sick, Well actually I am sick of those who can not get their facts right.

  9. @ All: I hadn’t realised this post would generate so much interest. However, this discussion is now going beyond my post, so I will be shutting the comment section down. Thanks


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