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Report - - St Brigid's Hospital / Connacht District Lunatic Asylum, Balinasloe, Ireland (05/07/19) | Asylums and Hospitals | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - St Brigid's Hospital / Connacht District Lunatic Asylum, Balinasloe, Ireland (05/07/19)


AmyArchery

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
After longing to visit this place for the last two years we finally decided to bite the bullet and make the 3 1/2 hour drive down.

The Asylum first opened in 1833 under the name Connaught Asylum to accommodate 150 'curable lunatics'. The main building was designed by William Murray following previous designs of Francis Johnston. It was built with an X-shape layout and cost £27,000. The plan was based on the 'panoptic' concept for prison layouts whereby the governor and his staff would occupy the central structure, easily able to monitor the entire institution, with the wings radiating outwards. Upon the completion of the Asylum there were fears the building would never reach capacity or even be half full. Promotional advertisements were therefore created in order to entice patients. However, they soon realised there was no need for such enticements as the facility began to suffer from overcrowding. A contributing factor to this was a law stating that Irish asylums could not refuse entry to anyone referred to them. In 1850 the asylum district boundaries were redrawn and the institution was renamed the Ballinasloe District Asylum. In order to facilitate growing patient numbers, new wings were added in 1871 and 1882. This however wasn't enough to solve the overcrowding problems the hospital faced and patient numbers grew to nearly 1,200 by the early 1900s. Many beds became permanently occupied with long-term patients or those deemed as incurable. The hospital was renamed again in the 1920s becoming known as the Ballinasloe Mental hospital. Patient numbers continued to grow further and by the 1950s some 2,000 patients were accommodated there. By this stage the hospital changed names yet again and become know as St Brigid's Hospital. In the late 1980s deinstitutionalisation was introduced ultimately leading to the hospital's demise in 2013. Psychiatric serves were then consolidated in Roscommon and Galway City.

Mental hospitals have the notorious reputation of being terrible places during this time period throughout the developed world; if you were classified as 'mentally ill' you soon lost all your human rights and were treated with brutality and cruelty. You would have been subject to trials of new 'treatments' such as deliberate insulin induced comas and uncontrolled electroconvulsive therapy. Ireland was no exception. If anything the scale of the Irish system was like no other. Damien Brennan in his book 'Asylums, Mental Health Care and the Irish 1800-2010' puts into perspective the scale of these asylums in comparison to other countries; a statistical table shows the number of psychiatric beds per 100,000 people in 1955- Ireland 710, Soviet Union 617, United States 511, Northern Ireland 440, Scotland 436, Sweden 422, England and Wales 357, Australia 332. This can be interpreted as Ireland having nearly double the amount of psychiatric patients as England or even still, nearly 100 more per 100,000 than the Soviet Union whose inhabitants was suffering under the brutal rule of Stalin. One explanation for such a figure is that the Irish are simply more mad than the rest of the worlds' population. A more plausible reason as to why this figure is so high however, probably is the result of a multitude of factors. In 1838 the Dangerous Lunatic Act was passed allowing any Irish citizen to make accusations of insane behaviour against another. The accused was then detained and examined by a medical officer; if the medical officers thought the accused posed a danger to wider society (or the medical officer was bribed with a suitable reward), the accused was then committed to an institution. Once held captive by this law, no future declaration of sanity either by a physician or asylum manager could overturn this ruling of captivity. As a result, as many as half of the people detained in these asylums shouldn't have been there in the first place (scary to think this is still within living memory of a lot of people).

This site has been well
documented in previous reports but unfortunately is starting to deteriorate quite rapidly due to the effects of exposure to the elements and vandals. The explore itself was relatively easy and we weren't disturbed the entire time we were there. We managed to cover the majority of the site but didn't chance venturing down to the basement as there were lights on and other signs of recent activity. We also didn't make our way to the site chapel as it was across an area of exposed ground in plain view of active buildings.


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AmyArchery

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nice! One I’d like to see myself.
Definitely still worth a look while its in reasonably good condition. Though looking back at old reports of it I suspect the place will go rapidly downhill in the next few years like the rest of them
 

Six

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Nice to see this! Looks in fairly similar condition to my visit a couple of years back!
 

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