One Reply to “Crap on the Radio #4 Nothing terribly exciting there”

  1. Ann Lovett was a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl from Granard, County Longford, Ireland who died giving birth beside a grotto on 31 January 1984.[1] Her baby son died at the same time and the story of her death played a huge part in a seminal national debate in the country at the time on women giving birth outside marriage.
    Ann Lovett’s resting place in Granard

    On Saturday night, the 4th of February 1984, Ireland’s most popular television show was coming to an end, when the host read this headline from the next days’ Sunday paper: “Girl, 15, Dies Giving Birth In A Field”.

    With the words “Nothing terribly exciting there”, the newspaper was cast down on the studio floor by the ‘Late Late Show’ host, Gay Byrne.

    This moment symbolically marked the first introduction the world had to the story of Ann Lovett and her newborn child.

    Tuesday, the 31st of January 1984 was a cold, wet, winter’s day in Granard, Co. Longford. That afternoon, the fifteen year old school girl left her Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School and made her way to a Grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary at the top of her small hometown in the Irish midlands. It was here, on the cold concrete, beneath the statue of Our Lady, that she gave birth, alone, to her infant son.

    An inquest was held in Mullingar a few weeks later and found her death was due to irreversible shock caused by haemorrhage and exposure during childbirth.[9]

    The circumstances of her death were mentioned in Dáil debates.[10][11]

    There have been a number of cases with which too many Members of this House have been all too familiar in recent years — for example, the Kerry babies case and the case of Ann Lovett from Granard — which did not reflect well on the attitudes that exist here to children either within or without the home.
    —David Molony, Dáil Eireann [11]

    A quarter of a century on from a tragedy that shocked the nation, many questions remain unanswered about the deaths of Ann Lovett and her infant child.
    —Ali Bracken, [9]

    Despite the perceived clamor to discuss the topic among well meaning people at the time, and a few since, it is indeed a most relevant point that fundamental questions still remain unanswered to this day. Accounts show that Ann, still alive but hemorrhaging heavily when found, was carried to the nearby house of the Parish Priest from where a doctor was phoned. The priest’s initial response to the farmer who knocked on his door to inform him of the chilling discovery of Ann and her already deceased baby in the adjacent grotto was reportedly; “It’s a doctor you need, and not a priest”. She was then driven in the doctor’s car to her parents house in the centre of the town at which point an ambulance was called, but it was already too late.

    Ann Lovett and her child were quietly buried two days later in Granardkill cemetery. However, following an anonymous phone call to a Dublin newspaper, the story broke the following Sunday, drawing the attention of the world to the tragic incident. The next day Granard was swamped with national and international media.

    The local community and clergy, including the order of nuns at the school which Ann had attended, remained tight lipped, apart from a terse statement prepared with the assistance of a solicitor, denying any knowledge of the teenagers pregnancy.

    Subsequent enquiries by the Gardai, the Department of Education and the Midlands Health Board have yet to be published. 30 years on, the tragic events of that day and indeed the circumstances that forced a young girl to leave her classroom on a cold, wet winters day to give birth alone in a grotto, is still shrouded in secrecy.

    In October 1987, Cry Before Dawn released a song titled ‘Girl In The Ghetto’, which had been written as ‘Girl In The Grotto’. It is a reflection on the Ann Lovett story.

    ‘Middle Of The Island’, by Christy Moore, from his 1989 album ‘Voyage’, is another song examining the society in which Ann Lovett lived and how she could have died in such circumstances. The song also appears in the Christy Moore Box Set under the title ‘Ann Lovett’ and has also appeared on the Traveller album from 1999, where it was used to introduce ‘The Well Below The Valley’, recorded live at Glastonbury festival.
    Jj Kikola – (They Were) Deaf To Her Child’s Cries

    The song “Don’t You Just Love It”, written by Rita Farragher and recorded by band Bleed in 1993, is based on the events of this case – written from Ann’s perspective. The title obviously contains a phonetic reference to Ann’s surname.

    The song includes the lines: “And though this is a cold month, I didn’t come here to die. I came for some mercy, but this statue won’t hear me”; and “Small towns let me down, your small minds did kill me”.

    In 1987 Dutch film maker Leo de Boer made a short documentary about Ann Lovett’s death. ‘For Ann Lovett 1968-1984’ is a 15 minute poetic impression of Ann’s last day.[12][13]

    The song “Small Town” by Paul Mulligan was written about the tragedy and recorded on his album “Strong Friend” (2007) The song points the finger of blame at the prevailing attitudes of Small Town Society, implying that the events could have taken place in any Irish town. “a small town where secrets sleep, behind closed doors where spiders creep” “a small town with eyes and ears, but no one sees and no one hears, and a concrete statue cries real tears in a small town”

    The Longford-based Fabulous Beast dance company debuted, in 2003, a version of the ballet Giselle, in which Ann Lovett’s story was again incorporated. ‘Giselle’ has toured the globe and won many awards.

    In 2014, a song and video were released by Jj Kikola entitled. “(They Were) Deaf To Her Child’s Cries.” The song is written in memory of Ann and her child, and released two weeks before the 30th anniversary of the tragedy. Kikola, in a subsequent interview cited his inspiration for writing the song, as being the fact that the event has been largely erased from the collective consciousness of the Irish population.

    “What moved me the most was the image of a frightened young girl who felt there was no-one she could turn to for help in her crisis. It’s easy to say in retrospect that the support would have been there if she had only asked for it but clearly she did not feel that revealing her pregnancy would have been acceptable.

    However, the inquest confirmed that some people did indeed know about Ann’s condition before her death. While the statement issued by the nuns, following legal advice, said they “did not known” about her pregnancy they subsequently refused to confirm whether they had suspected it or not. (Bourke, Angela (2002) The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: Politics and Sexuality, 1965-2000, p1438). Rumours also abound about the true identity of the child’s father and the difficult family circumstances in which Ann herself was reared. (The Changing Face of Catholic Ireland: Conservatism and Liberalism in the Ann Lovett and Kerry Babies Scandle by Moira Maguire in Feminist Studies, College Park, Summer 2001, Vol 27, Issue 2 pg 335). See also comments made by Minister for Womens Affairs, Nuala Fennell T.D at the time.

    According to Kikola “The whole concept of passing on knowledge; folklore, education and of learning as human beings is to examine these events and make sure they don’t happen again.”

    Much of the video for the song was filmed on location in Granard.

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