One real-life ‘good nun’ deserves to be remembered

May 30, 2020

The ‘cruel nun’ stereotype has become a stock figure in contemporary narratives and a real stinker appears in Marie Hargreaves’ recently published memoir The Convent.

This is one Sister Isobel O’Brien, who beat young children with wooden coat hangers, pulled their hair, pinched them viciously and, in a special humiliation, abolished their Christian names, telling them “you have no family”.

Marie Hargreaves was born in Oldham, Lancashire, to an Irish mother who went on to have 10 children. Her mother, though loving, was mentally unstable, and Marie and her brother were committed to an orphanage at Our Lady’s Convent at Billinge, in Merseyside. Marie was only six, and was subjected to a reign of terror by Sister Isobel.