Midwife Bina Kelly

With Jim Fahey from 'Looking West' RTE archive Nov. 1983.

Emma Laffey

An Bhean Ghlúine Project 2022
Midwife Bina Kelly Kilconnell Co Galway interviewed in November 1983 about her life
Bina Kelly & her brother Jack
Courtesy of Peter Cleary (neighbour)
Midwife Bina Kelly
RTÉ Looking West Cover

Midwife Bina Kelly

Bina born Sabina Kelly on the 22nd January 1902 Kilconnell  Co. Galway. Bina’s mother was also a midwife and she served her time in Kilconnell from 1890. Bina retired in the 1970s between them they had 80 years of delivering babies in the Kilconnell area. Bina like her mother before her educated herself in nursing and midwifery during a time when women were literally battling to be able to vote! Bina like so many of these women battled against the odds to be educated and retain their jobs even after they were married.  Bina never married but she certainly dedicated her whole life to the local women of Kilconnell during a time that was a very poor rural Ireland. She gives a great sense of community between herself and her neighbours and how they all took care of one another.

In this recording taken in November 1983 by the infamous ‘Going West’ programme by Jim Fahey from RTÉ Archives. Bina speaks about her life as a Midwife from the Big Houses to the Traveller’s camps.. She describes life of the local people and their emotions during what was often a worrying time when the woman of the house was giving birth. She describes both the sadness and the joy of a time when most births were at home. You can read more of Bina’s story in the ebook available on the website here.

So in the meantime enjoy this beautiful interview which was kindly sent to us by her niece Kate Noonan and Kate has also granted us permission to use the interview for the project.

I wrote this little poem about our wonderful midwives past & present:

An Bhean Glúine: 

An bhean ghlúine, the woman of the knee
Every birthing mother, who was over-joyed to see
Her kindness sought by mother’s from all around
For the strength she give’s, often without a sound

From each mother’s god given primal roar
That echoed loudly throughout their home
Nervousness relief on everyone’s face
When a healthy baby received it’s mother’s embrace

A house full of face’s with joyful tears
The family celebrations would begin
For there is no greater feeling heard with that first cry or two
and then hope there isn’t a twin!

Struggles with poverty and hardship
Knitted into the fibre of every wall
Lit only by small candlelight
And warmed with flickers of coal

No pain relief or support they sought
A profession often alone
Carrying a burden both joy and grief
To most of us unknown

Listening to the mother’s cries
Heartbroken and all forelorn
Grieving and crying for a child back then
The old travelling tongue called dead-born

Poverty, it stank everywhere
Babies wrapped in rags for warmth
Another mouth to feed the mother said
As her other children’s face’s looked on

Night or day, come what may
In sun, rain, wind or snow
There was nothing that would ever stop Bean Glúine
To the women she would go

Sacrificing their own loved ones at home
To save these women’s lives
Their trust was held in high regard
Like an angel sent to guide

For the old Bean Glúine may have disappeared and gone
The time old tradition of birthing still carries on
Now transferred to maternity wards with a medical device
The gift still remains in the hands & knee’s, of our magical midwife

Written by: Emma Laffey

All of the project has been Grant Funded by The Heritage Council

This page was added on 04/05/2022.

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